Holy Fire - Joseph Wood

  Be honest, how many of you thought of something along the lines of "fiery judgement" or "hellfire" when you first read the title of this meditation? (I won't ask how many people didn't read the title at all.) I find it fascinating just how fraught our associations with fire have become in contemporary culture, especially contemporary religious culture, given that it's a symbol found almost universally in faiths around the world and throughout history--usually, with neutral or even positive connotations. It has offered light to guide our way; warmth to sustain life; movement and hunger that suggest something so familiar and so foreign at once; and innumerable other images to the human mind across our existence. It is hard to envision what our worship would look like without it, given its continued, indelible role in our shared liturgical lives. For instances, Jews light candles to delineate time, marking off the sacred moments of holidays from ordinary time and the return to the week at the end of Sabbath. In Christianity, we light altar candles, office candles, votive handles, and even the Paschal candle, all as ways to enter into historical memory and hint at the presence of God in our midst.

  So, what do we do--weighted down with such skewed cultural baggage--when we come to a holiday that's all about fire? How do we reclaim such a potent image when we hear the lesson from the Acts of the Apostles discuss the descent of "divided tongues, as of fire" appearing among the disciples and resting upon them (Acts 2:3), the Holy Spirit making its oh-so-familiar and oh-so-foreign presence known in the midst of the community of believers? I think we have to begin by unpacking quite what is going on in that upper room and the Jerusalem around it. The experience certainly sounds terrifying, what with the "rush of a violent wind" and previously mentioned tongues "of fire" (Acts 2:2-3), not to mention the xenolalia* that pours forth from the apostolic mouths in their wake. However frightening it may have been for those involved, notice that the fulcrum of the event is relationship. They may have been done in Divine style, but the miracles of Pentecost are all about God once more inundating the faithful and the community between them, entering into the minutia of human existence in a way that echoes and even compounds the scandal of the Incarnation. After all, the Spirit isn't confined to the mystery of Jesus' wholly human and wholly Godly nature: it's in each and everyone one of us. I am on fire with the Spirit. You are on fire with the Spirit. In naming this day as the birthday of the Church, we are implicitly stating that our shared identity is measured by that glorious, fiery potential among us.

  Yet the unpacking doesn't stop there, because Pentecost shares the same date as Shavuot. Shavuot is the festival of weeks, marking the 50th day after Passover and the commemoration of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Sinai. (Remember, Sinai and Horeb--where Moses encounters the Burning Bush--are traditionally synonymous!) So, however overwhelming and new the descent of the Holy Spirit might have been, it also echoed the thunder and smoke, the burning without being consumed, that marked the Divine invitation for an impossibly intimate relationship between the Lord and the children of Israel. There is even a Midrashic account in early Jewish sources that claims that Isaiah 50:2 is about that moment and the people accidentally sleeping in on the day, causing God to lament: "Why have I come and no one is here to receive me?” Thus we should understand Pentecost as a repetition and refiguring of Shavuot, of Sinai, as part of the long Biblical saga of the Lord seeking out community with and between God's children. You could even argue that the Biblical message can be summed up in a slightly rephrased version of Genesis 2:18: It is not good for anyone, including God, to be alone.

  So, I'm not going to tell you whether or not to fear fire. Even at its best, fire is a powerful force, and it can easily overwhelm us. But I will argue that our faith is not about hypothetical fire to come, not about a judgement divorced from the here and now of the world we live in. The question isn't: will I entire fire eventually? Rather, it's: how will I enter fire this time? How will I experience and share in the often overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst? Whatever answers you find, may your Pentecost be glorious and bright. May it be the start of something new, and may it transform your relational life--even if just a little bit. Towards all of those ends, I leave you with Mary Oliver's poem "Sunrise" once more:

You can
die for it-
an idea, 
or the world. People
have done so, 
brilliantly, 
letting
their small bodies be bound
to the stake, 
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But
this morning, 
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
of China, 
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many! 
What is my name? 
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

 

*Xenolalia is one of a few different technical words used to describe the miracle of speaking in tongues. It is usually distinguished from glossolalia, the other most common term, in that it is the ability to speak a natural language unknown to the speaker. (In short: they're speaking a language that already exists on earth, even as it's unknown to the person speaking it.) Glossolalia, on the other hand, can describe the speaking of a completely unknown language or simulacrum of language. The latter is the one most often found in Pentecostal and Charismatic practices.

Abiding Our Time - Joseph Wood

     This Sunday, you will hear the word "abide" repeated again and again throughout the epistle reading (1 John 4:7-21) and the Gospel (John 15:18). While most Episcopalians recognize in those repetitions the archaic use of "dwell, live," the more common definition in Modern English is "to accept or act in accordance with"--and the possible tension between those two understandings is something I think is fundamental to hearing the fullness of our Biblical witness.

    As this meditation's title hints at, abide comes to us from the same root as "bide," which is really only seen in American English through the phrase "bide one's time." They both stem from the Old English bīdan and Germanic roots beyond that mean "to wait." The difference grows from the suffix ā- and its connotations of onward or continually. (For completeness' sake, the original Greek here is μείνατε [meinate] from μένω [meno], which is generally defined as "remain" or "abide.") Now, the reason I offer that etymological swarm is not just so I can make low-key "root," "stem," and "grow" puns echoing John 15:1-8, even as it's a nice perk. Rather, I name them because they would seem to have real consequence when trying to distinguish between a "branch [...] that bears no fruit" and a branch that does (John 15:2). If I am to properly abide in Jesus and his extended allusion of himself as the true vine, I want to know whether I am suppose to be continually waiting or continually acting in accordance with that truth. The figurative fire only heightens my concern.

   The question between waiting (or dwelling) and acting only becomes more complicated when we recognize it as a variation on the Reformation debate between Sola Fide (faith alone) and Works Righteousness. A very truncated summary of which would be that Protestants argued that faith alone is necessary for us to experience salvation, while Roman Catholic doctrine stated that one experiences salvation through faith and particular, virtuous deeds. As you might imagine, Biblical allusions to bearing fruit played a prominent role in that debate as theologians tried to parse just how the New Testament was inviting the faithful to be fruitful. The Protestant logic was that the natural outgrowths of faith were actions that corresponded to that commitment--as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it, "the just man justices."* The Roman Catholic reasoning was closer to that of psychologist Alfred Alder, asserting that "acting as if" one is the archetypal Christian brings one closer to being a more fully realized Christian. These days, the parallel would be something along the lines of Recovery thought and the aphoristic strategy of faking it until you make it. 

    Being a good Anglican, I ultimately find merit in both understandings. There are certainly times when I almost instinctively act out of my faith, but there are also times when I have to actively try to live into being a better person and believer. So I cannot ultimately tell you whether your abiding should be active or passive as it unfolds, whether you should live in or live into Jesus as the vine from which Christianity springs. I think both are true, and I think we must continually discern where and how we need to grow--both individually and communally. Sometimes we need to simply dwell, to allow ourselves to be still in the grace that is given to us to freely. Other times, we need to strive to accept that grace more dynamically, claiming our Christian identity moment by moment as we do what we are called to as followers of Christ. After all, we Episcopalians argue that we are both Protestant and Catholic, that we chart the via media (middle way) with our Anglican siblings around the work between the seeming binaries of historical Christianity. Ours is a faith of ambiguity, and perhaps the most authentic experience of salvation we can offer up to the eternal vine-grower sometimes is to live in and live into that complexity, whatever fruits the harvest may bring.

*From the poem "As kingfishers catch fire" 

Building God’s Kingdom, One Child at a Time - Hentzi Elek

Would you be willing to work with local school children through Emmanuel?

Jesus said, “ Let the little children come unto me for as to such as these belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.” ( Matthew 9:14.)

Based on feedback from you, the Saints of Emmanuel, one of our steadfast parishioners and Outreach Committee members, Richard Fawcett, has begun conversations with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School, which is an easy walk from Emmanuel.

The leadership at Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is enthusiastic about the possibility of forming relationships with our church. They particularly hope we might help in three areas:
1.) Tutoring and Mentoring;
2.) Special Activities;
3.) The Regular Maintenance of Uniforms for the Students.

Your Outreach Committee is enthusiastic about the possibilities of our parishioners making a positive, transformative impact in the lives of these children. Would you like to volunteer and join us?

We want to build a lasting relationship with the closest public school, which happens to be Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. We think God is calling us on this journey.

Over the past year, you have given us feedback through various avenues. You stated that you want to engage in “ hands-on” outreach and relationships of social justice and community engagement. You have told us that you're committed to improving the lives of fellow Baltimore residents in direct issues of poverty and social justice.

Finally, your work with The Anti-Racism Project and H.O.P.E. (Antoin's re-entry organization) is a testament to your commitment to addressing both individual and systemic issues of racism, inequality, and lives torn asunder.

The teachers and children down the street are eager and hopeful that some Emmanuelites will partner with them, but we have not made any commitments and are very much in the exploratory stage.

The goal of this letter is to gauge your interest and to seek your prayers. If you are interested, please connect with our Outreach Chair--Herschel Wade, Herschel.wade@gmal.com--and Richard Fawcett, jrfaw@qis.net. Your Outreach Committee won’t make any commitments on behalf of Emmanuel until we have a group of committed parishioners.

The needs are great, so please consider helping us meet them.

And, pray. Pray for the children, teachers, leaders, and families of all our schools.

With my prayers and gratitude,
Hentzi Elek
Rector

Strange Glory - Hentzi Elek

Dear Saints of Emmanuel,

Yesterday, the Episcopal Church commemorated Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Pastor Bonhoeffer.jpg

"As a 27 year-old Lutheran pastor and leader in Germany, in April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised opposition to the persecution of Jews and argued that the Church had a responsibility to act against this kind of policy. Bonhoeffer sought to organize the Protestant Church to reject Nazi ideology from infiltrating the church. This led to a breakaway church – The Confessing Church, which Bonhoeffer helped form with Martin Niemoller. The Confessing Church sought to stand in contrast to the Nazi-supported, German Christian movement.

...Bonhoeffer wrote extensively on subjects of theological interest. This included The Cost of Discipleship, a study on the Sermon on the Mount where he argued for greater spiritual discipline and practice to achieve 'the costly grace.'

'Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession… Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.' — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

[Eventually,] Bonhoeffer was denied the right to speak in public or publish any article. However, he managed to join the Abwehr, the German military intelligence agency. It was within the Abwehr that the strongest opposition to Hitler occurred. Bonhoeffer was aware of various assassination plots to kill Hitler. It was during the darkest hours of the Second World War that he began to question his pacifism, as he saw the need for violent opposition to a regime such as Hitler. Bonhoeffer struggled with how to respond to the evil nature of the Nazi regime.

'The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.' — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (1967; 1997)

Within the Abwehr, efforts were made to help some German Jews escape to neutral Switzerland. It was Bonhoeffer’s involvement in this activity that led to his arrest in April 1943. As the Gestapo sought to take over the responsibilities of the Abwehr, they uncovered Bonhoeffer’s involvement in escape plans. For a year and a half, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel Military prison.

After the failed bomb plot (attempt to kill Hitler) of July 20th, 1944, Bonhoeffer was moved to the Gestapo’s high-security prison, before being transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp and finally Flossenburg concentration camp.

Even during the privations of the concentration camp, Bonhoeffer retained a deep spirituality which was evident to other prisoners. Bonhoeffer continued to minister his fellow prisoners. Payne Best, a fellow inmate and officer of the British Army, wrote this observation of Bonhoeffer.

'Bonhoeffer was different, just quite calm and normal, seemingly perfectly at his ease… his soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison. He was one of the very few men I have ever met to whom God was real and ever close to him.'

On April 8th, 1945, Bonhoeffer was given a cursory court martial and sentenced to death by hanging. Like many of the conspirators, he was hung by wire, to prolong the death. He was executed with fellow conspirators such as Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster.

Just before his execution, he asked a fellow inmate to relate a message to the Bishop George Bell of Chichester ‘This is the end – for me the beginning of life.’

Bonhoeffer’s principled resistance to Hitler’s regime was a source of inspiration for other figures such as Martin Luther King and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Bonhoeffer also shared many ideals with Mahatma Gandhi. (In 1935 he turned down an opportunity to learn in Gandhi’s ashram)"

(Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Biography”, Oxford, UK – www.biographyonline.net. Published 12th Jan. 2014. Last updated 8th March 2017.)

With my prayers and gratitude for all of you,
Hentzi
The Rev. Hentzi Elek

The Good News – Joseph Wood

            Today, Christians* throughout the world commemorate Good Friday—marking the suffering and death of Jesus at imperial hands—as we prepare to welcome Easter in rejoicing once more. It is a hard, somber day, and there are many who have perfectly reasonable concerns about fixating upon such a gruesome moment within our shared salvation history. Why call a day “good,” when it revolves around the torture and brutal execution of an innocent person? Must our faith be defined by pain?

            It shouldn’t surprise most of you that, when I find myself at a loss for words before such monumental questions, I turn to poetry to try to glean some sense of the holiness of the day. In particular, I make what has become my annual return to “The Way of Pain” by American author, farmer, and mystic Wendell Berry. A meditation on the hearth-aching limitations that come with being a parent in a world inundated by so much struggle, the poem’s third stanza focuses specifically on the topics of Good Friday:

I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grave, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.

            Each time I read the poem, I'm almost thrown entirely by the lines about “the only begotten Son/ sacrificed to flesh and time/ and all our woe,” recoiling at the atonement implications that would seem to affirm pain as Christianity’s foundation and inheritance. (At least a few of my seminary professors would argue that most of them stem from a misreading of Anselm of Canterbury, but I’ll resist the urge to get too bogged down in historical debates.) Mastering my distress somewhat, I notice that "the only begotten Son" is "sacrificed" to "flesh," "time," "and all our woe"—not to God or any sense of Divine justice. I thus continue on to what might just be the shortest summary of the Triduum** possible: “He died/ and rose….” Here we begin to perceive the conclusion that Berry comes to by the end of the stanza, asserting through such stark proximity that there is an inextricable connection at work. However, it’s most properly understood as between Good Friday and Easter. There can be no resurrection without death, no stone rolled away without a tomb. Shying away from Jesus’ “pain” and “loneliness,” we often try to rush our way through the first part of that truth. We talk about rising, but we are loath to spend too much time on clarifying the question (From what?) that gives Christ’s triumph its meaning. We want an Easter without the mess.

            Good Friday, however, cannot be sanitized, and it is one of the holiest days of our year exactly because it brings us up short. Berry invites us to “grieve like Mary” not to idolize suffering; rather, he reminds us that suffering is a fundamental aspect of our experience of this life. We suffer, and we make choices that contribute to the suffering of others. Yet we are not the ones who are given “up as lost,” and pain is not the final word. “Easter morning” still comes, bringing with it the promise of new life again and again. (Like her Son, Mary doesn't remain alone for long.) Our faith reminds us at least once a year that we won’t always need Good Friday, that the gap between the world as it is and the world as it could be will be closed over entirely one day. Until then, Good Friday and the echo it sounds of “the darkness of the sixth hour” present the contrast that accentuate just how radically bright and beautiful our faith might shine—not despite suffering, but because it isn't our only option. In our terror and amazement, we can recognize that Jesus is no longer there and go forth into a new wholeness, into Easter, together.

 

*That is, those who share what we commonly think of as the Western Christian calendar.

**By Triduum, I mean the fulcrum of the Christian year beginning on the evening of Maundy Thursday; continuing with Good Friday; and drawing to a close with Easter Sunday, especially the Great Vigil. (Technically, it’s the Paschal Triduum, since “triduum” can refer to any three-day religious observance.)

A Wholehearted Lent - Terrell Boston Smith

“...to say I’m going to engage wholeheartedly in my life requires believing without seeing.” 
-Dr. Brené Brown

 After overcoming the challenges of this week’s weather, our Lenten Series completed Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly yesterday evening. Our conversations were inspiring and heartening. The book and our discussions set the pace for the Lenten season and created the space and time for self-examination, reflection, and preparation for the coming of Easter. Those moments of meditation and prayer that came along with our reading help me actualize that which I hope to be through my relationship with God, our neighbors, and nature.

Here’s a short summary of Brené’s thoughts that guided our studies (2):

When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make…Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.

More simply, the book and her work more generally settle on the concept that we are enough as we are, we belong in the space that we have in this world, and we are a complete vessel of the unique Spirit that we are given as human beings and the treasured members of God’s family. We have everything that we need to engage our lives with all of our hearts.

That idea became the center of my mediation and prayer this season.  I’m a semi-Type A personality and desire to control all that is around me and happening about me. I want everything ordered in the perfect position and ideal flow. It was difficult to just accept Brené‘s premise that we can be wholehearted individuals as we are. Just being in my imperfections, short comings and mistakes and knowing that I am still whole had to become a part of my meditation, a part of my practice to become letting myself be me.

Our final discussions, however, added some perspective by invoking the role of faith. It’s a constant theme and echo in this season and the book. We were reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:12* and similar verses, how God’s grace and love encompasses us in all of our being and with all our imperfections. However, as Paul and Brené both note about much of life, the act of living, and living wholeheartedly, requires believing and living without always seeing fully.

 

*"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Cor 13:12)

United, Not Uniform - Ashley Newton

I’ve heard a lot of people say that their favorite season of the church year is Lent, even though this is usually prefaced by a quick disclaimer: “I know it’s odd, but...” Lent is a penitential season and the world teaches us that this isn’t something we’re supposed to enjoy. In fact, when I mentioned Hentzi’s Ash Wednesday homily about not making Lent a season of self-shame to a Catholic friend of mine, he was very much taken aback at how different this was to his own priest’s words that morning. 

Lent is my favorite season too, although not because of the focus on penitential behaviors and liturgy, but because of the sense of unity I feel that it brings to the wider church community. I was traveling out of state earlier this month, and I had to go to a different church on Sunday morning. I was struck by how, even though the surroundings were so very different from Emmanuel (the incense was thick enough to make me grab for a Kleenex), the people and the feeling on that fourth Sunday in Lent were so very similar to home. Sure, the building was different and the altar was different and the words in the service were different, but these were all superficial changes. The spirit of Lent was still present, the people were still taking this season to self-reflect and try to improve their relationship with God and each other. It didn’t matter what church it was or what the sermon was--everyone there was somehow connected to all the other Christians observing this Lenten season in whatever way was personal to them. 

Even though Lent is observed a little differently from church to church and even from person to person, I am reminded of a paragraph I read late last year: 

Unity is not uniformity. Unity is harmony; uniformity is monotony. Do not stickle for uniformity, as long as unity is secured. The having the same order of Worship, the same liturgical observances, the same hymns and the same prayers in the same method of arrangement, -  friends, the Unity of the Church of Christ does not consist in this.*

So, even though Lent is not observed uniformly by all Christians, every Lent I am still reminded that we are all one Church--united in our desire to be closer to God this season, if not uniform in how we choose to do it.

 

*Quote from On the Communion Office by Goulburn; 1865 (pg 16)

Yours, Mine, and Ours - Elizabeth Shaner

Don't you love the feeling of an "Aha!" moment?  On a neurological level, it feels great because the brain is rewarded with a rush of dopamine. On an emotional level (for me) it makes me feel excited, joyful, and content.  I had an "Aha!" moment in church a few weeks ago during the end of Epiphany--no pun intended.

I was struck by the use of the pronoun "us" and "we" in our regular liturgy, particularly in the Confession of Sin and the Lord's Prayer.  I realized every time I recite those words, I think about the evil I have done or that has been done on my behalf.  My Father in Heaven.  Asking God to forgive me, as I forgive those who trespass against me.  I say the words "we" and "us," but I'm not thinking in those terms.  My personal petitions to God--and the things I probably should not have done during the week--run through my mind.  I also find myself listening to the sound of my own voice; the voice of the person in front of or behind me; or the sound of the congregation speaking in unison--usually in that order.  On this particular day, I listened to my voice briefly, then the whole congregation, and I thought about how the literal reason we say "we" and "us" is because we are all praying for our individual needs at the same time.  But what if we repent not only for our individual sins, but for each others'? Asking God to forgive me, and asking God to forgive the sins of the person in front of me?  Praying not to my Father, but a God who is yours, mine, and ours?

In many ways, I consider Lent  an "I" focused season that can sometimes be isolating, but approaching the liturgy in this way during Lent has been very meaningful for me.

Commitment - Jack Carroll

This year during Lent, Erin and I will be starting pre-marital counseling in preparation for our wedding this summer.  The timing is a coincidence, but counseling during Lent may be appropriate:  it’s a chance to step away from the busyness and stress of planning a wedding and make sure that we’re making the right decision.  I have no doubt about my marriage to Erin, but I have been struggling with commitment in other aspects of my life.  I want to be fully invested in my community, but Baltimore has often left me frustrated by our inability to confront our problems compounded by poor decisions by our leaders.  Is this really the place where I want to live my life, pursue my career, and (perhaps someday) raise a family?  Similarly, I have been heavily involved at Emmanuel, and the ups and downs of the last few years have been difficult.  Will I have the energy to keep it up?  As I begin preparing for marriage this Lent, I hope to have the opportunity to reflect on the other commitments in my life and find a way to move from anxiety to peace, optimism, and renewed passion.  As my relationship with Erin takes the next step, I will work to make my commitments to my city, my church, and my job become deeper and more meaningful as well.

An Impatient Lent - Erin McClure

     As I was contemplating how I would celebrate Lent this year, my attention turned to the practice of patience. I am an impatient patient person and this is not good. Slow walkers, unpredictable drivers, and long lines annoy me. I struggle with waiting for things to happen and often end up rushing matters that require careful consideration and deserve to develop in due time. I'm impatient for the future to get here and frustrated that I can't know what will happen next. Patient people seem happier and less irritable, so patience is probably a good characteristic to cultivate in my own life. However, it seemed to me that anything I would do in Lent to control my impatience would just be a self-improvement exercise and not a penitential, God-seeking practice.

     Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that, as in my own life, impatience is alive and well in Lent. For example, we can be impatient about the gloomy time of repentance and suffering (if you're into that sort of thing), and just want to make it to the joyful Easter celebration. Some people abstain from certain foods or practices during Lent and impatiently count down the days until they can indulge again. These negative aspects of an impatient Lent should probably be avoided. Yet, they seem to be built into how a lot of Western Christians celebrate the season.

     On the other hand, an impatient Lent can be a holy Lent. Perhaps we should embrace this impatience and live into it fully. A few examples of this positive sort of impatience come to mind. First, I am impatient with the state of my relationship with God. Some people seem to have a connection with God marked by incessant prayer and deep contentment. This has not been my experience, but perhaps my impatience with a shallow relationship with God can motivate me to intentionally seek God during Lent. Second, I, like many other members of Emmanuel Church, am impatient about the sins of racism, violence, and poverty in Baltimore City. I'm impatient to get to Easter – to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, where justice prevails and these sins no longer hurt ourselves and our neighbors.

     Given my excellent grasp of impatience, I have decided to embrace frustration during this Lenten season. I can channel my impatience into prayer and acts of service that impact individual people, affirming their holiness and playing my part in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.