Monday, February 28, 2005

Sun, Feb 27, 2005 - Lent 3

Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm 95

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-42

One of the difficulties of being two thousand years removed from Jesus and the writing of the Gospels is that we lose a lot of the totally outrageous nature of what Jesus did. We’ve heard the stories so many times, and we’ve lost so much of the original context, that we hear a story like today’s, about Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and we kind of shrug our shoulders and go, "Okay, so Jesus is talking to a woman about eternal water. What does that have to do with me?" Or we hear Paul talking to the Romans in his letter, saying that "Christ died for the ungodly," and we think, "yeah, yeah, Jesus died for sinners. Whatever."

But Jesus really did do some incredibly radical things when he lived among us, including dying for the ungodly, and when we really stop to think about it, we can find ourselves both extraordinarily challenged and extraordinarily thankful for the way Jesus behaved and the forgiveness he offered to people. So my plan for this morning is to unpack for you the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman and hopefully draw some parallels in today’s world that will both challenge you and move you to be thankful for what Jesus has done.

So, most of this you probably already know, but it’s important to highlight it anyway. The barebones outline of our Gospel story is that Jesus asks a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water, and then offers her life-saving eternal water in return and tells her he’s the Messiah.

But there is so much more going on here than it seems. First of all, even at the most basic level, Jesus is, according to the rules of his day, sinning. Jesus is breaking all the rules by talking to a Samaritan, and not only talking, but asking to share a jug of water with a Samaritan. The Gospel says, "Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans," but that’s a total understatement. In Jesus’ time, Samaritans were unclean, unholy, unJewish, and completely unacceptable. No Jew, especially a rabbi who claimed to be close to God, would even dream of travelling through Samaria, let alone sharing an eating utensil with them. It would be like a woman pastor presiding over communion in a Roman Catholic church. It just wasn’t done. And yet, here’s Jesus, in Samaria, asking for a drink of water from a Samaritan.

But not just any Samaritan - a Samaritan woman. Second rule Jesus is breaking. Men don’t talk to women in public. Not even if they’re related. In Jesus’ time, and extending beyond that to Paul’s time even, which is why we get the letters telling women not to speak up in church, is the understanding that women don’t speak to men in public. Patriarchal hierarchy system - it’s kind of like when we say to little kids, "Be quiet, the adults are talking." That’s what it was - "be quiet, the men are talking." Actually, it was more about women being unclean, and talking to them would contaminate the men, but the result is the same. No men and women talking together. Yet here is Jesus, not only talking to a woman in public, but initiating and pursuing a conversation. He is not supposed to be doing this! As a holy Jew, he has to keep himself as clean and uncontaminated, as sinless, as possible.

And here’s what comes next - Jesus states that the woman has had five husbands and is now "living in sin" as we would say with a man who isn’t her husband. Under Old Testament rules, she qualifies as an adulterer, a sinner, someone who ought to be stoned. There’s no question, even today, that adultery is a sin. And what is Jesus’ response? Does he, like he’s done in other Gospels, tell the woman to "go and sin no more?" Curiously enough, he doesn’t. The fact that she is what we would call an "unrepentant sinner" doesn’t seem to bother him. I’m not saying that that means Jesus is condoning her behaviour, but it just doesn’t seem to be an issue for him. And in fact, after proclaiming that "the hour is coming" when God will be worshipped everywhere, not just in the temple in Jerusalem - a radical enough statement in itself - he then proclaims to her that he is the Messiah, the Christ, who has been promised.

Now here’s the astonishing thing about that: up to this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus had refrained from saying who he was. He made oblique references to "the Son of Man", and "my Father in heaven," but he never once came out and said that he was the promised Messiah that everyone was waiting for. Until now. His grand proclamation of who he is isn’t done press conference style to all the important people like the Jewish leaders or priests. Instead, it’s given to this three times sinful person - this adulterous, Samaritan, woman. To the religiously observant of Jesus’ time, this was absolutely shocking - completely outrageous! It’s as if Jesus came at the Second Coming and didn’t appear first to a church full of Christians, but instead showed up at a stripclub or a biker bar or a gay pride parade. I mean seriously, how much more inappropriate can you get?

But you know what? Jesus Christ, God’s anointed one, lived and died completely inappropriately. And there’s the challenge for us. Paul tells the Romans flat out - Christ died for the ungodly, for the sinners, for nobody less than the enemies of God. We hear that phrase so often that after a while it just kind of slips by us unnoticed. Christ died to bring salvation for the ungodly - for people who aren’t Christians, for people who don’t have any kind of religion at all. Christ died to bring salvation to sinners - for every single person out there who turns away from God, not just once in their life, but over and over and over again. Christ died to bring salvation to the enemies of God - I can barely even grasp that one. Christ died for those who reject God, who want nothing to do with God, who go out of their way to counter goodness and life. To be honest, I find that last one hard to accept - that Christ died for murderers, for dictators who orchestrate genocide, for violent offenders. But there it is - in Paul’s words, "while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of God’s Son."

In fact, Christ did more than just die for these people. In dying, Christ reconciled these people to God - Christ made them right with God. Christ took away their sin. Would we even be so bold as to say Christ made them sinless? The adulterous Samaritan woman, the non-Jews, the non-Christians, the unrepentant sinners, the murderers, the perpetrators of evil - Christ’s death made them right with God. Can we even begin to grasp what this means?

I hope so, because it means something for you and me, too. You see, we are the three times sinful adulterous, Samaritan woman. We are the ungodly, the sinners, the enemies of God. We are, each one of us, guilty of continually turning away from God, of continuing in some sin or another that we don’t even want to repent from, of stepping on the Light and Good we see in other people because we’re too tired to do right, or too proud to admit we’re wrong, or because we flat out don’t care about them. We may call ourselves Christians, we may even be Christians, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not sinners. We are - we’re right there in Samaria, next to the well, knowing in our hearts that somebody like Jesus really ought not to be spending time in our company.

So thank God, then, that that’s how Jesus prefers to spend his time and that those are the people for whom Jesus died - for the ungodly, for the sinners, for the enemies of God. Jesus Christ didn’t come for the righteous, for those who live perfect lives, for those who think they’re making God happy by what they do. He came for the rest of us. For you. Christ came, lived, and died so that you would be reconciled to God, so that you would be able to stand before God without sin, as righteous as Christ himself.

And that’s that. That’s all there is - two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ died for you and for all sinners so that you would be made right with God. And as simple as it sounds, it was a move that broke down and rebuilt everything that religious people thought they knew about sinners and righteousness and God. And therein lies both our challenge andour reason for thankfulness. We can wonder, like the religious leaders of the day did, how it’s possible that Jesus could be with such lowly, undeserving people as ungodly sinners, or we can just thank God that he was and continues to be. We can condemn Jesus for his inappropriate behaviour and company or we can say, like the Samaritans did at the end, that Jesus Christ is "truly the Saviour of the world."

For further reading on the issue of crossed boundaries between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, see

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sun, Feb 20, 2005

Sorry - there's no sermon today! (Even God rested for a day.)

The reason there's no sermon is because the youth of the congregation did a skit on homelessness in order to raise awareness for the National Youth Project - Mission Possible:Building Hope. Please check it out and donate if you can.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sun, Feb 13, 2005 - Spritual DNA

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 32

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

Just after Christmas, my cousin’s wife gave birth to a baby boy, the first baby to be born in my extended family in twenty-odd years. And even though I’m not that close with my cousin, I was really excited that a brand new person had come into the world who had a little bit of my DNA. Of course, the connection isn’t that strong. My cousin and I have the same grandparents, so his new baby only has a quarter of the Driedger family DNA that I have, but still! Somebody who shares one fourth of my genetic material has been born into the world. It’s pretty cool!

In fact, the whole area of genetics and DNA is pretty cool. The genes we inherit from our biological parents affect our height, our hair and eye colour, our skin colour, what kind of diseases we’re likely to develop, our gender, almost everything in our physical make-up. Scientists are discovering that our genes even play a role in our psychological make-up - in our predisposition towards depression or mental illness. It’s fascinating to think how much of our lives are influenced by our DNA.

But we also know that our lives are not completely determined by our genes. We can fight off our genetic predisposition to certain kinds of illnesses, like heart disease or some kinds of cancer, by controlling our diet, getting exercise, taking medication. We can, in some cases, take steps to prevent depression and mental illness from taking hold. Still, though, there are some things we can’t control. We can’t control our height or our natural hair colour. I inherited the DNA for blond hair and for brown hair, and the dominant brown hair gene took over. I have absolutely no choice in the matter. What we inherit, genetically speaking, is unalterable.

Well, today’s readings are about our spiritual DNA. Now, before I go any further, I am compelled to tell you that this idea of spiritual DNA isn’t mine, it comes from something Barbara Brown Taylor, a highly respected American preacher, said. Talking about Adam and Eve and Jesus, she wrote, "We have both sets of genes in us. We are kin to both of them." But I want to flesh that out some more, because I think the idea of spiritual DNA can help us to understand what it means that we are both inheritors of sin through Adam and Eve, and inheritors of righteousness through Jesus Christ. I think it can help us understand ourselves as sinners who’ve been redeemed as saints.

There’s a Simpsons’ episode on TV where the whole Simpson family become suspects in a murder case based on DNA evidence. When the daughter, Lisa, objects that her mother, Marge, can’t possibly be a suspect because she only married into the Simpson family, Marge responds, "No, no, when I took your father’s name, I took everything that came with it - including DNA." [Season 7, Episode 1] The point is, we are in the same position Marge Simpson thinks she’s in when it comes to our spiritual DNA. Although we are not the physically genetic descendants of Adam and Eve, we are their spiritual descendants. We have within us the same tendency to defy God’s authority, to reach for the things that are forbidden, and to listen to that same voice that tells us that there are no consequences - we will not die - for violating the trust that God has placed in us. Augustine, a church father from the fourth century, described this as original sin. Paul talks more about universal sin; "all have sinned" he says over and over in the letter to the Romans. We might call it the "sinner" gene, and we have only to look around us to see that we all have it. Faced with choices at work, at school, and at home, we know how often it is that we choose the path of selfish rebellion over the path of service to others and to God. More than that, we know how often it seems as if there isn’t even any choice about it - how often it seems that we are somehow compelled - predisposed - to make the choices that we do, to behave as sinners.

Fortunately, Adam and Eve aren’t the only ones contributing to our spiritual DNA. Our DNA also comes from Jesus Christ. Just as Marge inherited Simpson DNA when she took on her husband’s name, we inherited Jesus’ DNA when we took on the name of Christians in our baptism. And so along with the sinner gene that predisposes us to behaving like Adam and Eve, we also have within us what you might call the saint gene that enables us to say no to the temptations that are in front of us. We also have within us the tendency to refuse to rely only on ourselves to get by, to refuse to put God to the test, to refuse to make ourselves our own God. We have the innate ability - the spiritual genetics - that gives us the power to say, like Jesus, "Away with you, Satan!" and to turn to God.

So what do we do with these two sets of genes pulling us in opposite directions? Well, just as we have dominant and recessive genes in our physical DNA, it’s the same spiritually. The gene for brown hair is dominant over the gene for blonde hair, and similarly the saint genes of Jesus are dominant over the sinner genes of Adam and Eve. Paul conveys the same idea about Christ’s dominance over evil when he talks about how the free gift of grace through Jesus Christ spreads throughout the world so much more than the judgment of death. "Just as one man’s trespass (meaning Adam) led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness (meaning Jesus) leads to justification and life for all." "For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many." Grace and righteousness are stronger than judgment and death. The saint is stronger than the sinner. Jesus’ DNA is stronger than Adam and Eve’s.

And we see that in the world, too. Christians, including me, often fall into the trap of seeing only evil in the world, of identifying the genetic strains of only Adam and Eve. But Jesus is here, too. When people march in the streets for justice, when they give money and time to relief efforts, when they strive to make their workplace more compassionate, when they’re kind to strangers, we see the dominant DNA of Christ’s love and compassion exerting itself. When you allow the grace of Christ to show through you, you’re letting that saint gene manifest itself.

So does that mean we sit back and let our genetic destiny run our lives? Do we foster the sinner gene knowing that the saint gene will always pull us back? Well, no, of course not. We do have our part to play in helping the Jesus DNA to be the dominant gene in our lives. You may have DNA that predisposes you to having a healthy heart and a cancer-free body, but that doesn’t mean you can eat fast food and smoke three packs of cigarettes a day. You have to take care of your body, and help it to be healthy and do what comes naturally to it. If you choose to put those healthy genes to the test and eat high-fat, high-cholesterol food and watch TV all day, you will probably overcome your body’s natural good health. The choices we make in life can negate the blessings of our DNA. We can, if we try hard enough, suppress the advantage that Jesus’ saint DNA gives us.

On the other hand, though, we can’t completely get rid of it. For all intents and purposes, we can’t deny our God-given DNA. I have no choice about my natural hair colour. I can’t go into my body and take out the dominant gene that makes my hair brown. And neither can we go into ourselves and take out the dominant gene that brings us the grace and righteousness of Christ. I can dye my hair, but that’s only a superficial change. We can make choices that deny our status as saints, but again, when it comes to the power Jesus’ DNA has over us, those will only be superficial changes as well. "For," as Paul writes later on in Romans, "sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."

We are genetically predisposed to sin - a legacy from our spiritual ancestors, Adam and Eve. And when we’re not careful, it leads us to rebel against God. But we are also genetically predisposed to be saints - our inheritance from Jesus Christ - leading us to live lives of serving others. And in all ways, the saintly DNA of Christ continues to be dominant over our sinner DNA, leading "to justification and life for all." We are, in the end, descendants - children - of God. So as you journey through this season of Lent, may you fully realize your genetic heritage - your predisposition to sin, but even more, your predisposition to righteousness, freely given to you through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Wed, Feb 9, 2005 - Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-18

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

So, how’s your week going? Have you been good? Have you been nice to people? Have you shared with others? Have you loved the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and your neighbour as yourself? I haven’t. I have, despite my best efforts, not been nice to absolutely every single person I’ve met, I have indulged in the more-than-occasional mean thoughts about people I don’t like, I have been short-tempered with people I love, I have turned away from really, truly helping people in need, I have deliberately misinterpreted people’s words or actions so that I sound better than them. I have not loved God with absolutely everything in me, and I have not loved my neighbour - especially the neighbours who throw empty Tim Horton’s coffee cups on my lawn - as myself.

How about you? Have you been good? Have you given your money to the poor? (And I’m not talking about just a measly quarter here.) Have you prayed for every person in need, even the ones you think don’t deserve it? Have you denied yourself so that someone else can have more? If you have done something good this week, and I’m not saying you haven’t, did you do it without telling anybody about it? Or did you point it out, hoping somebody would thank you for it? Did you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and your neighbour as yourself?

Well, I’m going to be bold and honest and probably annoy you by saying that I know you didn’t. I know I didn’t. And that’s why we’re here tonight. We’re here because we know, deep within ourselves, whether we are willing to admit it or not, that we sin. And by sin, I mean that we live in such a way that our relationships with God and with one another are not what they should be. They are not perfect. When I say we sin, I mean that in our lives we turn away from God by hurting and neglecting others, and even by hurting and neglecting ourselves. When I say we sin, I am only pointing out what you already know : that our world - God, the community, us - is broken and we have contributed to it being that way. We need help.

Which is why we are here - because we know that we sin, and we know that we need help to stop. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me," we said together earlier. We want to do better. I don’t think any of us particularly enjoys living this way, knowing that we hurt people, knowing that we sin. We are here to repent, and to ask God to help us to do better, and we want to take the next forty days - the season of Lent - to become a new person. And as a sign of that repentance, as a visible action that helps us to do better, we take part in the primary ritual of Ash Wednesday, receiving a cross of ashes on our forehead.

This is an uncomfortable ritual. We receive the cross, and we hear the words, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return." We are reminded that because of our sin and our role in hurting others, we do not deserve to live. We do not deserve to call ourselves anything more than the dust from which we came. To use a colloquialism, we are reminded that we suck.

Thank God, then, for what we are given in Christ Jesus! Because what we are given is help to do better, forgiveness for what we’ve done wrong, and a brand new life, one that will not end up in ashes. In the reading from Joel, we are encouraged to "return to the Lord, for your God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing." Through Christ, God has already forgiven us for the sins we commit, and God is already working within us to fix the relationships and the world that we’ve broken. The time of salvation is now, says Paul in our second reading. It’s not tomorrow, or next week, or in forty days when Lent is over, it’s now.

And that is also why we are here. Ash Wednesday is not just about how we suck and are in dire need of help to do better. Ash Wednesday is also about how God is, right now, redeeming us through Christ and giving us the help we need to truly love God and our neighbour. You see, hidden underneath that cross of ashes, but there nonetheless, is the cross of water that you received when you were baptized. And that cross marks you as someone who has been forgiven by God, someone who is being made a new person in Christ, and someone who is constantly receiving the Holy Spirit to help you to turn away from sin. You do not have to wait until Easter for it - it’s already begun!

Today is a day for remembering our need to turn away from sin and brokenness, and realizing that God is in the process of answering that need. It’s about how God sent Jesus Christ into the world to change us sucky, needy, dusty sinners into blessed, giving, water-covered saints. It’s about how these next forty days can be a time of restoring relationships, forgiving others, being nice, helping the poor, living good lives, thanking God for the gift of Christ Jesus. So may Ash Wednesday be for you the beginning of a God-filled forty days toward Easter, and may the cross of ashes you are about to receive make real to you the need for repentance and the promise of God’s forgiveness. Amen.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sunday, Feb 6, 2005 - What Goes Up Must Come Down

Tranfiguration Sunday

Exodus 24:12-18

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9

"When you’re up, it’s hard to come down." I think that phrase would be a good description of our two stories today - Moses on the mountaintop with God, and Peter, James, and John up on their mountaintop with Jesus. Mountains actually play a special role in the Bible; the major events that happen in our Scriptures take place on mountains. Noah’s ark landed on Mount Ararat. Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed, and was saved from doing it, on a mountain in the land of Moriah. Moses was given the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, or Mount Horeb, as it’s sometimes called. King David built the holy city of Jerusalem on Mount Zion. Jesus went up into the mountains to talk to God, and - in our gospel reading - to be filled with the light of God in front of the disciples. Mountains were places where God was revealed because they were the places closest to heaven, which was literally believed to be just beyond the sky. People went up to be with God, and they came back down to earth. In our modern understanding of the world, we know that heaven isn’t literally up there - that’s just outer space. But we still talk about being lifted up, feeling high, being on cloud nine when we want to convey a special experience, and about being brought back to earth, coming down, feeling low when that experience is over. And we would all agree that when you’re up, it’s hard to come down.

Moses and the disciples would probably both have agreed with that statement. Moses’ experience on the mountaintop was truly an incredible thing. His experience with God was so powerful that it couldn’t be described in any direct way. Instead, the writers of the story said that it was like there was a vague, fiery cloud on the mountain. We can imagine something like rainclouds that have lightening going off inside them. And in that cloud, Moses and God talked. Well, God talked, and Moses listened, but it was enough for Moses. For forty days and forty nights, in other words, for a very long time, God talked to Moses, telling him about how the new tabernacle was to be built, and the ark of the covenant, and what the vestments for the priests should look like, and how to make offerings, and of course, about how God was sealing the covenant with Israel, to be their God. It was, no doubt, a glorious experience for Moses, and there’s no doubt that he was overwhelmed by it.

Peter, James, and John were also overwhelmed by their mountaintop experience with Jesus. They didn’t see God quite the way Moses did, but their experience also had to be described in an indirect way. Jesus called their experience a vision, and the words we are given talk about Moses and Elijah being there, and Jesus shining like the sun, in dazzling white clothes, and a bright cloud hanging over everything, out of which God’s voice came. It was such a tremendous experience that the disciples all dropped to the ground, completely awestruck. And yet they didn’t want to leave. "It is good for us to be here;" said Peter to Jesus. "If you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Peter wanted to stay up on the mountain for a long time, to be in the very real presence of God for as long as he could. Now that he’d seen what he saw up on the mountain, he didn’t want to come back down.

But he had to. As did Jesus, and James, and John, and even Moses - the first Moses. Even though none of them wanted to end their experience with God on top of the mountain, they all had to leave. They had to go back down and deal with the realities that lay at the bottom. Which, incidentally, weren’t very pretty. Moses had to go back down the mountain in order to stop the Israelites from worshipping the golden calf. He had to lead the complaining, ungrateful Israelites through the wilderness for forty years, all the while teaching them about Torah and God’s covenant with them. He would probably have preferred to stay listening to God than going back down and ordering the deaths of those who worshipped the calf (yeah - we don’t get that story in the lectionary), but that’s what he had to go back down to do.

The disciples would rather have stayed up on the mountain with Jesus and Moses and Elijah, but they, too, couldn’t do that. They had to go back down, to be with Jesus as he healed an epileptic boy, and then to follow him down the miserable road to Jerusalem, to his arrest, and to his crucifixion, and even beyond that to the exhausting work of bringing the good news to the world. Once they left that high mountain, they would have a lot of pain and frustration and persecution to deal with. But they had to go back down. What goes up, must come down.

We have our mountaintop experiences, too. We have those all-too-short moments in time when we feel God so overwhelmingly that it is as if God is right there in front of us. Some people have this experience alone while praying, some while gathered with a large group to worship, some in church on Sunday. Some people have these experiences regularly, some people have it only once in their entire lifetime. But when we have them, they’re wonderful. They inspire us, and fill us, and move us to want to be closer to God. They make us feel good - peaceful, whole, loved. They make our lives in that period of time so perfect that we want to stay there. We want to remain in the heights of those ecstatic moments, and never come back down. And when they’re over, we want them back. We seek them out, we try and replicate the circumstances under which they happened, we try new spiritual activities, we even try more of the same things we’re doing, as if that might make a difference. We resent going back to work on Monday after Sunday is over. We get frustrated that the feelings of peacefulness and bliss that we had are so easily replaced with impatience and anger. We might even wish that we had no other responsibilities so that we could go off and do nothing but experience that spiritual high. We want to be back up there, back up with Moses and Elijah and Jesus, and we want to stay there.

But, like Moses and the disciples, we have to come down. As much as we’d like to, we can’t live on the mountain. We’re not supposed to live on the mountain. You see, those moving, spiritual, intimate connections with God aren’t the goal of our life; the Sunday mornings in church aren’t the endpoint of our Christian life. They’re not what we’re supposed to be working towards. It’s the work down here that we’re meant to focus on - the Mondays to Saturdays of living. The work of Jesus - being with the sick, feeding the poor, standing up for the oppressed, proclaiming the good news of forgiveness and salvation - that’s the point of our lives, that’s the ultimate goal we’re working towards. And we can’t do that when we’re up there in the clouds, or searching out the next spiritual encounter, or sitting in the pews of the church engaged in Sunday worship. We have to leave the mountain, go out those doors, and into the dirty, dusty world so that we can continue the disciples’ exhausting work of bringing the good news to the world. There’s a lot of pain and frustration and persecution to deal with. But in order to bring Jesus’ healing to those in need, we have to go back down. What goes up, must come down.

Renita Weems, a Methodist minister and professor at Vanderbilt University in the States wrote, "Faith is what you do between the last time you experienced God and the next time you experience God." The spiritual mountaintop experiences we have are meant to inspire us, and give us what we need to keep going, but they’re not dwelling places. We can’t stay there - that’s not what a life of faith is all about. But God doesn’t send us off empty-handed, just like God didn’t send off Moses and the disciples without anything. To Moses, God gave the gift of Torah to show him the path of God. When he was wandering through the desert for forty years, he had what we call the Bible to keep his spirits up. To the disciples, God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, to sustain them through their difficult journeys. When they were being persecuted and tortured, or even just ignored, they were encouraged and edified by God’s presence in Spirit. And we, too, are given both Torah and the Holy Spirit, to show us the path of God, to strengthen us and to keep us going, to sustain us between the last time we experienced God and the next time we experience God. We, too, are given faith. So, as you rest in this mountaintop place, may you be sustained by your time here, strengthened by the Holy Spirit to go back down, and inspired to continue the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.