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Voices of Grace
The blessed time of mid-August in Colorado: morning fills the sky, the fruits of the earth overflow the baskets, brightly colored flowers lift their heads as in praise of God’s creation! Join the people of Grace and St. Stephen’s this Sunday as we sing praises to God, when we remember all the marvels he has done and the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
I am a Cleveland Browns' fan. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the Browns with my dad - back in the mid-1980's, when they were actually good. My fandom has always been about more than just football. When I was younger my dad and I did not have much in common. But we had the Bernie Kosar and the Browns. The tension and the struggle of father and son seemed to disappear for a few hours at 1pm on Sunday afternoon.
Growing up in northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Browns were more than just a football team; they were a reason to get together with family and friends. Even the losses are happy memories. My dad and mom love the Browns. My brother loves the Browns. My wife loves the Browns; she grew up watching the Browns with her dad. When they won, you celebrated. When they lost you bonded over your shared misery. We did that a lot.
And so when my oldest son, Oscar, was born, he was born into a line of Browns' fans, expected to carry on the tradition of his ancestors. He was clothed in orange and brown before he could lift his own football helmet-sized head. "Go Browns" was among his first phrases.
And then on one dark day (a day I've tried to repress in my memory) Oscar decided to be a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Not only did he turn his back on the Browns, he chose to support a division rival. (For Broncos' fans, it would be like your own child rooting for the Raiders.) When the Bengals beat the Browns, he obnoxiously cheers in my face. He even tries to turn his little brother against the Browns; thankfully, he has thus far proved unsuccessful.
August Fun Sundays are here! Each Sunday in August children are invited to gather in the Children's Chapel at 10:30 am for a Bible story, an activity and outside play. We will join the congregation for the children's sermon and the Eucharist, returning outside where the children can be picked up after the service. Then in September, our program year begins.
Sometimes it is just too much. We have been marked as Christ’s own forever—but then we seem to stumble on our journey. We know the Way, but are assaulted on the path: by pain, by grief, by remorse, by self-doubt, by addictions. But we are not left alone! Join the people of Grace and St. Stephen’s today as we rejoice in the comforting words of St. Paul: we have all been infused with the Spirit and the Spirit will help us in our weakness. When we are lost, St. Paul reminds us, the Spirit is always present to intercede for us, with sighs too deep for words.
Mid-July. The fields are sown and the June rains have raised up the green crops to soak in the mid-summer sun. And then—weeds! Among the perfect neat green rows! Where did they come from? Today we hear Jesus teaching us that living in the Kingdom of God will not be perfect—and St. Paul instructs us that the tribulations of this imperfect life are nothing to those who call themselves children of God, those who keep their eyes on God and not on the evil of this world. Join the people of Grace and St. Stephen’s this Sunday as we raise our eyes to God, asking God to provide for us, and our needs, even as we don’t always know what to pray for.
Jesus teaches us much through parables and this Sunday we hear a favorite: of the sower and the seeds that fell on rocky ground, among thorns, on a path where the birds ate them and on good soil. For us, this lesson begs the question – are we cultivating healthy “soil” in our hearts, minds and spirits so that that the “seeds” of God’s word and love for us can take root, grow and thrive?
This Sunday, we admit to ourselves and to God that we do not understand our actions, and are comforted by Jesus’ words that we – weary, heavy laden and lost – can turn to Him. Pray with us for the faith needed to take up His yoke and find rest.
Another Sunday, another tearful goodbye hug. It is becoming much too routine. I know this is just how life works in the 21st century. In fact, in January of 2016 it was me saying the goodbyes as I left Toledo and the people of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. And there were hugs and there were tears and there was that blistering sting of soul separation. But accepting the reality and liking it are two very different things.
It is never easy when space invades a relationship. But the experience is always different when you are the one who stays. The one who stays lacks the distraction of excitement and anxiety.