Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trinity Yr B May 31 2015



If you remember back to ten reasons to do church, that I talked about last week, you'll remember that I began with eating. Much of our gathering together is around eating a meal, eating bread and drinking wine. In the book called People of the Way, Renewing Episcopal Identity, by Dwight Zscheile (Shylie), he writes

"Every Sunday at ordinary Episcopal churches, something extraordinary takes place. In a society in which tables of hospitality are mostly closed off to strangers, a public feast is held. You don't need to buy a ticket to this meal. Not everyone necessarily knows each other; not everyone gets along perfectly, but they come together nonetheless. The food is simple stuff - bread and wine - about to become something more than itself. As the story is told and songs are sung, a change takes place. Hearts are lifted. The brokenness in the lives of each of the participants, and the brokenness of the world, is brought into focus. Healing begins to pour through it. Lives turned inward are opened outward. In the midst of the messiness and richness of this meal is the presence of Jesus, felt and known through the Spirit, tasted in the bread and wine, inviting us and the whole of the world into community with God." (p.44)

This is exactly what we did on Friday, celebrating the life of Bette Hauk. So many people showed up, many more than expected, all were fed, both with Holy Communion, and with a delicious Loaves and Fishes lunch.

I think this description of what we do when we gather together has everything to do with Trinity, which we recognize today. I've told you before about the time when I was in high school at my regular Sunday evening youth group meeting. The young priest came to teach us all about the Trinity. I figured I'd have all my questions answered that night, but no, I left more confused than I was when I arrived. But it's really not that hard. Theologians and systematicians make it more confusing than it has to be. You know, in many churches that have multiple priests on staff, it's always the new guy that preaches on Trinity Sunday because no one else wants to. 

Trinity is not to be explained, but to be experienced. Trinity is a way of talking about the richness of God's communal life. Trinity is community with God, it is relationship. It is God's nature to create others to share in God's life. As followers of Jesus in the first few centuries sought to make sense out of the relationship among the Jesus they had known as Lord, the Spirit they experienced in community, and the God of Israel to whom the scriptures gave witness, they developed the doctrine of the Trinity.

The reading we have before us today from Isaiah shows us the God who is creator of all, of all that is seen and unseen, holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. And from Romans we see the Spirit that bears witness that we are all children of God. In John, we see Jesus, who comes into this world and lives and loves and suffers and dies and absorbs all the pain and suffering and violence on the cross. Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about what new life is all about. This is Trinity. It is how God presents Godself, it is how we humans imagine God in relationship. It is a model of how we may live this life in community with others on the way.

I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the trinity, by invocation of the same, the three in one and one in three. Creative, compassionate, merciful. Father, son, spirit. Mother, daughter, servant. Composer, musicians, music. Author, story, reader. Swimmer, water, breath. Steam, liquid, ice. Light, wave, particle. 

Essentially, the Trinity says what our sacred text says at its opening creation story: that it is not good for humans — or God for that matter — to be alone; that meaning is created in community and through relationships; that we do better as creatures when we join hands rather than raise fists. Trinity is God experienced in community, Trinity is God's abundant and amazing love spilling out creatively as it includes all of God's creation. Trinity is much less a doctrine, and much more a dance. A dance in which everyone participates.

So what does Trinity mean for us today? So many people believe the story that dominates American life today, you indeed may be one of them. That you are what you earn or achieve, that identity must be cobbled together from a wide array of shifting possibilities, that you must work incessantly at securing meaning and community because these things are not given. Amidst competition, consumerism, anxiety, and opportunity, life is what you make of it, largely on your own. Underneath these swirling waters of struggle lay the deep currents of isolation, fragmentation, and despair. 

The story that we tell, the truth that we tell, is one in which every human life is precious beyond measure, created for loving relationship with the source of all life. In this story, your worth is given, not earned. You are welcomed into a community in which no one goes hungry, differences need not be a cause of division, but a gift to be celebrated, you are offered forgiveness and are released to forgive others. You are claimed by a love and power beyond your own. You are held in arms of grace, you are part of a community in which Love wins. And in that, you are freed to participate in the restoration of human community and all creation.

Trinity calls us to wholeness, to relationship, to community. Trinity calls us away from isolation, and frees us to call each other neighbor. Our response to that is to participate in what God is already doing in the world. If our God is a God of relationship, of community, of co-creativity, maybe that's what our mission is in the world. Maybe participating in what God is already doing in the world is about building bridges, reaching out, inviting others into the Love that wins, the love that embraces every one no matter what. 

Maybe participating in what God is already doing is about accompanying people, walking with people who are hurting, and offering partnership in that. It isn't always about relieving suffering, sometimes it is walking the path with others, like Jesus does. Maybe participating in what God is already doing is about responding to those who would crucify us, with love and not revenge, therefore absorbing hate like Jesus does, instead of inflaming hate. Maybe participating in what God is already doing is showing that Love wins, like Jesus does, instead of spewing words of judgement. 

Trinity, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, is about participating in a web of relationship, eating with a community of people, dancing with others to the music of the seraphim. It is proclaiming with Isaiah, Here I am, send me! It is proclaiming with Jesus, Love wins. Amen.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pentecost, Yr B, May 24 2015


Pentecost Audio 5.24.2015
Thomas Edison once said after a fire destroyed his laboratory, "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew." Three weeks after the fire, Edison delivered his first phonograph. For us, Pentecost is that fire. Pentecost is that destroyer that is new life. I'm reminded of the recent controlled burn that turned into a wildfire. A controlled burn is an illusion. The reports are that new life is springing up all over the place, where just a short time ago the fires raged. The fire of Holy Spirit cannot be controlled. The fire of Holy Spirit cannot be predicted. The fire of Holy Spirit brings growth that cannot be imagined. 

The Hebrew people had an idea of the new life that comes from destruction. The Ezekiel story also points us to that. God gathers up the dry bones and breathes the spirit into them, and Israel lives again. But new life cannot be controlled, and it cannot be contained, it is a wildfire and goes where it will. 

These readings before us today point us to Holy Spirit. They point us to people, not buildings and not institutions, but followers of Jesus. Followers of Jesus, who know that in their lives, Love wins. 

Indeed, today I think Pentecost is about breaking out of the framework, and being about God's reconciling mission in the world. Pentecost is about being a follower of Jesus and doing it together, with other people on the way. And for us, it is about doing it in this peculiar and particular way as Episcopalians at St. Andrew's. 

Some of you remember I came  up with a "top ten" for doing church a few years back, and seeing that David Letterman has retired, I thought I'd reprise my "top ten" list in his honor, and in honor of Pentecost, and change, and transformation.
These are not in any particular order.

Number 1 Church is where there is always something to eat, and everyone gets fed. We know our risen lord in the breaking of the bread, we know our risen lord in the sharing of a meal, we know our risen lord in the hearts and the faces of those we feed as well as in the feeding. Something mystical and amazing happens when we are made Jesus' body through the sharing of a meal. We are made whole, we are put back together, and like those dry bones in Ezekiel we are joined with God and with one another.

Number 2 Our liturgy, what we do when we are gathered together, makes sense of our lives. Because many of us live hectic and full lives, we make room for silence. Because we need a language for worship of that which is not us, we pray with words and symbol, we pray with music and song, we pray in order and in chaos. Because when the pain gets too hard to bear, we have a place to put it here, in this place. And when the joy and gratitude bubble over, there are others to catch it and share it.

Number 3 No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you. That one is not really mine, it's from Robin Williams, who was an Episcopalian. We engage in the very important skill of theological reflection. We engage the world, and we consider it through the lens of scripture, tradition, and reason. We read scripture together, we learn about its context, we talk about it, we even argue about it, and we make up our own minds as to how we live its call in our lives. You don't have to check your mind at the door. And no matter what, we gather around the table and eat together anyway.

Number 4 People love one another. That is an action, not necessarily a feeling. We treat each other, and all those who come looking for acceptance, with dignity and respect. And when we don't, we ask for forgiveness and are granted it. This is a vision of the kingdom. In God's kingdom, all are loved, all are cared for, all are forgiven. In church, we fall short but that continues to be the vision.

Number 5 Children are always welcome, old people too, and gay people and straight people for that matter, and ordinary people, and extraordinary people. God loves everyone, no exceptions, and church, this church in particular, lives that out. Again, not perfectly, there are times when we forget who we are, we forget that our number one priority is to welcome all as Christ welcomes all. 

Number 6 There are some important times in people's lives that we pay attention to: birth and baptism, marriage, death, and even the times in between, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, times of sickness and suffering, times of joy and celebration, (graduation) comings and goings. We pay attention to these times because it is often at these times the time and distance between us and God, us and the others in our lives, thins. It is these times when we lift our hearts and our voices to give God praise, to ask for strength and courage, to turn to one another for support, not because we have to, but because it is what our humanity calls us to. We talk to God and with one another in the words that come into our hearts and our minds, and when we cannot find the words to say what needs to be said, we turn to our Prayer Book. We turn to the words that have been said and prayed through the years, the decades, and the centuries. There we can place our joy and our sorrow, and know that we are held in the awesome presence of our Creator God, our Father and Mother God, our loving God. 

Number 7 We show up consistently, we listen, we tell the truth, and we try, hard as we might, to let go of the outcome. This one is the foundation of all ministry. We show up. That's a tough one these days. There is so much that demands our attention. There are many, many things we could be doing besides coming here to do this each Sunday morning. But we know that it's not about having the time to come, none of us really have any time, instead, it's about knowing that to be whole people, we need to stop for a few moments, stop and listen to God and to one another. We show up. 

We listen, we listen to God's word, to one another, sometimes you even listen to me, I try to listen to you. We listen in the silence of this space, we listen to the cacophony of the marketplace, we listen to the music of the spheres and the music we make together. We listen.

We tell the truth. How hard is that? The truth that God loves you no matter what. The truth that God came and comes into this created world to walk with us on the way. The truth that there is pain and suffering and sometimes life just sucks, but we are not alone. The truth that in Jesus' life and suffering and death on the cross, Love wins. The truth that nothing belongs to us anyway, the truth that we are stewards of God's creation, stewards of our children, stewards of this beautiful building, and we live in gratitude for all of it.    

We let go of the outcome. See number eight.

Number 8 We recognize that God is God and we are not. We are not the center of the universe, we are not the hub of the wheel, we are not the most important of God's creation. We are interdependent, we are one part of a mighty creation, we are not in control.  We let go of the outcome.

Number 9 We recognize that we are transformed by God's amazing and abundant love in Jesus Christ. The relationship that God has with us changes us, the relationship we have with others changes us. We begin to look more and more like people of mercy and compassion, we begin to look more and more like people who feed each other, who feed the hungry. We begin to look more and more like people who miss the mark, ask for forgiveness, and are loved regardless.

Number 10 We go out into the world as followers of Jesus, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to visit the imprisoned, see number 9. We embody mercy and compassion, we listen to God's call in our lives, we seek to get on board with what God is already blessing. We recognize that God is the greatest healing and integrating force in an increasingly fragmented world. We understand that it is our call to be the peace makers, the light bearers, the agents of healing and reconciliation in the world.

So there's my ten reasons for church, and for this church. On this Feast of Pentecost, I ask some questions about the future of the church. How do we keep ever burning, ever reforming, ever emerging? How do we find a way to speak in a language people can understand? How do we stay nimble, that is, how do we respond to the global nature of the world in which we live, and how do we respond to the ever more instant communication that people have in their hands and at their disposal? How do we help people to see that true freedom is in relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Spirit, and with others? 

I have ten answers, see above. Love wins. Amen. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ascension Sunday May 17 2015


Audio 5.17.2015 Ascension

Dontcha just wish that Jesus would open our minds to understand the scriptures? That it would be that easy? That we would know with complete certainty that we were right about the literal interpretation of all things? What a fantasy, what a dream, and yet, when we read this story about Jesus' ascension into heaven, doesn't it seem like a fantasy? A dream? Jesus is taken up to heaven, what does this mean?

Jesus leaves, but we stay. As it turns out, this is the ultimate "left behind" story, but according to Jesus, being left behind is neither a sign of imperfect faith nor a chance to prove your self worthy. Rather, being left behind is an honor, an invitation to participate in the glory of God, a commissioning, in fact, into the work of the Jesus. Eternal life, glory, relationship with God are all around us. Where? In doing what Jesus does. Healing, feeding, caring, listening, sharing, making manifest the grace and mercy of the God who so loved the world.

Clearly this links up with a lot of the tasks often associated with who we are -- caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, and so forth. And that is worth celebrating. And not only do we do what Jesus does because that is what we are called to do, but the ordinary tasks of everyday life -- work, play, family life, civic involvement, volunteer opportunities -- all of these ordinary and mundane things, are also work that honors God.

So why does this matter? Why do we observe this Ascension? Because Jesus has left us behind for the good of the world. You see, what Jesus did and does matters, and what you do and who you are, matters. It matters to God, it matters to the church, it matters to us, who gather here each week. I want you to know that. What you do in your work and your play and your school, day in and day out, makes a difference to God's kingdom, the kingdom Jesus left behind. 

There is a connection between the couple hours you spend each week here in worship, and the 167 hours you spend everywhere else -- that's why you keep giving over this couple of hours. What we do here matters to what you do in all the places you go, with all the people you encounter. What we do here matters to the justice, and the healing, and the compassion, and the mercy, God calls you to bear into the world. What we do here matters to your participating in building God's kingdom. What we do here supports, and informs and nurtures you, so that you can go into the world to do what God calls you to do. 

So Jesus has left us behind for the good of the world. Where in your life do you help care for God's world and people? What's really important about this is that Jesus has left us behind and trusts us to do something with that. This life is not simply practice for the next one. It's not some kind of trial, something to be endured until a future glory. It's not a test, a time and place to prove ourselves worthy of heaven. Yes, there are trials. Yes, things can be difficult, confusing, sometimes down right discouraging. But in this passage we have the two-fold promise that God is with us to help us not merely persevere but also to flourish. That's what the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is and that God intends us to be committed to this world, this people, this place, here and now. Glory, eternity, relationship with God -- these things are always in the present tense and we are commissioned and blessed to participate in this work and to share this amazing promise of God's love for us right here and right now. And, in this story of Jesus ascension, we are trusted to do the work Jesus asked us to do, with the Holy Spirit as our partner. Who and how do we know this Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is part of those people in our lives who help us to be our best selves, the people who help us to strive for mercy and justice and compassion. The Holy Spirit is in those times when we can sit in the quiet and hear what God would call us to do and who God would call us to be. 

So, we'd better get to work, right? Whether we feel ready to do the work Jesus has trusted us to do, whether we feel equal to the task, and sometimes the task of feeding and clothing people feels like a huge task. Living in the reality of justice and peace, when it's hard to see any justice and peace around us, sometimes feels like a mountain to be climbed. Ready or not, it's the work Jesus left to us. And ready or not, it's the work the Holy Spirit empowers us to do. So we best quit standing here staring at the bottom of Jesus' feet and instead get to work, feeding, healing, teaching, loving, sharing, breaking bread, pouring wine, and welcoming those Jesus loves.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

6 Easter Yr B May 10 2015

(I  chose this because I like it, it's true, and Madeleine L'engle was my inspiration for this sermon today)
Today's gospel is a continuation of what we heard last week. This is Jesus' commandment, love each other just as you have been loved. But the part of it that has taken hold of my heart and imagination is this, "You didn't choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last." You see, here is the Good News, the good news that God chose us. That God loves us. That God plans to use us to make this world God loves a better place.

This matters, I think, because if it’s finally up to us – to choose Jesus, to remain in him, to obey his commandments, to pursue happiness, or to choose joy, then we are lost. We simply don’t do it. Maybe we can’t. We can try, and there is something valiant and noble and important about trying.

Not that God’s choosing us is a panacea, as if none of the difficulties of this life matter. Rather, knowing that God has chosen us, loves us, and will use us gives us the courage to face the challenges and renews our strength to do something about them. Ultimately, we cannot fix, let alone redeem, this world. That’s why that’s God’s work. But knowing that God has promised to do so can provide us with the strength and energy to work to make the little corner of the world we live in a better place.

God chooses us. We are God's beloved. We are named and marked as Christ's own forever. God provides us with the strength and energy, all that we need, to participate with God in the work of building God's kingdom. Our work is to bear that Good News into all of the places we find ourselves. God's love that we bear into the dark and hateful places of the world is not about a way we feel. It is about what we do. 

God's love for us is not necessarily the same warm and squishy feeling we have for those we love. God's love for us, God's beloved, is love that is self giving, pouring out grace and dignity and justice. It is that sort of love that we are commanded to give to others. And that is not easy. 

It is the kind of love that identifies the similar humanity in those we are called to love, even and especially when we don't like them. It is this love that can cast out hate, it is this light that will brighten the darkness, it is this love that will change the world. This is incarnational love. This is love in the flesh. This is the love that was born into our world to show us how to live this life. This is the love that wins. 

We are called, we are chosen, we are marked, we must bear love, and light, and wholeness, from this place into all of the places we frequent, we must be the lovers that shine so brightly so that the haters are revealed and transformed. And maybe we can't, but there is something noble in trying.

This is the love that is made real in the incarnation, and in the crucifixion. This is the love that is born into our lives, and this is the love that holds us and cradles us each time we walk with those in our lives will die. This is the love that is embodied in our own death. This is the love that is real in Jesus's body and blood, it is the love that is real in the bread and the wine eaten at this table, it is the love that is real in all of the meals around all of our tables.  

The difficulty of this love that God has for us and that we are commanded to have for one another, is that it isn't about us, it isn't about how we feel, it is about what we do, and it is about giving ourselves in love with the sure and certain reality that in doing so we are transformed, and that transformation is out of our control. 

The result though of giving ourselves in love is that we go deeper into heart of God, we go deeper into the soul of the sacred. And the result of giving ourselves in love is that we partner with God in healing and reconciliation, we partner with God in justice and mercy. And maybe we can't change the world, but there is something noble in trying, and we can change our little corner of the world, and in so doing, we are made more completely in God's image. 

You are called, you are chosen, you are marked as Christ's own forever. You probably know the likely apocryphal story of when someone asked Martin Luther what he would do if the world were going to end tomorrow. He replied that he would plant a tree today. The future is God’s, a gift given, like joy, to God’s beloved children. How do you make this world a better place?

I know how many of you, who are chosen, who are loved, who are marked as Christ's own forever, who give of yourselves and die a little to do it, make this world a better place, and in so doing, change your corner of the world. Many of you provide the meal for the cornerstone mission, many of you contribute in significant ways to feeding people, many of you provide resources for clothing children to go to school, sometimes it doesn't seem like much, but it is so much.
You see, Jesus’ story didn’t stop with the tomb. Rooted in God’s love for the world, it bears the fruit of justice, joy and reconciliation. It creates space for life where it seems that there is none, making room for other people to flourish. It nurtures friendships and fosters the ability to trust in God’s abundance, grace, provision in the face of scarcity, death. It includes the excluded, invites in the ostracized, meets the needs of the hungry, the isolated, the oppressed.

This love is not the love of warm fuzzies. Rather, it ultimately anticipates that our own bodies – individually and collectively as the church, the body of Christ – are a means by which God provides for the world if we’re open to and rest in the leading of the Spirit. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Easter Yr B May 3 2015



5 Easter Yr B May 2 2015 Audio

As our grass finally turns green, as the tulips bloom brightly in our gardens, as the lilacs delight the senses, as my beloved purple iris open their blossoms to the sun, we celebrate this rite of spring. All winter long we yearn for the warmth of the dirt, and the smell of the dirt as we dig and play in it. All winter long we give thanks for any moisture that comes our way, knowing that it's falling from the sky results in new growth. Even when spring comes early, we are out planting, hoping against hope that there is no more frost to bring our work to naught, but secretly thinking it really doesn't matter because it's just a wonderful excuse to be outside and not inside. 

Before us today is a passage we all know well. I'll read it again in Eugene Peterson's translation, The Message. "I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples." 

The gospel of John is rich with metaphor, ripe with meaning. At the very least, this is a passage about growth and grapes, but it also tells us something of how to live, and it is very much about following Jesus. In our collection of readings this morning it is coupled with 1 John, God is love, and we, followers of Jesus, must love our brothers and our sisters. Eugene Peterson translates, live in me, make your home in me, which I find very helpful. Other translations use abide in me, and remain in me. All of these invoke intimacy and connection. God, the farmer, God the vine-grower, God the gardener, wants us, each one of us and all of us to remain connected to our source, to our creator, and in doing so, we not only grow but we bear fruit. The image is to remain connected to the vine, it doesn't say, in any of the translations, that we are to connect ourselves to the vine. Our organic and natural state is connection. 

The vines that fall away are gathered together and thrown into the bonfire. Apart from the vine, our lives result in disconnection, disorientation, disintegration. It's a beautiful image, the farmer caring for the vine and the grapes, a pastoral image that maybe some can't image in this time of immediacy, in this age of instant results. I was wondering about an image that could possibly be similar today, and I think of your computer, or my iPad, devices that give us instant communication and fast results, but that don't work unless sometimes we connect them into the power source to be re-enlivened. They really would just be typewriters on steroids without the internet and the world wide web that connects us to people and information all over the known world. Even Facebook and all the other social media portals would be nothing if it were not for all the others we get connected to. Are they live-giving? That question remains to be answered, but for matters of metaphor they'll do. 

And to what end are we given this illustration, this tangly vine metaphor that John uses? It is about being disciples, it is about following Jesus, it is about loving our brothers and our sisters. The point is to bear fruit, and in bearing fruit, God is glorified and we are disciples. To be a disciple is to follow Jesus. It really is as simple as that, we try to make it so much harder. We get so caught up in semantics sometimes, you and I sometimes even bristle at the word Christian, because it means one thing to some, and another thing to others. You and I and all of us together follow Jesus. That is what we are to do, as we follow Jesus we bear fruit, and we glorify God. 

So what does this call to bearing fruit look like? Picture a vine laden with grapes, so heavy it pulls itself to the ground if not held up by some sort of trellis. So heavy with grapes they can't help but spill over onto the ground, so colorful that they can't help but make the hands of the picker all blue and purple. Our call to bearing fruit causes our love to overflow like those heavy laden grape vines. 

And our call to bearing fruit is very clear in the passage in first John, it is to love our brothers and sisters. These are the brothers and sisters who make us crazy, these are the ones you can't live with, and you can't live without. These are the brothers and sisters you wish would call more often and who talk too much on the phone. These are the brothers and sisters you fight with and who you sit down to dinner with. These are the brothers and sisters who drink too much, tell dirty jokes, and die much too early. These are the brothers and sisters who take care of your parents just like you do. These are the brothers and sisters who produce your nieces and nephews. These are the brothers and sisters who won't pick up their toys, who hit you in the back seat of the car, who want to watch a stupid movie when you're trying to watch your own stupid movie, these are the brothers and sisters you love no matter what. It's a good thing Love wins, because there are those days when loving your brothers and sisters is absolutely impossible. 

We don't pick our brothers and our sisters. There are those we wish were are brothers and our sisters, the ones we like, the ones we get along with, the ones we invite over for sleepovers, the ones who love us just the way we are. I'm really thankful for them, I call them friends. And, we count ourselves lucky when our brothers and our sisters are also our friends. But still, that's not what fruit-bearing and following Jesus are really all about. Following Jesus is about what we do not only when it's easy and convenient, but what we do when it is not easy or convenient. Of course loving our brothers and sisters is about loving our brothers and sisters, but it is so much bigger than that. It is also about loving our brothers and sisters who live on this giant rock with us, because we are all related. 

Following Jesus is about that relationship. Following Jesus is about gratefully acknowledging our creator God's relationship to us each and every day. Following Jesus is about gratefully acknowledging our connection to one another every day. Following Jesus is about finding the relationship between people, finding the connection between us and the other, finding the way to acknowledge one another's dignity and worth, even when that seems impossible. Following Jesus is being connected to this vine that gives us life. Because it is Love that wins, after all.