Thursday, November 29, 2012

For This You Were Born


First Reading 2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18)
Gospel John 18:33-37

This weekend I took my kids to see The Rise of the Guardians. I will admit that there were aspects of the film that went about as expected. I will also admit that I really enjoyed the film, even though it is a cultural affirmation of everything secular and nothing sacred about the major holidays of the Christian religion (and a few other fairy tales) with the exception of one thing – hope.

The unlikely hero of the story is Jack Frost, and he is chosen to help fight off a growing fear and foreboding that is welling up to replace the innocence of childhood. A Russian version of Santa challenges the brooding and reluctant Jack with a stack of nesting dolls that reveal different characteristics of the mythical benefactor - ending with a baby in the center. I wish I could tell you that they did not waste an opportunity to reference the Christ child, but we’ll just have to make that leap of faith on our own.

The child is, instead, a symbol of wide-eyed wonder that informs and fills all of Santa’s passion and vitality. The challenge he leaves for Jack is to find out what is at his center. What drives his gut instinct? What is the true North that gives direction to his compass?

As Christians, we point to Christ, of course – or do we? This is the question of Christ the King Sunday, and it confronts us every year. It confronts us right after our time of re-dedicating our lives and our resources to the church through our financial commitment. It confronts us right after we have celebrated the Saints of the Church past and present – holding on to the faith they have demonstrated and letting go of their human limitations. Christ the King Sunday confronts us right after a time of Thanksgiving for life in all of its complexity. And this year it even confronts us right after a national election.

No matter who you voted for, the question remains. Do we accept the Lordship of Christ in our lives, and do our actions reflect our acceptance of Jesus as the ruler of our hearts and minds? It’s a good question to ask, because it is a question that is answered over and over again – whether we realize that we are answering it or not. It is not a new question. It may even be the oldest question, and it connects directly to our desire to be in charge that began with a story about an apple and found fullness in the tower of Babel that was built to lay siege to the Kingdom of the Lord of Earth and Sky.

The question of the Lordship of Christ is one we have attempted to answer over and over again in this country. As recent as 1954 we attempted to answer it by adding “One Nation Under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance, and in 1956 we changed “E Plurabus Unam” (Latin for “out of many, one”) to “In God We Trust” on all of our money.

Yet in 1960, H. Richard Niebuhr suggested that – try as we might – we were not a monotheistic culture. He wasn’t talking about pluralism, competing religions, or some confusion of spiritualism. He was talking about centers of value. What is it that you think about when you make the choices you make? What is the choice before the choice? Niebuhr argued that we, in the Western Culture, do not have one center of value that we orient toward and move out from – we have hundreds! Some might even be good things – family, work, even service to others – but if the thing that motivates us – the thing in which we live and move and have our being – is anything other than the love of God, then it is an idol and a false God.

That does not mean that we need to abandon those good and meaningful relationships and things that God has given us. It just means that we must not use them as a way of understanding our own value. It means that our true center must be in the knowledge that God created us; God loves us enough to let us fall; and God loves us too much to allow us become defined by our falling. Instead we are defined by God’s capacity to forgive and by our ability to respond – however imperfectly – to God’s love.

We are not defined by our claim on God, but instead by God’s claim on us. That’s what we affirm when we baptize a child. That’s what we mean when we say that we are part of a Kingdom that is both visible and yet to come!

Singer, song writer, and Christian disciple, Derek Webb said it this way in his song, King and a Kingdom:

Who's your brother, who's your sister?
You just walked passed him
I think you missed her
As we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'Cause we married in to a family of immigrants
(chorus)
My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It's to a king & a kingdom

That is certainly a differing politic – and it might even be offensive to some of you. The point is not to offend, although I believe the gospel is offensive to our politics. The point is to acknowledge the opportunity to be what Niebuhr calls “The Responsible Self.” The point is to acknowledge the responsibility we have of responding to God’s grace in every relationship and every chance encounter that we are given by God.

Of course, no one says it – or does it – better than Jesus. In John 17 he prays that his disciples will be sanctified because – just like him – we are not of the world, even though we are in the world. Notice that he does not ask that we be taken out of this world. For we live in the uncomfortable place between becoming and actually being holy. In the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, we generally affirm that those who claim to be holy most likely are not. Yet those who live their faith with vulnerability and trust are the ones that we hold up as examples and leaders. That is not the way the world does things. We are in the world, but we are not of the world.

So while we guard against those who claim self righteous truth on behalf of God, we believe that we were yet born for this end - to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God, to be imitators of Christ, to love as God loves, and to proclaim the truth of salvation and sanctification that is God’s brilliant and playful way of saying, “Tag – you’re it!”

But how? How do we play? Is it as simple as asking WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)? Maybe, but I can guarantee you that Jesus would not have been in some of the situations I have been in because he made the choice before the choice to love God with all of his heart, mind, and soul, and to value his neighbor as an equal. Wow. Did you catch that? The God-man, Jesus; King Jesus; the Lord of Lords chose to live and love and value you as an equal.

Suddenly it seems that LLJD is more appropriate. Love Like Jesus Does - even Pilate. See, I told you no one does it quite as well as Jesus. He asked Pilate why he wanted to know if Jesus was a king. “Is this for you?” he asked. “Do you want to enter the Kingdom?” And so he asks me as well. Can I love Pilate like that when I see him? Even knowing that Pilate is going to be Pilate, no matter what I offer him; even knowing that what I know to be true is only partial – limited by my experience and knowledge; even knowing that sometimes I, myself, can be Pilate – betraying Jesus with my lack of compassion – can I love Pilate like Jesus does? I don’t know! But I know this – I can try.

And I know this – even with all of our human limitations – we are invited to a King’s feast! We are the honored guests of this King who condescends to rule in our rebellious hearts. Even so – can our first allegiance truly be to God and to God alone? Can we allow ourselves to be led by one another because we are serving in the name of the servant?

Yes. I believe we can. And I believe we must – even if it means failing along the way. In fact, I believe that is what we were born to do. In the PCUSA we elect Ruling Elders – not to boss us around or to be the work horses we whip or the scapegoat for the stuff that does not get done. We elect them to encourage mutual forbearance under the Lordship of Christ. That is our center – mutual forbearance under the Lordship of Christ; that is the place we orient toward and move out from. It fills and informs all that we are and all that we do. And it finds its expression in every relationship and every chance encounter we are given – especially here and now at the table of Christ. For in our common union we find that each of us is chosen as guardians of hope against fear and foreboding. Now, may God be glorified in all that we say and do – for even the mistakes we make draw us back to the table of grace for a taste of eternity and a glimpse of the Kingdom that is both present and yet to come. Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Restoration Project

Sermon Delivered 11/11/12
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127:1-5
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Before we reflect on today’s scripture passages, I want to remind you of one of the rich moments in scripture that we were not able to attend to last Sunday. Last Sunday we heard the story of the healing of Lazerus, and there is a line in that story that is so intimidating that it often gets skipped over.

Do you remember what Thomas said after Jesus told them that – now that Lazerus was dead – it was time to go to Jerusalem? He said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas the doubter, Thomas the cynic, Thomas the realist; Thomas is the voice of raw, unmeasured faith and costly discipleship.

We remember this little, easily forgotten, line today because of the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. For in this story, Ruth is with her mother-in-law because Naomi’s husband and sons have all died. Naomi returned to her ancestral home, which had been in a famine when she left, and Ruth went down to Bethlehem with Naomi to die as a poor beggar.

Ruth was a foreigner. Ruth was not a member of God’s chosen people. Ruth had no rights or privileges or resources – except for the wisdom of her mother-in-law. So at first Naomi encouraged Ruth to glean from the fields. She knew the laws and the customs, and farmers were obligated to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor could have something to live off of. Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to conduct business in this day and age? Well, not only did Naomi know about gleaning, she also knew that the law provided for a man to marry the widow of a next of kin relative.

So Naomi arranges a love connection, they have a child, and all’s well that ends well. Not only that, but this child becomes Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. And the line of kings continues all the way to Jesus – the One who will offer redemption for all people for all time.

That’s a neatly wrapped package, but did we miss something there? The redemption of all people, even of creation itself, came through the actions of two beggars – a widow and a foreigner. Wow. Talk about power made perfect in weakness.

Make no mistake, that is what this passage is about – power, weakness, and restoration.

I know a woman who lives in Richmond, Virginia, named Martha Rollins who heard this story in church one Sunday, just like we did today. Martha was in her mid to late 50’s and had a modestly successful antique store in a trendy area of town. She heard that story and realized that it was her story, and that she was Boaz – a person of power and influence.

Martha decided to teach someone how to refinish some furniture. Then she decided to open a second location in an impoverished area of town, and use it as a training center to help more people have a skill and a venue for earning a living. That was over fifteen years ago.

Since then, Boaz and Ruth has grown into a corporation that supports a cottage industry of five separate companies that develop life skills and empower people who are on the bottom of the pile. Not only that, it is all located – very intentionally – in the worst part of town.

People like Martha are intimidating to me. In the face of such a force of love I may even feel powerless. How could I ever devote that kind of time and energy? Where would I ever come up with those resources? Are these the questions you ask? Or, perhaps it comes to you in a different way. Maybe you just think something like, “Thank God for people like that! We need more of that kind of thing in the world!”

If that is what you are thinking, you might be standing on the edge of transformation. You might be standing on the edge of restoration. There might be a project that God has in mind for you, and your hands may have opened – just slightly – to receive it.

I will leave that up to you and God to wrestle with. Some of you already have your hands full. In fact, today after church we will have a meal and roll up our sleeves to prepare some items for our Christmas gift basket ministry. While we do it, please remember – every bag you stuff and toy you place is a part of the restoration of humanity that God has accomplished through Jesus Christ.

And there’s the kicker that catches us in our reading from Hebrews today. This passage tells the story of the crucifixion not by what physically happened, but by what followed – by what resulted, by what matters about that moment in time for this one. The thing is, this passage reminds us that sin has been dealt with – once and for all! Yes, we still sin. Yes, we still need to confess. No, we do not need to live in fear!

Jesus is coming back, but it is not to condemn. Certainly this can be understood as telling us what will happen after we die. Possibly this could even describe some impending day of judgement. But what if it is also describing the way that we can live in the here and now? What if the second coming and the restoration of humanity happens in our hearts and minds and in the quality of our relationships? What if the second coming of Jesus happens when we let go of power in order to be wed to the powerless?

What would it even look like if we decided that the building we call the church is nothing more than a window that looks into and out of the Kingdom of God?

I must confess that I am not exactly sure. I’m not exactly sure because that would involve a vision of every one of our lives. It would involve a vision of every relationship and every chance encounter. It would involve a vision too big for me, but one that is just right for God.

Still, Jesus makes the point of the hypocrisy of the scribes in the market place. In that time and place they held authority, and they spoke for God. Hypocrisy is the easiest target for those who feel like the church no longer connects with their needs. Until or unless there is some final restoration, the church will always be filled with hypocrites. It is, after all, the best place for us to be. It is the place where we at least have the opportunity to realize that we are selfish, vain, and insincere and still be loved.

But Jesus is not simply taking shots at the easy targets. Jesus is demonstrating the problem of power, and the resourcefulness of faith. The widow gave from her poverty. It hurt her to do it, and the scribes upheld the system that made it so.

Tsk, tsk – shame, shame.

Meanwhile the economic engine of a global economy shifts gears this month to prepare for the final push of sales that justifies the existence of almost every system of governance, commerce, and social contract on the planet – Christmas! Goods and services dependent on slave labor and bent on making us feel superior (or inferior as the case may be) are being loaded onto trucks as we speak.

Of course we cannot just put a spoke in the wheel of progress. That would be disastrous. We can, however, consider the power of our dollar and the public witness of our practice. Some of us will be doing this more specifically on Wednesday nights in Advent, and you are of course invited to join, but all of us can consider the choice of the widow. All of us can consider the cost of our faith. All of us can make choices that put us together with Thomas, and Ruth, and a nameless widow who all decided to say, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” And all of us will find restoration and life, even where we expect only certain death.

In the beginning of the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character is giving a pre-battle speech. He says, “Three weeks from now I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line. Stay with me. If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled; for you are in Elysium, and you're already dead! [The soldiers laugh] Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity.” Then he turns to his captain and says, “At my signal - unleash Hell.”

Like those soldiers, we are also expecting certain death. I believe that God is saying to us today, “Imagine that you are held in my hand every moment of every day, because you are. Live as a member of my kingdom, because it has come. Show the world that eternity has already begun, not by enabling, but by empowering those who are weak. Jesus was the signal. I have unleashed Heaven!”

And may the grace, mercy, and providence of God be abundant in your places of need, in your places of excess, and in the love you demonstrate in every relationship and ever chance encounter you God gives you. And to God be the glory. Now and always. Amen!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Seeing is Believing

Sermon Delivered on 11/04/12 
Isaiah 25:1-10
Revelation 21:1-6
John 11:1-45

Well, it seems we have made it through the historical time of warding off evil spirits by spending around 2.4 billion on candy and around 8 billion in holiday related items. You can champion industry or you can challenge excess, but those are the numbers according the Christian Science Monitor.

As we all find ways to discretely consume or get rid of the spoils of All Hallows Eve, we are presented today with the opportunity of All Saint’s Day. In some ways this day began an attempt to Christianize the pagan celebrations of All Hallows Eve. In some ways – I believe – it also became a way to make sure none of the Saints were left out. As Christianity spread through the West and martyrs and inspiring souls became known as sources of faith, certain saints may not have been known in certain other regions.

The term, Saint, also became more of a title than a category. In his letters, Paul refers to the Saints as leaders in the church who were very much alive! And so we, in the Reformed Tradition, stand very much opposed to the idea that there are Saints who act as intermediaries between us and God. For that, there is only Jesus.

We do, however, affirm that there are men and women who have, who do, and who will help us to experience and respond to the grace of God. In fact we expect God to work through each of us that way, because we believe it to be within God’s character to do so.

I want each of you to take a moment and think on one person who can be described that way in your life – someone who has helped you to experience and respond to the grace of God. Although there are likely to be many of those influences in each of our lives, I also want you to imagine what it might be like to have none of them.

For me, I will choose this day to speak of my grandmother Margaret Johnson Sasser – a.k.a. Mom. Many of you know that she is 92 and lives with relative independence. She has an attendant, whom she regularly kicks out. Last Thursday night she fell and broke her hip as a result of her independence. I do not fault her for this. I admire her for it.

On Friday night she had hip surgery, which was risky because she has a faulty heart valve. It seems reasonable to say that she has a weak heart – unless you know her. She was given 6 months to live about 2.5 years ago. As a young woman she served the Baptist Home Mission Board, since women could not go overseas as her daughter, my Aunt Clair, now does routinely.

Mom is a special lady, because she loves Jesus. There is only one time I can ever recall treating her with anything less than reverence. I had stopped through during a break from seminary and was, apparently, full of myself enough to make a sarcastic comment to her that result in her dismissal with a chuckle, a shake of her head, and a disgusted, "Ugh...Zachary! Fix your own coffee."

This was also, mind you, not too long after my divorce. Somehow she knew that I was coming from a place of pain, and that was a saving grace. Somewhere later in that conversation she wanted to let me know that she approved of the direction my life was heading as I moved forward. She is not of a generation that uses phrases like, "I am proud of you." She is of a generation that perceives struggle and honors tenacity. What she did say I will never forget. She looked me in the eyes with a soul piercing clarity that never lasts long when it happens but is more effective than any lie detector known to humanity. She looked me in the eyes and said, "Zachary, I know you love the Lord, and I'm real happy about that." She smiled, crystal clear, then asked if I wanted some ice water. And that was that.

And so today we come together with our sarcasm and faithfulness, with our struggle and our tenacity, and we hear Isaiah's promise that God will swallow up death, John's Revelation of a new heaven and earth where God is active and present, and Jesus letting Lazerus die and raising him from the dead – demonstrating that God’s love is more powerful than death.

Could it be that the promises of the first two passages are fulfilled in the Gospel Lesson? Could it be that God has swallowed up death in Jesus Christ? Could it be that the Kingdom of God is in our midst here and now? I’m not suggesting that God is not capable of ripping open a new metaphysical reality, but I am saying that our timing might be a few thousand years off.

The media and the propaganda of politics during this presidential election tell us that the world is on the brink of chaos and destruction. They tell us that this guy will save you and that guy is just waiting to push you over the edge. And in the midst of all of this there are people proclaiming Jesus as Lord. There are people who gather to pray for God’s will to be done, even when it is not what they want.

There are teachers who teach in schools they would not want their own children in. There are people who take other people’s used toys home and clean them to give away. There are people who take meals to home bound community members in costume on Halloween. There are college students right across the street that are being encouraged to share their faith with others – some of them have even come in to work as elves in our basket ministry! There are choir members who sing to the glory of God, faithful givers, and caregivers that pray for and with one another. There are Deacons serving communion in homes, and members coming together to support ministries of Spiritual Development and the maintenance of Divine Fellowship.

Have you figured it out that I am talking about you? Have you figured it out that the doors of this sanctuary cannot contain the gospel that wells up in our souls when we come together as the people of God? Have you figured it out that someone, somewhere will yet see a glimpse of the Kingdom where God is active and present because of you?

As for me, I proclaim the gospel today because God used my grandmother as one of the great and powerful voices that proclaimed it to me. Mom never told me I needed Jesus. She never made me feel anything less than valuable. She has always remained true to herself, and she has always loved me.

Please be assured, I do not mean these thoughts to be eulogistic. I mean these thoughts to be Eucharistic! Do you know what that word means? It means thanksgiving! And so these reflections on the Saints are a type of thanksgiving for the present moment and all the past moments that have allowed this one to be as it is right now. Every moment is a chance for Eucharistic living, but some are easier to see than others.

The other night, as I was tucking her in, my daughter (age 8) and I talked a little about Mom. She said she wanted the surgeon's name. I thought it was for prayer, but she wants to send him a thank you letter instead. As I marveled in this moment she said, "You know what I think prayer is? I think it is sending warmth from inside of you that goes and surrounds a person. That's what love is – warmth." I agreed and assured her that even if the person never knows it or feels it, that warmth is there, and it is real. I kissed her forehead and I left her to read, dream, and be held in the sweet embrace of God. And I realized that for that moment – even though there were times throughout the day that I fussed at her for this or for that – I had been in the presence of a Saint.

It kind of makes me think of that old camera add, “It’s so simple - anybody can [do] it!” Of course many of you are already responding to God’s grace and living as residents of the Kingdom that is both present and yet to come. But I do want to leave you with an opportunity you may not know of. Norma Jean Luckey sent me an email about a mentoring opportunity at Moss St. Preparatory School. Many of these kids fit the description I mentioned earlier – having no one to demonstrate God’s love for them. If you are interested in becoming someone who be sober and will show up consistently for about 30 minutes once a week to talk with them, that will be more than they have from anyone else. Not everyone in our congregation is physically capable of doing this, so in the very least, I encourage you to surround them in the warmth of your prayers.

Last story – some time after seminary Mom gave me my Great-great Grandfather's Bible. I am his namesake, as he was Zachary Lumpkin Scott. The Bible has passages underlined, dated, and checked off as memorized by my Great Grandmother. At the time, Mom had noticed my need for a watch and slipped a $10 in the front for a cheap-o from that place I don't like to shop. It was just enough. Amazingly, she did not know about the quote that was just behind the money in my Mamma Sasser's handwriting.

"The Christian should be like a good watch: open-faced, hands busy, well regulated, and full of good works."


You see, sometimes seeing is believing. I know what I have seen. I know what I am trying to demonstrate, and I hope you know what you are working toward too. Thanks be to God for strong men, women, and children of faith. Thanks be to God for a legacy rooted in the love of God. Thanks be to God for ongoing struggles and the promise of sweet release from everything except for the sweet embrace of God – in which we are all held both now and always. Amen.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Saint Mom

How does one write a sermon for All Saints Day on while one's grandmother is teetering on the brink of eternity in the hospital? [This is not an actual sermon. I just had to express some thoughts before they consumed me. Many of them will probably make it into the sermon, but not all.]  Last minute sermon writing aside (get over it, 90% of us do it about 95% of the time), this is definitely one of those times that is difficult to separate personal feelings from proclamation. Margaret Johnson Sasser – a.k.a. Mom – is 92 and lives with relative independence. She has an attendant, whom she regularly kicks out. Last Thursday night she fell and broke her hip as a result of her independence. I do not fault her for this. I admire her for it.

Last night she had hip surgery, which was also risky because she has a faulty heart valve. It seems reasonable to say that she has a weak heart – unless you know her. She was given 6 months to live about 2.5 years ago. She was a pioneer among women in her day, serving the Baptist Home Mission Board and raising her children to admire heroes like Lottie Moon.

She was the first person to teach my daughter the story of Jesus, given that my newly reformed seminary brain could not figure out how to translate it to a less than 2 year old and my wife was taking a more developmentally appropriate environmental approach. It had really not occurred to me to tell her the story of Jesus, since she was still working out a basic vocabulary at the time. But Mom told her the story, using handmade ornaments brought back from a mission trip to China by my Aunt Clair.

Mom is a special lady like that – she loves Jesus. I remember with fondness one of our conversations where I had been sarcastic to her. It was about the only time I can recall her cooking breakfast for me as an adult. I was on my way home on a break from seminary. She asked me how I liked my coffee. I said with a smirk, "Like I like my women." [Dear God, what possessed me?!] She said with shock but not with derision, "You mean black?!" I replied, "No, just bitter. I don't really care what color they are." [Again, who did I think I was to speak to her this way!] She dismissed it with a chuckle, a shake of the head, and a disgusted, "Ugh...Zachary! Fix it yourself."

This was also, mind you, not too long after my divorce. Somehow she knew that was the place I was coming from. Somewhere later in that conversation she wanted to let me know that she approved of the direction of my life. She is not of a generation that uses phrases like, "I am proud of you." She is of a generation that perceives struggle and honors tenacity. What she did say I will never forget. She looked me in the eyes with a soul piercing clarity that never lasts long when it happens but is more effective than any lie detector known to humanity. She looked me in the eyes and said, "Zachary, I know you love the Lord, and I'm real happy about that." She smiled, crystal clear, then asked if I wanted some ice water. And that was that.

So, tonight she struggles as tenaciously as ever. Tonight she clings to life even as life eternal clings to her. Tonight we set the clocks back and we gain an hour and I am reminded of Jesus because that's what Mom has always done. She reminds me of Jesus.
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

And just like the widow who spent all she had to honor God, Mom is spending what might be her last. She has spent it telling people about Jesus. I will admit that she is not perfect. She would be the first to admit that! I was going to say that she is no saint, but the thing is – she is to me. 

I will proclaim the gospel tomorrow because she is one of the great and powerful voices that proclaimed it to me. She never told me I needed Jesus. She never made me feel anything less than valuable. She has always remained true to herself, and she has always loved me. And even though she
has, at times, expressed the cultural biases of her day, age, and location, she has also demonstrated a desire to love and accept even those most others would rather not.

Tomorrow I will Sing a Song of the Saints of God, and I will be singing about Mom, because, "We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:7-9)."

Rest assured, I do not mean these thoughts to be eulogistic. I have been carefull to refer to her in the present tense. I mean these thoughts to be Eucharistic! I mean them to be a means of thanksgiving for the present moment and all the past moments that have allowed this one to be as it is right now. That's why I stopped writing a few minutes ago to go tuck my daughter in. You'd never know such a sweet embrace interrupted these wandering thoughts.

We talked a little about Mom. My daughter said she wanted the surgeon's name to send him a thank you letter – a discipline and courtesy which I am terrible at doing. She said, "You know what I think prayer is? I think it is sending warmth from inside of you that goes and surrounds a person. That's what love is – warmth." I agreed and assured her that even if the person never knows it or feels it, that warmth is there, and it is real. We snuggled a bit, and I left her to read, dream, and be held in the sweet embrace of God.

Now I return to you – or maybe just to me, or perhaps to God. I do not know if God reads my blog. Hopefully God inspires it. Google tells me that it has at least been viewed by people all over the world, at one point or another. Really these thoughts are just flung to the wind as seeds scattered over rocky, weed choked, and fertile soil alike. Truth will take root where and when it will.

Last story – some time after seminary Mom gave me my Great-great Grandfather's Bible. I am his namesake, as he was Zachary Lumpkin Scott. The Bible has passages underlined, dated, and checked off as memorized by my Great Grandmother. At the time, Mom had noticed my need for a watch and slipped a $10 in the front for a cheap-o from that place I don't like to shop. It was just enough. Amazingly, she did not know about the quote that was just behind the money in my Mamma Sasser's handwriting.

"The Christian should be like a good watch: open-faced, hands busy, well regulated, and full of good works."

Thanks be to God for strong women of faith. Thanks be to God for a legacy rooted in the love of God. Thanks be to God for ongoing struggles and the promise of sweet release from everything except for the sweet embrace of God – in which we are all held both now and always. Amen.