Sunday, February 26, 2017

What do we see?

26 February 2017 – Transfiguration Sunday

Exodus 24:12-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

“Exalt The Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for The Lord our God is holy.”  Psalm 99:9

OPENING PRAYER: Holy God, upon the mountain You revealed Your Messiah in His fullness and glory, who by His life, death, and resurrection would fulfill both the Law and the prophets.  By His Transfiguration, enlighten our path and open our hearts that we may dare to strive with Him in the service of humanity by witness of the Everlasting Truth.  Then may we share in the Everlasting Glory of Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit.  One God, True God, forever and ever.  Amen.

This past week I had the privilege of speaking with another pastor whose keen insight borne of his own personal challenges has challenged me all the more to practice being in the Presence of The Lord as a means of self-care.  Along with that, another man who is a chaplain at UAMS spoke of prayer as a state of being rather than a “thing” we do.  So when we practice being in the Presence and acknowledge our own time of prayer as the state of our being as individuals and as the Church, what do we see? 

The answer to that question may be key in helping us to understand what Peter was trying to say in his second letter.  Because he was “on the holy mountain” with James and John as witness to the Transfiguration of our Lord, he wrote, “We have the prophetic message more fully confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19).  And the beginning of the prophetic message may well be this: “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation because no prophecy ever came by human will” (2 Peter 1:20-21). 

This means that while the human reality is that the Bible means different things to different people, the Divine Reality is the Holy Scripture as Divine Revelation can have only one real meaning; that which is conveyed by the Holy Spirit of our God and Father.  To discover that real meaning requires rigid discipline and a lifetime of devotion in sacrifice of self rather than incremental moments made only as a matter of personal convenience.

That “prophetic message” does not provide simple, concise answers to any questions we may have about the full meaning of the Transfiguration or any other mystery, but it does invite us to take a step closer to the Source.  The prophetic message challenges us especially in this regard: to learn to put aside our own thoughts, our own notions, and our own conclusions, and begin learning the practice of Being – not only being in the Presence of the Almighty but in the practice of being as learning … and all so we may see not what we wish to see but so we may see what is really before us.  Because the world we live in can be an ugly, hostile place, we as the Church need to see what The Lord reveals to His Own.

And regarding this rigid discipline, Peter wrote, “You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.  For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Meaning, of course, that if we do not practice these things, we may never “see” nor fully appreciate the Transfiguration and all which is revealed in that Sacred Moment.

We may have faith enough to believe, and it may be the sufficient “faith as a mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31-32), but Peter is teaching this faith must be “supported”.  It must be developed.  It must be continually nurtured.  It must be disciplined, ordered in such a way that it will do much more than make us feel good about ourselves; it must move us as disciples to make disciples – for that is ultimately the fruit demanded of Christ’s Holy Church. 

When this brother spoke of his practice of being in the Presence, he did in no way make it sound easy – and he did not suggest for a moment that he had mastered the practice.  Like most of us – perhaps all of us – he is easily distracted by the slightest noise or a fleeting thought.  And we cannot make these things go away because they are reality.

But this is where his discipline and his desire to see more holds him in place; he restarts his practice each time he is distracted.  As another preacher had observed, a true moment of silence cannot really begin until there is … silence.  No page turning, no shifting in the seats, no crinkling of candy or gum wrappers.  Moments of silence are not intended as a segue to the next moment; they are Sacred Moments in themselves.  We must prepare ourselves for something awesome.

There is no “stage setting” before the Transfiguration, no apparent moment of silence.  The text (Matthew 17:1-9) only tells us Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a “high mountain” before the Transfiguration took place.  There was no prep time as we read, but we also do not know how long it took them to get to the high place or what they may have done prior to this Sacred Moment. 

We may reasonably believe there was surely some sense of anticipation on the part of Peter and the brothers.  They knew they were following Jesus as they were so willing, but we may assume they had no idea where they were going or for what reason.  There are a couple of events which had taken place “six days” prior (vs 1), however, that may help to set the stage.

In Matthew 16:13-20, we are told of Jesus asking His disciples what people were saying about the Son of Man.  It was Peter who answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (vs 16).  And by that confession, Peter was blessed.  Then after Jesus had begun teaching them about His impending death and resurrection, Peter again stepped up and denied that such a thing should take place.  And Peter was sharply rebuked, referred to as “Satan” and a “stumbling block” to Jesus – “for you are setting your mind not on Divine things but on human things” (vs 23).

And this is our own “stumbling block” as well.  The season of Lent is a very hard practice for most Christians because it is that season which must lead us to Calvary before we can look upon the Empty Tomb.  We must endure the ugliness before we can witness the blessedness.  Our “stumbling block”, however, is our human desire and the “human things” we are most often focused on.  Our minds are set according to the world before us and our relentless “pursuit of happiness”, and we are thus unable to see anything beyond the horizon. 

Our desire must be to see that far because we know it is where our Lord, the Great Shepherd, is leading us.  But we must also understand this endeavor is not about Jesus “taking the wheel” as the popular song goes nor is it about Jesus serving as our personal “co-pilot” as the common bumper sticker suggests. 

It is entirely about our willingness to be led, our willingness to follow Messiah on the road less traveled, the path which leads to righteousness and blessedness.  We are cautioned by The Word that it is not an easy path, though we try our best to make it as easy as possible.  We are cautioned about the many risks, but we take measures to diminish any chance of risk.  We are warned that our willingness to follow Christ Jesus into the unknown may cost us our worldly treasures, but we more often hoard our worldly treasures in order to hedge our bets.  There is no faith in these things.

We are assured along the way, however, that the worldly treasures we may lose are those things lacking everlasting value.  We are assured that the Eternal Reward outweighs any risk, and we are assured the Journey in Christ which begins now is our first step into Eternity and the Life which never ends.  We do not have to wait until we are buried to begin this Journey.

When we begin this Journey, we will see the Treasure the world cannot take from us.  Then we will see what our Lord has intended to reveal all along.  All we have to do is follow Him up the high mountain, for it is the Journey of Faith to the Transfiguration of Christ and of self.  So let that Journey begin today as we continue to celebrate our Lord and the Life we are called into.  Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Judgment from Within

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37

 “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of The Lord.”  Psalm 119:1

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a lot to say but we must understand He is not talking to Gentiles.  Because He is the Word of God, He is speaking only to the people of God.  The Word of God would have no meaning for Gentiles.  This doesn’t mean those “outsiders” are of no concern to The Lord.  It means The Lord’s people must first find meaning in the Word so the Word may have meaning for Gentiles.  Until The Word has meaning for The Lord’s people, they remain only words.

There was still Roman law which theoretically applied to everyone, but we also know secular law often favors those who are well-connected; but Jesus was not - is not - talking about a code of law for its own sake.  He was talking strictly to – and about – those who claim The Lord as their God and His law as applicable to them … and only to them; a Law which transcends codified rules and offers no favors and no exceptions … even for those who are well-connected.

This understanding is key for the people of The Lord.  It makes me think of the current debate about a Ten Commandments monument on the state house lawn.  We think this monument might be good for everyone – and, indeed, it could be – but I tend to think those pushing hardest for this monument might be more concerned about the behavior of others than they should be, perhaps demanding a certain standard they themselves do not always live up to.  I also think these may be more interested in the letter of the Law as a matter of moral enforcement than the Spirit of Torah in the life of the faithful … those for whom these Words would have - should have – deeper meaning beyond the letters.

Consider the irony of reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He has raised the bar – and the stakes! – of acceptable standard as it pertains to The Lord’s people.  Yet some elements of modern-day Christianity boldly proclaim the “old law” as no longer applicable to them.  The irony is in our demand for a monument to this antiquated “old law” that has no meaning for those who do not know The Lord.  We somehow think a monument of stone will change hearts.  It won’t.  But our faithful witness will.

Lest we forget, the United Methodist Church, as a matter of doctrine, embraces the whole Bible as stated in our Articles of Religion (VI): “The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ …” (Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2012, ¶104, pg 65) 

So how can it be that the “old law” prohibited murder, but the New Standard (which, incidentally, cannot be new since “The Word which was in the beginning” (John 1:1) must be, by definition, eternal) now says even “anger against a brother or sister” makes one “liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22)?  Furthermore, how can it be said that this New Standard is no longer applicable after Jesus’ death?  Or is applicable only to those outside the Covenant?

And how has the narrative so changed that the psalmist “treasured the Word (Torah) in his heart” (Psalm 119:11), but we Christians often see only burden?  A list of things we have to do?  A list of things we don’t get to do?  Many things we don’t really even understand or try to understand?  The psalmist expressed his desire that The Lord would “make me understand the way of Your precepts [so] I may meditate on Your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27).  In other words, perhaps even the psalmist struggled to find meaning beyond the words themselves – but he knew where to look for answers.

Jesus insisted obedience to Him (to “The Word”) was the first mark of discipleship (John 14:15; 14:23), the affirmation of the First Great Commandment to “love The Lord your God” (Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:5).  And the Second Great Commandment (“love your neighbor as yourself”, Matthew 22:39; Leviticus 19:18) witnesses to those outside the Covenant that we are His disciples, servants of The Word in “your love for one another” (John 13:35).  Giving meaning to The Word to “outsiders” so they may desire to become “insiders”.  This is the mission of the Church!  And though it should go without saying, we love by what we do – not by what we only say or how we feel.

These past few weeks – actually since the inauguration of the new president – have been very trying.  From both sides of the many arguments and protests are Christians, those claiming to have been “reborn of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) and yet are acting entirely according to the flesh in “jealousy and quarreling”, as St. Paul admonished the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:3); each side claiming to be “holier than thou”.

Sad to say, however, I don’t think “holiness” is much on the minds of those who get caught up in the squabbles in person or on social media, but I also have to say I found a glimmer of hope the other day.  A lady asked a question on social media, and another jumped in to answer her question … but then called her “lazy” for not reading the article more carefully.  Well, the first lady called her on the name-calling … and the second lady apologized and admitted her insensitivity!  Usually the cowardly name-callers who hide behind social media double down on their personal insults, but this lady backed off AND made it right.  She repented!  I wanted to name her the patron saint of all social media!  And I will all but guarantee others were equally touched.

We don’t always get it right especially when we act (or react) impulsively rather than according to what has been revealed to us in our quiet prayers according to the Eternal Word, but consider that what could have easily been blown completely out of proportion – and off topic - was suddenly turned into a constructive, honest, and civilized discussion and exchange of real ideas about the issue at hand. 

We are too quick to pounce and take offense at insignificant things, and it is destroying not only the fabric of the nation but the essential spirit of the Holy Church as the heart and conscience this nation so desperately needs!  Worse; we are killing the spirit of our children!  Jesus’ lessons on the Law (Torah) demand a closer look, and for much more than merely being right. 

“You shall not murder”.  Check.  “You shall not be angry …”  Well …  “You shall not commit adultery”.  Check.  “You shall not look upon another with lust”.  Hmmm, these go a little deeper than the acts themselves.  Maybe this means I don’t literally have to murder a human being in order to destroy his or her life.

So our Lord is calling upon His own people to take a closer look … not at others but at themselves.  Ourselves.  We must look more carefully first from within before we can begin to speak about the spiritual or religious deficiencies of others.  And this careful and honest look inside must be according to the Spirit of Torah revealed in Christ rather than the letter of the Law handed down by Moses – and for much more profound reasons than just “getting to heaven”. 

We are called not just to live but to live fully, faithfully, and completely within and according to The Word which sets us free rather than according to a culture which only binds us, restricts us, and chokes the life out of us; that very Word which offers to us the fullness of that “joy unspeakable” when we are so engaged in The Word, when we actively seek out that joy rather than expecting that joy to be gift-wrapped and delivered only to “me”.

Faith is not at all about what someone else is up to nor does genuine faith grant to us the power or authority to judge, slander, or dismiss others – especially those for whom The Word has no meaning.  Faith is about what our Lord requires of His people, His people for whom The Word does have meaning and who are willing to take those risks, for we are the ones to whom He speaks.  And for a very specific reason: we are His witnesses to the Truth revealed in Christ; the Truth which will set us free from our own bondage from within. 

But first we must be willing to walk away from those shackles and chains once we find them broken.  Only then will we be able to be all The Lord has called us to be.  Amen

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Being what we wish to see

“Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.  To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen.”  1 Peter 4:11

Every single word.  Every single act.  What we do and what we say reflects what is within us and must also be a reflection of what we wish to see.  Granted there are those times when our human inclinations overtake us, when we respond angrily to something or to someone who pushes our buttons; but this is where Grace steps in.  Grace does not excuse our behavior or angry words nor does Grace insinuate there is no need to seek forgiveness from our Lord and from those whom we lash out at.  Rather, Grace from Above reminds us our Lord has not given up on us even while others just might. 

So Peter is reminding The Lord’s faithful that our witness is not in a single statement by which we try to illicit a response such as, ‘Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?’  No, first those whom we come into contact with want to know whether Christ Jesus is our Lord and Savior, for our Lord Himself speaks, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20).  And not just “them”; “us”, too!

It is not hard to look around and see so many who have given up all hope.  They’ve lost faith in the Church, they’ve lost faith in their government, and they’ve lost faith in one another.  There is too much anger, too much resentment toward so many who are (or were) in a position to make a positive impact on the people around them, but that opportunity was blown because we are often too connected to our own culture and our own ways.  Too often we are more fixated on what is wrong and have overlooked or forgotten altogether all that is right!

But just as we all need to see goodness, justice, and mercy in our own lives, let us remember there are others who need it as well.  And since our Source of Goodness, Mercy, and Justice has vowed never to forsake His faithful, let us not forsake Him nor those whom He also loves.  Let us speak “the very words of God” and serve faithfully “with the strength God supplies”.  The Word assures us we will not be disappointed!

The Lord is great, is He not?


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Slow Death or Search for Life

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.   Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety is fear.  Anxiety is dread.  Anxiety is a very slow, very painful death of the spirit because of the world and its problems.  Anticipation, on the other hand, waits with breathless expectation.  Anticipation is certain of something wonderful just beyond the horizon.  Anticipation trusts and builds up the spirit because it knows of the certainty of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It should seem clear which is the preferred mode of the Christian, but we all have our fears to face.  Whether it is a life-altering surgery of a loved one, a possible loss of a job, or even the uncertainty of this government’s next move, we are afraid.  We hope for the best in all circumstances, I think, but anxiety fears for the worst.  Too much anxiety can bleed the spirit of the most ardent Christian completely dry!

Recently two very large United Methodist churches in the Mississippi Annual Conference voted to separate from the United Methodist Church altogether.  They each state they are not protesting any particular thing but are, rather, weary of the constant infighting within the larger Church and have decided living with that kind of anxiety is counter-productive to what The Lord would ask of His people.  They are each choosing to be more focused on matters of the Kingdom and the mission of the Church rather than matters of the world.

Though some might be inclined to think the issues within the United Methodist Church are Kingdom matters, the reality is we have become almost completely overwhelmed with worldly things, worldly issues.  We are just a little too fixated on the “empire” and getting our own way with no regard and no respect for those with whom we disagree.  The constant yammering and protesting and destruction of property and spirit have completely hijacked the narrative of the Gospel.  We think we are fighting for social justice, but the truth is we are just plain “fighting” … even among ourselves.  And why?  Because we are filled with anxiety.  Because we are filled with fear.  Because we are filled with hatred of and resentment toward the “other”, and we stopped listening to one another a long time ago.  Worst of all, we have stopped listening to The Lord.  All because we are filled with anxiety.

Jesus said, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2).  But we are not “killing” bodies; we are “killing” spirits.  Yet because we are so cock-sure of the rightness of our own cause, we are showing absolutely no regard for those who do not agree with us.  While we are “fighting” for a government of our choosing, an “empire” that serves us, we are destroying the Church and diminishing the Gospel.  Soon our “lampstand” will be taken from us (Revelation 2:5).

This has nothing to do with immigration issues, border security, or cabinet appointments.  This has everything to do with “cultural” Christians who are shaped by the “empire”, and disciples who strive to be shaped by the Word and the Spirit of The Lord.  The nastiness must cease and we Christians must not only apologize to The Lord and to one another, but we must fully “repent” and then “bear fruit worthy of that repentance”.  Until or unless we do, we will not find the “peace that will guard your hearts and your minds” … because we are not living in Christ.

When we choose to make things right again and become more concerned with matters of the Kingdom and become more engaged with transforming lives than in vainly trying to change minds, we will find our lampstands burning more brightly than before!  When we act with integrity and in genuine love, the “nones” and “dones” will find their way back to the Church; but if we destroy ourselves only for the sake of being “right”, there will be nothing to return to.

The government will never be able to give us the kind of peace St. Paul is referring to, the kind of peace Jesus imparted to His faithful (John 14:27).  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.  Always and forevermore.


Monday, February 06, 2017

The Law is the Law

Isaiah 58:1-9a
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Matthew 5:13-20

“If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right.  But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see.  Let them see.”  Henry David Thoreau


The Beatitudes are filled with Divine Promise.  In the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which would set the tone for His ministry, He begins by assuring us the very worst of this world may get us down, but we will be raised up if we “wait patiently for The Lord” (Psalm 37:7). 

The problem with the Beatitudes, especially in the way we generally read them and understand them, the Promise seems to be reserved only for the Day of The Lord, when Messiah returns to “judge the living and the dead”.  We rarely seem to understand that the Beatitudes are not only promises we may expect – they are also promises we are to fulfill!

Just as we are thinking The Lord is offering us everything, Jesus very subtly redirects the narrative.  We still hear the Promises of the Beatitudes when one day The Lord will make everything right.  Just perhaps not today.

However, moving aside from the Divine Promise, Jesus turns to His audience and points a finger - not in accusation but in designation; YOU are the salt of the earth … YOU are the light of the world”.  Meaning what?  In one breath, Jesus offers the very best of the Kingdom of Heaven to the downtrodden, to those victims of humanity’s very worst.  In the next, He seems to infer that YOU (meaning “us”) will be the ones who will raise up those who are “poor in spirit”, “who mourn”, “who hunger and thirst for righteousness”.  These, and many more, are to be given their due by those who faithfully represent and live the Kingdom’s highest ideals. 

Actually, the redirect begins to take shape in verse 7 (Matthew 5) when the Promise is suggested to be fulfilled not only on the Day of The Lord but in the here-and-now!  “Blessed are the merciful …”, “blessed are the pure in heart …”, “blessed are the peacemakers …”  It means something is going to have to come from us.  We are to be “the merciful”.  We are to be “the peacemakers”.  We must be “pure in heart”. 

Considering Jesus’ audience in this setting is largely (maybe exclusively) Jewish, Torah (what we Christians narrowly refer to as “The Law”) has everything to do with what Jesus is talking about – because I am convinced everything Jesus is talking about is more “communal” than it is “personal”.  When we try to make it “personal”, it becomes subjective and exclusive; but when it is “communal”, there are universal inclusive elements of objectivity.  That is, what is good for one is good for all.

As we see in today’s political and social climate, especially on social media and in angry street mobs, there is no fear in anonymity or in mobs.  However, there is also no respect for even the fundamental “sacred worth of every individual person” (United Methodist Book of Discipline 2012, ¶161, pg 111) – especially those with whom we disagree.

Yet there is no escaping this certain reality: what we say and what we do represents an element of our own being, good or bad, alone or in a crowd, just as our Lord teaches that “our mouths reveal what is in our hearts” (Luke 6:45).  We may try to assuage those whom we have hurt by saying we “didn’t really mean it the way it sounded” or that we “didn’t mean it personally”; but when we are licking our wounds from words that really do hurt much more than broken bones and do damage lasting far beyond the moment, empty words are of little consolation.  And when it feels as though an entire mob or crowd or clique is mercilessly gathered against us as individuals, there is little else that feels more isolating, more anti-communal – entirely anti-Christ.

These angry mobs and crowds and cliques, however, are a human reality; and as long as they continue on their hate-filled rants and curses and slander, their condemnation is all but assured – no matter how “right” they believe themselves to be.  Yet our Lord Jesus, the Holy God’s Anointed, calls HIS people to be the communal sanctuary those victims most desperately need.  And this sanctuary is provided for, enshrined in, and ratified by The Lord’s Holy Law, the Torah, the “instruction” on how The Lord’s people are to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world, conduct themselves, and offer care and comfort to those who are victimized by the world’s hatred.

There is no more soul-stirring statement through all of this than Jesus’ warning to us all: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  And it should stir us deeply because this powerful statement expresses the profound difference between those who would enforce the Law of The Lord (usually meaning those who claim not to be “under the law”) and those who would embrace Torah and live faithfully.  The scribes and the Pharisees were more involved with enforcement than with justice and mercy, and it is the reason they had such issues with Jesus.  Our Lord constantly knocked them off their high horses!

Yet Jesus even gave these religious authorities their due when, while speaking to another crowd, He said, “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear; and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:2-4).

Toward the very end, Jesus upholds the finest points of The Law as being faithfully taught and faithfully lived; not once did our Lord excuse His people from living it.  Even when the religious authorities proved themselves unwilling, the faithful were and are not excused.  Even the seemingly anti-law St. Paul expresses our obligations to one another AND to the weakest among us in this way; “The entire Law is fulfilled in keeping this one command; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”  (Galatians 5:14).  Jesus Himself wraps up the Sermon on the Mount in this way; “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.  This is the essence of the Law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:14).

I tend to think of “legalism” as when we expect much more from others than we are willing to give ourselves to others in holy living.  It is the difference between being “the light of the world” to give hope to the hopeless - and being a spotlight on a guard tower for no purpose other than to brutally gun down those who would dare try to escape our wrath.

The Divine Promise of the Beatitudes is still held out to those who are victimized through no fault of their own, but that same Divine Promise is extended to we who make sure those who mourn are “comforted”, that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (that is, the weakest and lowest among us) are “filled”, that those who extend mercy even to those who seem undeserving “will receive mercy”.  The Law is, indeed, the Law of The Lord; but like justice and mercy, it is all theoretical, academic - and “legalistic” - if it will not be lived and experienced.

Being presented a choice between Jesus or The Law is a false choice and a misreading of all which is written for us; for while we are justified by the One, we are sanctified (perfected in love and faith) by the Other.  For it is Jesus, all of it, as The Word, the Law, the Prophets; and all this as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  The Only One there is, the Only Life we have to live – in Him, for Him, and for one another.  For this is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Amen.