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Lent 4B March 14, 2021

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, sometimes called Laetare Sunday, from the Latin laetare, rejoice, the first word in the entrance hymn of the ancient Mass for this day, “Rejoice O Jerusalem.” This Sunday is also called “Mothering Sunday.” In the British Isles, it is a time when folks visit their mothers. It goes back to the times when servants were allowed to visit their mothers on this day. In the midst of Lent, we observe a time of rejoicing. Herbert O’Driscoll wisely notes that all of our readings today speak of God’s healing. (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year B, p. 27.)

In our opening lesson from the Book of Numbers, God’s people have to go around the land of Edom because the people of Edom will not let them cross their territory. As always, the journey of the people of God is full of challenges.

The people begin to complain—again. They complain to their leader. Moses. They ask him why he has brought them here to die. They totally forget that they were slaves in Egypt, making bricks for the Pharaoh, who kept increasing their quotas just to see exactly how much work he could get out of them. And they also complain to God.

The journey out of slavery is not easy. Whether it’s an addiction or a pattern of thinking, or the slavery of an abusive relationship that we have finally left, we humans tend to forget how difficult that slavery was. The first elation of freedom wears off, challenges come up, and we wrap our former slavery in a rose-colored haze of amnesia. Like the people of God in the wilderness, we remember the leeks and melons and forget the back-breaking work of bondage.

The people encounter some poisonous snakes, deadly snakes. God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent, put it on a pole, and hold it up. When the people look at the snake, they will be healed. In ancient times, snakes were believed to be objects of healing. Even today, the caduceus, with two snakes entwined on a pole and wings at the top, is a sign for physicians and medical workers. The text tells us that the people would “look on the serpent of bronze and live.”

In our gospel, Jesus refers to this passage from Numbers. He knows that he is going to be crucified, and he links that ancient healing for God’s people in the wilderness with his body hanging on the cross. We know that crucifixion was a horrible torture, and yet, paradoxically, we look on the cross as a sign of healing and life. St. John Vianney told a story of an elderly man, a farmer, who would take time to go into the church and gaze at the crucifix above the altar, just look and contemplate that crucifix. When asked what he was doing, he said, “I look at him, and he looks at me.”

In our own ways, we do that. We look at our Lord and he looks back at us with the deepest love we will ever encounter. We look at him and open our hearts to him and he fills our hearts with his love and our lives with his healing. This is what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was giving his life not only for us but to us. He was giving us his energy and his healing so that we can serve others as he did.

In our reading from Ephesians, Paul, or perhaps a devoted disciple whom I will call Paul, is tracing the spiritual journey of the human race. Once we humans followed “the ruler of the power of the air,” that is, we were self-centered. We did what we wanted to do. We were selfish; we had no idea that there was a difference between what we wanted and what we needed. This turned out to be a dead end. Paul says, “We were by nature children of wrath.” What a profound statement.  There is so much wrath, so much anger in our world. People post all kinds of angry thoughts and others respond with angry posts and it goes on and on. Yes, there are positive posts, but it can seem as though they are hard to find.

Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with Christ.” And then he writes, “By grace you have been saved.” Merriam-Webster defines grace as a, “Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification, b, a virtue coming from God, and c, a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance.” Sanctification is defined as “the state of growing in divine grace.”

Grace is a gift from God. It’s nothing that we can earn. God pours grace out on us every day. The more we open our hearts and lives to God, the more grace, the more freely-given divine help, we receive.

And then Paul writes, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The motto of Grace Church is “By grace through faith.” The first case of Covid 19 was diagnosed a little over a year ago. We are still here. Grace Church was founded in 1816, 205 years ago. We’re still here. This pandemic has been very difficult. We have noted that. We have talked about how hard this time has been. I believe this is a healthy thing to do.

While we can see some parallels between us and God’s people in the wilderness, I think we can also thank God for the grace which has enabled us to remain faithful. We haven’t rebelled against our leaders.  We haven’t rebelled against God. We have a long history of using our in-person coffee hour as a time for close mutual support in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, and we have continued to do that even in virtual space. Over this past year we have shared some major challenges and asked each other’s prayers. Grace is a gift of God, as are faith, hope, and love. We have accepted these precious gifts of God and we have used those gifts to grow in divine grace.

There is reason for rejoicing today, in the midst of this wilderness, this exile. We can rejoice in God’s gifts of faith, hope, love, and grace. I believe that, by giving us these gifts, our loving God has helped us to grow stronger.  God has helped us to grow in grace. As our psalm says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever. And to paraphrase the end of the psalm, “Let us offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.” Amen.

Pentecost 8 Proper 13C August 4, 2019

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Last Sunday, Our Lord taught us how to pray. He told us to call God “Abba,” which translates not as “Father, “ or “Mother,” but as “Dad” or “Mom.” We are called to address God just as Jesus does, in an intimate, familiar way.

In our reading this morning from the prophet Hosea, we have the opportunity to meditate together on God as our loving, divine parent.

God says “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” God called God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, but after they reached the promised land, they began to worship alien gods such as Baal. a fertility god, and other idols as well.

God says, “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love, I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.”  

These words describe God’s unfailing parental love for God’s children, in this case the people of the Northern Kingdom. But the people are not following God. They are straying far from the law. During the ministry of Hosea, the gap between the rich and poor continued to widen; people did not take care of each other; there was constant war with the Assyrian Empire, and finally, the Assyrians conquered God’s people. Our reading reminds us that God guided the people home from that experience of exile.

God is upset about this to the point of anger, but God says, “I will not come in wrath.” Even though God’s people are being faithless, God loves them. As they suffer, God suffers with them. Biblical scholar James D. Newsome writes, “The suffering God of Hosea anticipates the suffering Christ of Gethsemane and of Calvary’s cross  (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 452.)

Our reading from the letter to the Colossians calls us to set our minds on things that are above, not on earthly things. We are called to get rid of things like anger, malice, slander, abusive language, and lying. In making the choice to follow Christ, we have stripped off the old self and have clothed ourselves in the new self. Elsewhere in the epistles, we are called to put on Christ, to clothe ourselves in Christ.

 What a difference it makes when we speak the truth, when we act from compassion, when we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 describe the qualities that we show when we are truly following Jesus—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our reading concludes by saying that, as we grow into Christ, as we become more and more like our Lord, differences of race, religion, class, and national origin dissolve and we become one in Christ.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is preaching and teaching and someone from the crowd asks our Lord to settle a dispute over a family inheritance.

Our Lord takes this opportunity to warn us to be careful about greed. Greed was one of the things tearing up the society in the Northern Kingdom and leading to its fall, and, of course, it is one of the seven root sins. In our own society, we also have a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and we receive constant messages that tell us the accumulation of wealth and power are what life is all about.

Jesus tells a stunning parable. The land of a rich man—notice Jesus says “the land of a rich man” not “a rich man.” The land, God’s creation, God’s gift to this man, produces great abundance. There is so much that he runs out of buildings to store the produce of the land. Does he think of giving anything to those less fortunate? Apparently not. Does he thank God for God’s many blessings? No. He does not talk with God at all. His entire dialogue is with himself. 

He decides to tear down all his buildings and build new ones to hold this bountiful harvest. He says, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” Is it wrong to relax and eat, drink and be merry? Not at all.

But where is God in all of this? Where is our Lord’s call to us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves?” This man tells his soul that there is material wealth to last for many years and it is now time to celebrate, but material things are not what nourish the soul. The man dies that night.

Jesus says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” What does it mean to be rich toward God?

Biblical scholar Richard P. Carlson writes, “Being rich toward God entails using one’s resources for the benefit of one’s neighbor in need as the Samaritan did. Being rich towards God includes intentionally listening to Jesus’ word as Mary did. Being rich toward God involves…giving alms as a means of establishing lasting treasure in heaven. Life and possessions are a gift of God to be used to advance God’s agenda of care and compassion, precisely for those who lack resources to provide for themselves.” Feasting on the Word Year C Vol. 3, p. 315.

What are our readings telling us today? Our lesson from Hosea expresses God’s tender and unfailing love and care for us, even when we are straying far from God. As St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Our reading from Colossians calls us to focus on the things that are above, becoming more and more like our Lord. In our gospel, our Lord calls us to treasure every moment of this life and to live lives that are cross-shaped. We are called to reach up toward God and to reach out to share God’s love with others. Amen.

Lent 4B RCL March 11, 2018

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

In our opening reading today, we are journeying with God’s people. God has given them a great leader, Moses, and Moses has led them out of slavery . Now they are traveling in the wilderness toward the promised land.

They are also complaining. The longer they are away from their slavery in Egypt, the more they complain. They think longingly about the great food they had there, but they forget that they were doing the backbreaking labor of making bricks for the Pharaoh, and the quotas kept going higher and higher. This is so like us humans. God is trying to lead us out of slavery into new life and all we can do is complain.

Of course, the situation gets worse. They hit a point on the journey where there are poisonous snakes. When people are bitten, they die.

The people ask for God’s help, and God instructs Moses to make a little statue of a poisonous snake, put it on a pole, and lift it so that, by looking at the snake, the people can be healed.

In our gospel for today, the lifting of our Lord on the cross is compared with the lifting of that bronze snake which saved the lives of God’s people. Our Lord was also lifted high when he rose from the dead and when he ascended to be God. I love looking at our window which depicts the ascension. God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus. God so loved the world that God came among us. Jesus gave us a new commandment—that we love one another as he has loved us.

This gospel comes after the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus in which Jesus talks with Nicodemus about being born again, not literally, but through the power of the Spirit. We are now in that new life.

Today is Mothering Sunday, a time when the penitential tone of Lent is lightened somewhat. It is also called Laetere Sunday, from the Mass text, “Rejoice, O Jerusalem.” There is a note of joy on this day. In the ancient Church, a rose was sometimes used in the liturgy as a symbol of the coming of spring. Some churches use rose vestments on this day.

In our readings that note of joy is struck mostly in our reading from Ephesians. Paul brilliantly traces our spiritual journey. Once we humans lived  following the “desires of the flesh.” When he speaks of the flesh, Paul means that we lived totally self centered lives. We thought about our own needs, our own wishes, our own plans. There was no place for God in all of this.

But God, in God’s infinite love, as Paul says, “made us alive together with Christ.” Paul tells us that God raised us up with Jesus and in God’s amazing generosity, God shows us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Then comes that passage which we love so much: “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….”

Paul was the first Christian theologian, and he outdoes himself in this passage. He has given us the history of the human race and our own history. We humans were living lives centered on ourselves, and those lives led nowhere. God, in God’s great love, came among us and became our Good Shepherd, leading us to the good pastures and the still waters where we can find peace, and leading us into life that is rooted and grounded in him. He calls us to love and serve others in his name. As we focus on God’s love and the wonderful gift God has given us, we can certainly rejoice.

Gracious God, thank you for your healing, your unfailing love, your grace, and the gift of new life in you.  Amen.

Pentecost 11 Proper 13C RCL July 31. 2016

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9. 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Our opening reading is from the Book of Hosea, an amazing prophet from 2,700 years ago. We recall that he had married a woman who was unfaithful to him. This gave him a profound insight into the way God must have felt when God’s people were unfaithful. In last week’s reading, we learned Hosea’s message that God does not stop loving us, no matter what.

This Sunday, we have the opportunity to gain even more insight into the nature of God’s love. God is speaking to God’s children. God calls Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God takes God’s children into God’s arms. God teaches God’s children to walk, leads them “with cords of  human kindness, with bands of love.  God bends down to God’s children and feeds them.

Commentator James Newsome says that God is described in terms that we could call motherly. God’s love for God’s children is described in terms of the greatest tenderness we could imagine. That is how much God loves God’s children. It is the love of any good parent. It is the love of our divine parent.

But then they and we go and worship other gods, like Baal. We lose our way. We do things we should not do and we do not do things we should do. The passage is hinting at some terrible things that will happen to God’s people. They will be conquered by the Assyrian Empire and later by the Babylonians, but, in the end, God will search for them and bring them home in safety.

There are some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament that can make our hair stand on end. They portray an angry God who seems to be like the caricature of a bad, even abusive parent threatening all kinds of punishment. Through his own experience of loving his wife and children, Hosea was able to convey to the people and to us God’s unfailing and heartbreakingly tender love for us.

In the Letter to the Colossians, Paul is calling us to focus our lives on things above, not on earthly things. He calls us to put to death those earthly things, such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. He cautions us not to lie to each other. He says that we have “stripped off the old self  and have clothed [ourselves] with the new self.”  And he says an astounding thing. He says that the new self “is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”

We are in a process of transformation which began at our baptisms. We are going from an old self to a new self, and that new self is constantly and continually being renewed so that we will become more like Christ. And in that process of transformation, there are no longer any divisions of race or gender or class or anything that can be used to divide us, because we are all one in Christ Jesus. He is everything there is, and he is in all of us and in each of us.

In our gospel for today, our Lord is also cautioning us against the values of this world, including greed. A man’s farm is producing so much that he plans to tear down all his barns and build bigger ones, so that he can store his growing bounty.

As we read this, we notice that he is not taking any time to thank God for all his blessings and for the abundance of his crops. Nor does he ask God’s guidance about his plans. Also, he says nothing about sharing all of this abundance with others. As Jesus puts it, this man is “Storing up treasures for himself,” not for others, and not for God.

This is the opposite of what we are called to do. If we are in a process of transformation, growing more into the likeness of Christ, and if Christ is in us, that means that all our decisions are made in an attitude of prayer, what the great moral theologian Kenneth Kirk calls, “Referring all questions to God.”

If there is an abundant harvest, the first thing we need to do is thank God. The next thing we need to do is return a portion to God in thanks, and the next thing we need to do is share that bounty with others. This poor fellow is a striking example of what not to do, with his attitude of me, me, me.

An anonymous writer puts it this way. “Not what  you do so much as what you are, that is the miracle-working power. You can be a force for good, with the help of God. God is here to help you and to bless you, here to company with you. You can be a worker with God. Changed by God’s grace, you shed one garment of the spirit for a better one. In time, you throw that one away for a yet finer one. And so, from character to character, you are gradually transformed.”(Twenty-four Hours a Day, April 2.)

To paraphrase the wording of our Alleluia!Fund slogan, “Christ is alive in us. Christ is risen in our deeds.”

May we show forth his love. May we grow more and more like him. May we love him with all our hearts, and may we love others as he calls us to do.  Amen.

Lent 4B RCL March 15, 2015

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

In our first reading, we join God’s people on their journey to the promised land. The people are impatient. They are complaining again.  They encounter a particularly terrifying challenge. They come upon poisonous snakes. When the snakes bite the people, the people die.

God tells Moses to make an image of a poisonous snake and put it on a pole. When the people are bitten and they look at the image of the serpent, they will live.  In a sense, the bronze serpent on the pole is an icon to allow the people to connect with the healing power of God.

Once again, in spite of the people’s complaining, God saves them.

God is constantly leading us to freedom, and we humans struggle with the journey, but God always takes care os us. When we are hungry, God gives us manna; when we are thirsty, God gives us water; when we crave meat, God gives us quail. Yet we forget God’s care and we grumble about how difficult the journey is.

Every one of those people who followed Moses out of Egypt knew that they were leaving a life of slavery and going to the promised land. Every one of those people knew that God was leading them. Yet how quickly we forget. Have you ever made a decision after deeply sincere prayer and  careful thought and then second guessed yourself and God’s leading? I think most of us have done that.

That is why these readings from the wilderness journey of God’s people are so important—because they remind us that we humans can so easily forget that God is with us, leading and guiding us. And we can let ourselves  become confused to the point where we think that the comforts of life in slavery are better than the journey to freedom.

In our reading from Ephesians, we are reminded that, when we humans were living according to the flesh, that is, when we were living self-centered lives, when we were wandering around in that wilderness of self-absorption, God, in God’s love, “made us alive together in Christ…and raised us up with him…” Before we humans even thought to ask God, God had already reached out to save us from ourselves.

The kindness and care and mercy of God are truly amazing. Before we humans even realized how much we needed God’s help, God came into the world to save us, to make us whole, to make us well, to heal us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

In our gospel for today, Jesus refers to our opening reading. Like the bronze image of a serpent lifted by Moses to save and heal the people, Jesus will be lifted up to turn death into life. Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “Jesus sees himself as the healing serpent. raised by the obscene act of crucifixion yet giving healing to those who look.” (The Word Today, Year B Vol. 2, p. 31.)

We are walking the Way of the Cross, and it is not easy. We know that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, out in front of the flock, leading us, but it is easy to forget this when the going gets tough. We may be facing a particular challenge in our lives.  We have been told that God never gives us something that we can’t bear with God’s help, but we may be wondering about that. We may even be grumbling a bit. And it is okay to grumble to God. It is okay to say, “Lord, this is really tough. I need some help with this.” In fact, that is the greatest prayer there is—“Help!”  Lord, help.

When the people were struggling in the wilderness, God was right there. Before we even knew we needed God, God was right here with us. God, Jesus, and the Spirit are here with us now. God loves us so much that God walked into and through death itself so that we don’t have to be consumed by fear. Instead, we can be rooted and grounded in faith and we can have new life.

Are we struggling? Do we have fears? Let us look up and look into the face of our Lord and Savior. Let us see the love in his eyes. Let us feel the grace that he is pouring out upon us. Whatever may be troubling us, let us see and know that he is in our midst, that he is giving each of us the strength we need to walk with him and to walk in his light and life.

Are we full of joy? Are our lives full of peace? Let us look into the eyes of our Lord and see the peace and joy that He is bestowing upon us.

Whatever may be going on on our lives, let us look to our Lord. Let us ask him for what we need, and let us have faith that he is as close as our breath. He came to save us before we even thought to ask him.

Here is a canticle by St. Anselm of Canterbury:

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up your wounds,
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us;
in your love and tenderness, remake us.

In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

May His blessing be with us always.   Amen.

Pentecost 20 Proper 26, October 30, 2011

Pentecost 20 Proper 26A RCL October 30, 2011

Joshua 3: 7-17
Psalm 107: 1-7, 33-37
1 Thessalonians 2: 9-13
Matthew 23: 1-12

In our lesson from the book of Joshua, the people of God cross the Jordan and enter the promised land. The scene is similar to the earlier crossing of the Red Sea. The priests bearing the ark of the covenant, which symbolizes the presence of God, walk into the waters of the Jordan, and the waters part.

Scholars tell us that this crossing was during the time of the spring harvest when the water level was very high. The waters flowing from upstream rose up, the scripture says, “in a single heap.” The people cross on dry ground. God is with the people to help and proect them on their journey.

In our epistle for today, Paul reminds the people that he worked as a tentmaker in order to spare them any financial burden. He says that his conduct towards them was “pure, upright, and blameless.” He says that he dealt with the people as “a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God….” And Paul says that the people accepted the good news, not as a human word, but as God’s word, which, Paul writes, “is also at work in you believers.” These are excellent guidelines for us as we do our own ministries. We are called to have the highest ethical and moral standards. We are called to be “encouragers, “ good spiritual coaches calling people to be the people God calls us to be so that all of us can lead lives worthy of God. And we need to remember that the good news, the word we share, personified in the Word, Jesus, is, as Paul says, a living word that is at work in all of us to help us to be people of God’s shalom.

As we approach today’s gospel, we are called to remember that we are called to use Jesus’ words as a yardstick or a measuring rod to evaluate our own ministries and our own leadership. Are we congruent? Do our actions match our words? The bottom line for me is that Jesus is calling us to a servant ministry. He himself said, “I am among you as one who serves.”

Charles Cousar writes of this passage, “The narrator wants Christian leaders who read the text not to act like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, but to be servants, to be humbly learning from their one instructor, Jesus..” He continues, “How do the scribes and Pharisees serve as negative models? Basically, they do not practice what they teach. Their lives give no evidence that they take seriously the very law about which they endlessly debate. Consistency and wholeness are missing. …”

Cousar continues, “The religious authorities of Jesus’ day make a display of their leadership. They want their deeds to be noticed and their religious status to be recognized. Their badges include enlarged phylacteries (small leather cases worn on the left arm and forehead, containing important Old Testament texts) and extended fringes at the bottom of their robes (tassels worn to signify their bondage to the law.) They enjoy the attention they receive not only in the synagogue but also in the marketplace and at social functions.”

Cousar adds, “The religious leaders of Jesus’ day crave titles: rabbi, father, and instructor. For Christian leaders the pride that cultivates such honorific titles reveals a fundamental failure—the ignoring of Jesus as teacher and instructor and God as Father. The model of the Christian church is not one in which an authoritarian (whether ‘preacher,’ ‘pastor,’ or ‘doctor’) dispenses truth to fawning followers but an egalitarian community where all are students of Jesus and children of God. The proper recognition of divine authority relativizes all human authorities.”

“Matthew’s readers, then, whether leaders or common people, are not allowed… to remain detached critics of the scribes and Pharisees, those so-called bad guys of the first century, Instead, [we] are confronted with the demand for a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, with a style of leadership and following that acknowledges one divine source of authority. Teachers as well as learners are instructed by Jesus himself, the authentic interpreter of the law, and teachers as well as learners are called to do the will of the heavenly Father.”  (Texts for Preaching, pp. 551-552)

Rarely do I include such long quotations in sermons, but I think Charles Cousar, who is Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, offers us a powerful and inspiring vision of baptismal ministry, in which we are all exercising our gifts for ministry and all are learning from our ultimate leader, Jesus. His words also describe servant leaders who have genuine humility and openness to God’s leading and God’s love.

I have never met him, but I have come to know someone who, I believe, lived out all of the qualities of an authentic and humble leader. That is the Rev. Austin Schildwachter, Priscilla’s dad. The name Schildwachter means “shield watcher.” Here are some glimpses into the character of this beloved servant of Christ from the eulogy given by his stepson, Priscilla’s stepbrother. “He respected other people, listening to them tirelessly with rapt attention, responding to everyone with interest and almost always with amazement at what they had to say. He had the gift of making other people feel special and on equal footing with him in spite of the fact that his experience and wisdom far outweighed theirs. We all delight in the opportunity to revisit the gentleness of a man who knew how to be a pastor to every person he ever met and never over do it to the point that the person didn’t feel friendship with him. Why? Because it was authentic. This was the genuine article we all had the good fortune to see. Austin never cared about money and he was out in the cold as a result. Out in the cold from the world of money and power, and consequently safe and warm and comfortable inside the world of God and Jesus, family, friends and an endless stream of new acquaintances that he made at restaurant tables and boardwalks and street corners every day he lived. Here we had a guy who probably took more interest in the spiritual lives of perfect strangers who served him lunch in a coffee shop than some of their own friends did.”

Austin is an inspiring and authentic model for the kind of ministry we are all called to do. Thank you so much for sharing him with us, Priscilla. May we all follow in his footsteps.   Amen.