The Ash Wednesday Massacre (367)

Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness – from the Collect for Ash Wednesday

On Ash Wednesday, we had yet another mass shooting in a school, this time in south Florida. The picture of a distraught parent from the school hugging another parent with the visible “ash cross” on her forehead will forever be seared into my memory. More senseless killing by a young man who had legally purchased his semi-automatic rifle, which allowed him to shoot many children and reload quickly, multiplying the carnage. Clearly, the young man who did this unspeakable evil was disturbed mentally. Still, he was allowed to walk into a gun store and purchase this weapon (which all experts say is built specifically to kill many people quickly). What 19-year-old needs a semi-automatic assault rifle? What kind of society allows for a gun sale like that to happen? One in need of “acknowledging our wretchedness,” that kind.

I didn’t even need to read the responses from our elected officials. They all read from the same pre-written script that they’ve read from many times before. They express outrage, assure every one of their prayers, and suggest with a tone of moral indignation that we shouldn’t “politicize” this particular tragedy (or future ones, one assumes). Senator Marco Rubio from Florida said: “I hope people reserve judgment…the facts of this are important.” Yes, facts are important. Later, he said, as soon as these facts are known, then “we can have a deeper conversation about why these things happen.”

Except that “deeper conversation” never happens. These mass killings are the price we pay for the current government’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment (it hasn’t always been interpreted that way in previous generations). More than 430 people have been shot in 273 school attacks since the massacre at Sandy Hook in 2012 and three of the deadliest have occurred just in the last year. And those numbers, representing the lives of real children, don’t even include the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Orlando.

One of the prime directives of any government is the defense of its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, like our children. Even those who argue, such as the libertarian view does, for the least governmental activity in the life of its citizens agree that the safety and defense of its citizens is the central role of all government. And yet, the elected officials who run our government do nothing other than offer their condolences and prayers and say how awful it is. How is that defending our children?

In our Ash Wednesday litany just two days ago, we confessed to God “all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives.” Well, I will confess my impatience right now. I’m impatient with the pride and hypocrisy of all of us as we have come to tolerate this evil. We take great pride as Americans. But the truth is this: We’re all a bunch of hypocrites because even as we say we love our children, we continue to allow them to be killed while we have a non-existent “deeper conversation.”



A Requiem for My Father (366)

Kelly and I are traveling to be with my family to mourn my father’s death. Six years ago this month, I wrote the eCrozier below as he began his decline. It seems right to share a version of it as a requiem for his life:

The old coach is in the late fourth quarter of his final game. The ability he once had to manage the clock, make substitutions, and call the right play is gone. He’s slipping away. The once robust, barrel-chested man who seemingly could do anything he set his mind to, is now bent over, holding on to a walker, shuffling uneasily from bed to chair to restroom. My father is the old coach. Visiting him recently brought back so many powerful memories of my childhood: Teaching me how to swim by throwing me into the deep end, jumping in with me, and then without holding me, telling me I could do it myself, encouraging me all the way to the pool’s edge; showing me the right and safe way to change a car’s flat tire; explaining in painstaking detail the gentlemanly way to behave when a man carries a young lady out on a date; and so much more. My earliest memories of my father are sitting on his knee in our living room helping him (or so I thought) evaluate next week’s football opponents as the projector played game film. He’d say something like: “See how their safety cheats up to the line of scrimmage on first down? By the second quarter we’ll fool him with a play action pass.” At the time I had no idea what he was talking about, but by junior high I was helping him grade his players on film each week.

This week I loaded the old coach in his van and drove him to the cemetery where he and my mother will be buried. He wasn’t exactly sure where we were. We couldn’t find their graves, but we did find where his grandparents, my great grandparents, Edward and Clara, are buried. We then drove on to the little house where he was born in 1929. I wanted to see it again. In 1963 while staying with my grandparents for the day my grandfather introduced me to the Ku Klux Klan with a picture book full of burning crosses. When my father came to pick me up at the end of the day and saw what I had in my hands, he threw the book in the trash, had some harsh words with my grandfather, and we drove off. It would be years before I’d see my grandfather again. On the way home from seeing his old house, he needed to use the restroom, so I stopped at a restaurant and guided him toward the restroom. There I had to help him do everything, even soaping his hands and then drying them off, just as he’d done for me well over a half century before. On the way out, people stared seemingly with pity at this shuffling old man bent over his walker slowly moving between the tables. I wanted to shout at them: “Don’t pity the old coach. Stand up, for a good man is passing by.”

A few years ago, when my father was elected to the Ohio Football Coaches Hall of Fame, one of his former players, who was the first black quarterback to lead one of his teams during the tumultuous 1960’s, wrote to me about his “commitment to what was right, instead of what was popular and convenient.” All the players who ever played for him received that life lesson from my father. And, so did I.



It’s Groundhog Day, or is it? (365)

Today we celebrate a high holy day when people anticipate a miraculous foretelling of the future. I refer, of course, to Groundhog Day. On this day every year Punxsutawney Phil sticks his head up and predicts the weather that is to come. Of course, today is also the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, when we celebrate the revelation of Jesus as the world’s Savior, where Simeon & Anna stick their heads up in the temple and proclaim Jesus to be the savior of all people. So, that’s a challenge, among others, for living in today’s world. While the culture is saying it’s Groundhog Day, we’re saying it’s the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Where we see God’s revelation, others see the swami, the seer of weather, Punxsutawney Phil.

We’d like to believe we’re so sophisticated that we’re no longer shaped by superstition. Yet, we often seem to be more dazzled by the spectacular than we are by God’s straight-forward revelation among real people living real circumstances. Our penchant for superstition can lead us to see God as a divine magician always ready to pull a rabbit out of his cosmic hat, shaping us to believe that God only works in spectacular ways. Now, that’s not to say that God doesn’t work in such ways. That’s not my point. Where we go wrong is when we see God as a divine faucet we can turn on when we need something spectacular and can just as easily turn off when we don’t. How many people do you know (maybe you?) who only pray when they need something big from God? That’s certainly how our culture depicts prayer. You’ve seen the movies. The hero is in a tough jam. He’s not sure exactly how he’s going to make it through. So, he pauses and says something like: “Lord, you know I never asked you for much, but this time I need a big favor.” If that isn’t accurate, then there’d never be another country song written!

This distorts our understanding of God’s work in the world, besides being at odds with Scripture. Remember, Jesus came into the world so that you, I, and everyone else would be reconciled to God. Put simply, he came to forgive our sins on the cross. But for some folks that’s not spectacular enough. Or maybe, it’s just too personal? To acknowledge that forgiving our sins and reconciling us to God is what Jesus came to do means we must admit that our real sins need God’s reconciliation. Some would rather focus on the Virgin Mary’s image on some random water tower because they don’t want to face what Jesus is really all about. It hits too close to home. It’s way too personal.

Jesus came to meet us in the “everydayness” of our lives as they really are. He came with a simple message: God loves us so much that God can’t bear to see us separated from God’s presence. It was among the blood and spittle of the cross that God accomplished our forgiveness. It was in the real life and the real death of Jesus on the cross that God revealed the most important message ever delivered to humanity. And it was in his resurrection from the dead that this amazing message was ratified for all eternity.

This is where God meets us and redeems us: In the real life and the real death of each of us. I’d call that big and spectacular, but then again, I still think February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.



Revival Revisited: Kathy Mattea & John Prine (364)

In what sounds like the title of an excellent John Prine song, the British government has recently appointed a “Minister for Loneliness” to tackle what Prime Minister Theresa May calls a “sad reality of modern life.” According to U.K. government figures, more than 9 million people there “always or often feel lonely.” An increasing body of research has found that feelings of social isolation can have profound, negative health effects. Loneliness, we’re now seeing, is simply bad for people’s health, not to mention bad for the social cohesion of any society. This calls to my mind that wonderful Kathy Mattea song, where she sings:

And I guess we never learn
Go through life parched and empty
Standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst

It’s the irony of modern life that even though we’re surrounded by people, so many of us are lonely. We’re all “standing knee deep” in other people and yet we’re “dying of thirst” for authentic relationships with others. Some of this is self-imposed, to be sure. We’re afraid that if we risk being in relationship, then we’ll be hurt or rejected. So, some people just choose not to take that risk. Others simply don’t know how or where to make those connections in order to have deep relationships. Still others, and I think they’re a minority, actually believe they have no need of other people.

At our Revival, our Presiding Bishop taught us about self-centeredness; it being the opposite of love. In a way, loneliness is the by-product of self-centeredness. One reason some people are lonely is that they can become so self-oriented that no one wants to be around them. But these folks are few and far between. The vast majority of lonely people are lonely because they don’t know how or where to make authentic relationships. And I’m not only talking about people who live out in the woods by themselves. People can be “knee deep” with others and still be “dying of the thirst” of loneliness. And, sadly, there are not people around them who are committed to help them get out of that trap.

And this is where you and I come in as people of the “Jesus Movement.” Love, as our Presiding Bishop has taught us, is the opposite of self-centeredness. If we’re to love as Jesus loves us, we’ll break through the loneliness of others and invite them, as our Presiding Bishop says, into a “loving, liberating, and life-giving relationship with God.” And that can only happen in the fellowship and love of the church; for it is only in the church where one learns the merciful, unmerited Gospel of Jesus. It’s only in the church where we’re fed and formed by God’s Word & Sacraments, so we might go into the world together with the grace-filled Gospel of Jesus.

As usual, John Prine sang it best:
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”



Reason for Revival (363)

This Saturday, many of us will gather at our Camp and Retreat Center, Honey Creek, for a Revival led by our Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry. We’re calling this Revival: “Fearless Faith, Boundless Love.” Some people have asked me why we’re using the term “Revival” for our gathering. These questioners are implying some discomfort with the term, maybe hinting at historical baggage from their previous church experience. While I’m sorry this term might dredge up negative feelings in some, we’re not at all apologetic for using the term. We need a “Revival” of faith and hope in the Diocese of Georgia. And others, who aren’t currently members of one of our congregations, need to be unabashedly invited to trust in Jesus as their Lord & Savior.

But let’s be clear: we’re not gathering on Saturday at Honey Creek to congratulate ourselves for being Episcopalians. To paraphrase Jesus, “God can raise up Episcopalians from the rocks in the road.” And hopefully, we’re not going to Honey Creek just to have fun together and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation on Georgia’s lovely coast. Although I hope we experience both fun and joy on Saturday, I hope that’s not the primary reason we’re there. And, I really hope we’re not gathering at Honey Creek just to prove to the world that we Episcopalians know how to be evangelistic when we want to, but most of the time, we just don’t want to. Rather, I hope we’re gathering because we’re all being convicted by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Truth be told: I believe more than a few Episcopalians today don’t see any urgency in evangelizing others, that is, to humbly and graciously invite another person to put their whole trust in Jesus’s saving grace and then to follow him as Lord. I guess some people think that a person may not be need such grace; that they’ll be just fine if they put their “whole trust” in something else or someone else. And I’m not talking about trusting Jesus in order to avoid Hell. There is a literal Hell and everyone who wants to be there, gets to be there. Anyway, that’s God’s business, not ours. Rather, I’m talking about helping others to discover how more wonderful their lives will be when they trust that Jesus died for their sins and thus has liberated them to love others and to live compassionately and mercifully in this world.

I also hope no one on Saturday will be asked “to give their lives to Jesus.” Our human frailty will always make that turn out poorly for the one being asked to give such a claim. But, I hope everyone will hear that “Jesus gave his life for us” and that faith is trusting in what he has done and not in anyone’s capacity to “give their lives to Jesus.”

And on a somewhat related note: after Georgia’s painful loss to Alabama last week, Jeb Blazevich, a senior tight end for the Bulldogs, was asked by an interviewer: “Jeb, after four years here playing football at Georgia, and after playing in the National Championship Game, what do you think your legacy is?” Jeb replied: “I don’t know, Jesus loved me, and he told me to love people, and I just want to try to do that.”

Yes! Let’s be like Jeb!



Not Good Guys vs Bad Guys (362)

I’d never heard of the term “vlogger” until this past week. Apparently, a “vlogger” (a video blogger) is someone who makes videos, posts them on social media, and somehow monetizes that into a paying job. Anyway, there’s a young man named Logan Paul who has quite an internet following, making a good living sharing videos of his adventures. During a recent visit to Japan, Mr. Paul, spent time at a national forest near Mt. Fuji. While hiking through this vast forest, Paul encountered the hanging body of a man who had committed suicide. He uploaded a video of the scene on YouTube last month, blurring the face of the young man, but on the audio portion of his video one could hear Mr. Paul and his companions making light of the situation.

The response was swift and merciless from the internet and Mr. Paul quickly took down the video and posted the following mea culpa: “I made a severe and continuous lapse in my judgement, and I don’t expect to be forgiven. None of us knew how to react or how to feel. I should have never posted the video. I should have put the cameras down. For my fans who are defending my actions, please don’t. They do not deserve to be defended.”

Of course, such behavior is indefensible. It was rude and insensitive to the man’s family and to all those who viewed the video on the internet. Period. Full stop. My interest, however, is in many people’s reaction to Mr. Paul. Some threatened to “rip his throat out.” Others suggested he “go hang himself” or made comments like “you’re the worst person ever.” Many reactions were in that vein, all shaming and condemning Mr. Paul. Again, what he did was wrong, but so many of those who responded have done so from a moral pedestal that they don’t deserve (none of us do), meting out Pharisaic pronouncements for how Mr. Paul can both fix himself and the situation.

And here’s the curious thing these kinds of situations present: People can feel self-justification for their own behavior by finding someone who has done something worse. So, they reflect: “I may have done something wrong, but look at what Logan Paul did, he’s much worse than me.” This is related to what psychologists call “splitting,” dividing the world simply into “good guys vs. bad guys,” and placing the other person in the “bad” category. Thus, by default, due to their perceived lesser “badness” than the other person, they find themselves (conveniently so) in the “good” category.

In our current socio-political climate, this practice is running amok. Our President does this “splitting” regularly by calling people “disgraceful” who criticize an action of his. He then points to what he says are their worse actions without addressing the merits of their criticism. But he by no means is the only perpetrator of this. He’s merely reflecting a practice across the socio-political spectrum. All this shows a lack of empathy, humility, and compassion for others who, like us, share the human condition. To remedy this, we don’t need to become moral relativists. As I wrote, it’s quite right to say what Mr. Paul did was wrong (and it will always be), but to do so from a place of emotional and spiritual maturity, recognizing our own capacity for thoughtlessness and insensitivity. Without such an epiphany, we all remain emotionally immature and spiritually stunted.



Resolutions, Judo, and Grace (361)

I’ve never been much on New Year’s resolutions because I’ve had a familiar pattern with them: I make one. I stick with it for a couple of weeks. I begin to make excuses for why I can’t keep it. A few more weeks go by and I then realize I’ve ignored it, mostly. Then the guilt of my failure seeps into my soul. So, I end up worse off than when I started. I haven’t made the change I desired plus I’ve burdened myself with the fact that yet again I’ve failed at keeping a resolution I made. To quote blessed Paul in Romans 7:24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer, of course, is God’s grace imputed to us through the cross of Jesus. So now, I don’t make resolutions any more, not only because they make matters worse for me, but because they’re counter to inhabiting God’s grace. Resolutions rely on my own capacity to muster enough grit to keep them. I don’t have such capacity and I never will.

What complicates this for all of us is that we often live by God’s grace as if it’s a hobby we choose rather than a worldview we inhabit. I don’t mean to trivialize hobbies in writing that because hobbies are serious business to those who engage in them. Just ask a dedicated “hobbiest” about their hobby and an hour later you’ll have heard as much as you can take. But it’s still a hobby and it doesn’t require the “hobbiest” to inhabit a different worldview. Many of us profess a similar seriousness about God, just as long as God doesn’t require we change our worldview in order to inhabit his grace in our lives. If we don’t inhabit a grace-centered worldview, then our faith becomes similar to being a member of the Optimists Club. If we don’t like what the club is all about, we can always find another hobby that strikes our fancy.

Well into middle-age, I practiced Judo. I still benefit from its wisdom. In Japanese, “Judo” means “the gentle way.” At its core, Judo is practiced, not by brute force, pushing against one’s opponent, but by allowing the opponent’s own force to throw him. Our desire for resolution-inspired change is like pushing against an opponent, hoping we’ll prevail by overpowering what we want to change. From my experience, that rarely works. Inhabiting God’s grace is much like practicing Judo. We can’t do it by will power alone. We have to trust grace as a way of life. Like with blessed Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel: We have to “let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Inhabiting God’s grace as a worldview isn’t like having a serious hobby. It’s more like practicing Judo. Because of God’s grace, when we disagree with another person, we don’t need to push back until the other admits we’re right. As we inhabit grace, we’ll care less about another person’s “tribal” affiliation. We’ll simply care about the person. The more we inhabit God’s grace as a worldview, the less worried we’ll be about the earth’s fate. That’s not to say we’ll be naive. Just because we live trusting God’s grace doesn’t mean we must deny reality. After all, God has never been in denial about the world as it truly is. The cross of Jesus is God’s statement that God has accepted the world on humanity’s terms. And the resurrection of Jesus is God’s declaration that the world’s terms, as they are, are unacceptable to God. In the cross and resurrection, God has exercised God’s own form of Judo, using the force of our sin to bring us new life.



So, This is Christmas? (360)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

– John Lennon, from his song, Happy Xmas

I first heard this John Lennon song as a teenager in 1972. Although the written lyrics don’t have question marks after the first two lines, I’ve always heard those lines as questions, as in “So, this is Christmas? And what have you done?” Knowing Lennon’s public agnosticism, his questions have always been challenges to me, as in: “If this is Christmas, the birth of God’s Son as all you Christians claim, then has this even changed the way you live your life one bit? Or, is this just about vague, good wishes for peace and love, hoping we’ll all be a little more kind and a little less Scrooge-like with one another in the coming year?” Quite appropriate questions to ask.

Lennon’s song took the pulse of the culture (and it still does 45 years later). If anything, his questions continue to expose an even greater chasm between what we Christians celebrate at Christmas and how we actually incarnate that truth in the way we live. And it’s overly facile for Christians to blame this on the cultural Christmas we’ve come to experience and endure, believing that if we’d all just begin saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays,” then somehow this chasm would be closed. This may make a particular Christian feel good, but it’s really a form of self-distraction leading to an even dangerous form of self-righteousness, vainly believing that by saying those magic words we’re somehow fighting some external “war” on Christmas.

Such distractions and self-righteousness lead us away from the real repentance to which Christmas calls us all. That’s the real “war.” It’s inside of us. It’s us futilely believing that if we just tried a bit harder to be better Christians and fight some external “war,” then somehow everything will be fine. But that’s a fool’s errand. Besides, it fundamentally denies the essence of God’s incarnation in Christ. For what happened at Christmas was actually God saying to us: “You can’t fix yourselves, let alone fix the world. You’re not even self-aware enough to know just how powerful sin’s grip is on your life. I’m therefore sending my son, Jesus, to free you from the consequences of your sin.”

To reference Lennon: Christmas isn’t about what “we have done” or even what we might do. It’s about what God has done. God has shown us mercy in sending Jesus to take on our humanity, to show us God’s very nature through his life and teaching, and then to die for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Our only response then at Christmas is to declare that the “war” is over and we’ve lost it. And when we recognize ourselves to be the real losers we are, then maybe for the first time, we’re capable of trusting that Jesus has won for us what we couldn’t win for ourselves: God’s eternal acceptance, better known as God’s amazing grace. That’s what really makes Christmas “merry” for us all.




“What Aboutism” (359)

What passes for moral discourse in our culture has been eroding for some time. This has led to a lessening in our ability as a society to discern what’s more harmful to others and what’s less harmful. We have come to this place in our culture for many reasons, not the least of which is the lack of any shared narrative about what both Aristotle and St. Paul understood to constitute a “good life,” one that is respectful, compassionate, and just.

This inability to discern the good, to see things clearly, has led to false claims of moral equivalency when someone engages in misbehavior of one kind or another. So, for example, someone like Garrison Keillor, who people have enjoyed listening to on the radio for years, gets fired from his job for sexual impropriety. Rather than acknowledge his misbehavior for what it is – wrong – people often engage in what’s become known as “what aboutism.” So, upon hearing about his misbehavior, they’ll say something like: “Well, what about (fill in the blank with another person in the news)? Isn’t his behavior more awful?” They hope this will create a moral equivalency in people’s minds thereby diluting the perception of misbehavior in their preferred person. I hope we see the problems with this sort of “what aboutism.” It leads, as I wrote above, to a further erosion of any kind of intelligible moral discernment in our culture. It also masks another real issue: Similar misbehaviors aren’t morally equivalent.

For example, in the news recently is the revelation that many Africans are being enslaved in Libya as they seek to immigrate to what they hope will be a better, safer life in Europe. As they make their way north, some are captured in Libya and literally sold into slavery. One commentator replied: “Well, what about the situation with migrant workers in the U.S.? Many of those people live in desperate situations and have their labor exploited for low pay.” This is, of course, true. Many migrant workers are grossly underpaid and live in appalling conditions. But they aren’t enslaved! As wrong as it is for migrant workers to be mistreated, it’s not the moral equivalency to slavery.

Another example: a CEO has a bit too much to drink at an office party and tries to kiss a subordinate against her will. Then the CEO is fired for sexual misconduct. The CEO was wrong and deserved to be fired for such behavior. But that’s not a moral equivalent to a TV star who openly brags about repeatedly grabbing women in their private parts or a Senate candidate who picks up teenage girls at a shopping mall and tries to engage in sexual relations with them. “What Aboutism” is used to make them all morally equivalent and they’re not.

We now have a president who lies on a regular basis (which must be intentional because the alternative is even more troubling). Yet, people will say: “What about other politicians or other former presidents?” Yes, they also lie or have lied at times, but we never, I hope, thought that was a good thing. We never extolled the lying or understood it to be normative. Now, however, lying has become normalized because people can relativize it by saying: “OK, but what about…?” Regardless of our political convictions, we must do our utmost to insist that lying shouldn’t be normal in our common life.


Advent’s Call to Faith, Not Fear (358)

This is the great deed, ordained by our Lord God since before time began by which he shall make all things well. For just as the blessed Trinity made all things out of nothing, so the same blessed Trinity shall make good all that is not well. – Dame Julian

A few years ago, when I was going through a pretty tough time, a friend sent me a note that read: “In the end, everything will be all right. If everything isn’t all right, then it’s not the end.” His words convicted me. I had to ask myself: Did I really believe the things I say when I preside at the Eucharist? If I believe those words to be true, and if I act on them, then the consequences for the way I live each day are profound. If the people, things, and circumstances of my life are on an unstoppable arc toward being made right; and, if that arc is propelled and steered by God, then I’m set free from my recurring and obsessive need to control the details of my life. I’m liberated from my compulsion to seek my own security before I do anything else. I’m free instead to be faithful.

Of course, it’s not always easy to live out this Gospel truth in our lives. The craving to hold on, to watch our backs, and to maintain a vise-like grip on our own security is at the heart of the self-declared rugged individualism of our culture. It’s at the root of the false lessons we learn daily; the rhetoric of self-protection and security that bombards us in all media. Such an atittude leads us to give only a polite nod to God’s providential care for our lives. Faith has its place, we confess, but then we actually live our lives as if things will be made right only when we forcibly make them right from our perspective. Such thinking is fear-based, not faith-based. Now, that’d be an absurd thing for me to write, except for one thing: Jesus is Lord. God became human in a manger, then became a servant. He dined with sinners and washed his follower’s feet. God so loved the world as Jesus reach out from the cross seeking to draw everyone into his saving embrace.

Yet, we ought to be clear about the Gospel’s distinction. It isn’t between fatalism and self-determination. Rather, it’s between the way of Jesus and the way of fear that pervades our culture. God doesn’t call us to abandon life’s concerns. God rather calls us to live life passionately: To do the work we’ve been called to do, to eat and drink with friends, to rest and play, to love and be loved. But God calls us to do all of those things living the Gospel’s truth. That means our futures are secure, not because of the quality of our educations, or the size of our investment portfolios, or how many guns we own desperate to allay our fears, but because Jesus has defeated sin and death. The Gospel proclaims this truth is governed not by cause and effect, but by cross and resurrection.

So, this Advent, let’s live passionately bold lives. Let’s not try to create some more room in our hearts for Jesus. Let’s give our hearts to Jesus. Let’s not try to find some more time for compassion. Let’s learn to live compassionately. Let’s not try to live more peacefully. Let’s become peacemakers. Let’s not try to forgive one another. Let’s learn to embody forgiveness as a way of life. Jesus came over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem to set us free from the consequences of our sin. That means this will always be true: “In the end, everything will be all right. If everything isn’t all right, then it’s not the end.”