Sunday, April 30, 2023

4 Easter, 2023-A: On being sheep and shepherds

Lectionary: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10 

En el nombre del Dios que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen. (Note: At the Rite II service, the preacher brings the children up for the demonstration…)

Long ago, I was a Brownie Girl Scout troop leader. As an expert in the field of child abuse prevention, I was called upon every year to help teach the Girls Scouts of all ages how to stay safe. I used the following demonstration to show them that there are some grown-ups who may try to trick them in order to harm them, and it works because they are the ones who are supposed to be looking out for them and their safety.

I would begin by tossing a coin, saying, Ok call it. Heads I win, Tails you lose. One child would call out “Heads!” and I’d say, Heads – I win! I’d’ toss it again and another child would call out, “Tails!” Tails, you lose, I’d say. It wasn’t long before the kiddos understood the trick.

In today’s gospel story, Jesus makes similar points about the Jewish leadership. It’s important to remember that this story follows the story of the man born blind whom Jesus healed. Remember how his parents hesitated to answer the questions, was your son really born blind and who healed him? It’s because they feared the Pharisees would excommunicate them for being followers of Jesus causing them to lose their family, friends, and community.

Jesus is connecting this moment in the gospel to the passage in Ezekiel where God called the leaders of Israel false shepherds who fed themselves and not the sheep whom they scattered leaving them vulnerable to predators. God declares “I myself will search for my sheep, rescue them, and feed them with good pasture. (34:11-16) Jesus was a masterful Biblical scholar.

Jesus identifies himself as the shepherd who enters by the gate. He is also the gate. This is his unique status as the Incarnate Word of God, and not surprisingly, the religious leaders don’t understand what he is saying.

There is so much beautiful imagery in this short parable that may go unnoticed by those of us unfamiliar with farming sheep. For instance, it wasn’t unusual for several flocks to gather in the same place for pasturing. I’m told this still happens in that region of the Middle East.

One wonders how, at the end of the day, the sheep will be separated back into their proper groups, but a shepherd knows that the relationship they build with their sheep is so personal that the sheep develop great trust in their shepherd over time. They also know the sheep trust each other, so if a group of sheep heads in one direction the rest will follow – herd mentality.

The sheep know their own shepherd’s voice and will follow it. I’m told it’s pretty amazing to watch this in real life – several flocks separating following their shepherd who goes in front of them to show them the way.

The shepherd leads their flock to the enclosed area where they will sleep for the night. Most shepherds would put planks across the gate to keep the sheep from walking back out during the night. But the really devoted shepherd would lay himself down across the gate and sleep there. That way no sheep could leave, nor a predator enter, without him knowing. Of course, lying across that gate also meant that the gatekeeper was vulnerable to the predators.

Jesus was claiming to be that sort of shepherd – the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.

Jesus identifies himself as the gate as well and says that whoever enters by him will be saved. This is often taken as an exclusive comment, but it isn’t. Not if you believe in the Trinity, and consider what Jesus says a few verses later as he continues this teaching: “I have other sheep which are not of this fold, and I must bring them too. They will hear my voice and we will be one flock and one shepherd. (16)

Did you know that the word translated here as “saved” literally means to make sound, in good condition – free from injury or disease? It means to preserve someone from danger, loss, or destruction. Jesus is saying, “Whoever enters by me will be made sound, preserved from danger and destruction, but even more, they will be given freedom to come in and go out and find pasture” …the kind described so beautifully in Psalm 23.

We are the sheep who follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, and we are the shepherds in the world today as the church. It is now up to us to guard the gate – not to keep anyone out, but to make sure the gate opens every time a sheep comes in or goes out following the voice of God.

As shepherds in the world today, we are called to lay down our lives to protect the flock from those who would do them harm. The Emmanuel Black Lives Matter gathering every Friday night is doing that – taking insults and taunts directed at them as they stand for our African American sisters and brothers who suffer from continuing targeted racism in our culture and cultural systems.

In Missouri, there are currently over 40 anti-trans, and anti-LGBTQIA+ bills under consideration by our legislators. Churches United for Justice, a local group of faith communities, is watching that legislation, showing up to testify against it, and mobilizing people of faith to protect our vulnerable siblings-in-Christ who are being attacked culturally, medically, and personally. 

Within our own congregation are continuing expressions of fear over the potential for gun violence while we worship, run our preschool, and just go about our business as a Christian community of faith. I’ve counseled several women and one teen about the impact of the limits being imposed on women’s healthcare under the guise of “Christian values.”

As members of The Episcopal Church, we are out of step with the voices of false shepherds who benefit personally by fomenting fear, judgment, and condemnation of other members of the family of God they disapprove of or hate. Our Baptismal vows call us to respect the dignity of every human being and in our gospel story today, Jesus clarifies whose voice we are to follow – his, and his alone.

Luke tells us in Acts, that the early church “spent much time together in the temple.” We are called to do the same. The reason is, as Episcopalians, we discern the voice of God individually and in community. Hearing the voice individually only can lead us astray. False shepherds like David Koresh and Jim Jones thought they, and they alone, heard the voice of God. Look where that led. Our commitment to corporate discernment that affirms individual discernment is one of the planks we lay across the gate to protect our flock.

Listening for the voice of God is something we must choose to learn and practice, and church is where we do that. Some people worry about being able to recognize that it is God’s voice. It’s true, we are all vulnerable to temptation, but through his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated the power sin and death have over us. Do we believe that?

Do we believe that by his wounds we have been healed? Do we believe that having been marked as Christ’s own forever in our Baptism, there is nothing that can separate us from the eternal love and protection of God?

We can choose to walk away from God or the Church, mad about something, or disapproving of another thing. We can even choose to follow false shepherds who spin false narratives and employ threats, coercion, or cajoling; because the promise we cling to is that we are members of one flock, being constantly gathered back into the fold by our Good Shepherd.

The way of the world kills and destroys by infecting our hearts and our churches with fear, hate, and threat of abandonment. But our faith assures us that in the face of every earthly circumstance, we are not alone. We are in the eternal presence of God in Christ, who offers us abundant life; a life in verdant pastures, beside still waters, and lavish with blessings.

How can we help but share Good News like that? Amen.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

3 Easter, 2023: Inspired with hearts ready to serve

Lectionary: Acts 2:14a,36-41; Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35 

I love this lectionary today. It is so full of inspiration and heart – and I use those terms intentionally because to be inspired is to be roused or urged to do or know something. Inspiration is something that comes to us from outside us but it is also an internal physical process. To inspire is to breathe in. To be inspired is to be breathed into. For us, it is God who inspires us, who breathes into us, compelling us to live, do, or understand something.

In modern culture, the heart is the seat of love and compassion. For those in Jesus’ time and place, however, the heart was the center and seat of thoughts. It was also considered the location of the soul. In other words, it is the place in our bodies where heaven and earth intersect. 

So when Jesus laments that the disciples on the road to Emmaus are slow of heart, he isn’t talking about them being slow to love, but slow to understand. So, he explains the Scriptures to them, beginning with Moses, interpreting everything everyone had said about the Messiah.

They still didn’t get it though, and it wasn’t because they were stupid or resistant. It was because it wasn’t time yet. They weren’t ready.

You see, it is God in Christ who acts to open our spiritual eyes and each of us is approached differently. Mary Magdalene’s moment of inspiration happened when Jesus spoke her name. Thomas was inspired when Jesus offered to let him touch his crucifixion wounds. God always meets us where we are and inspires us to move from unbelief to belief - in God's time.

When that happens we recognize and connect with God on a deep, interior level. In the midst of the beauty and glory of this personal connection, we experience a physical sensation, the first sign of the process of transformation happening within us and it happens in that physical spot in our bodies where heaven and earth intersect – in our hearts.

Our Scriptures, Old and New, show us that God has always done it this way. In Ezekiel, God says, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” (36:26). In Jeremiah: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it ton their hearts.’” (31:33) This is what the disciples were experiencing when they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was opening the Scriptures to us?”

The heart is where we co-exist, co-abide with God. It is a physical and spiritual reality that is made available for us to strengthen at every sharing of the Holy Eucharist. In the holy food of communion, we become one with the ultimate community, the community of the Divine Trinity. Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity, abides in us as we abide in him, making us the current locations of the coexistence of the human and the divine on earth.

The world tends to dismember us, to cut us off from God and one other. When that happens, we experience heartache. We all know how it feels to physically droop and spiritually sag under the weight of the turmoil in our world. As the psalmist says so well, “...the cords of death entangle me, the grip of the grave took hold of me. I came to grief and sorrow.” 

That’s been my experience watching the news this week. As I learned about Ralph Yarl, a bright, beautiful 16-year-old in Kansas City who rang the wrong doorbell and got shot for it and now struggles to live, and 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis, who was shot and killed when the car she was in went up the wrong driveway, I felt my heart break and my spirit sag. And these weren't the only innocent lives lost this week to guns.

Listening to the discussions about why some believe that everyone needs unlimited access to a gun and the legal right to “stand their ground,” my heart broke even more. How divided, how dismembered we have become.

God save us, I thought. Show us the way to go.

I’m grateful that preparing this sermon this week I was blessed to be reminded by the psalmist that God
hears the voice of our supplication. It enabled me to repent from my sadness and distress and return to the Lord, putting my trust once again in God’s love and loving plan for us.

Jesus knew this experience of worldly dismemberment too. He experienced it first-hand in Jerusalem when the shouts of “Hosanna “transformed into shouts of “Crucify him!” We watched as he physically drooped, falling three times as he carried his cross to Golgotha. We heard him spiritually sag as he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani…. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

That’s why the risen Christ gave us a way to re-member ourselves, to put ourselves back together, to co-exist with God and one another in shalom. Every Sunday when we gather to worship, we intentionally breathe in the Spirit of God through our Scriptures, common prayers, and hymns of praise. We nourish and strengthen our souls with the holy food of Communion. Then we are made ready to breathe out the effects of this in our lives when we are dismissed at the end of our worship service to go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

If we don’t keep breathing it in, however, we can’t keep breathing it out. Coming to Sunday worship is not a duty (social or otherwise), and we don’t affect our eternal outcome by going or not going, but we do affect our present – understanding who we are, whose we are, and what our purpose is. 

 Being present at the Holy Eucharist opens our spiritual eyes and strengthens us, individually and as a community, to be witnesses of the Good News and stewards of the many gifts God has given us.

Jesus is the one through whom all things are made. All things, all people, all time, all activities, all of creation, all resources– everything comes from God and belongs to God. We are not asked to guard God or hoard God’s gifts. We are called to scatter them far and wide, welcoming all people – all people – to live as part of one family: the family of God. 

As Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb says in her book, She Who Dwells Within (Harper, San Francisco, 1995, 179), “Hospitality is the ability to give things away because one has replaced the idea of ownership with the idea of stewardship. A steward… equitably distributes that which is available… provides sanctuary and shelter, extends a warm welcome to her guest, and makes strangers feel at home.”

This is what church is meant to be, and do, and understand! And this hospitality is a gift Emmanuel has in abundance.

God is breathing life into us and we respond by living a Eucharistic life: a life of thanks and grace, a life that reflects our gratitude for all God has given us and demonstrates our commitment to using those gifts to serve God and all God’s people, welcoming and advocating for all suffering injustice or indignity, reconciling with all from whom we are divided or dismembered, and making them feel safe and at peace at our church home.

Let us pray… 

Eternal Reality, Creator of all that is, Opener of our spiritual eyes, and Inspirer our hearts, we willingly share your grief and sorrow each time one of your children suffers or dies as a result of our worldly dismemberment. Re-member us, we pray, Adonai-Shalom, Lord of our Peace, then send us out to be bearers of your life-giving presence to all we encounter, until your world is made one in the unity of your love. We pray this in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Easter, 2023-A: Set free to proclaim

Lectionary: Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18

In John’s gospel account of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene goes alone to the tomb to finish the burial preparations interrupted by the Passover and sees that the tomb is already open. Keeping to the custom of her culture, Mary does not enter the tomb, but runs back to fetch Peter and John, who is the disciple Jesus loved. Mary, whose spiritual eyes had not yet been opened to the truth of the resurrection, informs the men that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, supposing out loud that someone must have stolen it.

In our Bible study this week, we were pondering what Mary Magdalene might have been thinking in that moment – the great stone had been rolled away and someone had obviously been in the tomb… but they must not have been in a hurry because the burial linens were carefully placed here and there… anyway, who unwraps a dead body before stealing it? Suddenly, my watch Siri interrupted us saying, “I’m not sure I understand.” We broke up saying, neither do we, Siri. Neither do we.

When John arrives at the tomb, he looks inside, but he too waits until Peter, who held the top rung in the hierarchical ladder, catches up. When the two men entered the tomb and stood in its emptiness, they believed what Mary Magdalene had told them: Jesus was missing.

That’s a pretty radical statement for our Gospel writer to make considering that for them the testimony of women was considered unreliable. But Jesus made Mary’s testimony reliable.

Seeing the empty tomb, the disciples could only guess at what was going on “for as yet they didn’t understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.” The author tells us that Peter and John simply went home. Unable to leave the emptiness she didn’t quite understand, Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.

Unable to overcome the cultural barrier that kept her as an outsider, Mary still doesn’t go inside the tomb. Instead, she bends over to look inside it. When she does, she sees two angels in white who ask her a simple question: “Woman, why are you weeping?”

It’s helpful for us to remember that in those days men didn’t speak to women who weren't family. So, either the angels looked like women, or yet another barrier that impeded Mary’s call to be a witness to the Good News was brought down.

Then Mary turns around and sees a man standing near her. Motivated by her deep grief, and still unable to “see” the truth of the resurrection, Mary speaks to the man and another culture barrier comes tumbling down - the one that forbids women to speak to men.

"Sir," Mary says, if you have taken my Lord, please tell me where he is and “I’ll take him away.” Jesus replies by simply saying her name, “Mary,” and suddenly, her spiritual eyes are opened.

As promised, those who belong to the Good Shepherd know his voice. Mary spins back around to “look” again and sees – truly sees - her risen Lord. The very breath of life in Mary sighs his name using a term of endearment in their native tongue: “Rabbouni!”

In that moment, Mary’s understanding, along with her once broken heart, were made whole.

Jesus, her beloved Rabbi, is now Jesus, the risen Lord. She sees with her eyes. She understands with her spirit… and she believes with her whole self! Now she is ready to be a witness to the truth, and Jesus tells Mary to go and tell the others.

Our Easter experience today is spiritually the same as Mary Magdalene’s was that first Easter Day. We, like Mary, are called to go to the place where we will hear the Lord call our name, which opens our spiritual eyes. Then, we go when he sends us to tell everyone of the transforming Good News we know.

When my now 17-year-old mini-dachshund wore a younger girl’s clothes, she had a litter of puppies. I remember watching as my tiny dog’s belly swelled with the hidden life forming inside her.

My youngest child and I participated in the birth of those four new and precious lives. Then we watched as the puppies grew and formed into a community, a family, under the ever-vigilant and protective gaze of their mama-dog.

Soon, the puppies opened their eyes. They couldn’t see well at first, but little by little, experience and biology worked together, and their vision improved. And the better they could see, the more they began to explore, motivated by an endless curiosity, grounded in their sense of safety.

One of the puppies was braver than the rest. Following some interior call, he would venture out farther and farther from the birthing-box, and the others would follow him.

If one puppy got scared, he would stop where he was and let out a few cries. Either the Mama dog or another puppy would respond immediately by going up close, offering themselves as comfort to the one who was crying.

It was truly inspiring for me to watch the puppies grow in the newness of life that happened for them once their eyes were opened. The connection to our Easter story is easy to see.

After Mary Magdalene’s spiritual eyes were opened, Jesus cautions her to remember that her spiritual vision is young and still a little clouded. Don’t cling to me, he says to her. It isn’t about my returning to you, but about my returning you to God. So go and tell the others that “I am ascending to my father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

By sending Mary with this message, Jesus commissions her as the first resurrection apostle - an apostle is one who is sent on a mission. In doing so, Jesus finishes in his resurrection, what he started in his ministry: removing all of the barriers that oppress and hinder his chosen ones in their work as witnesses of the Good News. We too have been commissioned as resurrection apostles by our Baptism. And it is in Jesus that we are made to be reliable witnesses.

We too, have been set free from all that hinders us because Christ, who has been raised from the dead has brought us with him into resurrection life.

But what does that mean? When we leave here today, what does it mean to live in resurrection life? It means living in community where we gather to hear Jesus call our name, opening ourselves to spiritual awakening over and over again, remembering that once God opens our spiritual eyes, we need some time to mature before our vision becomes clear, and we do that as a family of faith.

As we learn and grow in our faith, we need our community around us. Not just for when we get scared, although that is important, but because with our friends nearby, we have the courage to explore beyond our comfortable boundaries to seek, find, and do the ministries God is calling us to do in this moment of our communal life. We learn together, confident that God is watching us vigilantly and protectively, ready to respond whenever we cry out.

So let us be like Mary Magdalene, bold witnesses to the Good News we know, trusting that Jesus will bring down all cultural barriers in our way. I mean… here I stand.

Let us proclaim to our trans and gay siblings the good news Peter first proclaimed that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

And let us preach “peace by Jesus Christ [who] is Lord of all…” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told us to put down our weapons or we would die by them. He was right, of course, and it’s a daily torment for us as our culture clings to its clouded understanding of this.

Finally, let us get about our work of “doing good and healing all who [are] oppressed,” as Jesus showed us how to do on Maundy Thursday, commanding us to serve humbly, as servant-leaders of our faith.

It is our turn - right now - to “testify that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

For Episcopalians, being “saved” isn’t about keeping the right rules, or belonging to the right church, or having a culturally approved life-partner or gender identity. Being saved, as Jesus said so often, is about believing… believing in him. We don’t have to understand to believe. Understanding comes with time and experience and is always limited to our tiny human capacity. God is so much more than any of us can imagine or understand.

Here’s what matters: Jesus’ reconciliation of the world to God brings down all barriers that hinder our call to proclaim the Good News so that everyone can share the Easter reality, which we proclaim now together: Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Maundy Thursday, 2023: Putting our lives where our beliefs are

Lectionary: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35  

En el nombre del Dios que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen. 

Do this in remembrance of me.

Did Jesus actually say those words which we repeat every Sunday in our Holy Eucharist? Maybe. Paul thinks he did. Whether he said them or not, Jesus’ own tradition was big on remembering, therefore, so is ours.

It’s important for us to remember that ours is a Judeo-Christian tradition, one in which the grand love-story of God and God’s people begins with the Jewish people. That love narrative continues in them as Jews, and, thanks to Jesus, it continues in us too as Christians.

The revelation that we are God’s people and that our salvation is from God, came to us through the Jews and was always meant to reach all nations and all peoples, as Isaiah and other prophets proclaimed. This revelation was never meant to obliterate one group in favor of another. Just as parents can love more than one child, God loves all of the branches on God’s family tree.

Priest and theologian, Verna Dozier once said, “The ancient Israelites were a people of cultic memory, and in song and story and liturgy they kept that memory fresh. It was their memory of special events that had shaped them… The memory included the interpretation of these events that… had a special place in God’s plan. ... [they] began with the big picture — faith in a God who acted on their behalf.”

These forebears of our faith created a ritual designed to help the generations that follow remember God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. Held in the Spring, the celebration of Passover signals rebirth and renewal. The seder meal, (seder meaning order) which begins the Passover celebration, unfolds in four parts marked by four cups of wine consumed during the meal which includes ritual actions like hand-washings, prayers, and hymns of praise. It’s very beautiful.

The first part of the seder meal is the telling of the story (called the Haggadah), and it focuses on the children who are asked four questions, beginning with “What makes this night different from all other nights?” The question is meant to encourage the children to ask questions and spark their curiosity. This is how Jewish children are taught about their faith and their identity as children of God.

The second part is drinking the four cups of wine. Each of the cups represents how God has acted to save and is taken from the book of Exodus (6:6-7). These four acts are: “I will bring out," “I will deliver,” “I will redeem,” and “I will take” and they occur at specified moments in the meal.

The third part is eating symbolic food. Roasted lamb symbolizing sacrifice, Matza referred to as poor persons bread together with parsley or other bitter greens that symbolize the bitterness of being enslaved. The greens are dipped into water that is salted, symbolizing the tears of the people enslaved by the powers of the world. There are many more and they are fascinating, so I encourage you to go to our website and read the teaching about this posted on our Christian Education page. There are also links to Jewish sites there. Passover is, after all, their holiday.

The fourth part is about hope - trusting the freedom given to them by God and looking forward to the future God has planned for them. The Jewish people acknowledge that though we live in an imperfect world, the day will come when spiritual perfection is achieved. They repeat a familiar refrain for this hope: “Next year in Jerusalem.” 

It matters that we know this and that we, who are not Jewish, don’t appropriate this holiday. It’s enough for us to know how we are connected to it – and we are connected in a very significant way.

Remember that I mentioned the four cups. Let’s look carefully at them. 

The first cup is the cup of SANCTIFICATION. God says: “I will bring you out.” To sanctify is to set someone or something apart as holy. The people of God are “chosen” by God. God will bring them out from their slavery so that they can serve God, not a human master.

The second cup is the cup of DELIVERANCE. God says: “I will deliver.” Only God can save. We cannot save ourselves. The temptation most of us face is spending time and energy trying to do the right thing or to live the right way, in order to earn salvation. But that isn’t possible, because, as we know, salvation is a gift from God. We can’t and don’t earn it.

The third cup is the cup of REDEMPTION. God says, “I will redeem.” In the Jewish tradition the word redemption also means “avenger of blood” and it is, by definition, a family member. This family member acts to set their kin free from slavery, paying a ransom, or great price for that freedom. The traditional image is of a father sacrificing his firstborn son for the freedom of his entire family. Sound familiar?

At dinner with his friends, Jesus claims himself to be this third cup. It is his blood, his life that will be given for the redemption of all by the forgiveness of sin. Because he is fully God and fully human, Jesus is the Father who pays the price, the Son who is the price, and the family for whom that price is paid.

The fourth cup is the cup of HOPE... hope for the future. The Jews understood this to be the cup of Elijah, for whom an empty seat is kept at the seder table. The filling of that seat would signal the coming of the Messiah. Jewish theologian, Tim Hegg says that, for the Jews, “redemption guarantees the final destination, but the journey is still necessary.”

The same is true for us as Christians. The Messiah has come so our final destination - reconciliation of the whole world to God in Christ - is guaranteed. This is not about where we go when we die but about how we live in the world. The journey is still necessary, and we participate in this journey by doing our part in the continuing reconciling work of Jesus until the whole world is reconciled to God.

That brings us back to the mandate: to love and serve one another as Jesus loved and served us – with a towel around our waist, in humble service to all. “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

To make this crystal clear, Jesus put this new approach into the form of a commandment – a mandate (which is the root of the word ‘Maundy”): “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Maundy Thursday reminds us to put our lives where our beliefs are and make manifest our commitment to be followers of Jesus Christ. As the church in the world today, it is our duty to live as servant leaders in the pattern and practice of Jesus. God grant us the will to put into action what we believe in our faith.

I close with a prayer I wrote about servant leadership. Let us pray...

Fill us, most merciful God, with the power of your Holy Spirit, and free us from any bonds that continue to restrict our freedom to fully love you, one another, and ourselves. Enter our dreams each night and show us your will for us as your church’s servant leaders in this time and place. Loosen our tongues to speak your truth. Strengthen our hearts to birth your love into reality no matter the cost; and make each of us to shine with the celestial light that is the mark of your saints in heaven and on earth; for the love of your Son, our savior, Jesus, the Christ. Amen. 

Links to Jewish sites for their teaching on seder meals: