Lenten Reflections

What does the Cross of Jesus Christ mean to You?

The Response to this questions was offered by four members of our Community here at St. Mark’s over the 2018 Lenten Season.  Their responses are recorded below.

First Sunday in Lent – February 18 – Patrick Lublink

Several years ago, as a young Private in the military, I attended a small church in Yellowknife where I was stationed.  There the congregation would often sing the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” – a hymn written over 100 years ago by George Bennard.  This song is so amazing and so powerful that it brings me to tears sometimes.  When I listen to it, I am reminded of the love of God for me, for all of us, that His son Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.

Let me quote a few lines for you:

“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross The emblem of suffering and shame And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain.”

The third verse says

“Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world Has a wondrous attraction for me For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above To bear it to dark Calvary.”

I haven’t heard that song in a church, in a long, long time, but whenever I hear it, it not only reminds me of the love of God for me, but on a personal note it brings me back to that time decades ago in that small church…

So, there is a certain amount of nostalgia listening to this song.  Much more importantly though is what the cross itself really means to me – it is much more than nostalgia, it is the reality itself of the cross.

The Apostle Paul once wrote in a letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 6 14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

What does the cross mean for me?  In the letter to the Galatians, why did St-Paul say that he boasted, that he gloried in the cross above everything else?

I have been to Jerusalem on three separate occasions over the years and I am reading a book right now entitled “The Day Christ Died” – a book written in the 1950’s.

I learn over and over again that in the days of Jesus, to be crucified on the cross was a horrible way to die.  We read in the Scriptures, that even before the crucifixion itself that the Roman soldiers spat on Him, they struck Him with their fists, they used a whip, called a flagrum, on him and they beat him up.  They placed a crown of thorns on his head.  They then put a cross on his back and led him away to be crucified.

When Jesus was on the cross, some people in the crowd cried out, saying “He saved others, but he cannot save himself.”

There he died a death of a criminal.  God loves me – He loves us – so much that he gave his Son to die on the cross for us.   Jesus didn’t have to die.  He died willingly because of me, because of each one of us.

What then was the full significance of the cross?  What is the meaning of a cross which stood on Golgotha 2,000 years ago?  What is the meaning of St-Paul’s words when he said “I glory in the cross”?  (Gal 6: 14) How does this apply to me today in the 21st Century?

First and foremost, the cross shows the serious condition of humankind.  It shows the depth of our sins.  When you and I look at the cross, we see our sins, we see ourselves as sinners because it was there that Jesus took our sins.  We talk about sin, but we do not know how much it is against the very nature of God until we look at the cross.  Sin is a awful thing in the sight of God.

What is sin?  Sin is failure to live up to God’s standards.  Only one person ever fully lived up to the standard of God; the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Scriptures say “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

They also tell us that “Sin is the transgression of the law.”  (1 John 3: 4) What law?  The law of conscience.  When we go against our conscience, that is sin.  We also have the Ten Commandments.  When we break a commandment, we break the law of God.  We sin.  When we break even one commandment, we are not living up to the standards that Jesus gave us.

What does the cross mean for me? It tells me I am not perfect – I already know that.  But it also gives me hope, that God has made me, has made all of us perfect.  At the cross the Lord “laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53: 6).

When Christ was dying on that cross, he was bearing your sins and mine.  Everything that we ever did, all that I ever did, Jesus became guilty of for us.  Jesus had never known sin, yet on the cross he became guilty of all our sins.

I am grateful to our Heavenly Father that Jesus died on the cross for us!

Second, Paul gloried in the cross because the cross shows the love of God.  From the cross, God is saying, “I love you.”  He commends “his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Third, Paul gloried in the cross because it is the only way of salvation.  That is what I was taught and this is what I believe.  The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  (Proverbs 16: 25)

The Word of God says that the only way to the Father is through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by me.”  John 14: 6)

Fourth, St-Paul gloried in the cross because he knew that it guaranteed eternal life.  When our first parents sinned, mankind lost its fellowship with God, but the cross brings us back to Him.  We are separated from God, but the cross brings us to Christ.  That is a message of hope.

God gave his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins for you and for me – this is what the cross means for me.

We read in Scriptures, in the letter to the Hebrews to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”… “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

This is what the cross means to me.  This is why I love the song “The Old Rugged Cross” …. “

“… that old rugged Cross so despised by the world Has a wondrous attraction for me…”

The cross is a reminder for me of my standing in Christ.

Amen

Second Sunday in Lent – February 25 – John Barron

What does the Cross mean to me? First, it means that I am loved, beyond my ability to fully describe, by an unfathomable God who created me for His purpose. It means that I have personal access to God and that I can approach Him with every question and every concern, or fear, or joy, or tear at any time, and at any moment, no matter where I am. It means that I can simply sit with Him during those times when words fail or when I’m too overwhelmed; just to listen to Him and to be in His Presence. It means that I will never be alone, ever. It means that all of my past sins, which were many, and all of the sin that I give way to while still in this body, will no longer be counted against me as I repent of them. Therefore, it means that I no longer fear judgement nor death. It means that I have eternal life to look forward to in the full presence of The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost where I won’t be relating to God, “through a glass, darkly; (as Paul describes) but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) And believe me, I am known, by God, inside out, absolutely and completely; even those aspects of me I don’t really want Him to know.

So, Christ has made all of this available to me, and to you, and to everyone else who has ever lived over the last two thousand years, through His death on the Cross. We didn’t have to buy it, or earn it, or work for it. It’s available to every person who believes in Jesus; whether male or female, young or old, of every size, colour, tribe, race and nation. It’s a free gift from God, enabled by the death of His son, empowered by His love; His unfathomable Love.

The Cross, however, is now empty. Christ is no longer hanging on it. His death happened two thousand years ago. On a timeline, it’s a pretty ancient, historical event. So, considering that fact, what now does this empty cross mean to me?

First, it reminds me that Jesus is alive. He is not dead. He won the battle with death and He now sits at God’s right hand. In Ephesians we read: “ …He (God) raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21) Christ, therefore, is King, and as such He has absolute authority over all things and rules with absolute power.
The empty cross also reminds me that Christ paid an enormous price for me, (as we read today from Psalm 22) and that when I accepted His free gift He placed His mark of ownership in me. Paul, again, tells us in Corinthians, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (I Corinthians 1: 21-22). And he goes on, (in 1 Corinthians 6:19), “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The empty cross also reminds me that not only do I now belong to Christ but I am not who I previously was. In fact, who I previously was is now dead. Paul goes on to tell us (in 2 Corinthians 5:17), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” And in Galatians 2:20 he stresses “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I’ll tell you this; when the Holy Spirit did enter me, He lost no time in clearing away some of the filth from within to make room for Himself. A couple of perpetual, sinful habits were instantly removed from me and they have never returned. It was as if the Holy Spirit was saying, “I Am now here.” Mind you, the rest of my cleaning is a constant work in progress.

The empty Cross tells me that, as a new creation, I now have a new allegiance, a new Master who cares for me, cleans me, feeds me, nourishes me, tries me, guides me, directs me and disciplines me; just as a loving father does to his child. If I am to grow in Christ I am to go to Him frequently. He recently told me ‘Just as an teenager frequently goes to the fridge for nourishment, you also must come to Me.’ Which means to me, that if I am to grow and develop it will only be possible through His feeding. I’m not capable of feeding myself with the right nourishment.

The empty cross tells me that I also must put to death anything within that makes the indwelling Holy Spirit uncomfortable. That I must willingly go to the Cross to nail the offensive sin to it as often as is necessary. Probably each day in fact. This is not for my salvation. Christ alone has completed that work for me. Rather, as a new creation, with the Holy Spirit in permanent residence within, I must put to death anything that is the building of self. Self is one of our greatest enemies. Self perpetuates the person you once were. It does not want to die. Self almost destroyed Esau. Remember the story that was read this morning? He was so intent on feeding himself that he gave up something far more wonderful and set his mind on a self-serving path away from God. The result was that he despised his own birthright. Self does that. Self keeps God assigned to a broom closet or to the bottom drawer to be forgotten. Self wants to be God in your life. Self feeds our ego, it puffs up our pride, it promotes independence, it demands satisfaction at the cost of everything else, it desires, it lusts, it lies and cheats to get its own way. It is utterly selfish. It yearns for power and control. It demands respect and admiration. It is manipulative, arrogant and deceitful. Basically, it wants to be worshipped. Therefore, it must be put to death. It must be nailed to the cross. There is absolutely no place for ‘Self’ and The Holy Spirit together. As we heard earlier, Jesus plainly told us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

These words of Jesus, require their own study but, of course, there is no time now to go any deeper. Let me just say however, that, as new creatures in the living Christ, the empty cross demands that we ‘put into action’ these words of Jesus most earnestly, each day. The Holy Spirit within will help us to do this, if we so desire, for we certainly can’t do it by our own ‘self’. The Holy Spirit will also give us our daily cross to bear, which is no light thing. But, again, that’s for another time.

The Cross of Christ. In a nutshell: It means death to self and true life in Christ. It means change, challenge and becoming the real person that God intended us to be. It means coming to rely totally on the living Christ. It means putting Jesus first in your life in every which way. It means allowing God to fulfill His plan through us and that we must step back to allow Him to do things His way, not our way. It means being able to bear the fruit that He has prepared for us to bear. It means being fully and totally obedient to Him, in all things. Only then will you, and I, discover who we really are and for what purpose God has created us. This, of course, is for all who accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour through the blood that He shed for us on the Cross two thousand years ago.

So, there you have it; that’s what The Cross means to me. It’s not a ‘dead end’, rather, it’s the beginning of a new life which you have to earnestly desire. I leave you with Paul’s plea to the Church in Rome: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, (brothers and sisters) by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

In the Name of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Third Sunday in Lent – March 4 – Laurie Stone

A few weeks ago Father Haynes asked me to speak on “What does the cross mean to you?”. And while I am honored to have been asked to share my thoughts with you, I am humbled by the task. So, if you’ll grant me a few moments…….

Throughout my life the cross has symbolized many things to me.  In my youth, because of my extremely conservative upbringing, it represented a fear of consequences of my actions.  A God that sacrificed so much for me must surely be terribly angry that his suffering had been in vain when it came to me. Most certainly he was constantly poised with lightening bolt in hand ready to strike at any moment. As a young adult it meant guilt and shame that my choices and actions would require such a sacrifice which left me feeling unworthy and incapable of measuring up to it’s magnitude.  As an adult, a bit past young but by NO MEANS old, it has come to symbolize UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!  No I know what you are thinking, “Of course it does!  You’re a female!” However, as a mother of 5 boys I can attest that males need to see love in the cross as well.

John 3:16 says that God sooooooooo loved the world….. There is an emphasis there on the magnitude of love. As I continue my search for spirituality this has become a much more real scripture to me and less of a football poster.  He SO loved us that he GAVE us His Son!!  Depending on which of the 4 major versions of the bible you choose the word “love” is mentioned up to 551 times!  That’s a lot of love being mentioned!  One could infer that it was a pretty big deal that God wanted to convey to us. In fact, the command “love one another” appears 11 times, all in the New Testament and Jesus himself said it 3 times. In John 13 he even clarifies it down for us Texas folk and says “love each other”.

Loving each other and those outside of the faith are the heart and grounding of the church.  Love is not always hearts and flowers and chocolates and romantic dates, its about sacrifices and choosing to love when you don’t really feel like it, and if you weren’t all Anglican here I’d ask you for an Amen. Loving each other doesn’t just mean loving the people in your church or your work or your family.  It means loving people who aren’t necessarily our cup of tea, do y’all say that here? I know you don’t say y’all. Sorry. That’s more Canadian. I digress.  Sometimes it’s loving the homeless guy on the street that smells and yells and is a little frightening.  Sometimes its that insufferable person you work with that you are sure was sent to torment you from the evil one himself.  Sometimes it’s a family member that insists on doing the tango on your last nerve consistently. Love is meant to be unconditional.

Love lived out is love greater than love of ones self.  Sometimes it means sacrificing your time to serve in the church or community. Sometimes it means gritting your teeth when you’d like to help God in culling the herd! Unconditional love.  That was what Christ’s ultimate sacrifice was. Mary and Joseph gave up their God given son, the disciples their dearest friend and teacher and the believers their savior.  In James 12:7 it says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. In other words, being the hands an feet of Jesus to the world.  I know there is some great debates going among biblical scholars as if this is an accurate interpretation of scripture but in my mind, it matters little as I do believe that we are the only Jesus some people will ever meet.

If we are going to do this, it will require sacrifice on our part to love others more than ourselves.  In Matthew 22 is emphasizes to love others AS yourself even. There are 2 ways I want to share with you that my family is attempting to do this. In 2010 my husband began to volunteer with a refugee aid organization. I quickly turned up my nose at “those people” and decided I would NOT be going with him.  Sadly, I was a product of my environment. “Polluted by the world” if you will.  I had bought into the suburban housewife mentality of “I don’t shop THERE. I don’t wear THAT.  I don’t go THERE.” It’s actually quite embarrassing to admit it publicly. Finally, after some extreme coaxing, or rather, really intense fellowship (my code words for arguing), I reluctantly agreed to go with him “just this once”.  I had already made up my mind that if I just got it out of his system he’d leave me alone.  So, on a Saturday afternoon, in the middle of Texas summer, I ventured into one of the most dangerous neighborhoods Houston has to offer and visited my 1st refugee family.  I walked into the home of a family from Somalia who were visibly traumatized and were obviously hurting.  Immediately I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me. “This is your calling.  This is what I have created you to do.”  I fought back tears because, as a child raised in a Pastors home, I knew the voice of the Lord and I knew I had a choice to make that day.  I could choose to follow His will or, I could risk it all and find myself in the belly of a whale like our friend Jonah.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  We are now some 500 families into our refugee advocacy and are now working as LifeCyclesGlobal.org . It’s my loving others as myself.

In 2006, Jeremy and I decided we were going to try adoption.  I am adopted, my grandmother is adopted…..it’s kind of a thing in my family.  We had our biological child already and felt like we had room in our hearts to love one more.  So, we started the process and by the end of the year were presented an impossible option. There was a sibling set that could be split up if we only wanted one but they had to show us both of them to make our decision. Can I tell just tell you?!?!  Within 2 minutes of being in our home we KNEW these were our children!  Our family was complete. 3 months passed and the agency asked us to “babysit an infant for a week”.  I figured, what’s the harm?  He’ll sleep most of the time anyway. The VERY second they placed him in my arms I looked at my husband and he said “are you sure?” and I was. So NOW we were complete.  In 2011, while working in a refugee home, I noticed something not quite right with the teenager there.  Not being able to place my finger on it I let it go for a few weeks. After a harrowing phone call in the middle of the night it came to light that he had been trafficked and so……NOW we are DEFINITELY complete!!  The orphans and the widows…..got it.

In Jeremiah 31 it says “Long ago the LORD of Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”  Through the cross, through His sacrifice of unconditional, unfailing love, He has shown me how much HE loves ME and much I must love OTHERS.  Even the orphans.  Even the refugees.  Even you!!  And while He has never asked any of us to be crucified and to be hung on a cross, He has asked us to take up our “cross” and follow him.  My cross was pride and self importance.  You may have a different cross.  But oh how HE loves us.  So much so that He died so that we may be set free.

There is a song that I will close with.  I’m not going to sing it because I want you to come back next week.  I’m going to read you the lyrics.

Amazing Love by Chris Tomlin

“I’m forgiven because You were forsaken – I’m accepted, You were condemned – I am alive and well, Your spirit is within me – ‘Cause You died and rose again.

Amazing love, how can it be? – That You, my King would die for me? – Amazing love, I know it’s true – It’s my joy to honor You – In all I do, I honor You

You are my King Jesus, You are my King”

So today, I answer the question posed to me of “What does the cross mean to you?” with LOVE. Amazing, unfailing, unconditional love.  What is it that the cross means to you?

Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 11 – Alan Rumsey

What does the Cross of Jesus Christ mean to Me?  Ever since Fr. Haynes invited me to offer a response to that question, I have to confess that I have wrestled with both the question and the response.  Talking about my faith and my beliefs is not something that comes easy for me.  Although I have been a Christian all my life and have attended many different churches over the last 70 years, in matters of faith I am still seeking answers, and I still struggle to fully understand everything the bible is telling me.

So, keeping that in mind, I have attempted to respond to this question from two slightly different perspectives:

  • First: By dying on the Cross, what was Jesus telling me – what was He showing me?
  • Second: By dying on the Cross, what was Jesus then asking of me – what was he challenging me to do with my life?

With respect to what Christ’s death on Cross is telling me, I must admit that during Lent I do tend to focus more on the good news of Easter Sunday, and I mentally skip over the horrors of Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus.  Indeed, I have sometimes wondered, if God wanted to show us that he loved us, that Jesus Christ was his son, that he forgave us our sins, and that there was indeed a life after death, wasn’t there a less traumatic way he could have shown us this?  Why was it necessary for Jesus to be crucified?

Crucifixion is an exceptionally cruel and barbaric method of torture, and each aspect of death on the cross is particularly horrific.  The beatings beforehand; having to carry the cross, or at least a part of the cross, to the execution site; having nails pounded through your feet and hands; hanging from the cross for hours and hours in the hot sun; until your body can take no more, and you die.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is therefore, for me, a constant reminder of this horror He endured for us.

In crucifying Jesus, I believe He experienced everything we humans fear most.  He certainly experienced everything I fear most.  Not only excruciating physical pain, but also the pain of humiliation, the pain of utter despair, the pain of being alone, the pain of feeling abandoned; abandoned not only by those you love, but also by God.

By dying as He did, on the Cross, I believe Jesus was telling me, was showing all of mankind, that He understands our life on this earth is not always easy.  But no matter how hard our lives may be, no matter how much pain we may experience, no matter how humiliated we may feel, no matter how desperately alone we may feel, even in our darkest, darkest hours He will always be with us.  He will be with all of us because He too has experienced every hardship we may ever have to bear, and every painful emotion we may ever have to endure.  Indeed, by dying on the Cross He has endured much, much more.

When I look at the Cross of Jesus Christ in this light, it becomes the greatest of all revelations, and I feel humble, grateful, and comforted that Jesus would do this for me, two thousand years before I was even born!

Which then leads me to the second part of my response to the question.

By dying on the Cross, what is Jesus then asking of me?  What is Jesus challenging me to do with my life?

This morning’s gospel from John helps me answer this.

In this scripture passage the teachers of the law had brought before Jesus a woman accused of committing adultery, the punishment for which – at that time – was to be publicly stoned.  They did this not to seek Jesus’ advice, but rather to trap Jesus so that they would have a reason for accusing him, reasons to condemn him.

In response, however, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the sands on the floor of the temple, and on rising said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”.  All those who saw what he did and heard what he said, left; and no one remained to condemn her.  After all her accusers had departed, Jesus too said: “I don’t condemn you. I love you so much that I’ll pay your debt. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote in the sands, but my guess is that, in some way either literally or metaphorically, Jesus drew His line in the sand on the temple floor.  He was showing us there is one clear, distinct line between right and wrong, between the righteous and the sinful.

Jesus is on one side of His line, only He is sinless and obedient.

We, on the other hand, are all on the other side.  We are all on the wrong side of His line; none of us are without sin, and we all struggle with obeying His teachings.

So, by dying on the Cross, I think Jesus is not only telling me that He will always be there for me, to support me, to love me and to forgive me, but he is also reminding me that He expects that I too will always be there for my neighbor.  It is after all, one of His two great commandments to love my neighbor as I love myself, no matter what, and no matter what sins we each may be guilty of.

But this then begs another question I have wrestled with.  Who is my neighbor?

For me at least, I have concluded that the Cross of Jesus is telling me that my neighbor includes all of God’s creations.  This includes not only the land, the seas, the plants, the trees, and every living creature that moves, but in particular, it includes the whole of mankind.   Again, I believe Jesus draws another line in the sand.  On his side of His line are all of God’s perfect creations, and on the other side of His line are our imperfect, man-made creations – the objects we create, the idols we create, the customs and rules we create.  I believe Jesus looks to us to worship God by loving all of His creations, by loving all of our neighbors.

And herein lies the challenge for me.  How do I avoid the temptation of labelling people and drawing my own lines in the sand?

If we are all sinners, whenever I do draw such a line am I in fact trying, in vain, to identify myself as somehow belonging to a better class of sinners?  So that I only need to love those on my side of my line?  Only those that look like me, talk like me, act like me, share the same beliefs as me?  Only those that sin like me?

Today, we are unfortunately surrounded by many man-made lines in the sand on almost any issue you can think of from the mundane to the profound.  And we are certainly not immune to this within the various religions in the world, within the Christian faith, or indeed even within the Anglican faith.  The lines in the sand are there for all to see.

But how do I love those that I disagree with?  Those that are different to me?  Those that hold very different views than I do?  Those with very different sins to my sins?

For me, Jesus couldn’t say it any clearer.  In dying on the Cross, I believe He is given me two options.  He is given all of mankind two options.

Do we continue down a path of creating our own lines in the sand, fortifying the barriers than divide us?  Do we continue to insult each other, shame each other, pass judgment on each other, throw stones at each other – both literally and figuratively?  Do we continue to crucify each other?

Or:

Do we strive wherever we can to erase the lines in the sand and tear down the barriers that divide us?  While recognizing our own sins, and our own limitations, do we approach all of God’s creations – all of our neighbors – with understanding, with unconditional dignity, with respect, and with love?  Do we strive to eliminate conflict and suffering in the world?

Do we strive, in everything we do and say, to be peacemakers?

In the Beatitudes, aren’t we clearly told: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”?  Isn’t being called sons or daughters of God the most wonderful thing to aspire to?

So, how has all of this influence my life?

Well, I can’t say I have contributed to resolving any of the major conflicts in the world.  I am certainly not a peacemaker in that sense of the word.  But I do feel that Jesus has had a significant influence on who I am as a person.  Or at least who I try to be.  I try not to judge people, but to understand them.  I try to listen to people, not ignore them.  I try to welcome people, not alienate them.  I try to focus on what we all have in common, as creations of God, rather than on our differences.  I try to seek out, embrace and rejoice in all the love I see around me in this world.  I try not to draw my own lines in the sand.

And whenever I do feel overwhelmed by all the conflict and suffering in the world, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ, and I am inspired by the following familiar prayer that I will leave you with this morning:

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.   

Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. 

Amen.