Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Elizabeth McLain Humes

Elizabeth McLain Humes
October 22, 2018
Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 23
Revelation 21:2-7
John 14:1-6

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Unlike nearly everyone in this room, I did not know Betsy Humes.  I’m sure you all have lots of stories and memories to share, and I hope you have already been doing that, and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead.  And thank you to Billy for the stories he shared with us this morning.

It’s never easy to lose someone we love.  A mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother.  Someone who has been there our entire lives is no longer with us.  No longer seen or heard from.  And the emptiness can be overwhelming.  Someone who was in our lives forever is no longer here, which makes everything seem fleeting.  But that is not true.  Not for God, and not for those who live their lives as part of the Church of God on earth.  Because there is continuity in the changelessness of God.

I know that Elizabeth and William were married at this very Altar by the Rector who was here four priests before I arrived.  I’ve seen the pictures!  That’s a long time ago, and much has happened in our lives and in the world since that time.   So long ago, in fact, that no one batted an eye as Bill lit up a cigarette on the front steps out there.  From our perspective, that wedding was ages ago.  But from God’s perspective, it just happened, and the reception is still going full swing.  And the difference between our sense of time and God’s perspective can really help sometimes.

And here is what I mean by that:  There are things that we are waiting for which are already accomplished for God.  As we heard from the prophet Isaiah, “God will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.”  And as we heard from the Revelation to St. John, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”  And because Jesus is the beginning and the end, everything that happens to us happens within the arms of Jesus.

You and I are still waiting for the day when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and will swallow up death forever.  But for Betsy, that day has already come.  She is safely within the arms of God, which is where she has always been.  Because in Betsy’s baptism, she was claimed as God’s own forever.  And nothing can ever take that away from her.  Betsy is with God, and God is with you.  And one day, you will be together again.

Amen.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

YEAR B 2018 pentecost 22

Pentecost 22, 2018
Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There’s a difference between echoes and facts.  Hints and truths.  Theories and reality.  We humans love a good conspiracy theory.  And that’s because we want to force connections and order onto the world around us . . . whether or not they’re really there.  When we see things that suggest a connection, we impose a few extra connections in order to make it work.  Then, when someone questions us, we can say, “Prove I’m wrong.”  Which of course, they can’t.

There’s just enough evidence for the grassy knoll, or the fake moon landing, or pizza gate, or Vince Foster, or Seth Rich . . . just enough of a tenuous connection that, for some people, the urge to make that connection solid is just too tempting.  We hear things like, “It all makes sense; just look at the facts.”  And without any facts strong enough to disprove the conspiracy, well, it must be true.  It is our nature to make connections between things, no matter what.

There’s a little bit of that going on in the collection of readings we heard today.  When we take them all together, sitting here in this Christian worship service, it sounds like they’re all about Jesus, because we want them all to be about Jesus.  Take the reading from Isaiah, for instance.  This is from the section of Isaiah that is often called the “Suffering Servant” section of the book.  The lamb led to the slaughter, the righteous servant who will make many righteous, poured himself out into death, made the intercession for our transgression.  It all sounds a lot like Jesus.  But as Christians, we must be mindful to see when we’re appropriating the Hebrew scriptures as prophecy for our own Messiah.

It is important to remember that the first two thirds of our Bible belong to our Jewish brothers and sisters first, and we are in a sense “borrowing” them.  Yes, the Suffering Servant sounds a lot like Jesus, but that might be because we want it to sound a lot like Jesus.  Or maybe not.  But there is a Jewish understanding that this text refers to the Nation of Israel, and tells of all they would endure over the centuries.  Again, as Christians, we want this to be only about Jesus, and so that’s what we do with it.

And then there’s the Psalm we read together.  The angels will bear you up, lest you dash your foot.  You will trample the lion and the adder.  You are bound to me in love and I will deliver you.  A Christian reading of this text wants it to be about Jesus, but is it?  There are certainly echoes of Jesus Christ in both these readings, but if we’re honest, we kind of impose our beliefs onto the text because . . . well, the connections to Jesus are known to us.  And yet, the connections to Jesus are completely mysterious to us.

And then there’s Melchizedek.  Did you wonder to yourself when you heard the name, “Who the heck is Melchizedek?”  Of course you did.  And you probably thought, “Let’s see . . . I learned about Noah and Abraham and Daniel and Esther and Solomon and Rachel and Goliath . . . but am I supposed to know who Melchizedek is?  Maybe I missed Sunday school that week?”  The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews certainly sets it up like we’re supposed to just know who that guy is and go, “Oh yeah.  Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

I’m gonna let you off the hook here by telling you that Melchizedek comes up just once, in the book of Genesis.  And it’s not something you’d remember.  Abram takes a few hundred guys out to rescue Lot who has been captured by the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and when he returns,  “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.”  That’s it.  Then there’s also a mention of him in Psalm 110, a Psalm of David, that says, “Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek.”  Which is where the mention in today’s Epistle comes from.  The connections to Jesus are known to us.  And the connections to Jesus are completely mysterious to us.

So, you’re wondering, “What’s the connection here?”  Lots of people have wondered the same thing.  And, to be honest, I’m not sure there really is a connection.  We can get lots of echoes and hints, with bringing out the bread and wine, and being a priest, and so on.  But it’s not like Melchizedek is a priest like the Levites who came after him were.  I mean, he’s a priest for a totally different god.  There’s a thin thread that connects all these things, but, really . . . you kind of have to want it all to be connected in order for the connection to hold.

So, that was all just clearing my throat, really.  So, ahem.  Shall we turn to today’s Gospel?  As we just heard, James and John come to Jesus on the sly in order to move on up when Jesus comes into his glory.  But let me back up.

Right before today’s Gospel reading, there’s a little scene that gets skipped between last week and this week.  Jesus gathers the disciples around him and says to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”  This is the third time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus tries to tell the disciples what is going to happen, and it is the third time that the disciples have an utterly inappropriate reaction.

The first time he tells them, Peter says “God forbid this should happen!”  And the second time he tells them, they start arguing about who is the greatest.  And now the third time he tells them, James and John ask if they can sit at his right and at his left.  In these three cases, instead of trying to make this into something about Jesus—like the other readings we heard today—the disciples are trying to make Jesus into something he is not.  Rather than transform the text, they want to transform Jesus.  To make him into a ruling king rather than a servant who is about to be crucified.

So, James and John have pulled Jesus aside to tell him that they would like to do what Jesus will do, which is reign in glory over all creation for eternity.  Jesus is known to them.  And Jesus is completely mysterious to them. And Jesus looks at them and says, "You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" And they reply, “We are able."  (Their response always makes me think of Pippin and Merry, the Hobbits from Lord of the Rings.)  So, right, they stand up smiling and tall and say, “We are able.”  And we kind of expect Jesus to say, “No you’re not, you goofballs!”  But he doesn’t say that.

Instead, Jesus says, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.”

We expect Jesus to say “Who do you two think you are?”  But that is not what Jesus is saying.  That is what the other disciples are saying.  You’ll note the other disciples become angry with James and John because they were the first ones to yell “Shotgun!” before they thought of saying it.  James and John stepped to the front of the line when nobody was looking, and the other disciples are mad at them for it.  And so then Jesus has to call the whole team together to try to set things straight.

James and John come to Jesus wanting to change Jesus.  And they approach him in secret to try to elevate themselves to where they want Jesus to be heading.  But in doing so, they miss the whole point of Jesus’ mission.  They don’t understand where his path leads.  They don’t get that you have to go through Good Friday in order to get to Easter morning.  James and John want to reign alongside Jesus, but they are completely in the dark about what Jesus is going to do, even though he has told them three times.  They do not know what they are asking, and Jesus tells them so.

And then Jesus says, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.”  And if we didn’t know better, we’d swear this means James and John are going to be crucified in place of the two criminals next to Jesus when the day comes.  But let’s take off our human intuition goggles for a moment and replace them with our sacramental ones this morning.

If you look on page 292 of the Book of Common Prayer, you’ll see the place in the Easter Vigil where we come to The Renewal of Baptismal Vows.  And if you look at the paragraph that precedes the Renewal, you will read these words:
Through the Pascal mystery, dear friends, we are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life.

Jesus tells James and John, “with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.”  They are baptized into his death, just as you and I have been baptized into his death.  And together we have been raised to newness of life.  All of us.  But what about the cup?  Jesus says, “The cup that I drink you will drink.”  Have we done that?  Have you and I drunk that cup yet?

Well, the truth is, we’re still drinking it.  Sip by sip, week by week, at this Altar you receive the Blood of Christ and the cup of salvation.  And over the course of your years—however long they may be—the bread from this Altar  and the sips from that cup will sustain you, and carry the promise of forgiveness, and the hope of everlasting life.

The connections to Jesus are known to us.  And the connections to Jesus are completely mysterious to us.  He is the one who offers himself as a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.   And you and I follow where he leads us, from baptism to the grave, to the resurrection.  And we are assured along the way of forgiveness and reconciliation through the power of his body and blood.  There are great mysteries and echoes and truths and connections in all these readings today.

The connections to Jesus are known to us.  And the connections to Jesus are completely mysterious to us. But the thing for us to remember is that we are called to follow the one who has already led the way, being baptized into his death, and being raised to newness of life, and being sustained through the paschal mystery of this holy meal.  That is what we know for certain.

Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

YEAR B 2018 pentecost 21

Pentecost 21, 2018
Amos 5:6-7,10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Soooo . . .  You probably thought last week’s gospel was a challenge, huh?  You know all the stuff about divorce?  Well, that was just a little practice round to get us ready to jump into this gospel text.  Sometimes Jesus says difficult things in the gospels.  And sometimes we can make sense of them.  And sometimes there are cultural differences we need to understand.  And sometimes we just have to scratch our heads and do the best we can.

Just reading what the text says, Jesus said, “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.”  So . . . good luck with that everybody.  This is a challenging verse for people who take everything in the Bible literally.  In the Episcopal Church, we say that the Bible contains all things necessary unto salvation, and that the scriptures are the inspired Word of God, but we make no claims to take everything literally.  Phew!

Still, hearing Jesus say to go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor makes us a little uneasy.  Because we don’t do that.  None of us does that.  Yes, there were some saints of old who took this command to heart, like St. Francis, and others.  But for the most part, we’d prefer to kind of skip over this verse.  And I am here to tell you that is probably for the best, unless we look at it carefully.  And the reason we have to look carefully is because Jesus is talking to a specific person in a particular situation, and you are not that person.  Just like when Jesus calls a group of people a brood of vipers, he’s not talking to you.

The three crucial things to notice in that little exchange are these:  The man who comes to Jesus earnestly wants to do what is best.  He is not trying to trick Jesus, like so many others try to do in these conversations.  And, second, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”  Which is important for us so that we see this is not an exchange of condemnation.  And, third, the man “was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”  Which is the most important part for us this morning because, STEWARDSHIP!

I know, I know.  This is the moment when you start shifting uncomfortably in your seats, and reaching for the announcement insert.  Or, maybe you’re wondering to yourself, “Should I sell everything and give the money to the poor?”  Or, maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “The church is always asking for my hard-earned money.”  Well, whatever reaction you’re having when you hear the word stewardship, I’d like you to ignore it for a moment because I want to clear something up today.

We get uncomfortable talking about money in the church because we have created an artificial disconnect between ourselves and our money.  We tend to think of our possessions as something we own, including our money.  And when we think that way, we risk having a reaction like the man in this reading, and being shocked, and going away grieving, for we have many possessions.

So let’s start here:  Does God want your money?  No.  Does God want your possessions?  No again.  Well, if God doesn’t want my money or my possessions, what does God want?  And the answer is . . . you.  God wants you.  But the problem is, we have this built-in disconnect between our money and how we got it.  We tend to think, “I have this job I do, which generates money, and God wants some of it.”  As I say, there’s a disconnect between us and our money.  So allow me to connect it for us.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical 19-year-old guy working in the dairy department of Tops Friendly Market in Niagara Falls NY.  Let’s call him, oh, I don’t know, “George.”  So one Sunday, George hears his pastor preach a sermon about the Biblical concept of tithing.  That is, giving 10% of what he earns over to God.  For ease of math, let’s say George makes $100 a week—though I don’t know that he made much more than that, because this was a hypothetically long time ago . . . probably.  So, on Sunday, George puts $10 from his $100 check into the offering plate, and he has successfully tithed.  Congratulations George!  But that little math puts the emphasis on the money, not in how he earned it.  He’s not putting $10 in the plate; he’s putting 10% of himself into the plate.

The money is just a symbol.  As you know, money only means something because everyone else agrees it means something.  (Economists would direct you to the water-diamond paradox.  Which I won’t go into here, though I do understand it.)   So, Tops Friendly Market gives our hypothetical dairy worker $100 in exchange for his effort.  What George is really doing is giving 10% of his effort to God.  10% of his work day is dedicated to God.  If he puts 10 gallons of milk in the display case, he’s putting one of them there for God.  If he unloads 10 pallets of dairy products from the delivery truck, one of those pallets he is unloading for God.  If he uses that old-fashioned price sticker gun thing to mark prices on 100 containers of yogurt, ten of those yogurt containers are being marked for God.

And it is the same for you.  If you pledge to give 10% of your income to God, what you are really doing is dedicating ten percent of your work week to God.  If you work 40 hours a week, you are working four of them for God.  If moving money around in the stock market nets you $1,000 and you give $100 to the church, 10% of your clever effort is given to God.  And if you’re retired and earning a pension, it just works retroactively I suppose.

But the point is, when you pledge money to support the work of the church, you are really pledging that portion of your labor, or brain power, or investing smarts to God.  Money is just a symbol that you get in order to move those rewards around.  If you’re turning a wrench, or sweeping a floor, or teaching children, or whatever it is you do to put food on the table, you’re doing some portion of that for God.  Or, and this is important and more direct, when you put your effort directly into the church, in the Altar Guild, or singing in the choir, or cleaning up our worship space, or washing dishes after a meal, or ushering, or planting flowers, or cleaning the gutters, or serving on Vestry, or ANYthing that directly supports the ministry of the church, ALL of that effort is given directly from you to God.  Directly.

But, okay, what’s really weird to consider is this:  If you’re not giving something back to God, through a pledge to the church or through volunteering, then none of your work week is dedicated to God.  You’ll be keeping all your hard-earned money for yourself, because you’re the one who earned it, right?  But the downside is, it means that none of the work you did all week was done for the glory of God.

Let’s put it all in more practical terms, where it’s easier to see.  If the water heater in your basement is kind of leaning backwards and you’re afraid it might one day fall over, you might think, “I should get a new water heater, lest the house blow up when the gas line snaps.”  And so, you start saving up for a water heater.  You might work overtime.  Or you might come in on a Saturday.  And those extra hours are specifically dedicated to buying a new water heater, so that your house doesn’t blow up.  You can look at your work week and say, “Those extra hours are the particular hours I dedicated to the water heater.”

I think it’s helpful to think of our jobs and careers in this same light.  When you contribute a percentage of your earnings or time to the work of God, some portion of what you do, you are doing directly for God.  Dedicated to spreading the gospel, feeding the poor, healing the sick, making this world a better place.

So, yeah, okay.  This month we are in our annual Stewardship Drive.  And this week, we have this particular gospel text, where we keep hearing about giving up everything for God.  In some ways, there’s no better text to scare you out of pledging to support the church.  Because if we focus on all our possessions—like the man who came to Jesus—we will be shocked and go away grieving.  But I would encourage you not to think of stewardship as giving away possessions.  Instead, if we can see stewardship as devoting ourselves to God, devoting our efforts to God, setting aside some small part of what we do as being done for God . . . well, I think that might be helpful.

Does God want you to give the Biblically mandated 10%?  Could be.  Does God want you to pledge the I-can-barely-pay-my-bills 1%?  Maybe.  Does God expect you to offer the sell-everything-I-have-and-give-it-to-the-poor blowout extravaganza?  Possibly?  But those decisions are between you and God.  I don’t know the answer, and I don’t want to know the answer.  In the meantime, whatever (or whether) you decide to pledge to St. Timothy’s Church, I hope you will see that everything you are, and everything you have, are gifts from God.  BUT . . . We do not earn God’s favor based on what we give back to God.  Just as we do not earn God’s wrath based on what we spend elsewhere.  All givers and all takers are welcome to the meal offered today.  No strings attached.

And knowing that—as we heard today in the powerful words from the letter to the Hebrews—Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Amen.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

YEAR B 2018 pentecost 20

Pentecost 20, 2018
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16
Also preached at Trinity Cathedral, Solemn Sung Eucharist

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It will surprise no one to hear me say, this is a difficult text.  And it is a particularly troubling gospel reading for anyone who has been through the soul-crushing meat grinder we call “divorce.”  And, sadly, this gospel text is easy for people to hijack for the purpose of making things worse for those who have been divorced, or who are about to be divorced.  Because, well, some people like to quote little pieces of scripture out of context for the purpose of shaming their neighbor.  You know, like Jesus always tells us to do.

And speaking of demeaning your neighbor, if you live in America, you’ve heard a lot from politicians and lawyers and stuff these past two weeks.  Testimonies, and people’s character being defiled, and all sorts of people looking to discredit and demean their fellow citizens in order to increase their own power.  It’s a stressful time to be alive, and there’s only so much zoloft to go around.

And part of the ongoing “conversation” for months now is what they call The Perjury Trap.  The idea that if we ask just the right question, we can catch someone saying the wrong thing, and thus get the people or the law to turn against them.  Ask a question that you already know the answer to, but when the person responds, it will create division and confusion.  And, believe it or not, that is exactly what is happening in today’s gospel reading.

As we heard, some Pharisees come to Jesus and, to test him, they ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  They’re Pharisees.  They know the answer to this question already.  But they also know that to answer the question either way will cause division, which is exactly what they are hoping for.  But it’s even trickier.  Because their quote back to Jesus, from Deuteronomy, is not about divorce; it’s about remarrying someone whom you’ve previously divorced, but who has been married to someone else in between.  Don’t even bother trying to follow that.  Let’s rephrase it all a different way.

Let’s pretend that in Deuteronomy it says, “If you drop a crowbar on somebody’s head, stop what you are doing and make sure they’re okay before you do anything else.”  And the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask, “Is it okay to drop a crowbar on somebody’s head?”  And Jesus asks, “What does Moses tell you?”  And they say “Moses says, drop a crowbar on somebody's head!”  Which is why Jesus then says, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.”  The Pharisees are looking to find an excuse for dropping crowbars on people’s heads, and are misusing the Law of Moses as the basis for it.  And in this case, the dropping of crowbars is, in actuality, divorcing one’s wife.  “Hey Jesus, is it okay to divorce a woman and leave her to fend for herself with nothing, in this first-century culture of ours that devalues women and children?”  Jesus answers, “What does Moses say?”  They respond, “Moses says yes!”

So then Jesus does them one better, and says “. . . from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  He turns the conversation from being about the legality of divorce into being about the gift of marriage.  They ask, “Is it okay to demean women and throw them into the street?”  And Jesus responds with, “As God intended from the beginning, men and women are equal.”  This response is no small deal, in that culture, or in ours.  Jesus turns their cynical selfishness into a justification for elevating the downtrodden.  “Hey Jesus, we’ve already got all the power.  Is it lawful for a man to get even more?”

But we don’t hear this passage from Mark’s gospel that way.  What we hear is, “Don’t get divorced!  Jesus says so!”  But that is not what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees.  He is saying forget your legal trickery for oppressing women and look at the point of marriage: two actual people come together on equal terms, as God intended from the beginning.  So, in response, you might then point to the conversation with his disciples in the house afterward, where Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

And my response to that is, first of all, this is a statement about remarriage, not divorce.  And, more importantly, women did not divorce men in that culture!  This is a radical thing to suggest!  In the conversation with the Pharisees and in the conversation with the disciples, Jesus is elevating women to their rightful place as equal to men.  Which might sound good and right so to do . . . but was definitely absurd to the people around Jesus.  It’s like here he goes again, elevating the lowly, declaring that everyone is loved by God, threatening my value by making someone else my equal, like he did with that Syrophoenician woman a few weeks ago with that crumbs under the table stuff.  What’s next, Jesus, turning our children into our teachers?

Well . . . Jesus was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  Jesus always turns everything upside down.  Thanks be to God!

The Pharisees and the disciples were both trying to get legal arguments out of Jesus for the purpose of clarifying what they were allowed to get away with.  This is what adults do, you see.  Tell me the bare minimum I must do against my will in order to get what I am entitled to.  Or, let me tell you why I am so deserving of your love, Jesus.  Or, get a load of how worthy I am because of the things I have collected and hold so tightly in my hands.

But a child?  How does a child approach Jesus?  With open, empty hands, that’s how.  A child can offer nothing.  And in that culture, a child is worth nothing.  That’s why the disciples are trying to keep the children away from Jesus.  These worthless little brats have no business being around Jesus, say the disciples, because Jesus is only interested in the people who matter.  You know, the men . . . who can divorce their wives . . . like Moses says.

This gospel text is not a lesson on the evils of divorce.  And if you want proof, just look at what upsets Jesus here.  It’s not divorce, is it?  No, he is angry with the Pharisees for their hardness of heart, and for trying to twist the gift of the Law of Moses into a justification for mistreating women.  And did you see what makes Jesus indignant in this text?  The disciples’ keeping the children away from him.  Jesus doesn’t love the children because they’re cute; he focuses on them because they are insignificant and rejected, which is what makes them first . . . rather than last.

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  So we must ask ourselves, how does a child receive the kingdom of God?  How does a child receive anything?  The key to answering that question is to focus on the word, “receive.”  The word is not “earn,” or “conquer,” or “demand.”  No, the word is receive.  Children receive things because children cannot go out and get them on their own.  Children rely on the kindness and love of the adults around them.  For better or for worse.  Which is why when the disciples try to stop them, Jesus becomes indignant.  Which is a very strong response when you think of it.  He is indignant that they would keep the children from him.

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  How do we receive something?  We stretch out our hands.  Our empty hands.  Nothing to offer, everything to gain.  This is how a child receives the gifts of God.  And it is also how the people of God receive the gifts of God.  We come to this Altar and stretch out our hands.  And if someone tries to stop us, we know that Jesus will be indignant.  Because you are welcome to this meal.  You are called to this heavenly banquet.  All of us equal.  All of us welcome.  All of us, little children of God.

And Jesus took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Amen.