Thursday, 23 May 2019

gentiles following the Jewish messiah- Acts 11

The Church ran into a problem at the very beginning. 
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells his disciples, 
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
So, the disciples have been commanded to go into the non-Jewish world to help them become followers of the Jewish Messiah.

In the first century, Judaism wasn’t very interested in helping others convert to Judaism. However, there was a small number who were active in encouraging Gentiles to convert, and as a result there were some Gentiles who had become very attracted to Judaism.  Gentiles who had started worshiping the Jewish God, but who hadn’t fully converted to Judaism were called God-fearers or God-worshipers. Many gentiles were content to not fully convert. They remained Gentiles, but they worshiped God. This meant they followed fewer laws (7 rather than the 613 devout Jews were obligated to follow). Male God-fearers also wouldn’t have to be circumcised, which would be required to fully convert to Judaism.

But, without fully converting to Judaism their participation would also be somewhat limited. For example, they would only be allowed in certain parts of the Temple (the part of the temple Jesus cleared the money changers out of was the court of the gentiles), and even eating at the same table with devout Jewish people seemed to not be allowed. This wasn’t about them being snooty. Table-fellowship had to do with everyone at the table having a certain ritual purity according to the Jewish Law- it was a part of the kosher rules about eating.

That was the background environment as the disciples of Jesus went out from Israel sharing the news about Jesus. When the disciples of Jesus came to the Gentiles they were going to have to figure out how Gentiles would be included.

In becoming a follower of the Jewish messiah, it would make sense that you should have some connection to Judaism. The followers of Jesus believed that they were part of the continuation of the covenant of Abraham, where God promised that Abraham and Sarah’s children would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The mark of the covenant of Abraham was circumcision. So, it made all kinds of sense that the followers of the Jewish messiah, the climax of the covenant of Abraham, would receive this mark as a part of their becoming disciples. That also implied following the Law of the covenant of Moses- the Law given to Abraham's family- a Law Jesus modeled his life on.

If the question is “how Jewish do you have to be to be a disciple of Jesus?” it would make sense to say, “very Jewish. He is the Jewish Messiah, after all.” The temptation then would be to mimic what Judaism looked like in the Gentile word.

I can see the logic of requiring Gentiles to be converted to Judaism in order to then become disciples of Jesus. It makes all kinds of sense to me.  It was bold and almost shocking for the church to not require this of Gentiles. The church made a decision to remove unnecessary rules and traditions that were barriers.

 This makes me wonder where we might place barriers for people who are coming to know Jesus.

Rules and traditions can be very good things, but there are times when we have to be careful that we aren’t insisting on unnecessary laws and traditions. For example, if we use incense and it causes some people to cough uncontrollably and have a very difficult time worshiping with us, then we should question if that tradition is an unnecessary barrier for some people. We need to hold onto important traditions and beliefs, but perhaps we have some that are an unnecessary barrier for some people. It is important for us to ask what traditions and beliefs we hold onto that we need to hold lightly. Are pews necessary? Do the pews have to all be facing the same direction? Are our robes necessary? Is a certain style of music necessary? Is a certain style of worship necessary? … I’m not suggesting we get rid of any of these, but we should be open to change if it is seems necessary to do so.

Now there are other things that we just can’t get rid of without losing our core identity. For example, imagine the first Christians saying, “well, we aren’t going to have the Communion (bread and wine) anymore because we can’t have table-fellowship with Gentiles and we want them to be included.” But, the Communion was so important that they couldn’t get rid of it without doing significant damage to their identity as disciples of Jesus. To give up the practice of the Eucharist is too much.

Just like the early church, we are having to hold an important balance. We must be willing to give up traditions that are causing too much of a barrier to helping people follow Jesus. But we have to be careful not to give up something that is actually a significant part of being a disciple of Jesus.

For example, as Christianity has gone around the world it has picked up the cultural style of the people. Christianity in Israel looked stylistically different than in Greece, or Rome, or Ethiopia. As Christianity went to the British Isles it took on a Celtic style. For Christianity to be adopted in certain countries, there were certain cultural stylistic changes that were made, without changing the central aspects of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. 

I believe that was a major mistake that was made as Christianity came to North America. The cultural style of the aboriginal cultures should have been able to connect with Christianity. Instead, the Christianity that was brought to Canada often retained its European style, which didn’t fit aboriginal communities very well. It was inflexible regarding some stylistic elements when it shouldn’t have been. Other cultures were able to have an influence on the style of worship, but Aboriginal culture was not given that same opportunity.

In our reading Peter has a significant experience when the Holy Spirit identifies a barrier that needs to be removed.

Peter has to answer accusations regarding eating with Gentiles (which was against the kosher eating tradition). Peter answers saying he saw a vision having to do with ritual cleanness that came with a voice saying, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” As Peter is wondering what this means he is invited to a Gentile’s home (who is considered ritually unclean, though he is a God-fearer). When he speaks to these gentiles about Jesus the Holy Spirit descends on them and they start speaking in tongues, just as happened to Jesus’ Jewish followers on Pentecost. To Peter this is evidence that these Gentiles are acceptable to God as they are, without following all the Laws and without receiving circumcision.

This is also Paul’s position, which we see especially in his letter to the Galatians. He tells them in very strong terms to not get circumcised and to not practice the Law-keeping of traditional Judaism. He goes so far as to say, “if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing” (Gal 5:2).

For Peter, the evidence of God’s blessing was so strong he was convinced that Gentiles did not need the cultural barrier of circumcision and traditional conversion to Judaism. I’m still amazed by how bold that move was. They allowed the Gentiles to join the church without having to become Jewish first. They could come to Jesus as Gentiles. The wisdom of the early church saw that the important sign of circumcision, along with many of the purity laws, did not have to apply to those who were non-Jewish. They were in a new age.

We too should be careful to hold our traditions and cultural habits lightly. They are important and shouldn’t be discarded without serious thought and prayer, but we should remain open to the Holy Spirit guiding us that way. Are there barriers we are putting between people and Jesus that are unnecessary? Maybe we hold too tightly to our denomination. Do we hold to a certain social and intellectual classism that makes people feel unwelcome? Do we, God forbid, have any racism or sexism in our midst? What the Church realized is what Paul wrote in Galatians 3 (Gal 3:28) 
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
 That was a revolutionary idea in the ancient world. I suspect it is still a revolutionary idea if we truly grasp its full meaning. AMEN

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Imitation of Christ - Acts 9

The Book of Acts is sometimes called the 
“Acts of the Apostles”,
 but that can be a little misleading. Others have offered to call it the 
“Acts of the Holy Spirit”,
 this can be equally misleading. The preacher John Stott suggests the lengthy title 
“The Continuing Words and Deeds of Jesus by his Spirit through his Apostles”. 
It is a bit wordy, but it is accurate.

The church is called the “Body of Christ”, but this is not merely nice words to describe people who love Jesus, but because that same Spirit that lived in Jesus, lives in his church. The church is continuously speaking the words of Jesus and performing the deeds of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit. So, his Body is still active in the world. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, 
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.” 
Christ is always spiritually present in the world, but he is physically present through his disciples- his church. This is what is happening in our reading from Acts today.

In our reading Peter is involved in raising a woman named Tabitha from the dead. If you exchanged Peter’s name with Jesus, it sounds like a story taken straight from a Gospel. It is the kind if thing Jesus did. In fact, there is a story that is remarkably like this one in Mark

In Mark 5 we read this, 
“They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” (Mk 5:38-42).
In both cases, someone comes to them asking for help. When they arrive, they both send out the mourners from the room. Peter prays, and they grabs the girl’s hand. And they both say, “get up”. And the women come back to life.

There are even more parallel’s when we look into the language of the passages. We think Jesus spoke Aramaic, which is similar to Hebrew. The New Testament has a few phrases that are preserved in the original Aramaic. For example, when Jesus is dying on the cross he says, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (Matt 27). Jesus heals a deaf man and says, “Ephphatha” (Mk 7). There aren’t very many of them.

In our Mark 5 passage about Jesus raising up the daughter of the Synagogue leader we have more Aramaic on the lips of Jesus, “Talitha cumi”, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” If we suppose Peter was also speaking Aramaic then the phrase Jesus uses and the phrase Peter uses might have been only different by one letter.

Jesus says, “Talitha cumi

Peter likely says, “Tabitha cumi

We might be tempted to think that this story is all about how special Peter is. No doubt Peter has a special role in the early church, but I don’t think this is as much about how special Peter is as about what the church was becoming.

Yes, Jesus has an important uniqueness about him, but he also invited his disciples to do what he did (as appropriate). In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 70 of his disciples into the surrounding territories to bring healing, exorcise demons, and announce the kingdom of God.

We see the attempt to do what Jesus did when we read about Jesus walking on the water (Matt 14:25-31). Peter gets out of the boat to walk on the water like Jesus. Why would Peter think he could do that? … He was learning to be like Jesus. The reason Peter had the audacity to get out of the boat was because as a disciple he was learning to do what his master did. That’s what it means to be a disciple. It was to learn to be like the one you were learning from. An apprentice is learning to be like the master.

Just prior to our reading in Acts, Peter heals a paralytic. We read, 
“he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose” (9:33-34).

Now compare that to Jesus in Luke 15, 
“he said to the man who was paralyzed—'I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.' And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God."   (Lk 15:24-25).

As a disciple of Jesus, Peter was learning to do what Jesus did, as he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. The difference is that Peter calls on the power of Christ and does it all in his name, whereas Jesus just speaks the healing into being.

For Peter, following Jesus meant a different life. It wasn’t just a belief he locked up in his head. It made a real concrete difference to how he lived his life. He actually believed he could become more like Jesus.

Now, I’m not saying we should all head down to the morgue and start calling dead bodies back to life. These are not acts to be done to feed our own ego. We probably don’t have the character to handle that kind of power without it destroying us. Though, I do believe if Jesus called us to that we could do it.

I think this was at the beginning of the church and they were granted very real and concrete signs of the salvation and new life given through Jesus. It was the establishment of a new kingdom on earth and so these signs are evidence of the kingdom of heaven invading earth. I do believe miracles still happen, but I think miracles had a special role in the early church.

There is plenty that we are called to as disciples of Jesus, besides doing miracles. As disciples of Jesus we are called to reflect the character of Christ. We are to be people that grow in the Fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). We are to be people that live the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). This will only happen when we spend time with Jesus and grow in our relationship with God. As disciples we are to have our minds soaked in Scripture. As we spend time in prayer and reading Scripture we will learn the ways of Jesus, then we are empowered by the Spirit to live what we read.

May we be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus. May you be a disciple of Jesus, who is constantly growing in his ways, learning to be like him, and reflecting his character into the world. AMEN

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Do you love me? John 21

The lowest moment in Peter's life must have been when he was standing around a charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard and when someone asked if he was one of the disciples of Jesus, he denied it three times. Matthew records Peter’s denial in strong language calling down curses and making an oath saying, “I don’t know the man!” (Matt 26:69-74). And after he hears the rooster crow he remembers Jesus’ prophesy about his denial and Matthew tells us he “went outside and wept bitterly” (Matt 26:75).

I’m sure that moment coloured his life, even until after the resurrection. Yes, Jesus is back, but does he really want anything to do with a traitor? Does Jesus really want disciples who fall asleep while he is praying and sweating blood in preparation for his arrest and torture? Does he really want disciples who abandon him when the authorities show up and arrest him? One of their own number even sold him out for 30 pieces of silver! … No doubt they felt joy that Jesus is still alive, but I wonder if they felt like they missed the boat. Sure Jesus is alive, but would he have anything to do with them? Didn’t he say, “If you deny me I will deny you” (Matt 10:33). Peter blew it, and now he has to figure out what to do with his life. Maybe he should just go back to what he knows. Maybe he can start up a little fishing business. Maybe he can get Matthew to do the books. They fished all night, but they didn’t catch anything. Salt on the wound, no doubt.

Suddenly they hear a voice from the shore, “friends, haven’t you any fish?”. “No”, they answered. So he says, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some”. When they did, they couldn’t pull the nets in because they were so full (Jn 21:5-6). The Gospel of Luke (5:4-6) tells us that when Jesus first called Peter and his first disciples in was in the context of another miracle just like this one. This memory helps John clue it, “It’s the Lord!” (Jn 21:7). Then Peter (in typical Peter style) jumps into the water and swims to shore. When he gets there he finds Jesus cooking breakfast on a charcoal fire. … I wonder if Peter had a little cringe as he sat with Jesus around that charcoal fire, maybe thinking about the fire in the high priest’s courtyard. Jesus, probably sensing Peter’s shame, turns to him and asks him, ”Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” He doesn’t call him Peter, he calls him by his original name, “Simon”, which can mean something like “shifting sands”. And Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. And Jesus asks him again, and again Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. And he asks again a third time and we read that Peter felt hurt. Maybe this reminded him of his three-fold betrayal. Peter responds the third time “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:15-17). The three “I love you’s” undo the three denials and welcome him back into the fold.

I think there might be more going on here than meets the eye. If you look into the Greek there is something strange happening, some don’t make a big deal out of it, but I think it’s strange enough to point out. No doubt many of you have heard teachings on the different words for love in Greek. Two of those words are used in this exchange between Peter and Jesus. One of those words is “Philos”. Philos is the love you have for very close family and friends. It is a deep love. It’s is not necessarily an unbreakable love. We all know stories of families or friends who have had a falling out. It is a powerful love, but it is breakable. 
“Agape” is the other word for love used in this exchange between Peter and Jesus. Agape was used by Christians to mean a self-giving, sacrificial, and unconditional love. It is an unbreakable love. The highest of the loves. Philos and agape are both very high loves, but agape seems to have been understood as a higher love. When Jesus turns to Peter he asks him “do you agape me?” Do you love me with the highest love? And Peter responds, “Lord, you know that I philos you”. And Jesus asks him a second time, “Do you agape me?” And again Peter responds, “Lord, you know that I philos you”. And Jesus asks him a third time, and this is the time it makes Peter sad, Jesus asks, “Peter do you philos me?” Jesus switches from asking Peter for agape and instead asks him for philos, which was what Peter was offering all along.

What does this mean? Maybe it’s nothing, but I wonder if this shows a new humility in Peter? This is the same Peter who said even if everyone else betrays you I will die with you… but then denies him three times. Could it be that Peter realized that maybe he doesn’t have agape to give. In humility and honesty maybe he realizes that all he has to offer is philos. And in Jesus’ last question Jesus drops the bar from agape to philos so Peter can reach it. He meets Peter where he is at. … When Peter first met Jesus in his boat, when he had the first miraculous catch of fish, Peter looks to Jesus saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Jesus called him knowing he wasn’t perfect.

Those of us who are living as baptized people have made vows to be more than we are. The life we promise to live is bigger than we are. We can’t do it on our own. We need Christ and his body to draw us into that new life. … Our Lord, knows he did not call perfect people. You will mess up as you try to follow Jesus and minister to his flock, his “least of these”, and his “little ones”. I hold many names and faces of people I have disappointed in my mind. That memory causes me to wince in pain. And once in a while I will pass by a charcoal fire and I will cringe and pound my fist into my chest saying “Have mercy on me Lord”- “how can you stand to have me as one of your disciples”. …. And I will hear his voice, as I hope you hear it, “do you love me?” And with everything we can muster (whether that be philos or agape) we respond, “Yes, Lord you know that I love you”. And he will say again, “follow me”. It is a calling we have to answer every day with the rising sun. And as we follow him he will lead us into agape. The ministry Jesus calls you into is as much for Jesus to save you as it is to minister to others. It is through following his lead that we will become who we were created to be.

And he will draw us into a deeper and deeper love. He will draw us into agape. Our love will deepen as we care for his sheep (Jn 21:15, 16, 17), for his “little ones” and for his “least of these”. In following his call to his flock we come into the fullness of who we were always created to be.

Peter learned to give it all as he tended to the flock of Christ. He learned self-sacrificial agape love. Holding nothing back Peter would later ‘stretch out [his] hands, and another [would] dress him and carry him where he didn’t want to go’ (Jn 21:18-19). Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified under the persecutions of Emperor Nero in about 64 AD, but not feeling worthy to die in the same manner of the Lord he loved so much, he asked to be crucified upside-down. Peter learned a love that held nothing back. In answering Jesus’ call on your life may you been drawn deeply into his self-sacrificial love. AMEN

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Jn 20:19-31

We often call Thomas “Doubting Thomas”, but he doesn’t really deserve that reputation. Thomas doesn’t really doubt any more than any of the other disciples. …When Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds the body of Jesus missing, she doesn’t think ‘resurrection’. She thinks ‘grave robber’. She only believes when Jesus appears to her.

Mary tells the other disciples that she has seen Jesus, but they are pretty skeptical about her story. They were still full of fear and hiding behind locked doors. They knew the body of Jesus was missing, but maybe it was a trap. Maybe Mary had been seeing things in her grief. It doesn’t seem like they believe until Jesus actually appears to them, mysteriously appearing in their locked room.

But one disciple wasn’t at that gathering- Thomas wasn’t there. I’m sure he heard Mary’s story. Then I’m sure he heard the disciples’ story. … But, grief can do strange things to people. He probably thinks everyone around him is going crazy.

Thomas describes the conditions by which he will change his mind, (probably being a bit facetious)- “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” It is just too much. It is too big a thing to believe without seeing it himself. This is how Thomas gets his nickname- “Doubting Thomas”.

But, he’s not asking for anything that hasn’t been given to the other disciples. Mary didn’t believe until Jesus was standing right in front of her saying her name. The Disciples didn’t really believe until Jesus stood among them saying “Peace be with you” and showing them his scars. Thomas is merely asking for what has been granted to the other disciples.

We aren’t really that different from those disciples in the first century. Believing is hard- especially when we are talking about a miracle like the resurrection of Jesus. Most of us find it pretty easy to relate to Thomas’ skepticism. We want to see it in order to believe it.

We are constantly being sold something- literally and figuratively. Commercials are trying to convince us that if we buy that new kitchen gadget our lives will be changed for the better. If you don’t recognize the number on your call display, you will answer with skepticism, sure that there is a telemarketer on the other end. Political parties want to convince us that their ideas will lead to a utopia. People use social media to manufacture an image to present to the world. We are surrounded by attempts to convince us of this and that, and many of those ideas are contradictory.

We do have to make decisions, though. We have to believe in something. We have to decide what is important to us. We have to have values that direct our lives. How do we know what is right and wrong? What is true? What is real? We have to decide who we are, and who we belong to. … It is also important to consider the consequences of the belief. What kind of a person will we become if we believe it? Are we more likely to become a good and kind person? Or a selfish and cruel person? Will be become courageous or fearful? What are the consequences for a society if we believe these things?

What kind of information do we need in order to believe? We tend to value empirical evidence. That’s the kind Thomas is looking for- touching, seeing. We value the science of repeated testing, video recording, and dissection. We want to be able to put it in a test tube. We value that kind of evidence. Not every truth worth believing in can be examined this way, though. … Things like beauty and love and morals aren’t based on the scientific method.

Thomas is asked to trust the word of his close friends- even that is hard to do when it comes to a miracle. … But what about trusting the words of those we never knew? Are we to believe the witness of the disciples? Trust is hard for us- People hallucinate. People lie. People make mistakes.

This is actually a question for history in general. How can we trust what someone has said or written about past events and people? How do we know about Napoleon, or Nero, or Henry the 8th? Really, we only know because someone told us about them. We dig up a cannon ball and connect it to Napoleon, but it is because of the story that has been told to us that we make that connection.

As Christians we don’t want to be naïve. Scripture tells is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. And John’s first letter chapter 4 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We are not to believe everything that comes our way. We are to be discerning.

Thomas is not naïve and has stated the conditions under which he will believe. Thomas has to “see the nail marks in his hands and put [his] finger where the nails were, and put [his] hand into his side”. If Jesus allows Thomas to do these experiments, then he will believe. Until he is permitted to do this experiment, he will not believe.

Surprisingly, Jesus offers himself up to Thomas’ experiment one week later on the first day of the week- Sunday. We don’t know if Thomas actually did the experiment, but when Jesus appears Thomas believes and utters the profound statement, “My Lord and my God!” which is the climax of the Gospel of John. Jesus is Lord and God!

Thomas believes because he sees. In the Gospel of John some believe on the basis of direct experience. Seeing the resurrected Jesus- Touching Jesus- Hearing Jesus- this leads to believing that he has been resurrected. This is the kind of evidence we want. We want to touch his scars- to hug him- to talk to him. But, of course, this kind of evidence is not available to us. … Jesus promises a blessing for those who believe without having seen- That means believing on the basis of what trustworthy witnesses have said. We are asked to trust the words of those who experienced the risen Jesus Christ. Do we trust their story?

In February of 2010, Canada's last known First World War veteran, John Babcock, died at age 109. He was the last Canadian who could tell us directly about what it was like to be a part of the First World War. From now on we will have to rely on recorded words. We have to rely on the stories they have passed onto us. ... There was a point when the last of the original disciples who experienced the resurrected Jesus died. What we have left are their stories.

Is their story worth believing? … There are good reasons to believe their story. I think there are good reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as a historical reality. That isn’t always what we are looking for. Usually the question we want answered is, does believing in the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives?

The Early disciples went from a group of scared disciples huddled behind locked doors to proclaiming Jesus right in the midst of those who put Jesus to death and across the known world. … There is evidence that Thomas went to India teaching about the way of Jesus. There are Indian Christians who trace their roots back to the preaching of Thomas. They actually call themselves Thomas Christians (Also known as Malabar, or Nasranis). … So, as a consequence of their belief, these disciples were strengthened, they were emboldened, and they were set free from the fear of death. The “peace” Jesus spoke over them became a lived reality.

I believe that same peace can be available to us as we follow the teachings of Jesus. That is what we hope for our children when we baptize them. We hope they will live inspired lives. We hope they will grow to be compassionate and kind. We hope they will stand up for what is right even in dangerous circumstances. We don’t want them to be crippled by fear. We want them to be free to live because they know the peace of the resurrected Christ.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." We are not able to touch his scars, but we have been given the words of those who did. And their lives were transformed. When we see the effect this belief had on those early believers, that is a kind of evidence. We want that effect for us too.

We don’t always have all the proof we want. We cannot reach out and touch God with our microscopes and telescopes. We can't measure God with a thermometer. Doubt, for most of us will just be a part of what it means to be human. ... This does not leave us hopeless. We are invited to trust the stories of those who did encounter him. … Through their stories we can mysteriously encounter him too. Amen.

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