Sunday, March 27, 2016

SEE FOR YOURSELF by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

We gathered here Thursday night to celebrate Holy Communion. We remembered the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. But our service was more than a remembrance. In Holy Communion, we experience the living presence of Jesus. He is with us in the bread and the wine. He feeds us for the journey of the Christian life. 

Then on Friday, we gathered in downtown Maumee and walked the way of the cross. Volunteers carried a big heavy cross down the street, wondering what it might have felt like for Jesus to carry that cross to Golgotha. We read the story of his trial and his crucifixion. We were there once again as he breathed his last breath. We felt the agony, along with the disciples and the women, of the death of Jesus. Because you see on that first Friday, they did not know about Easter. They just knew about death.

But today, we get the joyful Easter story (Luke 24: 1-2 for those following along from far).  The women go to the tomb, expecting to anoint Jesus’ body with oil for burial. Instead they meet two men, perhaps they are angels, because there clothes are dazzling. The men say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” The women remember. They go back to tell the eleven disciples and all the rest. But the scripture says, the women’s words “seem to them an idle tale and they do not believe them.”  

Peter has to see for himself. So he runs to the tomb. When he finds it empty, and sees the linen burial cloths lying there with no body, he believes. He goes back home amazed at what had happened. You see Peter would not believe in the Risen Christ because of what the women said, he had to see for himself. 

That’s what they say: seeing is believing. But we weren’t there. We don’t get to see first-hand, do we?  We have to take this story on faith. For over 2000 years people have taken this story on faith. We believe in the risen Christ because of the witness of the women, and Peter and the other disciples. We believe because we choose to believe. Because life with the risen Christ is better than life without the risen Christ, plain and simple. 

As human beings we need hope, don’t we? And the resurrection gives us hope, hope that death does not have the final word. The powers and principalities of this world thought they could destroy Jesus. But they could not. They could not destroy the power of love. Jesus rose from the dead. And proved that we have eternal life with our God. 

Jesus still lives today. That is the good news. Peter believed because he saw the empty tomb. The disciples also saw Jesus in the next few days. He appeared to them. But I would argue that Jesus is still appearing to us 2000 years later. We can see Jesus. We can see Jesus for ourselves. 

Think about it. When have you seen the risen Christ? When have you seen the power of God in the world? We see him every day in the kindness of strangers and in the courage of people to do justice. I saw Jesus at T and Z’s wedding. There were several moments when I saw Jesus. But I’ll tell you about one. During the first dance, Beth fell and hit her head. Yes, it was embarrassing. And yes, it sort of blew the moment of the first dance, but that’s okay, they did a do-over of the first dance later. 

But here is where I saw Jesus: in all the people who responded to Beth. Immediately people surrounded her with care. There were two people trained as first responders in the crowd. One of them, Jackie, held her head as if it were in a neck brace until the EMT’s arrived. Kristen held her hand and whispered a prayer in her ear. Rachel and I stood nearby and also prayed. Others found her purse and keys and drove her car to the hospital. There was a crowd there at the emergency room with her, so many that I had to wait my turn to get in to see her. We were the living Christ for Beth. Sure, she was in pain. But she felt surrounded by the love of her friends who were being Christ for her. We saw Jesus that night in the people who were caring for Beth. 

Let me tell you another story. I had the occasion once to see a teacher teaching in a classroom of teen-agers. I don’t know about you, but I would find that terrifying.  I will tell you that the teacher was Jesus in the situation. He looked the teen-agers in the eye and spoke to them like human beings, something we adults don’t often do. He listened to them. He connected with him. He spoke their language, not in a fake way, but sincerely. Again, that’s a hard thing to do with teen-agers. The man was full of compassion and patience. He wanted them to learn and he was going to do whatever it took to help them learn. The teacher was Jesus for those students. 

When have you seen Jesus?  I have seen Jesus downtown on a Saturday morning with Food for Thought. They used to gather in the park next to the library and give out those sack lunches with peanut butter sandwiches to the homeless. One year Christmas was on a Saturday, and they still went down there. Becca, Kurt and I went down there on Christmas morning. In one area I saw people giving sack lunches to people. In another area there were people serving up a hot meal. In yet another area people could get warm clean socks from the Hannah’s socks project. We were working in the hygiene area where people could get toothpaste, toothbrushes and razors. Becca had meticulously tied a red ribbon on a couple hundred razors because we heard that was something the homeless needed. People were interacting with one another, having conversations, and wishing one another a Merry Christmas. I saw Jesus on the faces of all the people who were gathered in the park that Saturday morning, both those giving provisions, and those receiving. Because remember, we’re told that when we feed the poor we are really feeding Jesus.   You can participate in this ministry this coming Saturday.  Come join us at 9:45 AM at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Toledo.

Where have you seen the Risen Christ? Where have you seen someone perform an ordinary act of kindness that became extraordinary in the moment? The act becomes extraordinary when we invite Jesus into our midst. The Risen Christ wants to be with us every day. He is waiting for us to invite him into our lives. 

We invite Jesus into our lives when we live for him and live in his way. We can see Jesus for ourselves, because Jesus lives in us. His spirit lives in us. We can be Jesus for one another. This is the miracle of Easter. Jesus Christ did not die. He lives in us. We have the power to change the world. With every action we do, we have the power to change the world. 

So what does that mean? When we approach a situation, we pay attention to Jesus living in us. We ask Jesus, “What would you do in this situation?” And that is what we do. We live out the values of Jesus: compassion, kindness, justice, and generosity. I know there are times we think this is too hard. I’ve been there. We feel anger welling up inside of us. We have been wronged and we want to respond with vengeance. This is when we remember that the living Christ lives in us, and we calm our anger. 

There are times that we want to hold on to what we have. We don’t want to be generous. We are afraid we won’t have enough if we give some of it away. That is when we remember that the living Christ lives in us and we live generously. There are people who don’t deserve our compassion and kindness. They are mean and cruel. They have hurt us. That is when we remember that the living Christ lives in us and we dig deep down inside and find a way to live with compassion and kindness. 

You see, we learned on that Easter morning that God did not die. God overcame death. And so we live as a people of hope. We live with the living Christ inside of us. We can see Jesus every day in our own actions and in the actions of people who are filled with God’s love. So, my friends, look for Jesus. You will see him. And be Jesus. You can be Jesus for one another. Jesus is alive. He lives in you! Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not Guilty by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Patti Lusher)

In June of 2015, members of Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston SC were gunned down while attending Bible Study. A few days later their family members appeared in court and made statements. One came from Nadine Collier, daughter of victim Ethel Lance. She said: “I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.” (Source: To forgive the killer of your own mother takes a deep faith. One by one the members of Emmanuel AME church made similar statements, saying they would not give room for hate in their lives. These folks have learned the teachings of Jesus and they are living them out through the most tragic of circumstances.
In today’s reading, we see how Jesus forgave, and calls us to be a forgiving people. Let’s start by remembering Jesus’ trial. He was first brought to Pontius Pilate the Prefect, or Governor of Judea. He was accused by the Jewish leaders of not paying taxes to Rome, of perverting their nation, and saying he was the Messiah, or King of the Jews. Of course it was a crime to presume to be a King because the Emperor of Rome was the supreme ruler of the land. Pontius Pilate did not want to get caught up in the petty religious quarrels of the locals. He questioned Jesus and told the High Priests that he saw no reason to make an accusation againstJesus.
They persisted. They said he was stirring up the people in Judea and in his home region of Galilee. When Pontius Pilate heard he was from Galilee that gave him an out. Herod was in town and Herod was the regional ruler over Galilee. So Pilate sent Jesus to Herod to have him deal with this business. 

Herod was eager to meet Jesus because he had heard so much about him. He questioned Jesus at length but Jesus remained silent. The chief priests were livid. In the end Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the chief priests that neither he nor Herod found any fault with Jesus. He was not guilty. So Pilate was going to give him a flogging and set him free. 

There was a tradition that at this time of year that one prisoner could be released to the Jews. The crowd began to shout that they wanted Barabbas to be released rather than Jesus. Barabbas had been part of the insurrection. Of Jesus, the crowd shouted: ‘’Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked why because he found no guilt in this man. Pilate said he did not deserve to die. The crowd would not be swayed. 

In the end, Pilate sent an innocent man to his death. Jesus was handed over to be crucified. 

Jesus carried his own cross up the long path to the place called The Skull and there he was crucified with two criminals, one on his left and one on his right. These are the first words he said on the cross: “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Can you imagine? He asked for forgiveness for his enemies.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Pagano points out that it’s not unusual for a person to pray in times of distress. Think about it. When you get punched in the gut, when you get devastating news, when your heart is broken, when your world stops because of something awful, your first response may be to pray. (Source:  

        But if you’re like most people yours will be a prayer for yourself. “Lord, help me, I’m in big trouble here and I need you.” “God save me from this adversity.” “Lord, heal me.” 

But Jesus does not pray to God and ask for a way out. He does not even pray for his friends and family and those who will be left behind (ibid). He does not pray for his mother Mary and ask God to protect her. He does not pray for his disciples and ask God to give them strength to carry on the mission. 

The first people Jesus prays for on the cross are his enemies, those who are killing him. And he asks God to forgive them (ibid). Because you see, Jesus knows what it means to have a forgiving heart. He does not know how to hate. He can’t conceive of it. He is so full of love that there is no room in his heart for hatred, only love and compassion. This is what it means to be one with God: to be full of love. 

Pagano writes: “With these words, with this prayer, everything changes. These may be the most revolutionary and transformative words ever spoken in human history. “Forgive my enemies, for they know not what they do.” With this prayer, Christ takes all of the hatred and all of the violence and all of the vengeance of the world and says, ‘Enough’” (ibid).

We’ve had enough of the violence and counter-violence that spiral out of control. It has to end. Enough. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” With these words Jesus takes away violence and hatred and replaces them with reconciliation and peace. 

With his words he calls us to reconciliation and peace. If Jesus can forgive those who crucified him, who might we forgive? They don’t ask for forgiveness and yet he forgives them anyway. Think of all the people who have wronged you in your life. I’m sure the list is long. Perhaps just start with those who have wronged you in the past week. Still, I imagine you can think of a few. If Jesus could forgive the people who put him to death, can you forgive these people on your list for whatever they have done? Because you see, when you carry around hatred and resentment for another person, you are the one who suffers. 

And what about forgiving yourself? I think this is a big one for most of us. We spend so much time and energy beating up on ourselves for things we have done and things we have failed to do. We think we are a failure. But Jesus forgives us even before we ask. Why would we not forgive ourselves? Why carry around a burden when Jesus gives us the opportunity to let it go, just like that? Forgiveness is a powerful force in our world. 

But there is even more to this story. Across the ages people have asked the question: why did Jesus have to die anyway? What was the purpose of his death? There are various answers, called theologies of atonement. One describes “Christ’s death as a substitution for our own,” another describes “Christ paying the penalty for [our] sin.” Yet another says the death is “the victory Christ wins over death and the devil.” (David Lose, source: 

I like what David Lose has to say about this. The important question is not why Jesus died but for whom. At the last supper, as Jesus took the bread and blessed it and said, “This is my body which is given for you.”  (ibid). 

Those last two words, for you, make all the difference. He died for those disciples, even Judas who would betray him, and Peter who would deny him. He died for them because he loved them. He died for us because he loves us too. He suffers an excruciating death, so that we might see the power of new life in his resurrection. He dies so that we might have hope in life. 

Jesus died for you and for me. Jesus was a gentle soul. He loved with every fiber of his being. He even loved those who would kill him. He forgave them. He loved his disciples, even when they failed him. He loves you and me. He knows we are imperfect and we make mistakes and yet he loved us enough to go to the cross and die. He could have saved himself but he did not. 

And so he calls us to live as his people. This means we forgive one another. Even when it’s really hard to do. We forgive because Jesus forgave. And he calls us to live as a people who, though we are imperfect, are still full of his love. Jesus gave his life so we might know the fullness of God’s love for us. So as we go through this Holy Week and move toward a glorious Easter Sunday, remember that Jesus gave his life for you, because he loves you. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Act of Love by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Patti Lusher)

Two members of our church are getting married this afternoon. Their wedding has given me a chance to reflect on commitment and relationships and what they’re all about. When I counsel with couples who are getting married, I always ask each person in the couple, “Why do you want to marry this other person?” I get a variety of reasons. But one of the most common is this, “She accepts me for who I am, I can be my true self with her.”
Isn’t that what we all want? To be fully known and accepted. One of my favorite definitions for intimacy is this: to know and to be known. I think intimacy is what we are looking for in a life partner. Most people define intimacy as emotional closeness. The website Men and Intimacy defines intimacy in this way: “It occurs when two people are able to be emotionally open with one another, and reveal their true feelings, thoughts, fears and desires. This can only occur when both people are able to genuinely trust one another, and feel able to take the risk of being vulnerable.” (Source:
Two of those factors are crucial: trust and vulnerability. When we trust someone we can let down our guard and let our true selves show, warts and all. In an intimate relationship, the two people trust one another to be honest and to be faithful. It takes time to build this kind of trust. And when this trust is broken it can take a very long time to restore it.
Vulnerability is another part of intimacy. It is related to trust. In vulnerability we show the dark underbelly of our personalities. We confess our sins. We share our fears. We show our weaknesses. We can’t always be strong and if we are going to be in an intimate relationship, we have to be willing to be vulnerable.
Intimacy can happen in a primary relationship of a married couple who decide to make a life long commitment. But it can also be shared between two good friends. Intimacy happens anytime we let down our guard and let our true selves be known.
Our scripture for today is a story of intimacy. Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus were known to be close friends of Jesus. He often stayed at their house in Bethany when he was traveling that way. Not long before we pick up our story for today, Jesus had actually restored Lazarus to life after he had died. This family was indebted to Jesus.
In this story we find ourselves six days before Passover, the Passover that is the time of Jesus’ death. Mary, Martha and Lazarus ask Jesus to stay at their home for dinner and Jesus and his disciples accept the invitation. Martha serves the dinner. You may remember from another story about Mary and Martha that Martha was usually in the kitchen working hard, and Mary usually sat at Jesus feet taking in his every word.
On this night Mary did a very peculiar thing. “Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.” The disciples were shocked by the act. Judas was outraged and said that the oil could have been sold for a large sum of money and the money could have been used to care for the poor. The scripture says he really did not care about the poor. He was the keeper of the disciples’ treasury and he would steal from it. Nonetheless, they were all taken aback by Mary’s act.
Jesus scolds them and says: “Leave her alone. She is anticipating my burial. You will always have the poor with you but you will not always have me with you!” He puts them in their place. But what of this act of Mary?
She is bold in showing her love for Jesus. She is drawing all these people into an intimate moment between her and Jesus and quite frankly, it makes them uncomfortable. You see, a woman would not usually remove her head covering in public in front of men. Mary let down her hair and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair.  And think about it, massaging someone’s feet is a very intimate act, in those days usually reserved for husband and wife. Rev. Chana Tetzlaff writes: “Mary is shameless as she steps far outside the bounds of convention, teetering on the edge of scandal.  Mary’s actions are laced with a wanton tenderness found between married couples, not an unmarried man and woman.” (Source:  Remember that Jesus often crossed the line of the social conventions for women of his day. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He forgave the woman caught in adultery. Scholars throughout the centuries have asked themselves whether something more was going on here between Mary and Jesus. Chana Tetzlaff writes: “Of course there was something going on between them. Mary has fallen in love with the Christ, with God the gracious lover of souls, who looks with compassion and a multitude of mercies upon all who turn to him for help. Like others throughout millennia, like the Disciples … like Paul, like you and me, … Mary is in love with the God who loves her. Mary adores the God who adores her.”
Mary shows her love for Jesus in a scandalous way, but she is preparing him for burial. In her grief, her love knows no bounds. She has been known by Jesus for all she is. He accepts her and loves her. They had an intimate relationship that a savior has with a beloved disciple. Mary makes herself vulnerable because that is what a person does in the presence of the Christ. One opens one’s heart to the truth of who one is. One confesses and lays bare one’s soul.
So what does this say for us, 2000 years later? Is it possible for us to have this sort of intimacy with God? Well, intimacy with God is similar to human intimacy, but different. Because you see, as Matt Slick writes: “To have an intimate relationship with God means that the deepest part of you is having a relationship with a deep part of God. Of course, we cannot fathom the deepest part of God.” (Source: But Jesus is God in the flesh as a mediator, so this means that we can have intimacy with him (ibid). We are called into koinonia, which means fellowship, also translated communion, with Jesus Christ. This communion refers to the communion supper and at that supper Jesus humbled himself by becoming susceptible to death. This humility is the key to true intimacy with God. Matt Slick writes: “As Christ was humble to the point of death, so we, too, must be humble to the point of death, that is, death to ourselves, our selfish desires, our personal wants. When compared to God, our purpose should not be to see what we can get from [God]. It should be to glorify [God] and to love [God]” (ibid).
So if we want intimacy with Jesus, then we are to put aside our selfish desires and our sins and simply love Jesus. Easier said than done. But this is the goal, to open ourselves to Jesus, to know and be known. To be fully ourselves in the presence of Jesus. This means letting our true selves be seen and being vulnerable. I don’t know any other way to do this, than in prayer. In prayer, we open ourselves to Jesus. We confess our sins, our fears, our failures, our vulnerabilities. We lay it out there before Jesus. Because Jesus has already laid it all out there for us by dying on the cross. Jesus humbled himself even to death, and invites us to die to ourselves that we might live for him.
Can we lay our souls bare before Jesus and be honest about who we are? Can we love Jesus with everything we have, not holding anything back? Not equivocating. Can we give our whole selves to Jesus, not just our Sunday morning selves? This is what Mary, in her boldness, invites us to do. To love Jesus with our whole selves. To be vulnerable, and to allow Jesus to love us in return. Intimacy is a blessing. Amen.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Son Returns by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

Which son are you? There are two sons in today’s story (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 from the Message paraphrase for those who are following along from afar). The Partier, usually known as the Prodigal Son, and the Perfect son, usually known as the older brother. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. 

Let’s start with the Partier. He is a free thinker. He could be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. He does not want to hang around raising sheep and goats like his dad. He wants to move to the big city. He has big ideas. Perhaps he wanted to take that money, his share of the family inheritance, and do something with it – start up a business or invest in some creative new idea. But somehow the Partier got off track. He got to the city and was taken in by the fun. He got in with the wrong crowd and began to par-ty! He played hard. He probably got into the drug scene, which we all know can spend down the cash fast. He spent money on prostitutes and other wild living. 

There are so many other ways that we get off track, aren’t there? Nancy Rockwell gives a good list:
“Some are infamous. The fellow who just got out of jail last week, and has moved back in with his mother.
“Some just make you roll your eyes. The young woman who’s saddled her mother with a second ‘accidental’ child.
“And some the family manages to keep on the downlow – the daughter in rehab, the son who can’t keep a job. They haven’t squandered big money, but they’ve squandered their youth, and chances they had to make something of themselves. Or, the spouse who has maxed out the charge cards, who has used shopping as a stress medication. Now the couple works extra jobs on what were supposed to be days off, passing with the neighbors as hard-workers.
“The thing is, none of our prodigals got into their messes alone. Haven’t we all helped someone to Just have one more before you go. Or:  I’d never forgive him, never. Or: Don’t worry about what people say, go for it. Or:  That’s a big salary. I’m really proud of you, son. Or: Go ahead, treat yourself. It’s only money.” (Source:

The Partier in the story takes his family inheritance before his father dies, and goes into the city. He wastes all of his money and then a famine hits the land. He takes a job feeding pigs and realizes that the pigs are eating better than he is. 

The Partier comes to his senses and decides to go home and ask his dad for a job as a hired hand. It’s really all he deserves after what he has done. He can only hope his father will give him this other chance. 

When he goes home, his father sees the Partier from a distance, and runs to him, embraces him and gives him a kiss. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ But the father pays no attention. He immediately calls to his servants and asks for clean clothes and the family ring and calls for a feast with the best heifer on the lot. “My son was lost and now he is found.” 

The Partier has gone from being a big loser to being the most favored son. He does not deserve this. He wasted his inheritance. How can this be? What happened? 

A parent’s love is what happened. If you are a parent, you know. If you are a child who had a good parent, you know. A good parent will forgive anything because this is your child, the one whose diapers you changed, the one you taught to ride a bike. This is the child who was a moody teen-ager, you know the one. You endured that because you love your child. This is the child who broke your heart so many times when she made bad choices. And over and over again, when she came back, you forgave her. She would come crying back into your arms and of course you would forgive her. That’s what parents do. 

Jesus told this story to show how much God loves us. You can be the Partier, and run away from God. You can waste your life and do foolish things. And when you return, God will throw a big party. All is forgiven. There is no penance. You don’t have to prove yourself to God. You don’t have to wash God’s car for a month. (No, I don’t think God has a car.) 

I wonder how that Partier felt when the father took him back and threw him a party. Did he feel guilty? Did he feel unworthy and shameful? I hope he felt blessed. I hope he felt immense joy. That is what I want you to feel when you hear the good news that God loves you no matter what. I hope you shout from the rooftops: I am loved! I hope you celebrate with your friends. So this is the good news from the first part of the story with the brother who is the Partier.

Then comes the second brother, the Perfect son. Perhaps you identify more with him. Perfect son is a great kid. He always cleaned his plate when he was little; he made his bed and did his chores. Now as a grown man he helps his father run the family business of herding sheep and goats. Perfect son is responsible. He always comes home on time. He does what is expected of him. He never worries his parents. I see some of you out there.

He could not believe it when his younger brother, the Partier, asked for his inheritance before their father had died. What an insult! On second thought, he was not surprised at all. His younger brother had been a screw up all his life. The older brother, Perfect son, had always had to clean up the messes of Partier. 

So imagine how Perfect son felt the day his long lost brother came home. Perfect son came in from the fields after a hard day’s work. He heard music and asked a house servant what was going on. The servant said, “Your brother, the Partier, has returned and we have killed the fatted calf and your father has called for a celebration.” 

Now what do you suppose Perfect son did? He went off to his room to sulk, a good, old fashioned sulk.   How could this be? How could his wretched brother be getting a party? 

His father came to talk with him and Perfect son would not listen. He said, “Look how I have served you faithfully all these years. I have not given you one day of grief. When have you ever given a party for me and my friends? And my miserable brother, the Partier, comes home after wasting his money on prostitutes, and you throw him a party.”

The father said, ‘[Perfect] Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and now he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

We don’t know how the Perfect son reacted after that. The story ends abruptly there. He may have lived the rest of his life resenting his younger brother. I hope not. I hope that by God’s grace his heart was softened and he came to forgive his brother and welcome him home. 

But if you identify with the Perfect son, you know it’s hard. It’s hard when you play by the rules and then someone who does not play by the rules still gets God’s love. But that’s why we call it grace. Grace is a gift. Grace is God’s love for all people. There are no exceptions. 

God loved the Perfect son AND God loved the Partier just the same, with the fullness of God’s love. That is the beauty of grace. Of course God is sad when we waste our lives away. But God still loves us. That is the message of this story. 

So how about you? Do you identify more with the Perfect son? Have you lived your life playing by the rules? Even if you try, it’s impossible to be perfect all the time. Or are you the Partier? Are you a rebel? Either way, there is a place for you in God’s family. That is the good news! Neither one is better or worse than the other. They each come to God in their own way. 

It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around this truth. Our culture values the Perfect son more. We judge the Partier. We want them to come around. But God stands ready, with arms open wide, to receive them both. God stands ready, with arms open wide, to receive each one of us. God knows you, and God loves you. No matter how much you mess up. Even if you try to be perfect. Either way. God loves you. What a blessing! Amen.