Guide to Holy Week (2017)

•April 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, named after the palms that were used like confetti when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. On this day, we carry palms and shout, “Hosanna!” which means “Save!” or “Saviour” to commemorate Jesus’s Triumphal Entry. Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday because we read the account of Christ’s suffering from either Matthew, Mark or Luke. This year (Year A), we read from Matthew.

Holy Monday is the second day of Holy Week. Eastern Orthodox Christians call this day “Great Monday” and commemorate the cursing of the fig tree (Matt 21:18-22) while Roman Catholics and Anglicans read about the Anointing of Jesus by Mary as told by John (12:1-11). This is a good day to eat a Fig Newton or sit in meditative silence at the Simply Meditation gathering at Redeemer at 6 PM.

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Holy Tuesday is the third day of Holy Week. Eastern Orthodox Christians call this day “Great Tuesday” and read the parable of the ten virgins  (Matt 25:1-13) while most Roman Catholics and Anglicans read about Jesus foretelling his death when he said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). This is a good day to plant a seed by serving the poor at the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy’s Wellness Gathering (5 – 6 pm on Holy Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in San Rafael). It is also a good day to walk the Glenwood Prayer Labyrinth under the full moon.

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Spy Wednesday is the fourth day of Holy Week. Holy Wednesday is sometimes called “Spy Wednesday” as a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. Many Christians observe Spy Wednesday by attending a service called Tenebrae, which is Latin for darknessDuring the Tenebrae service, all the candles on the altar and in the church are gradually extinguished until there is complete darkness. At the moment of darkness, a loud clashing sound called the “strepitus” is made, recalling the earthquake after Jesus’ death.

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The Holy Triduum or Paschal Triduum begins on the evening of Maundy Thursday. This day commemorates the night that Jesus celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover with his disciples. Jewish people continue to celebrate Passover today, commemorating the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. They eat unleavened bread, charoset, bitter herbs, eggs, lamb, and more. Each item of food has spiritual and historical signifance. For instance, the charoset represents the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used while in Egypt.

On the night, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, he gave a new mandatum (which is Latin for command): “That you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). One way we follow this command is by washing one another’s feet just as Christ washed his disciples’ feet. Also, in medieval England, generous people would follow the mandatum by carrying around purses full of money called “maundy purses” and give them to the poor. Finally, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, a sacrament that nourishes us spiritually so that we can continue to follow his mandatum. We celebrate the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday and then strip the altar because no Eucharist is to be celebrated on…

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Good Friday, when we remember the crucifixion and death of Christ. We commemorate this central event by praying the 14 Stations of the Cross or listening to the seven last words of Christ or venerating the Cross or following the Good Friday service in the Book of Common Prayer or a combination of all four.

Holy Saturday is the last day of Holy Week and has been called “Black Saturday,” “the Saturday of Light,” “Joyous Saturday”, “Great Sabbath” and “Easter Eve.” This day commemorates the burial of Jesus. On Saturday night, Christians participate in the most important ritual of the year: the Easter VigilDuring this service, new Christians are baptized and we once again sing “Alleluia” as we begin to celebrate the resurrection, a celebration that lasts 50 days, starting officially on Easter Sunday, when we hide candy-filled Easter eggs!

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Stop Hunger Now

•January 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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REGISTER HERE <

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MEYG will be participating in STOP HUNGER NOW  at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church located at 1123 Court Street in downtown San Rafael on Sunday January 22. Set up starts at 12 noon and meal packing begins at 1:00 pm. Please arrive no later than 12:45 in order to set up, get your assignment and meet your teammates.

Stop Hunger Now is an organization that gets food to the world’s most vulnerable people and works to end global hunger in our lifetime. Established in 1998, they have provided over 225 million meals in 74 countries.

Meal packing events are the heart of their work and we will be participating in one on January 22, 2017.

Every week, volunteers package millions of meals through Stop Hunger Now’s meal packaging program. This week alone, more than 2 million meals will be packaged around the globe. Plus, just one Stop Hunger Now package can feed six people – a short time commitment from volunteers makes a big impact.

Before our event, we will set up supplies, recycling areas, packaging materials and weigh stations. Once an assembly line is established and specific volunteer jobs are assigned, the packaging fun begins!

Working together in teams in a fun atmosphere we will package 10,000 meals in only two hours.
The parishioners of St Paul’s – San Rafael, Nativity – Marinwood, St Francis – Novato and Redeemer – San Rafael are invited to participate.

Children 10 years and older can help too. But that’s not all! Family, friends, and neighbors are also invited.

All participants will be asked to sign up in advance. If you have questions, please call Carol Ann at Redeemer (415) 459-8717.

 

Youth Gleaning at Green Gulch Zen Center

•September 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Being Formed by the Divine Creative Process

•September 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17

Philemon 1-21

Luke 14:25-33

This sermon was preached at Christ Episcopal Church in Sausalito CA on September 4, 2016.

For the last few years, my wife has been making all kinds of dishes and jewelry out of clay in her ceramics class in Castro Valley. She makes bowls, platters, little cups for sake and miniature prayer labyrinths. In fact, most of the dishes that we use in our apartment are dishes that she made. She always returns from her class excited and rejuvenated by the process of creating, even though it can sometimes be challenging and frustrating. There are many factors that are beyond her control, especially when it comes to glazing the pieces and firing them in the bisque and raku kilns. She also understands the challenge of forming and pulling the clay on the wheel. I have learned from her that sometimes the potter wants to make the clay into one thing while the clay seems to have a mind of its own and wants to be made into something else. And the clay will remain stubborn until the potter and the clay get on the same wavelength.

I can’t help but think of this when I hear of the prophet Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house. Jeremiah notices the potter forming a vessel out of the clay which sometimes deforms and folds in on itself requiring the potter to start over and try pulling and forming another vessel out of the same clay. While lost in the almost hypnotic beauty of watching and absorbing this creative act, Jeremiah receives prophetic insights about the way God works with God’s people. He hears God say to him and through him, “Hine kachomer beyad hayozer ken atem beyadi” (Look, just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.) Jeremiah then elaborates on this image and analogy in a variety of ways, primarily in an attempt to rouse the people of Israel to repent and thus avoid the impending disaster of Babylonian invasion. However, I feel Jeremiah’s wonderful image of human and divine creativity inviting us to reflect on the creative process in general, a process in which we all participate as people who create and as creatures who are still being created. (I also feel invited to reflect on the creative process since many of you have been enjoying or will be enjoying the creativity at the Sausalito Art Festival, where Christ Church is selling some delicious pulled pork sliders…)

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We often have a romantic view of the artist or writer or musician who sits at the desk or studio each day simply allowing the muse to flow smoothly through the person to the paper. What I appreciate so much about Jeremiah’s image is the fact that the potter seems to be struggling. The potter has an idea of what he wants to make and starts to slowly and carefully form it but then it falls apart. So all the time that he put into the project seems to have been a waste because he has to start all over again. That’s how I have personally experienced the creative process.

Over the last few years, I have been trying to write a dissertation on the Gospel of John, a Gospel that I had the privilege to preach about here, eight months ago, on the Feast day of St. John (December 27th). I said that the Fourth Gospel has been likened to “a pool in which a child may wade and an elephant can swim.”[1] And I added that it is also like an ocean in which a doctoral student like myself can drown. And I asked you to please pray that I not drown or get forever lost in the mysterious Fourth Gospel. I will confess that, in many ways, I did get lost. I spent months trying to work with and interpret the Gospel the way the potter worked with and tried to interpret the clay. And my work kept deforming and folding in on itself. To use another metaphor, I spent months following paths that would ultimately lead me to dead ends. After more than a year, I had nothing to show for all my hard work. I was like a potter working tirelessly at the wheel and not producing anything. And there comes a time when one might consider the possibility that maybe these aren’t my gifts. Maybe I should count my losses and move on to something else. Maybe I did not accurately estimate the cost like the person in Jesus’s parable. Maybe I did not consider whether I really had enough mental, emotional and spiritual resources to see my project through to the end like someone who lays down the foundation for a tower and cannot complete it, like the king who did not have sufficient troops to succeed in battle and must therefore hold up the white flag and surrender.

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I have learned that part of the creative process involves trusting that God and God’s creativity is at work within us even things look unproductive and hopeless. The creative process involves giving God the freedom and time to mold us and stretch us and refine us like clay; and it is a process that we ought not enter into lightly. The psalmist in this morning’s Psalm seems to embody the role of the clay when he says, “You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me” (Ps 139:4). Giving ourselves over to the divine creative process requires immense sacrifice, which may at times feel painful. Jesus knows this which is why he warns us in a profoundly disturbing way to not enter lightly into this process of being shaped by God. He says, “Whoever . . . does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” This is harsh indeed. (The organizers of the lectionary were probably wise to have this Gospel read during Labor Day weekend when many parishioners are on vacation.) This Gospel message is not for the fainthearted. This is Jesus’s way of saying, “If you want to be formed by God’s hands and submit yourselves to the divine creative process, you need to be willing to make serious sacrifices.” And those sacrifices may involve our most personal and profound relationships. They may involve our greatest hopes and dreams. The divine creative process may require us to let go and even give up on a profession, a project or career path. In order to be malleable clay in God’s hands, we need to be willing to let go and sometimes make the most painful sacrifices.

Another poetic prophet, Isaiah, also compared the relationship between the potter and the clay with that of God and humanity when he said, “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?” (Isaiah 45:9). Who are we to question our maker?

And yet, the more I read Scripture the more I see the clay questioning the potter. From Abraham to Job to the Psalmists to Jeremiah and to Jesus of Nazareth, I see the saints of Scripture question and even quarrel with God. In many cases, it seems that the potter and the clay must work together. There are indeed times when we are called to be submissive and docile in God’s hands, but ultimately we are called to be co-creators with God. As the late psychiatrist and theologian Gerald May said, “We are not the authors of our life with God, [but] nor are we pawns. We are participant co-creators. God will be active within us irrevocably, but we bring immeasurable beauty to that process when we affirm it, choose it, and actively join in it.”[2]

The creative process as both a creature and a creator can be brutal and demanding and can require great sacrifice. But the God who created our inmost parts and knit us together in our mother’s womb will never give up on us, no matter how stubborn we might be. God wants to co-create with us, as God’s beloved creatures and as people blessed with creativity within ourselves. Some believe the when the Bible says we are made in the image of God it is referring to our impulse to create. And it is by participating in creative work that God works creatively on us.

Thomas Merton said, “Each one who is born comes into the world as a question for which old answers are not sufficient.” And each one of us is called by God to join him in creating and embodying the divine creative response. God invites us to join him in singing the song, in writing the story, in painting the canvas, in molding the clay that is our lives. Although the project might feel like it’s going nowhere fast, it is by working with the clay as the potter and by working with the potter as the clay that we can become a vital part of God’s marvelous works, fearfully and wonderfully made. And we can rejoice with the Psalmist and say, “We thank you because we are marvelously made and we have the privilege to marvelously make; your works are wonderful, God, and we know this full well.”

Although we may give up or even feel called to give up on various creative projects, God never gives up on the clay that is our lives. A potter does not just throw clay in the trash because it’s not cooperating. The potter will temporarily take it off the wheel to re-wedge it and then throw it back it on for another pull. As the potter, God never gives up on us, even though we may be stubborn clay. I have realized how the divine potter was committed to continue molding and working on me in spite of my stubbornness. For this reason, I ultimately could not give up working on my impossibly stubborn dissertation. I had to sacrifice jobs, teaching opportunities, time with family and friends and time here at Christ Church in order to keep grinding away at what felt like a lost cause. It took years to get on the same wavelength as the clay of my dissertation and that would only happen to me occasionally. The creative process, as Thomas Edison said, is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine perspiration. I share all of this because I am so happy and relieved to say that a couple days ago, I successfully defended my dissertation and am now, after a long seven years, the Rev. Dr. Daniel London. I want to thank you so much for your prayers and support along the way. I ultimately did not drown in the Fourth Gospel thanks to you and thanks to the God who continues to co-create with each of us.

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[1] Regarding this remark, Paul N. Anderson writes, “Attributed both to Augustine and Pope Gregory the Great, who describe Scripture as ‘a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade,’ a recent application of this imagery to the Gospel of John is made by Paul F. Brackman, who said, “Someone has described the remarkable character of this Gospel by saying that it is a book in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim” (“The Gospel according to John,” Interpretation 6, 1952, 63) as cited in Paul N. Anderson, The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John (Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 2011)245. Also, see Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971), 7.

[2] http://shalem.org/2009/01/01/seeking-the-one-who-has-already-found-us/, accessed September 3, 2016.

Sharpening Our Prophetic Edge, Learning from the Hebrew Prophets (MEYG 2016 – 2017 Calendar)

•August 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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This year, the MEYG will meet from 5:45 PM to 7 PM (unless otherwise noted) on most Sunday nights following the 5 PM Family Eucharist at Nativity Episcopal Church in San Rafael starting September 18th. During our Sunday night gatherings, we will hang out, enjoy snacks, play games, and “sharpen our prophetic edge” by learning about the Hebrew prophets. As we have been doing for years, we will conclude our meetings with a contemplative, candlelit prayer service called Compline. We will continue serving cookies and salad to the guests of the Street Chaplaincy Wellness Gatherings at First Presbyterian Church San Rafael from 5 to 6 PM on the second Tuesday of the month, starting in October. And we will occasionally go out to the Northgate theatre for Movie Nights (Dr. Strange, Star Wars, etc.).

Ordinary Time 2016:
Sept 18 – Introduction to the Hebrew Prophets

Sept 25 – Youth Gleaning at Green Gulch (1:30 – 4:30 PM)

Oct 2 – Jeremiah, Lament and Hope (Lam 3:19-26)

Oct 9 – No Youth Group due to Tuesday Outreach Night

Oct 11 – Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM)

Oct 16 – Israel and Wrestling with God (Gen 32: 22- 31)

Oct 23 – Joel and the Spirit’s Outpouring (Joel 2:23- 32)

Oct 30 – Halloween, Habakkuk and the Righteous (Hab 1:1-4; 2:1-4)

Nov 6 – Dr. Strange Movie Night

Nov 8 – No Tuesday Outreach Night due to Election Day

Nov 13 – Isaiah, the Wolf and the Lamb (Is 65:17-25)

Nov 20 – No Youth Group (Daniel in San Antonio TX)

Nov 23 – Marin Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Service at 7 PM at First Presbyterian Church

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Advent 2016:

Nov 27 – No Youth Group (Thanksgiving Break)

Dec 4 – Gingerbread Houses!

Dec 11 – White Elephant Gift Exchange Christmas Party

Dec 13 – Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM)

Dec 18 – Star Wars Movie Night

Dec 25 – No Youth Group (Christmas Break)

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Epiphany 2017:

Jan 1 – No Youth Group (New Year’s Break)

Jan 8 – No Youth Group due to Tuesday Outreach Night

Jan 10 – Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM)

Jan 15 – John the Baptizing Prophet (Jn 1:29-42)

Jan 22 – STOP HUNGER NOW SERVICE PROJECT at St. Paul’s San Rafael (12:30 – 2:30 PM)

Jan 29 – Micah, Justice and Mercy (Mic 6:1-8)

Feb 5 – Family Service – Eucharist

Feb 12 – No Youth Group due to Tuesday Outreach Night

Feb 14 – Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM)

Feb 19 – Preparing for Lent

Feb 26 – Shrove Sunday Party

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Lent 2017

March 5 – Family Service – Eucharist

March 12 – Nativity Crab Feed

March 14 – Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM)

March 19 – The Prophetic Response to Complaint (Ex 17:1-7)

March 26 – The Prophetic Response to Blame (Jn 9:1 – 10:21)

March 31 – April 1 – NIGHTWATCH at Grace Cathedral

April 2 – Family Service – Eucharist

April 9 – PALM SUNDAY – No Youth Group due to Tuesday Outreach Night

April 11 Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM: This is the correct time. All other times are April Fools jokes/mistakes)

April 16 – No Youth Group (EASTER Break)

Easter 2017

April 23 – The Prophetic Meaning of Resurrection (1 Pet 1:3-9)

April 30 – “A Prophet Mighty in Deed and Word” (Lk 24)

May 7 – Family Eucharist – “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10)

May 9 – Tuesday Outreach Night (5 – 6 PM)

May 14 – No Youth Group (Mother’s Day)

May 21 – The Advocate (Jn 14)

May 28 – No Youth Group (Memorial Day weekend)

June 3 – Confirmation at Grace Cathedral

June 4 – Last Family Service at Redeemer (5:45 – 7 PM) followed by meeting about plans for next year

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Prayer Labyrinth Wedding Video

•August 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

We Plan, God Laughs

•July 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Listen to sermon here: We Plan, God Laughs

Readings for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

2 Kings 5:1-14

Psalm 30

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

This sermon was preached at Christ Episcopal Church in Sausalito CA on July 3, 2016.

According to the Jewish ‘sage’ Woody Allen, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” It’s a wonderful aphorism that he likely culled from the shorter Yiddish saying: Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht (“We plan, God laughs”). And many believe this saying has its roots in the Psalms, especially Psalm 2 in which God laughs at the plans and plots of the nations (2:4). And in this morning’s Psalm, we read about someone who boasts of his plan to enjoy life completely unperturbed, saying, “I shall never be disturbed…[God] has made me as strong as the mountains.” And yet in the next verse, his plans are quickly upset by the experience of an overpowering fear. And Psalm 33:10 says it most blatantly: “God frustrates people’s plans.” We plan, God laughs.

In our reading from 2 Kings, we encounter another example of a man’s frustrated plans. When Naaman learns of a prophet in Israel who can cure him of his leprosy, he plots his healing out to a tee. He expects the prophet to greet him with open arms, conjure the power of the Israelite god and then perform a shamanic healing ritual over his leprous skin in order to enact a dramatic and magnificent cure. However, the Israelite prophet Elisha does not even give him the courtesy of greeting him at the door. Instead, he sends a messenger to tell him to wash seven times in the Jordan, a muddy river that pales in comparison to the beautiful rivers of Syria. Naaman is, of course, outraged not only because of Elisha’s peculiar instructions to basically wash in mud and his apparent lack of hospitality (which is a serious offense in near Eastern culture); he is also outraged because things simply are not going according to his plan. He wants to be healed of his leprosy, but he also expects to be healed according to his schedule and his sense of custom and aesthetics. Thanks to the advice of his intrepid servants, he decides to let go of what he had planned and to follow the prophet’s instructions, no matter how bizarre and humiliating. As a result, he ends up completely healed of his leprosy, with skin like that of a young boy. Naaman learns that God’s healing is at work, even when almost nothing goes according to his plan.

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Naaman learns the spiritual lesson that mythologist Joseph Campbell invites us to learn when he says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” These words have been a consistent source of challenge and encouragement to me over the years, especially since I often make plans that simply don’t work out. I guess I make God laugh quite often. Although occasionally some things do work out according to plan, I have found that to be the exception to the rule.

For instance, my ordination process felt long and sometimes frustrating and did not necessarily follow my preferred schedule. It was about a seven-year process (give or take) and I often felt like I was walking through muddy and opaque waters. And I am now in the seventh year of my doctoral program and hoping against hope that I will soon be healed of the “leprosy” that is dissertation writing. Now perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic, but I think we can all relate to Naaman to a certain degree as we find ourselves sometimes wallowing in the mud of our frustrated plans.

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And yet healing does come as we learn to let go of the life that we have planned and embrace the thrilling and unexpected adventures of the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell also said provocatively, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” It is often the adventures that are most unexpected and unplanned that prove to be the most transformative and healing. And it is often when our future seems most obscure that “the God of surprises,” in the words of Desmond Tutu, will play “his most extraordinary and incredible card.”

So why make plans at all? As much as I might like the idea of making God laugh with my many ill-fated schemes, I’d rather be working in cooperation with God’s will and plan for my life. I find some helpful guidelines for making plans in this morning’s Collect and this morning’s Gospel. The Collect reminds us that we can follow all of God’s commandments by simply loving him and loving our neighbor. Let our love for God and others serve as a lamp to light our path and guide our plans. By cultivating a loving devotion to God and fostering a “pure affection” for one another, we inevitably cooperate with God’s will and plan for our lives.

When it comes to the details, however, I find the Gospel to be especially helpful. In appointing his disciples to be travelling healers, Jesus gives them peculiar instructions as we learn that Hebrew prophets are wont to do. He says, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Offer peace; if it is rejected, don’t worry about it. Eat what is set before you. If people welcome you, then bless them and heal them. If they reject you, then just let it go; let go even of the dust that clings to your feet. And then move on.”

Underneath the initial peculiarity of these words, I hear Jesus inviting us to do what former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would often say: “Travel light,” meaning “Be open. Be adaptable.” In other words, Make your plans to love God and love your neighbors but hold all the details lightly. Be willing to be surprised. Be vulnerable to unexpected adventures, including rejection. Make your plans, but hold them lightly because they will ultimately make way for God’s plans.

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As a result, the disciples have the time of their lives. They return, overflowing with joy because they tapped into God’s healing power. They let God’s plans override and overwhelm their own and subsequently they brought freedom, wholeness and new life to all who received them.

So let us go ahead and make our plans prayerfully and pursue them, guided by love for God and neighbor. And even though they might seem like the most holy, God-ordained plans in the world, let us still be prepared for them to be frustrated so that they might become even more fully aligned with God’s plans for us. And let us be willing to immerse ourselves in the muddy and unclear waters of the Jordan in order to be transformed by the God of surprises who ultimately seeks to heal us and to heal the world through us. We can hold ourselves lightly and even learn to laugh joyfully (and rejoice) with the God who laughs at our plans because we know our names are written in heaven. And we can rejoice with the Psalmist whose upset plans led him to a renewed intimacy with God, who seeks to turn all of our mourning into dancing and to make our hearts sing forever. Amen.