Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Audio of this sermon can be heard here.
There weren't a lot of people in our high school who wanted to take a third year of Latin. In fact, there were only three of us. But the schedule for Latin III conflicted with another class that I felt like I needed to take, so I told my instructor, Dr. Donaldson, that I wouldn't be able to take his class. He wasn't disappointed in the least. Instead, he said, "Just register for the class anyway. We can meet separately--just the two of us--and do the class together!" The enthusiasm in his voice was compelling, which is to say that I didn't have the heart to disappoint him.
I showed up in his office at time he and I had scheduled for our first meeting. "Here," he said, handing me a thin book. "What is it?" I asked. "It's Augustine's Confessions," he replied. "This is the text that we are going to use for the class." I stood there, holding the book and giving him a confused look. "Now go away and translate it. We'll meet once a week and see how you've done."
If I had stuck to the Latin text, I wouldn't know much at all about Augustine and his raucous pre-Christian life. But I learned quickly the value of a store-bought English translation to "help" me figure out the tough Latin words. I am an aural and oral learner. I am a communal learner. I am not a sit-by-yourself-and-read-and-think learner. This solo-translation stuff wasn't going to work. My teacher knew it, and he didn't mind. Somehow, I made it through two terms of weekly visits to his office, and, during that time, I learned to respect Augustine. Since then, I've learned even more to respect his mother, Monnica.
How do you get through to a wayward son? Monnica was a Christian for her whole life. She married a pagan, who was fond of the bottle, and, although he never struck or verbally abused her, he was as fond of other women as he was of the drink. Augustine learned from his example. Instead of following in his mother's Christian footsteps, Augustine refused to accept the way of Jesus, instead pursuing the philosophical teachings of fourth-century Rome and the hedonistic lifestyle of pagan imperial society. And what did his mother do? She wept.
There was a time when Monnica tried to arrange a marriage between her son and a young woman of their same aristocratic background, but Augustine refused. He preferred the excitement of an unrespectable affair. No amount of pious pleading from his mother had any effect. Augustine was hell-bent on a hellacious life. And so his mother wept.
Then, when Augustine was 31 years old, something changed. His career as a teacher of rhetoric had led him to fellowship with some of the leading Christian thinkers of his day, whose wisdom he found attractive. Finally, one night, a small voice spoke to him, urging him to "take up and read," which he understood as a command from God to open the bible and read. As the pages opened to Romans 13, Augustine discovered the invitation by St. Paul to the pure life of a transformed Christian, and he accepted it. Instead of marriage or continued affairs, he became celibate. He was baptized and began to write some of the most important works in the Christian tradition. His mother lived to see his conversion, and this time she wept tears of joy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo).
In the gospel lesson appointed for Monnica's remembrance (Luke 7:11-17), we read the story of Jesus encountering a funeral procession outside the city of Nain. On the funeral bier was a man--the only son of a widow. Jesus was moved with compassion, and he approached the procession uninvited, unrequested, and said to the woman, "Do not weep." Then, he reached up and touched the bier. As those who carried the corpse stopped, Jesus said to the dead man, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" And the dead man sat up and began to speak. Fear and wonder seized them all, and Jesus helped them man down from the plank on which he was being carried to his grave and handed him back to his mother. And her tears of sadness and despair were changed to tears of rejoicing.
Mothers and sons. Love, affection, conflict, and heartache. What do you do when your son is lost? How to you convince him to marry the right woman? How do you compel him to do the right thing? How do you persuade him to leave a life of hedonism and accept the upstanding path appointed for him? How do you make him be the son you want him to be? How do you bring your spiritually, emotionally, financially dead son back to life? You don't. You just love him and cry until he finds his own way or doesn't. Monnica reminds us that even the one who brought him into this world cannot bring a dead son back to life. Only God can. Only Jesus can.
Our hope is not found in trying harder. The promise of new life is not given to those who listen to their mothers and decide to commit to a better life. No amount of motherly advice or direction or emotional pleading can coax a lost child into the light. Only God can. Only Jesus can. In Jesus Christ, we learn that resurrection happens and not by our own doing but by God's doing. We cannot save even those we love most of all. All we can do is love them and let God's love beckon them into salvation. No matter how hard we try to free our children from our parental role, we will always be a mom or a dad. We cannot save them because we cannot love them as only God can. Even if we do not articulate them to our children, even if we try our hardest to leave them behind, we will always represent hope and dream and promise and expectation and duty and responsibility to our offspring. We are their parents after all. We don't need another mother. We don't need another father. We need a savior who walks up and brings the dead back to life. We need God to do what we cannot do.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Don't tell the bishop or the Title IV police, but, like many churches, we invite a graduating senior to deliver the sermon on Youth Sunday. Thanks to our talented youth director, we have a well-defined process in place that includes identifying the preacher, inviting her to commit to the process, supporting her through regular meetings about the lessons and her sermon, offering constructive feedback during practice runs, and always supporting her in prayer. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to make the lessons for Youth Sunday, which always falls on Mothers Day, any better for a novice preacher.
Every year, it seems we're neck-deep in Jesus' lengthy dialogue with the disciples before he leaves them for good. Sure, the date of Easter changes every year, which means the Sunday in between Ascension Day and Pentecost moves up and down the calendar, but, for whatever reason, Youth Sunday gospel lesson is always particularly challenging. Because of that, I've been reading John 17:20-26 and thinking about it and discussing it with the preacher for weeks now, and I'm only just beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Today, when I read the lesson, my eye fell to a series of four "so that"s that occur throughout the passage. Often Jesus provides provocative teachings on issues of the kingdom (e.g. it's like a mustard seed) and the pattern of discipleship (e.g. one must hate his family and his own life), but rarely does he tell us why. "Why is that the case?" I want to ask him. Well, this week, we get some answers.
"So that" reflects the Greek word "ἵνα" (pronounced "hina"), which is a conjunction that links the first part and the second part with a consequential relationship, meaning "in order that" or "so that." The first exists in order that the second may happen. All of these "so that"s line up to make quite a point, but, because of all the other prepositional phrases and repeated pronouns, it's easy to get lost.
Let me strip it down for you:
#1: "May [those who believe in me] be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
#2 & #3: "The glory that you have given me I have given to them so that they may be one...so that the world may know that you have sent me."
#4: "I made your name known to [those who believe in me]...so that [your love for me] may be in them."
This is a clear description of mission and purpose. It is the Father's mission for Jesus and Jesus' mission for the world so that the world might believe in Jesus and the Father who sent him.
Notice how the first three "so that"s hold together. In two different but parallel statements, Jesus lays out his mission as to enable a unity that exists between Father and Jesus to extend to Jesus' followers so that the world might see what is happening. The fourth "so that" is related, but I would argue as a precedent of the other two. In short, it goes like this:
Jesus & the Father have a unity. Jesus' glory, which comes from the Father, is a reflection of that unity, and he has shared that glory with his followers so that the same unity between the Father and Jesus can be extended to the followers. Thus, Jesus is now asking the Father to draw the believers fully into that unity so that the rest of the world may recognize what is happening.
In the end, it's all about evangelism--sharing the good news of what God is doing in the world through God's Son. It's never about unity for unity's sake. It's never about glory for glory's sake. It's always about invitation. It's always reaching out. It's always beckoning in.
Don't let the tongue twister of a gospel lesson stand in the way of hearing this bit of good news and sharing it with a congregation. Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus has already drawn us into that oneness so that the world might see and believe. We are one with the Father so that the world may know. It's never just about us. It's always bigger than that.
Monday, May 2, 2016
In this blog, I've written before about how little I like Jesus' "high priestly prayer." Sure, it's a wonderful, powerful message of love, but it lasts...forever. Anytime you open one of those red-letter bibles and see both facing pages have nothing but the red letters of Jesus' words, you know that there's no action--all talk. Forgive me for wanting even a little narrative in the midst of dialogue, but I get worn out by this preaching.
Unless your congregation used John 5 yesterday, this coming Sunday will be the third in a row in which the gospel lesson contains nothing but talk: John 13, John 14, and now John 17. I'm tempted to preach on the lesson from Acts 16, in which the chains binding Paul and Silas are loosed during a God-sent earthquake, but I want to give Jesus a chance. I have a few days left to make up my mind. This time around, what does Jesus say that's worth listening to?
I can't help but notice that this is the very, actual, really, at last end of Jesus' prayer. These last few verses of John 17 are the last words Jesus will say to his disciples. As soon as these words are uttered, he heads off into the garden with his disciples to be arrested. So this is it. And what does Jesus pray for? Others. For what feels like pages and pages, he's been praying for his disciples--"All mine are yours, and yours are mine"--but now he turns his focus outward: "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one." This part of the prayer, therefore, is Jesus praying for us.
It takes a while to go back and read the whole thing, but it's worth it because, in Sunday's lesson, all of the things that Jesus asks the Father to do for his disciples he now asks the Father to do for us. The rest of the prayer uses mostly pronouns--them and they--but I presume that the operating text of "those who will believe in me through their word" is what defines the "they" and the "them" for the rest of the passage. In that case, it's pretty remarkable. All of the intimacy that Jesus has with the Father and that he has therefore imparted to the disciples through their close fellowship he now shares through this prayer with all of those who will come to believe in him through the testimony of the disciples. That means that the intimacy that Jesus had with his disciples is bestowed upon us. Jesus' final words are to remember you and me and pray that we may be included in all that he has to give.
Have you ever wanted to be one of the twelve disciples? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to share a meal with Jesus? Have you ever dreamt of watching the miracles unfold or hear the parables spoken for the first time? Have you thought of being there with them? On Sunday, Jesus will invite us into that inner circle.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
I don't know the statistics, but I'd guess that almost everyone in this country has dealt with depression. Whether dealing with it firsthand or through a family member, friend, or colleague, depression affects or has affected everyone I know. Perhaps there's a pocket of joyful, chemically balanced people living in a enclave I haven't heard of (directions, please!), but everyone else has to face the reality of someone who just can't make him or herself better and doesn't even want to try.
Why don't you look for a job? Why don't you start exercising again? Why don't you stop drinking so much? Why don't you take a vacation? Why don't you go back to school? Why don't you go see a therapist? Why don't you talk about it?
Have you ever tried to encourage someone with depression? Have you ever wanted to pull your hair out because your clear, sensible, relatively easy advice repeatedly falls on deaf ears?
In Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, there was a pool. And legend had it that on occasion an angel would descend and stir up the water, giving it healing powers. Whoever entered the pool of water first when the water was agitated would be healed. Naturally, a collection of sick, lame, and otherwise infirm individuals gathered around the pool, lying and waiting for their chance.
John tells us that Jesus walked up to a man who had been lying there, waiting for thirty-eight years. (The numbers are symbolic, but suffice it to say that he'd been there for a long time.) Jesus looks at the man and says, "Do you want to be made well?" And the man answered, "Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool." And Jesus tore his hair out and said to the man, "Didn't you hear what I said? I asked if you wanted to be made well. You're just focused on your problems. Why don't you start looking for a solution? Why don't you do something about it?"
No, of course, Jesus didn't say that. He looked at the man and gave him the healing he needed but didn't even have the strength to ask for. "Stand up, take your mat, and walk." Sometimes we need the healing we can't ask for. Sometimes we need salvation when we can't even look for it.
I've written about this before, and I'm borrowing largely from Jeffrey John, who wrote The Meaning in the Miracles. In that book, he describes this encounter as one of Jesus meeting someone who suffers from depression or addiction or another imprisoning, volition-robbing condition. And the salvation Jesus offers, he notes, doesn't even depend on the man's ability or willingness to ask for it. Jesus just steps in and offers the man what he's been sick too long to see--salvation.
We are depressed. Some of us are depressed in a clinical, diagnosable way. But I mean spiritual depression. The human condition limits our ability even to ask for help. We're silently slipping under the surface of the water and don't even know to cry out for help until it's too late. Jesus tossing us a life preserver isn't good enough. We don't have the strength or wherewithal to grab it. We need someone to reach down and lift us up, and that is the story of Jesus. That is the incarnation. That is the God who comes among us and unites our brokenness to himself. That is the one who died and rose again so that all our effort and even our inability to exert any effort would be redeemed.
I know John 14 makes more sense this week, but this is our only chance in three years to preach on John 5:1-9. Don't miss it. The world needs to hear that we are being saved even from our helplessness.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
This post originally appeared in The View, the newsletter for St. John's, Decatur. To read the rest of the newsletter and learn more about St. John's, click here.
Earlier this month, I drove down to Montgomery for a wedding. I had been planning the trip for months, having reserved the whole day on my calendar for the festivities. A few days before the trip, however, I learned that a colleague had died and that his funeral would be at a church outside of Birmingham earlier that same day. A quick calculation confirmed that I could easily attend both, and I considered it a gift from God that I was able to.
I pulled off of the interstate at the exit where the first church was located, and I realized that I still had some time to kill, so I drove up to a gas station to use the restroom and buy a soda to go with the lunch that I had packed for myself. As I walked toward the men’s restroom, I passed by a young black man, who had finished a few seconds before I arrived. I closed the door and locked it behind me, grateful for the privacy of modern conveniences. Then, I saw it. Scratched into the wall by the commode were the words “I Hate Niggers.” (In writing this article, I choose not to abbreviate the racial slur because I do not want to sanitize something that I believe is a stain on our culture that we must confront in its totality.) Elsewhere on the wall were other smaller though no less significant proclamations of racism—repeated use of that word as well as swastikas and references to the KKK. Some were written with permanent black marker. Others were carved into the plastic or Formica surfaces. Some had been scratched out. A few counter-arguments about rednecks and trailer trash were offered. It was a stunning canvass of hate.
I was amazed. “This is the twenty-first century,” I said to myself. “What is going on here? Aren’t we past all of this?” Then I remembered the teenager who was exiting the restroom when I arrived. What did he think? What does it mean to see these symbols of hate carved freshly into the bathroom walls? What thoughts and emotions rise up in a young black man’s heart when he sees the vestiges of persecution, fear, torture, and death inscribed onto a modern day facility? For a man that young, Jim Crow would have been primarily a history passed down to him by his grandparents, but the hatred of that segregationist past is a life he still encounters today. Because of my race, I have the luxury and privilege of pretending that those words and symbols are legacies of a bygone era, but those bathroom walls remind me that, for many, those legacies are still real and active.
History shows us that these struggles are nothing new. In the first century, the apostle Paul urged the Christian community to move beyond racial prejudice and the division that it was creating in the church: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Paul likely borrowed those words from an early confessional statement associated with Christian baptism, using them to undergird his theological argument that, in Jesus, distinctions of ethnicity, class, and gender all fall away. His opponents believed that the way of Jesus was exclusively Jewish and that Gentile Christians must first convert to Judaism before becoming Jesus’ disciples, but Paul would have none of it. As he understood it, the way of Jesus Christ was threatened by those who saw meaning in those differences, and he wrote furiously against those who attempted to maintain any sort of ethnic segregation.
In the centuries since Paul wrote those words, we have lost sight of the necessity of racial equality in the kingdom of God. By the time the four gospel accounts were written, anti-Semitic sentiments, which had grown within the Christian community in the latter part of the first century, were enshrined as holy writ. Since then, theologians and churchmen like Martin Luther and George Whitefield—both heroes of the church—used the bible to justify segregation and slavery. “Sure,” we might say to ourselves, “those people and their ideologies are locked in the past—products of a time when religion reflected the society at large,” but what are we the church doing to ensure that the world looks more like the kingdom of God?
The persistence of racism in our society is a direct challenge to the authority of God and God’s reign on the earth. Whether we are carving the words into the bathroom stalls or shrugging our shoulders when we see them, we are perpetuating a culture where differences in race and class and gender are concrete. Those ‘isms cannot be present in the kingdom of God. They are the very powers of this world that stand in opposition to the way of Jesus. Thus, we are condemned by our silence. Even by doing nothing, we are standing in the way of God’s kingdom.
In Jesus Christ there is no longer black or white. In Jesus Christ there is no longer rich or poor. In Jesus Christ there is no longer male or female. Paul did not write those words to describe a kingdom that exists in the distant future—an eschatological place and time where there will be no such distinctions. Instead, he wrote of the present-day reign of Christ that has existed on earth since Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin. Whenever we are silent in the face of such racism, we refasten those chains onto ourselves as well as those who are the targets of our culture’s racism.
I am thankful that I rarely hear someone say the word “nigger” anymore. I would like to think that that points to an improvement in race relations since my childhood, but I suspect that is because such racist words and thoughts are now reserved for the privacy of a bathroom stall or a putting green or a dinner table—places and times where a member of the clergy is not present. But you don’t have to be a priest to stand up for God’s kingdom. Start with something as simple as telling your friends that you do not care for jokes like that. Consider asking those in your social circle whether by “those people” they mean “African Americans” or “Latinos” and then ask them what race has to do with whatever issue they are talking about. Stop pretending that everything is just fine simply because our country elected a black President or because our church elected a black Presiding Bishop. Pay attention to the writing on the bathroom walls. Acknowledge that this world is still a long way from the kingdom of God. Look for things you can do or say to bring all of us closer to God’s reign, and then do them and say them.
Monday, April 25, 2016
The collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter portrays a logic unique to the gospel. It is an expression of how grace works. It defines that which makes Christianity distinct among religions and philosophies throughout human history. This is the preacher's chance to give the congregation a reason to go to church instead of the coffee shop, the yoga studio, the soccer field, the grocery store, the back yard, the golf course, or anywhere else people go on Sunday mornings. In fact, this is the only reason to bother going to church at all. We've got a week to look forward to preaching grace, and, for me, that starts with the collect.
Here's the prayer that the presider will use to collect all of the thoughts and prayers of the congregation this Sunday, but I wonder whether any of the clergy are paying careful enough attention to what it says:
Let's break that down into three counter-intuitive steps:O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- God gives good things to those who love him.
- We ask God to give us love for him.
- So that, having been given this love, we may receive those good things.
The first part makes sense in the human, worldly way of things. There is a being greater than I, and that being will reward those who love him/her/it. Our love of that entity is expressed in many ways: going to church, saying our prayers, being nice to strangers, trying to be a good parent, sending our mothers flowers on Mothers Day. We get that part. The world is built upon rewarding those who've earned it.
But then all the worldly logic unravels. "Pour into our hearts such love toward you." We know that love of God is the thing we must possess to receive those heavenly rewards, but, when it comes time to find them, we look not within ourselves for that crucial ingredient. We look to God. We ask him to give us that thing by which our worthiness is evaluated. God has prepared immeasurably good things for those who love him, so we ask God to make us love him. In effect, it explodes the logic of the first premise. It is, therefore, a confessional statement. We know that we must love you, and we know that that love cannot be found within us, so please pour it into our hearts!
The third part--a restatement of the first--is a completion of the deal. It's the collect's way of saying, "Yes, I know this sounds crazy; that's on purpose." Once we have received the love that you've given us, we will be able to love you enough to receive the gifts you promise to those who love you. Wait, what? Yes. Crazy.
God's rewards are granted not for something we've done but for something God himself has given us. Imagine the judge at the County Fair handing you the apple pie she baked and then telling you that you won. It's her pie. You didn't bake anything. But you still get the blue ribbon? In what bizzaro world does that happen?
In God's kingdom. In the gospel. In the universe-altering story of Jesus. We must love God, but we can't love God unless God gives us the love we're looking for. What is our role in the equation? Not much, really. And that's the good news of the gospel.
April 24, 2016 – The 5th Sunday of Easter
© 2016 Evan D. Garner
Audio of this sermon can be heard here.
To start the sermon this morning, I’d like to play a little game of musical fill-in-the-blank. Help me out here, ok?
First one: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible ________________.” (tells me so)
Second one: “If you’re happy and you know it, _________________.” (clap your hands)
Last one—slightly harder: “And they’ll know we are Christians ______________.” (by our love)
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love. We know that song. We know that refrain. We might not know that Peter Scholtes wrote that song when he was serving as a parish priest on the southside of Chicago in the 1960s and needed a song to capture the spirit of the ecumenical and interracial work that he and his youth choir were a part of. And we might even forget that it is a response to John 13, when Jesus says to his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” But we remember those words: they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
But what are Christians known for today? Is it love? When the non-Christian world hears about us, thinks about us, sees us on television, and reads about us in the news, what do they see and hear and read? How are we known? Is it by our love, or are we known by something else? I don’t think it is love. I think that the Christian movement has lost its focus on love and on Jesus as the one who taught us to love. And, until we get it back, I think that the church will continue to slide off into cultural irrelevancy because love, after all, is what the world needs now.
There’s an organization called the Barna Group that for thirty years has been doing research on faith and culture and how the two intersect. Their website has hundreds of studies that they have done about religion and politics and evangelism, and there are two of those studies that really interest me. The first is about millennials and going to church, and the second is about what young non-Christians think about Christianity.
Millennials comprise that generation that became adults around or after the year 2000, which mean that they are the 25-35-year-olds that every church wants in its pews. Last year, the Barna Group did a survey of millennials and found that 30% believe that going to church isn’t at all important and another 30% believe that going to church is very important and that other 40% is somewhere in between. That’s not too surprising, but consider this. Of the 30% who don’t think church attendance is at all important, 39% say that it’s because they find God somewhere else. Even worse, 20% say that they don’t go to church because God is missing from churches altogether. Consider, on the other hand, that of those who think church attendance is very important 22% say that the reason they go to church is because the bible tells them that they should. No wonder the 20% of non-church-goers think that God is missing from churches—because 22% of those who do go think the best reason for going is because some ancient book says the should. Can’t we do better than that? Does it surprise you, then, that among all millennials—Christians and non-Christians—that, when presented with four different images depicting aspects of Christianity, a majority picked the two negative images—a finger being pointed at the viewer and a man with a bullhorn—than the two positive images—a man reaching out to help someone in need and a congregation in the middle of worship?
Nine years ago, the Barna Group did a survey of 16-to-29-year-old non-Christians and found some startling perceptions of Christianity among them. Among the twelve most popular reported perceptions, nine were negative—87% said “judgmental,” 85% said “hypocritical,” 78% said “old-fashioned,” 75% said “too involved in politics.” Even among young Christians, “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too political” were labels chosen by more than half of the respondents. Where is “loving” on that list? That was nine years ago, but has anything changed in the last decade?
I am grateful to organizations like the Barna Group and the Pew Research Center for their work, which gives church leaders data to incorporate into their strategic planning, but do we really need a survey to tell us that the world thinks of Christians as a bunch of judgmental hypocrites? When news reports on Christianity are dominated by sex abuse scandals and televangelists lining their pockets and hateful demonstrators from Westboro Baptist Church and denominations fighting over human sexuality, are we surprised that the world wants to change the channel? That’s why Pope Francis is so popular: you don’t have to be Catholic to think mercy is a good idea; you don’t have to be a Christian to fall in love with radical forgiveness. If we want the world to be excited about what it is that we are doing, we need to remember how to love each other.
We must return to love. We must be about love. To borrow from W. H. Auden, who wrote on the occasion of the outbreak of WWII, “We must love one another or die.” Jesus said to his followers, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” It sounds easy enough, but it’s deceptively difficult. By “love,” Jesus didn’t mean “get along with one another” or “enjoy one another’s company.” Jesus meant agape—true, total, selfless love. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” he said. Just as I have loved you? With a love that has no limit? With a love that is willing to die? That must be the love that we have for one another. How will the world know that we are Jesus’ disciples? When we love each other with the same selfless love that he has for the world.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to start an organization. What we do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights isn’t what he had in mind. He came to earth to love and to teach us how to love. So put down right or wrong. Let go of winners and losers. You can’t argue someone into loving you, just like you can’t beat someone into heaven. Just love. If we are going to be true followers of Jesus, we must love each other just as he loves us. We must be known to the world by our love.
 “What Millennials Want When They Visit Church.” March 4, 2015. The Barna Group. https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/711-what-millennials-want-when-they-visit-church.
 “A New Generation Expressions Its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity.” September 21, 2007. The Barna Group. https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/94-a-new-generation-expresses-its-skepticism-and-frustration-with-christianity.
 “September 1, 1939.” W. H. Auden. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/september-1-1939.