Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sermon for June 19, 2016

UCC Beliefs: Searching for God

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
~ Psalm 63
It happens most days, lately. I drop my kids off at school and say a prayer. Please God, let them be safe today. When my older children started their school careers many years ago, I said different prayers. I prayed they would learn. I prayed they would be kind and receive kindness. I prayed they would grow. Now I drop my kids off, remind them to be safe, and as they walk through the doors I pray, “God, please keep guns out of our schools today.”

I thought it again on Friday, when a host of county police, including a K-9 unit and a helicopter, chased four men through the woods of our neighborhood after two car crashes on New Hampshire and Randolph Road. Drugs were involved. Two people were caught, two were still at large. All of this happened during drop off time at school. My first thought was, “Will the schools shelter in place?” That’s what I think of now -- Shelter in place. It’s a warning that violence is at hand. In a explosive world, Shelter in Place signifies the looming possibility of danger and the need for finding refuge from those who would willfully harm human life.

Please God, let them be safe today. I don’t even know if God has anything to do with keeping guns and criminals out of schools. I’m can get so worried for the safety of my children, I’m willing to ask. It’s what we do when we no longer feel safe.  We hear the cry to God:

O God, you are my God, I seek you.
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my flesh faints for you.

Like many of you, I've been scanning social media and catching the latest news, trying to make sense of the massacre in Orlando. The familiar mix of emotions that I've felt during previous massacres comes back to me: anger, sadness, fear, and discouragement. I want to fix the problems and run away from them all at the same time. The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, like many gay bars, was supposed to be safe space. Owner Barbara Poma opened Pulse nightclub with a mission: to honor her brother who died of HIV/AIDS and to create a safe space for Orlando's gay community. That image of safety is now shattered.

This week, we also marked the one-year anniversary of the shootings of church members and their beloved minister during a Bible study at a venerable church in Charleston, SC. Emmanuel AME Church, like all of our houses of worship, was supposed to be safe space.  Our community havens no longer feel safe. Public schools, college campuses, neighborhood gathering spots like movie theaters, churches, military bases -- they have all been desecrated by violence. That image of safety is now injured. We hear the cry to God:

O God, you are my God, I seek you. my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Life can certainly feel like we are living in a dry and weary land with no water. It can surely feel like we are thirsty for some love and compassion in the deserts of violence; parched for even the possibility of peace. In these cruel times, there are dry deserts that have yet to see flowing waters of righteousness.

The difficult things in life are hard to endure. They can press on the chest like an asthma attack and you can’t find space to breathe. In the midst of them it can feel like you are running through a rain-parched, dusty land, kicking up dust as you look for an oasis of plenty.

For sure, events like the killings in Orlando shake us out of our oasis of plenty – those places where we try to hide and ignore the thirsty cries of the desiccated world around us. Like I said, I get it. I want to hide, too. The issues we know of seem so vast at times, so complicated, so impossible to solve, no matter how many of us seem willing to confront society’s problems.  We encounter systems that we don’t know how to change. We think of issues like domestic abuse, mental health issues, and gun violence. We think of political finance reform and pay-day lending. We think of the pernicious racism, classism, and anti-gay and anti-transgender legislation that still divides our country and is endorsed by leaders from ministers to political candidates. And we don’t know. We don’t know what to do or how to fix it. Are we going to learn to embrace our differences and passions to stare down those evils in our community that make us squirm, run away, or cause fear? Can we learn to hold onto the tension and anxiety of encountering these things together. Can we pray together? Can we act as one?

O God, my soul thirsts for you, for your overflowing love, for the kingdom you promised where every tear will be wiped away, and where our soul’s are slaked in the flowing river that makes glad the city of God. 

I’m thankful the psalmist put our feelings down in poetry. The writer of Psalm 63 knows the dangers of this world. It’s a plea for God to show up and hold us strongly when we wander the driest deserts and we’ve all but given up hope.  Poets have a way of speaking truth in compact and unrestrained ways. This is how poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s deals with our hungry, thirsty, unkind world:
Oh say, poet, what you do?
I praise.
But what about the deadly and monstrous?
How do you keep going, how do you take it all in?
I praise.
Psalm 63 puts it this way:

O God, you are my God.  My lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live.

Here is one thing we affirm today. In the United Church of Christ, we are seekers. We really believe it. We believe that each person is unique and valuable. We want every person to belong to a family of faith where they have a strong sense of being valued and loved.

We believe that each person is on a spiritual journey and that each of us is at a different stage of that journey. Here is the key. We are not individual seekers. We’re not just coming together to have our individual spiritual needs met. We are seekers in community. Each of us is unique and on a spiritual journey, but we journey together. We need each other. To go it alone puts us at risk.

After an event like the violence in Orlando, that's what we have to offer at CCC. We create sacred space where everyone belongs, where all are welcome, where we honor and celebrate people of all races, cultures, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. We offer sacred space where anyone can attend -- with our pains and joys, with our fears and hopes, with our experiences of rejection and our longings for wholeness -- and know that we are embraced by empathy and understanding.

O God, you are my God. I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

I really believe that we inherited a universal instinct to create protected, sacred spaces in which we can heal, reorganize and regenerate the aching fragments around us.

In 1948, The General Assembly of the World Council of Churches developed the idea of “responsible society” as the ultimate goal of Christian action. The assembly wrote:

A responsible society is one where freedom is the freedom of [persons] to acknowledge responsibilities to justice and public order and where those who hold political authority as economic power are responsible for its exercise to God and the people whose welfare is affected by it … For a society to be responsible under modern conditions, it is required that the people have freedom to control, to criticize, and to change their governments, that power be made responsible by law and tradition, and be distributed as widely as possible through the whole community.
That’s what we practice here. Call it responsible society, call it sacred space, call it holy ground, call it democracy, call it community. We become a place where all can practice justice in the ways we share leadership, resources, and common life. We realize that in God, the many are one, each contributing to the others and receiving from others in the unity of God. The fragmentation of each of us seeking God in isolation from the others is opposite to the kingdom. It is not enough to confine oneself to one’s own task: one must contribute to others and receive from others throughout the breadth of the work.

We are creating a Sacred Shelter in Place. With all of our variety, no matter how we got here, no matter who we are, no matter what we believe (or don’t), we belong to one another. We protect one another. We cherish one another. We find ways to help each pother grow and thrive. We commit to the well-being of the other. We work for peace together. In dry and weary times, we sustain each other. That’s relationship. That’s compassion. That’s sacred. That’s God.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Pastoral Letter on the Killings in Orlando

 

Safe Spaces or Sacred Spaces?

Like many of you, I've been scanning social media and catching the latest news, trying to make sense of the terrorism attack in Orlando. The familiar mix of emotions that I've felt during previous massacres comes back to me: anger, sadness, fear, and discouragement. I want to fix the problems and run away from them all at the same time.

The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, like many gay bars, was supposed to be safe space. Owner Barbara Poma opened Pulse nightclub with a mission: to honor her brother who died of HIV/AIDS and to create a safe space for Orlando's gay community. That image of safety is now shattered.

This month, we also mark the one-year anniversary of the shootings of church members and their beloved minister during a Bible study at a venerable church in Charleston, SC. Emmanuel AME Church, like all of our houses of worship, was supposed to be safe space. That image of safety is now injured.

Our community havens no longer feel safe. Public schools, college campuses, neighborhood gathering spots -- they have all been desecrated by violence. Even in our church's Indian Spring neighborhood, I heard from a resident who is a lesbian. She has been approached recently by a homophobic neighbor who wants to "save" her and her wife. Our neighbor remarked that she doesn't feel safe on her own property.

However, she also noted how many others have shown love, sympathy and support. She may not experience safe space right now, but she has experienced sacred space. In the midst of her suffering, she has been embraced by empathy, and understanding. I think that's the embrace of God.

After an event like the violence in Orlando, that's what we have to offer at CCC. We create sacred space where everyone belongs, where all are welcome, where we honor and celebrate people of all races, cultures, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. We need it now more than ever! We offer sacred space where anyone can attend -- with our pains and joys, with our fears and hopes, with our experiences of rejection and our longings for wholeness -- and know that we are embraced by empathy and understanding. again, I think that's the embrace of God.

In response to our need for sacred space, Rev. Jennifer Glover of Pilgrim UCC in Wheaton and I will host a prayer vigil on Thursday, June 16, from 7 to 10 PM in the CCC sanctuary.
Our open and affirming sacred space will provide a place for prayer, solace, and listening. We will open our time together at 7 PM with a brief public prayer service honoring the lives of those slain in Orlando. Afterwards, our sanctuary will be open for ongoing community prayer. Pastor Jennifer, Pastor Gloria Grant, and I will be available to meet with any individuals who wish to pray and talk with a minister.


On Friday, June 17 at 6pm, the Young Adults and Families of Pilgrim UCC (2206 Briggs Rd at Layhill Rd, Wheaton, MD) invite any and all to join in a Potluck Dinner. It will be a time of fellowship, conversation, and community connection. A movie will be set up for the kids. Singles and families of every kind are welcome. Bring a dish or beverage to share, or just bring yourself.

On Sunday, June 19, CCC will continue to honor and re-affirm our Open & Affirming Covenant during our worship service at 10:00 AM (note the time change). This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that made marriage equality the law of the land. Brings your friends and join us for a time celebration in worship, giving thanks for the ways in which we see the Spirit restoring equality and dignity to all and recommitting ourselves to open and affirming ministry.


Yours on the Journey,
Pastor Matt

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sermon for June 5, 2016

UCC Beliefs: All Are Welcome
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, NRSV

I can imagine there are some people in our church for whom taking communion was shrouded in fear. If you took communion, and your soul was not in a state of grace, look out! For while, I went to a church where the minister put a lot of emphasis on being worthy to take the Lord’s Supper. “Had I thoroughly repented of my sins? Was I even worthy to take communion?” I received the message loud and clear from my church: unrepentant sinners were not welcome at the table of the Lord. Only those who were “right with Jesus” were invited. The text I just read from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was quoted as proof. It was never clear, however, how I could know for certain that I was “right with Jesus” or what makes a person worthy. Moral purity, which I believed was the requirement for being worthy, was an ever-receding horizon that I never felt  I could reach.

Paul writes to a Christian community torn apart by various factions. Some members of the church in Corinth consider themselves superior to others. They are wiser, more spiritually gifted, more socially acceptable, and they have more money.  They look down on others whom they see as less. They take all of the good pews at church. At the church potluck suppers, they go first in line and take all of the best food. They grab all the homemade fried chicken for themselves (which was probably lovingly prepared by one of the people who was seen as less wise, led, spiritual and less acceptable). Those who are poorer get stuck at the end of the line and eat whatever is always left over at potluck dinners – probably the ancient equivalent of greasy green bean casserole cooked in that gray sludge.

At their potlucks, the Corinthian church also serves communion. But their meal reinforces social hierarchies that divide the community against itself. While some to revel in excess, others get nothing. The rich confuse their economic power with moral superiority. The rich exercise their privilege and humiliate the poor in the process. Paul says that the vulnerability of the poor church members -- their weakness, illness, and death -- serves as a judgment against the rich for their failure to “discern the body of Christ.”

It’s an odd phrase to me, “discerning the Body of Christ.” Let’s think about it for a minute.

There are all types of people who have been excluded from communion -- those who have been historically branded as sinners. The UCC believes something different. All are welcome. All are invited. Period.  Discerning the body is about becoming vulnerable enough to unite with those have been excluded from communion.  As far as I’m concerned, we are worthy to receive communion when we refuse to participate in faith-based exclusion – we don’t make one person’s salvation dependent upon another person’s condemnation. Our union with God is not based on the moral superiority of a powerful few, but with how we receive God’s gifts and experience Jesus in the most improbable people.

How do we know if we are doing it right? Paul has another interesting phrase. He tells the Corinthian Church to to examine themselves.  The word “examine” comes from the Greek word dokimos. Dokimos is related to our English word “decent”. To understand what Paul is saying, we have to understand how money worked in Paul’s day.

In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from melted precious metal, which was poured into molds and allowed to cool. When the coins cooled, money makers shaved off the uneven edges to make them smooth. Some money makers went too far and practiced something called clipping -- shaving off an extra portion of the precious metal coin for profit.  Over time, the precious metal shavings could be saved up and melted into bullion or used to make new coins. 

Some money changers had integrity. They refused to accept underweight money. They put only genuine, full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called "dokimos" or "approved".
Paul uses a form of that same word when he talks about eating at the communion table. Be dokimos, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. We must be dokimos, checking and double-checking our integrity, asking, “Is our celebration trustworthy, excellent, and pleasing?” If we are not dokimos, if we are not circulating with integrity, then we eat and drink judgment on ourselves.

We eat and drink judgment on ourselves when anyone is excluded by the so-called morally superior members among us.

We eat and drink judgment on ourselves when we reserve the best for ourselves and don’t share with others.

We eat and drink judgment on ourselves when the pursuit of false purity dupes us into thinking that we get to tell God who is in and who is out, or who is first and who is last.

The great preacher Fred Craddock  told about the first church he served in the eastern Tennessee hills, not too far from Oak Ridge.

When Oak Ridge began to boom with atomic energy, that little bitty town became a booming city just overnight. . . . People came in from everywhere and pitched tents, lived in wagons. . . . Our church was not far away. We had a beautiful little church—white frame building, one hundred and twelve years old. After church one morning, I asked the leaders to stay. I said to them, “Now we need to launch a calling campaign and an invitational campaign in all those trailer parks to invite those people to church.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think they’d fit in here,” one of them said. “They’re just here temporarily, just construction people. They’ll be leaving pretty soon.”

 “Well, we ought to invite them, make them feel at home,” I said.

We argued about it, time ran out, and we said we’d vote next Sunday. The next Sunday, we all sat down after the service. “I move,” said one of them, “I move that in order to be a member of this church, you must own property in the county.” Someone else said, “I second that.” It passed. I voted against it, but they reminded me that I was just a kid preacher and I didn’t have a vote. It passed.

When we moved back to those parts, I took my wife to see that little church, because I had told her that painful, painful story. The roads have changed. The interstate goes through that part of the country, so I had a hard time finding it, but I finally did. . . . there, back among the pines, was that building shining white. . . . The parking lot was full … And out front, a great big sign: “Barbecue, all you can eat.” It’s a restaurant …  The pews are against a wall …  the organ pushed over into the corner. There are all these aluminum and plastic tables, and people sitting there eating barbecued pork and chicken and ribs—all kinds of people. I said to [my wife] Nettie, “It’s a good thing this is not still a church, otherwise these people couldn’t be in here.”

In the UCC, we don’t like to talk about who doesn’t belong. We don’t prefer language like insider and outsider. Everyone belongs. All are welcome. No matter who you are or where you come from, you are welcome here. That’s what gives our communion table legitimacy. That’s what gives our Table integrity.

Our table has integrity when people of all races, cultures, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and people of all spiritual, emotional wellbeing find welcome here, as they would find welcome by Jesus.

Our table is trustworthy when those who have been excluded by other religious traditions know that divisions can be overcome and all have a home here.

Our table is pleasing when the last come first, and the first serve the last.

Our welcome is extravagant when we our celebration is marked by justice, peace, and mutual, self-giving love.


Sources:
https://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/dojustice/j337.html
http://www.firstcongoappleton.org/blogs/notes/2014/01/30/open-communionopen-church/
http://www.ucc.org/beliefs
http://www.ucc.org/worship_communion

Sermon for May 29, 2016

UCC Beliefs: United & Uniting

"My prayer for them is not for them alone, but for ALL who hear my message...that ALL of them may be one.”  John 17:21
When Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died, we heard a lot about his robust conservatism. I was most touched to hear the stories of his friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The justices, who were often polar opposites on the bench, managed to form an unlikely friendship. At his funeral, Justice Ginsberg referred to Justice Scalia as her “best buddy.” When talking about their lifetime appointments, Scalia once said, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake.” And Justice Ginsberg once said about Their friendship, “As annoyed as you might be about his zinging dissent, he’s so utterly charming, so amusing, so sometimes outrageous, you can’t help but say, ‘I’m glad that he’s my friend or he’s my colleague.’ ”

How hopeful to remember that people can disagree and still be friends.  Hey, maybe they learned this in church! Because, at our best, that’s what we do here every week. We don’t always agree. We don’t always like what others say or do. But we can be friends. This idea is actually a core belief in our church’s identity. The UCC understands itself as a “united and uniting church.” Why, do you suppose we would use both these words – united and uniting?

One of the key features of our churches is a belief in the self-government of local churches. Since there is no hierarchy in the UCC, a local congregation is the basic unit of church life. But even at the local level, we don’t always feel like a united church. We struggle and differ with each another over all sorts of issues, many of which have come up over the past few weeks: The priority of mission, the appropriate portion of our music budget, the care of our facilities and grounds, our need for staff, our ministry to our children and youth, increased outreach and service, commitments to the wider church, the purpose and use of our endowment, and the use of our assets. Sometimes different people have different visions of how we operate as a local church. And yet … and yet … we manage to gather together every week in our work and worship. Some mysterious force draws us together beyond our struggles.

Disagreement and division are nothing new to the Christian community. Managing our differences is tiring and disheartening (at least it is to me).  We will always have issues on which we disagree. That does not mean we are not united.

The UCC has a fierce commitment to unifying people, even people who are about as far apart as you can imagine. Some quick UCC history: Four distinct groups from four distinct parts of the world somehow managed to form the United Church of Christ in 1957. We call these four groups, or four streams, the Congregational, Christian, Reformed, and Evangelical churches. The leaders and members of those distinct communions did not agree on everything. Yet, they came together. They found unity. The 1957 Basis of Union states, “In all our expressions of that faith we seek to preserve unity of heart and spirit with those who have gone before us as well as those who now labor with us.”

Unity is still a part of who we are today. The UCC is still out there, uniting with more and more people – uniting in mission, uniting in peace and justice efforts, uniting across national and international boundaries, and uniting with other faith traditions.

So, what’s going on here? Why would local church members like us at CCC be us willing to meet together week after week when we don’t always agree? Why would a denomination like the UCC work so hard to bring more diverse experiences and points of view into our faith and life?

The UCC believes that God calls us – as our very top priority - to pull people together, to seek and celebrate similarities rather than differences, even when that’s the hardest thing to do.

Those four distinct streams that merged into one, the Congregational, Christian, Reformed, and Evangelical churches, never could have united if they first had to hammer out some sort of common doctrine or dogma. If they formed a four-way ad-hoc committee to hammer out a common statement of faith before they could unite, the union never would have happened.  Instead, they focused on their common mission. They chose to emphasize their actions of love, mercy, and justice in the world. The UCC is committed to bringing people together –different, differing, disagreeing and even disagreeable people. We live out Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17, “My prayer for them is not for them alone, but for ALL who hear my message...that ALL of them may be one.” John 17:21 may be the most important scripture passage in the UCC.

Unity does not mean we all need to believe the same thing, or sign the dotted line of a creed before we become a member. We cannot be a united and uniting church, and, at the same time, insist that everyone believe the same way.  Our unity has nothing to do doctrine. The UCC is far more concerned about feeding the hungry, taking care of the poor, and working toward justice for all people, regardless of their beliefs, their religion, or their nationality. To put it another way: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials,diversity; in all things, love.

I really think that what pulls us together each week, what makes us united and uniting, is not about what we choose to agree and disagree on. We gather because, despite all that, we need each other. We are broken, hurting people who want to heal our broken, hurting world. We know we can gather together with our brokenness, our sin, and our hurt … we can remember God does not just love the good, pious, faithful parts of us that we share at coffee hour, but also loves the grungy, grumpy, disheveled, and disordered parts of us as well.

Only in our brokenness is our true love revealed.  Only when we are fully known, can we be fully loved.

United and uniting, in love. On a practical level, it means, also, that we must value each another with such care and affection that we always treat one another with respect, honesty, and kindness.  It means that we speak directly to one another – not indirectly through others or in hiding behind one another’s back.  It means we must have the courage, confidence, and respect to relate openly and kindly to one another – never through gossip and back-biting.  It means we are intentional about our care and treatment for one another. It means fostering a community of healing in which everyone exists to support others in our brokenness. The modern-day mystic Joan Chittister call it “mutual obedience”. She says:
Mutual obedience --
the willingness to listen
to the needs
and the hopes,
the dreams and the ideas
of those around us
rather than promote our own
by ignoring
everyone else's--
is surely the foundation …

It is what we need
to be able to think newly
because we think
with the others
about their ideas
rather than simply
about our own.

It is the way we come to learn
respect and reverence,
for the insights of others
are meant to become
the foundation
of the next step
on our own path …

“Obedience to one another”
is the strength of community,
the brilliance of community,
the voice of community
in the midst of which
we can now hear
the voice of God.
In 2015, in what the news called “The Miracle at Quecreek,” nine miners were trapped for three days 240 feet underground in a water-filled mine shaft “decided early on they were either going to live or die as a group.” The 55 degree water threatened to kill them slowly by hypothermia, so according to one news report “When one would get cold, the other eight would huddle around the person and warm that person, and when another person got cold, the favor was returned.” As one miner said, “Everybody had strong moments. But any certain time maybe one guy got down, and then the rest pulled together. And then that guy would get back up, and maybe someone else would feel a little weaker, but it was a team effort. That’s the only way it could have been.” They faced incredibly hostile conditions together–and they all came out alive together.

What a picture of being united and uniting. Not uniformity, but mutual care and attention. Mutual commitment to the survival and flourishing of one another so that we not just come out alive, but we do it together. We are all different, diverse, and we even disagree, and we still find ways to articulate and live out our common identity as followers of Jesus. We do it in a thousand different ways. Let our unity be one like the seas that salt a thousand shores.  Let our unity be one like the wind is one, though whisper, though rush, though roar.  Let our unity be one like a symphony orchestra is one as it plays a thousand different notes at the strokes of a conductor’s baton. Let our unity be one like the birds are one, though they sing a thousand songs.  Let our unity be one as our prayers are one, though voiced in a thousand tongues.  Let our unity be one, as light is one, though made of a thousand hues of the spectrum.  Let our unity be one as God’s love is one – God’s love for a thousand times a thousand times a thousand people, known and unknown. Let our unity be one as God’s love is one God is one: Creator, Christ, and Spirit.

SOURCES:
http://www.christchurchgp.org/worship-music/sermons/division-and-unity
http://firstuccgaylord.org/docs/2016.04.24.ThreeThingsILoveUCC.pdf
http://www.emanuel-ucc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/May-8-2016.pdf
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/02/14/read_justice_ruth_bader_ginsburg_s_touching_statement_on_scalia.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/02/13/what-made-scalia-and-ginsburgs-friendship-work/



Sermon for January 21, 2018

How Far Would You Go? 1 Samuel 17 I had a sermon all ready to go today. It was a NICE sermon. You would have felt really good about i...