Sunday, July 31, 2016

Could be worse

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23     
Common English Bible (CEB) 

2:1 Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher, perfectly pointless. Everything is pointless. 

12 I am the Teacher. I was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to investigate and to explore by wisdom all that happens under heaven. It’s an unhappy obsession that God has given to human beings. 14 When I observed all that happens under the sun, I realized that everything is pointless, a chasing after wind.

2:18 I hated the things I worked so hard for here under the sun, because I will have to leave them to someone who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that one will be wise or foolish? Either way, that person will have control over the results of all my hard work and wisdom here under the sun. That too is pointless. 20 I then gave myself up to despair, as I thought about all my laborious hard work under the sun, 21 because sometimes those who have worked hard with wisdom, knowledge, and skill must leave the results of their hard work as a possession to those who haven’t worked hard for it. This too is pointless—it’s a terrible wrong. 22 I mean, What do people get for all their hard work and struggles under the sun? 23 All their days are pain, and their work is aggravation; even at night, their hearts don’t find rest. This too is pointless.


King Solomon.  Son of David and Bathsheba.  Considered one of the prophets by both Judaism and Islam.  Both the Bible and the Qur’an describe him as the third king of a united Israel, a just and wise ruler.  The book of Kings tells us that when Solomon first became king, he prayed to God asking only for wisdom, not wealth or power or even the death of his enemies.  God was so pleased by this prayer that Solomon was rewarded not just with wisdom, but with permission to build the Temple, which would stand for 300 years.  We all probably know the story of the two women who came before his court, each claiming the same child as her own.  With no evidence to help him determine which woman was the true mother, Solomon declared the child would be cut in half and each woman would then receive half a child.  The mother who said, “No, give him to her,” was declared to be the true mother, thus proving his wisdom.  He is said to have written several books of the Bible - Proverbs, The Song of Songs (or Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and The Wisdom of Solomon (or Ecclesiasticus.)    According to the Bible he had 700 wives, all princesses whom he married as part of treaties made with their fathers, as well as 300 concubines.  Solomon’s fame as a wise and wealthy ruler spread so far that the Bible tells us the Queen of Sheba came to meet him, bringing gifts of gold, jewels and spices, all the way from that part of Africa we know as Ethiopia and Somolia.   Legend claims that the Lost Mines which were a source of Solomon’s wealth are still waiting to be found by Indiana Jones.  There is, in fact, some archeological evidence of copper mines in the area around what was known as Edom, which was a vassal of Israel in King Solomon’s time, which might indeed be the Mines of Solomon.   I love it when archeology confirms Biblical stories.  

This great man, this wealthy and powerful man, this man who had everything anyone could ever dream of, is the very same person who wrote the words we heard read just a few moments ago.  “It’s pointless!  Perfectly pointless!  Everything is pointless!”  His observation of humanity tells him nothing lasts.  Chasing wisdom and knowledge is chasing after the wind.  Accumulating great wealth means he has to leave it all to someone who may fritter it all away.  All his hard work, for nothing. It’s pointless!  When I read this, all I could think of was Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh books.  So sad, all the time.  “It could be worse,” Eeyore says. “I’m not sure how, but it could be.”  

Eeyore really can’t help himself.  He is as he was designed to be: a character in a children’s book, a stuffed animal who is loved dearly by all his friends even though he is always so very sad. He’s even blue, a color traditionally associated with sadness.  In the last couple of years he has been sort of adopted as a mascot by some counseling and therapy communities to help friends and family deal with people living with depression, in large part because of a quote that seems to have originated on George Takei’s Facebook page.  “One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is basically clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends.  And they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they just love him anyway, and they never leave him behind or ask him to change.”  And Eeyore does have some legitimate issues.  His tail falls off and gets lost all the time. His house falls down regularly and has to be rebuilt.  A raincloud follows him around most of the time, while he spends his days searching for thistles, which are his favorite food.  Even his birthday party turned into a disaster, which doesn’t mean he didn’t love his gifts - a popped balloon and an empty honey pot.  (And I think we all know why the honey pot was empty, hmmm?)    

Solomon was not Eeyore.  He did have 700 wives, 300 concubines and an uncounted number of children. That alone must have been stressful!  He was the ruler over Israel’s 12 contentious tribes plus a number of vassal kingdoms, each of which brought its own issues.  He was called upon to make decisions on everything from who gave birth to a particular child to how trade was to be conducted between Israel and other nations - allies and enemies alike.  And by this point in his life he had displeased God pretty significantly.  Those 700 wives?  They all brought their own gods and their own priests and their own forms of worship into his house.  He built altars and temples for those other gods.  He even, it is said, participated in worshipping them.  He had stopped being faithful to Yahweh, Lord God of Israel, who had given him his throne, his wisdom and all the blessings he had accumulated.  One story claims that when the Queen of Sheba came to Israel, she and Solomon became lovers, and that the son from that relationship was the direct ancestor of Nebuchadnezzar II, who would come along 300 years later, tear down Solomon’s Temple and take the people of Judah into their exile in Babylon.  This was Solomon’s punishment for disobedience, according to the rabbis.    

Sidebar:   When I say “according to the rabbis” what I am usually talking about is something called Midrash, a collection of stories dating back thousands of years and continuing into the present, intended to help explain some of the odd bits in scripture.  Like this story.  The Bible only tells us that the Queen of Sheba visited, but stories abound that fill in some blanks and make connections.  

Solomon was right, in a way.  His son Rehoboam, the heir to his kingdom, was an entitled twit.  Immediately upon coming to the throne, he told the leaders of the tribes that he was going to be even more demanding than his father, that he was raising taxes and drafting all their sons and daughters into servitude.  This did not go over well.  Ten of the tribes seceded, creating the Northern Kingdoms, also known in the Bible as the nation of Israel - a completely separate entity from Judah and Benjamin (and a source of some confusion when we read the prophets).  They would build their own Temple and have their own priests, never again coming to Jerusalem to worship.  Rehoboam lost the kingdom his father left to him without even going to war.   He had not inherited his father’s wisdom.  

Solomon is nearing the end of his life.  His reputation is made, his kingdom is stable, the Temple is built, his lineage is assured through many legitimate heirs.  Looking back over his life and into the future, he wonders what was the use of everything he had done.  What was the use of pursuing knowledge, if no one would listen?  What was the sense of accumulating wealth or power or property, when his heirs would just waste or destroy it?  And life in general.  “What do people get for all their hard work and struggles under the sun?  All their days are pain, and their work is aggravation; even at night, their hearts don’t find rest. This too is pointless.”   I’m pretty sure most people have felt like this at one time or another.  You know those nights when everything just spins around in your head, keeping you from sleep, when you wonder what’s the point?  That’s where Solomon was when he wrote this bit.

What Solomon seems to have forgotten, at this particular moment in his life, is where all those good things he had came from in the first place.   He thought it was about him, his work, his effort.  He thought he had some control over the outcomes of his studies, his labors, his application of wisdom.  He was wrong.  It’s a common failing, something that often accompanies success.  We think that somehow everything we achieve is through our own work.  We think somehow we are in control of, not just our own efforts, but of other people’s response to those efforts.  And when things go wrong, when we don’t get the job or when even with all the rehearsal in the world we cannot seem to get that part just right or when the words just won’t come or when no matter how careful we are about our diet and how dedicated we are to exercise the weight just will not come off or when the diagnosis is not great even though we did everything possible to stay healthy. . . when things don’t go our way we may think that it’s pointless.  That all our hard work has gone for nothing, and there is no point in going forward.  We may sound a great deal like Solomon, or Eeyore.

A very wise man once said, "There is nothing in the world so damaged that it cannot be mended by the hand of almighty God. I encourage you to know this, because without this certainty we should all of us be mad."  OK, the wise man was really a wise woman, because that quote is from Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s 1938 novel,  Appointment with Death. 

And I think it’s not so much that the outcome will change, or mend, if we turn more deliberately to God.  Rather, it is the way we perceive the outcome.  If we are able to express gratitude to God for whatever falls into our lives, whether or not we like it, our outlook will change, our pain will heal, our hearts will be mended.  It’s not pointless.  It’s just that I don’t see the point.  I may never see the point, but I don’t have to.  I survived it - whatever it may be.  I gained strength from it, or  experience, or friends, or something. I’ve been known to be grateful for the flu, because it made me slow down and rest.  I am not saying that God planned for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing to happen.  Because I don’t believe that. But I am saying that the hand of almighty God will give me the strength to get through it. I am saying that, by being grateful to God even for the bad days, by turning everything I do and everything I experience over to the care of God, by keeping my mind fixed on the idea that whatever I do, I do for God’s glory, not my own, by leaving the outcome in God’s hands and not worrying about it, my life ceases to be pointless. 

It could be worse.  I could be walking alone, without God at my side.  And that would pointless.  The good news, my brothers and sisters,  that no thing, no pain, is so terrible that God cannot mend it.  And the even better Good News is that God is with us now and always.     Amen.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Here we go again!

Luke 10:38-42 Common English Bible (CEB) 

38 While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. 40 By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42  One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

In 1998, while a student at Chapman University, I had the opportunity to attend my very first Quadrennial Assembly.  It is, or rather was, a gathering of thousands of Disciples Women from all over the US and Canada, as well as representatives from other countries.  When I arrived at Purdue University along with all the other women from the Pacific Southwest Region I ran into Bill Thomas, choir director for the event,  who invited me to join the Quadrennial Choir to sing “From Generation to Generation.” (which he wrote, by the way.)  I was so excited - I knew it by heart because I had been singing along with the CD of music specially written for Quadrennial for weeks and weeks!  We sang it for the communion song - and kept it going for as long as it took to serve communion to four thousand women.    I still love this song and was so happy that today we were able to share it with all of you today.

We are people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we rejoice in God who calls us by name.    

Names are important.  

In the Bible relatively few people are named, male or female.  The centurion is simply “the centurion” - it is his rank in society that is important to the story, not his name.  In the story from the Old Testament about Elisha and Elijah we read theater week the writer only named those two, not all the other prophets he referred to.  Even in the New Testament, in most of the stories the people involved, the people being healed or interacted with are usually referred to by their societal status - the leper, the tax collector, the leader of the synagogue, the women, the children, the Syro-Phonecian woman, the Samaritan, and so on.  But relatively few are named.  The number of women who are named in the Bible - Old Testament or New Testament - is so low that feminist scholars have written volumes on the unnamed women and why they are important to the Biblical tradition.

But Mary and Martha are named.  These were significant women, women who held a place of importance in the movement.    

Martha, Martha, you are worried. You are concerned about so very many things.  

Whenever this passage comes around in the lectionary I think to myself, “Here we go again!”  It’s that old argument over and over again - faith versus works.  As if one is good and the other is less good.  As if one is necessary and the other not so much.  Mary sits at Jesus’ feet learning and listening.  Martha prepares dinner for their guests. 

Hospitality was the number one most important rule of the ancient world.  The sin for which Sodom was destroyed was lack of hospitality, attacking visitors instead of treating them like honored guests.  Martha was not going to violate that law.  So when brother Lazarus brought his buddy Jesus home for dinner - and probably a bunch of other friends and probably without much warning, just with the expectation that his sisters would make his house proud - Martha did what was expected of her.  And I’d have gotten annoyed too, if my only helper had wandered off to listen to the guests talking instead of doing the very important work of feeding them.  

Jesus knows this.  And yet Jesus says to an overworked, anxious Martha,  “Mary has chosen the better part.”  If I had been Martha I’d have been all, “so go to McDonalds why don’t you?”   But, aside from the fact that there was no such thing as McDonalds or likely even an inn near Bethany,  Martha wouldn’t do that.   Jesus knows this too.  But Jesus says, “You worry too much.  Mary has chosen the better part.”

I’m not overly fond of this passage, because usually it’s either used to beat up on the Marthas, or to say that Bible Study is more important than the cookies we eat while we are studying.     Although some preachers will go the other way and say, “Hey!  We need those cookies.  How dare you pick on our Marthas?  It’s the work of the church that is important, and don’t you forget it!”

But you know, I think this passage goes a lot deeper than we usually give it credit for.  I don’t think that Jesus was saying, “Listening to me is more important than feeding us.”   I think what he was saying was more like, “Each of you has God given gifts and each of you is honoring your gifts by using them. (But you really do worry too much, Martha.)”   I think he was saying, “Stop worrying about all the things of this world and let yourself become aware of God’s kingdom, and what we have to do to bring it about.”  I think he was saying, “The old models are falling away.  This is a new way of thinking and being and behaving, and Mary is at the forefront of this new movement.”

Speaking of new movements . . . . just in case you don’t recognize the cute little creature on the screen, that’s Pikachu, probably the most easily recognized Pokemon of them all, along with his trainer, Ash.   The original Pokemon game was released by Nintendo in 1996, and was quickly followed by Pokemon cards, cartoon shows and movies.  Pokemon games, cartoons and merchandise have remained fairly popular ever since, but 11 days ago Pokemon Go was released as an app for smart phones.  It is a gaming phenomenon.  Within just six days of the App’s release over 21 million people were already playing!  As a result of this mega-popular app, not only are the Pokemon back, but they have succeeded in doing what no other game has = they have gotten gamers to leave their homes and investigate their communities!    There have been a few incidents - but by and large this has been a pretty good thing. Even the medical community has noted that playing this game is improving the physical and mental health of those suffering from depression and social anxiety disorders.   Interest in Pokemon has rekindled, big time!   Businesses are excited that the Pokemon are bringing people in.  Churches are getting in on the action too, with signs like ours and events intended to welcome Pokemon trainers.  For a really nice example of that, Wahiawa Christian Church in Hawaii, pastored by my friend Heather Robertson,  had a Pokemon event last night on their front lawn, setting off lures to attract Pokemon and players.   Pokemon Go is fun and exciting. It is the coolest new thing and I am having as much fun with it as anyone.  I caught a wild Zubat in my kitchen at 4:45 this morning!  I’m not sure how it got into my kitchen - and you’re probably wondering why I was playing Pokemon Go in my kitchen at 4:45 am . . .   I totally love that our sign tells people wandering by that we are joining in the excitement and that All are welcome here - even Pokemon.

The point of catching Pokemon is to send them into battle against the Pokemon belonging to other “trainers.”  When you catch enough Pokemon to reach level 5, you can join a team so that you can join forces in those battles.  As you gather Pokemon, Pokeballs, eggs and such along your path, you can power up your Pokemon, making them strong enough to defeat others, thus adding new Pokemon to your collection.   

Wouldn’t it be great if we were to get as excited about studying the Bible as we are about Pokemon?  Wouldn’t it be really exciting if we could make Jesus’  commandment to “Love one another” as huge of a social phenomenon as “Gotta Catch Em All”?   On our way to the Fresno Youth Choir concert yesterday, Jennifer and I were talking about making a Jesus game where you could level up by applying Jesus’ commandments to love your neighbor as yourself, and get rewards that you to spend to improve your mastery of the game.   So, feed a hungry person and get love points that you get to spend toward leveling up so you have the energy to feed more hungry people.  Smile at the checkout person in Walmart and get a virtual hug you get to pass along to a real person.  Power ups would come in the form of a fiery dove  . . . 

We are people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we rejoice in God who calls us by name.   

We are people empowered by the Holy Spirit, powered up to go out and love one another as Jesus has commanded us to do.   

We are people rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, whom God has called by name, to be sent out into an embattled, embittered, world as emissaries of peace and healing. 

We are people emboldened by the Holy Spirit, so that we may move through the landscape of our lives, looking around us in real time and in real places, for those upon whom we can cast a net of love, reaching out to those who are angry or depressed or grieving, so that they may feel the real power of God’s love.  

We are people enlivened by the Holy Spirit, given so many different gifts and talents to spend in Christ’s Holy Name. 

We are people empowered by the Holy Spirit, to do the new thing Jesus has called us to do, to go out and find all people who need to be loved, and to love them.

May we rejoice in God, who calls us by name.   

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Hand Up

Galatians 6:1-10 Common English Bible (CEB)

6 Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. 2 Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. 4 Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. 5 Each person will have to carry their own load.

6 Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher. 7 Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. 8 Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. 9 Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.


The process of writing Sunday morning’s message begins with the selection of the Scripture reading.  Since Dee Anne wants the Scripture and sermon title in plenty of time to publish in the Caller for that month, sometimes a significant period of time passes between the passage selection and the actual writing.  I do try, by means of title, Hymn of Commitment, and often a piece of art for the slide, to remind myself what I was thinking when I picked the reading to focus on.  However, some weeks I look at the passage and say to myself, “What on earth was I thinking?”  This is one of those weeks.  

Admittedly, it has been a kind of full week.  A busy with so many things I forgot where I was heading with this kind of week.  A lot of things happened this week that took my attention away - surgeries and leave takings and hospitalizations and brilliant ideas hitting my inbox.   It has been another of those weeks that I was grateful in full measure for serving this particular congregation, where people pull together and do whatever is necessary to make sure everything that has to happen, happens, and that everyone who needs something gets what they need.  On top of that, it’s a holiday weekend.   There will be fireworks and parties and celebrations of all kinds.  So many distractions . . . and I am so easily distracted.

“Beloved, if anyone does something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore them with a spirit of gentleness.”   The churches in Galatia were going through some conflict or other.  People who were totally focused on obeying the Law in its entirety were accusing the others of not being real Christians, while the people who were totally focused on doing as Jesus commanded and not the Law so much made the same accusation back at them.  Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?    Not that there are many Christians today who are totally focused on obedience to all the Law . . . this particular argument was over whether one must be circumcised in order to be baptized, which hasn’t been an issue for a long time now.  There are other Law based issues we argue over today, but circumcision isn’t one of them.   One the one hand, it’s nice to know that some things never change.  On the other hand, it’s kind of a pain that some things never change.  We never seem to learn no matter how many times we repeat the same lessons.  Kind of like my friend who has flunked math every semester for the last 4 years.  She just can’t seem to learn it.

The lesson here, I think, was more in lines of “quit arguing and love one another” than anything else.  Quit judging and love one another.  Disagreement doesn’t mean you have to hate each other, or talk trash about each other.  It just means you hold different opinions and that’s perfectly ok.   I believe that Paul was trying to get the two factions to be willing to just worship together, study together, and stop letting the little things get in the way of community.  

You notice he is very careful not to call out either side as right or wrong.  He is very careful not to choose sides or name names.  He simply says, “those of you who are spiritual should restore them with a spirit of gentleness.”   Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).  Paul is calling upon the calmer heads in the congregations to be the peacemakers, to bring the others back into wholeness by gently reminding them of their purpose, which is to heal the world.   I hope we would all agree that anger is not spiritual.  Hatred is not spiritual.  Judgmentalism is not spiritual.  Speaking ill of one another is not spiritual.  Willingness to work together, openness to other opinions and points of view, focusing on caring for the least of our brothers and sisters, coming together in the name of Jesus to worship and pray - these are the things that are spiritual.  That is what the spiritual folks in Galatia were asked to restore in their congregation.  

Help people, even when you know they can’t help you back.  When I saw that on Facebook earlier in the week I knew that this is what I wanted to say this morning.  I knew I wanted to say it. I even believed that it touched on what Paul was saying.  But I wasn’t sure how to get there.   And then I started getting emails about the Block Party coming up next Saturday.  Some of you may not know what that is.  

Selma’s Chief of Police believes strongly that if the faith community and the Police Department work together, we can heal our city.  So he came to the Ministerial Alliance with the idea of Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life.    On most Thursdays I sit in a group composed of the Chief of Police, pastors and other leaders of faith based and not for profit agencies in Selma.  Our theologies are very different.  Our understandings of what it means to be Christian are different.  Some of us preach much different things on Sunday mornings and have a vastly different focus for our ministries. But all of us agree on one thing - that our purpose is to heal the world, beginning in this city.  And that means we come together to make opportunities available to heal individuals and groups within our community.  We hold Block Parties all summer long, bringing all kinds of churches and help agencies into at risk neighborhoods to help heal the problems there.  

There are those who don’t understand what we do or why we do it.  There are some in our community who don’t understand why we reach out to gang members and people who may or may not be properly documented and people who live in chronic poverty.  They think aggressive policing will solve all the city’s problems.   But we believe that healing the underlying problems is a better solution.  We believe that reaching out in love and compassion is a better solution.  We know that none of the differences in our beliefs and doctrines matter in the face of the great need for healing and wholeness that faces our community and our world.  And I believe that Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life is one example of the way Paul would have the Church exist.  It certainly seems to do a good job of following Jesus’ commandment to his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and comfort the comfortless.   Help people, even if you know they can’t help you back.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July - Independence Day.  This entire weekend we will celebrate with fireworks and picnics and family gatherings.  Our houses and public buildings are draped with red, white and blue.  Flags wave everywhere.  Songs about America and her beauty fill the air.  As a nation it is our most important holiday, the anniversary of our freedom from England’s Colonial rule.  

But every day, we celebrate our liberation from sin in Christ.  Every day we find ways to demonstrate how significantly our belief impacts our daily life, our actions, our words, and our attitudes.  Our freedom in Christ brings with it responsibility for our sisters and brothers.  Our freedom in Christ brings with it the necessity to live in such a way that we can be an example of how following Jesus’ teachings can heal the world around us.   Our freedom brings with it responsibility for the welfare of others.  Remember that Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
They asked, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ and he said, ’I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’”  (Matthew 25:35-40)

Whether you agree or disagree, whether or not you believe in exactly the same things and in exactly the same way, all of us who follow Jesus the Christ are responsible to care for one another, to help one another when we face temptation and sin, to reach out a helping hand to anyone who needs that hand.  For it is our job to save the world, to heal the world, to bring wholeness into a fragmented world.   For although each of us is responsible for our own work, our own attitude, our own actions and words,  each of us is also responsible for making sure our sisters and brothers have a hand to grab in times of need.  All of them.  No matter how different.  For whenever we have done good for another, we have done it for Jesus.  

Help people, even if you know they can’t help you back.  Do to others as you would have others do to you.  Treat everyone you meet as if they are Jesus.   Everyone will harvest what they plant.  Carry each other’s burdens and you will fulfill the law of Christ.    

When we go from this place today, may we be filled with a Spirit of independence from the sins and artificial differences that separate us.  May we go out accepting each other, even as Jesus has accepted each of us just as we are.  May we go out seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears, and loving with new hearts, that we may fully share in the Spirit’s harvest of healing, wholeness and eternal life.