Matthew 28:16-20

August 2, 2019

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

But some doubted…” Why did Matthew include that detail? Why do those words jump off the page?

These are the closing verses to Matthew’s gospel and the opening act in the future of the Christian movement. What does Jesus want his followers to do? To go into the world where they live. To make disciples by baptizing and teaching. I don’t think we need to be reminded that making disciples (those who actually follow Jesus in their lives by doing the things that Jesus did) is not the same thing as “signing people up to the membership list of a club.” Or maybe we do.

Jesus wraps his call to action with two reassuring messages. First, he opens with a reminder that he retains authority, and therefore accountability. He is in charge. He is the boss. It is right to respond in obedience to his commands. And then he closes with a promise, that he will be with them always, to the very end.

But some doubted….”

Those three words don’t change a thing about Jesus’ words to his disciples. They don’t change a thing in how Matthew tells the story. Matthew could have left those three words out and no one would have been the wiser.

Unlike the conspirators who concocted a story to cover their tracks, Matthew proves willing to tell the truth. Here’s the truth – for 2000 years now – many people have been so committed to the truth of Jesus that they have obediently done what he commanded. They have loved and served in Jesus’ name. They have walked with people to baptism and continuing maturity. They have created opportunities for Christian community to gather. And all the along the way, some doubted. More likely, all along the way, all doubted at some point.

Someone smarter than me once said that “doubt is the ants in the pants of faith.” Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it is faith’s dance partner. Certainty is the opposite of faith. The question is never “Do I doubt?” but always “What happens when I doubt my doubts? Where shall I take my doubts…or where will they take me?”

Jesus has come to set us free. Certainty will never set us free. Only truth can do that. Truth that is a person, still with us now, to the end of the age.

Let us pray: Thank you Lord for those people who first brought us to you. Thank you for the songs and prayers that reached our ears long before we understood anything beyond how good it felt to be held close to our mothers or fathers. Thank you for the faithfulness of the saints before us to carry the message of your love and message to the world. Use us to do the same. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Matthew 28:11-15

August 1, 2019

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened.

After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day. Matthew 28:11-15

So here we go again. Fake news. Cover your tracks. Want to beat a story to the punch? Tell a whopper. The more afraid of the truth you are, the more outrageous your story.

You’re missing a body? From a carefully sealed tomb? Guarded by Roman soldiers? Obviously, a tax collector and a couple of Galilean fishermen must have out-smarted them. Yeah, yeah, that’s what happened.

The priests and the elders were the ones who hatched this plan. Again, this isn’t about their faith. It isn’t about their Jewishness. It is about how people with power will do anything to keep their power. Truth? Justice? Love of neighbor? None of that matters.

Or maybe it does.

Maybe the priests and the elders truly were morally convinced that Jesus represented a real threat to the health and welfare of the people. Maybe they saw in Jesus, not just someone who threatened their privileged positions of spiritual authority, but someone who threatened the physical security of the people in their charge. Maybe none of them wanted to needlessly stir up the Roman tiger.

If so, they might have felt their actions were justified. But they were flat out wrong. History would prove them wrong. Thirty years later their fears would be realized but Jesus would have nothing to do with it. Thirty years later, a serious attempt would be made to kick the Romans out of Jerusalem. It wouldn’t end well. It would be devastating.

Two old sayings come to mind. “The proof is in the pudding.” “Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost.”

There is more than one way to appreciate this whole story. We can look at it from the point of view of what it tells us about something that happened a long time ago. Or we can look at it from the point of view of how it gives us insights into human nature. Either road takes us to the same destination – which story will guide our lives?

Let us pray: Lord, you are truth. Your Word is truth. Your way of being in the world is truth. Yet there are so many other voices clamoring for attention, clamoring to be heard, demanding to be obeyed. Keep us centered in the truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 28:8-10

July 31, 2019

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:8-10

The resurrection is the Big Bang of spirituality. Some people fervently believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead. They take the story at face value. Some people think the whole story is a foolish legend that has caused more problems than it is worth. Whatever people believe about it, those beliefs drive their behaviors. We all live in the shadow of this story.

There was no hesitation or doubt in the reaction of the women. They didn’t sit around and argue with one another about what they ought to do. The angel said “Go, tell” and they did. They ran. With fear. With great joy.

As they ran, Jesus showed up for them.

Jesus showed up and caught them in the act of being obedient. They carried the message and, in that, they met Jesus.

There is a great temptation in all of us to turn the Christian faith into a “head game.” To reduce the Christian faith to a world limited to the thoughts between our ears. Doctrines and articles of faith and theological principles. Don’t get me wrong, I believe all of that matters. All of those words have arisen from human experience. They allow the continuing conversation that is part of the Christian experience and witness to the world.

But Jesus did not die and rise from the dead so that people could someday write theology. He did it to seal the transformation that Mary Magdalene saw in her own life. He did it so that people would be willing to carry the message to others – to turn and run rather than turning away and retreating. He did it so that his disciples would know that he would always be with them. Even if it took going back home to Galilee to realize it.

We all live in the shadow of the resurrection. Our lives, the choices we make, the ways we treat other people, who we see when we look in the mirror – all of that is a reflection of the impact of the resurrection in our lives. Mostly likely, some of us still react with fear and great joy.

Let us pray: As the women ran from the empty tomb, so inspire us to carry your message in our own lives. With our bodies and our words, may our lives be reflections of our love of God and neighbor, of serving before being served, of hospitality to the stranger, and of justice for all. May we always carry you home until that day when you carry us home. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Matthew 28:1-7

July 29, 2019

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” Matthew 28:1-7

EMPTY! He wasn’t there. Now THIS is something new.

John T. has been reading these devotions for many years. The other day he sent me a message about watching Nadia Bolz-Weber preaching at the funeral of Rachel Held Evans. The best advice you can get always comes from the people you trust the most so I clicked on the link and watched it. She preached a masterful sermon. The line that comes to mind this morning was something like “when the disciples looked into the tomb they saw dirty laundry, the women saw angels.”

Pastor Bolz-Weber also was very clear – Mary Magdalene wasn’t the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection DESPITE her having once been a troubled person but BECAUSE of who she had been. Jesus was a transformational force in her life. What else would she, could she, do but hold on to his body for as long as she could. And that is about all I want to say about the resurrection this morning.

The guards greeted the resurrection with frozen fear. Frozen with fear! They shook and became like dead men.

That is what the resurrection will do to anyone clinging to their earthly lives and their earthly power. The resurrection will strike fear into the hearts of the powerful because it exposes their power for what it is. Temporary. Hollow. Human.

But for those who have seen their lives transformed by the love of God? Those who have come to trust that God will always be the God of the second chance? Those who taste the pain of the despised class, of grief, of sorrow, of shame? Where could they go but to the Lord?

The angel sent the women to carry the story back to the guys. They were supposed to tell them that Jesus would see them back home. From that moment on, this is how the Christian faith has worked. We trust the witness of others. We discover God, if we are to discover God at all, at home. Where we live. In our regular, daily, lives. And in that, God will either be a transformational force leading to healing, compassion, love, and justice – or we will freeze in fear of what we might lose.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, the cross couldn’t stop you, the grave couldn’t hold you. You swallowed up death and took your wounds to eternity. You have caught us up into this story. You have caught us up in your love. May we, like Mary, carry your story to others, and may we discover you anew in our real life lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 27:62-66

July 26, 2019

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. Matthew 27:62-66

Put yourself into the shoes of the chief priests and the Pharisees. Imagine their mindsets as Jesus was led away to the cross, as he suffered and died. They did it! They got rid of the rabble rousing troublemaker. The thorn in their side.

As far as I’m concerned, by the way, this has absolutely nothing to do with their being Jewish! This wasn’t at all about differences in interpretation of their faith and their sense of what God was up to through God’s laws. Jesus didn’t invent “love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus wasn’t the first to call people to treat strangers with hospitality and inclusion. Jesus wasn’t the first to recognize that God could be up to good through people who played on a different religious team.

It wasn’t about being “Jewish” that drove the chief priests and Pharisees to do what they did to Jesus – it was only about their being chief priests and Pharisees! It was about their personal power, prestige, and positions. It was about protecting their place. So they used their power to rid themselves of a truth-speaker who wasn’t afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes.

So yes, maybe they felt relieved. Maybe they felt the exhilaration of winning. But they also knew, at some place in their hearts, that they had done something horribly out of character of their faith. And, because of that, they felt fear.

What do powerful people do when they feel fear! They use their power to protect themselves. When all that matters is power and getting your way you are willing to do and say anything to keep that power and get your way. What do you do if you don’t like reality? Make up a story. If anyone else tells a different story, call their story “fake news.” Gaslight everyone around you. Deny. Deny. Deny.

You don’t like the message? Attack the messenger! Attack! Attack! Attack! The best defense is a good offense – so get as offensive, as outlandish, as crude and rude and vile as possible.

The “bad guys” in the Jesus story weren’t the first to do such things, nor would they be the last. We’ll all capable of such self-justification. This is the natural result of the unnatural effects of sin. So is our attempts to cover our tracks, to hide the evidence. Of course they called for Jesus’ tomb to be sealed and well-guarded. We’ll see next week how that worked out for them.

Let us pray: Lord, you have given us your story. You have entrusted to us the good news that evil could not win the ultimate battle, that death could not hold you, and that love cannot be locked away. May we tell your story, not only with our words, but with our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 27:55-61

July 25, 2019

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.  Matthew 27:55-61

There are several things in this passage that we do well to notice. Every time we read this. Because they fly in the face of commonly held myths and preconceptions.

Peter denied knowing Jesus. Judas betrayed him. The other disciples presumably scattered with the wind. But many women stuck with Jesus until the end. They followed Jesus throughout his ministry. They supported him. They provided for him. They stayed with his body even after he breathed his last. Two followed his body all the way to the tomb.

Women have never been the supporting cast in the Christian movement. From the very beginning, against the winds of culture, they have been full-fledged active participants and leaders. There would be no Christian movement without women. And Jesus – not to mention the writers of the gospels and, before them, the Apostle Paul – went out of his way to recognize women. Only later, as the church gained power and prestige in the empire, were women relegated to secondary status. But they have always been critical to Christian mission. Even if it took (speaking for my denomination) until 1970 to acknowledge that and begin ordaining women as pastors.

Second, our bank accounts are not measurements of our spiritual condition. Matthew tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was both a wealthy person and a follower of Jesus. Imagine the courage – and the connections – it took to approach Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. That wasn’t how things were done. Normally the bodies of the crucified would hang in place until the cross was needed again. But Joseph took it upon himself to spare Jesus that indignity.

Not only that, Joseph generously allowed Jesus to be placed into the very tomb that Joseph had prepared (and paid for) for himself. It has never been about what a person has, has always been about what a person does with what they have. The Christian movement never would have flourished, nor would it flourish today, without the generosity of people of means using their wealth to support Christian mission. Jesus wasn’t just for “poor people” – he was for poor people too.

And finally, I make up in my mind that Pilate knew he had done wrong. He knew he had presided over a miscarriage of justice. But he was a politician first and, in the cost/benefit analysis of protecting Jesus or protecting his own position, Pilate took the easy (for him) way out. But then he gave the body of Jesus to Joseph to care for, even though he might be criticized for such leniency. Even politicians sometimes get it right.

Now Jesus’ body takes up its place in Joseph’s tomb. And the women, yes, the women, take up their vigil.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, in every age, people of courage and faith have stood up for you, stood even in the face of opposition and rejection. As the women and Joseph cared for your body, may we care for your body today. Even when it is costly. Even when it is scary. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 27:50-54

July 24, 2019

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Matthew 27:50-54

My hand was on my father’s head when he died. His wife. My sisters. We all stood around him on his hospital bed as he breathed his last. It is a surreal experience. His was a peaceful death. The kind of death many people hope for – they have tried everything. You aren’t going to get any better in this life. You want those you love around you. You want, as we pray at funerals, “Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness.”

The death of Jesus wasn’t peaceful.

Matthew tells the story in dramatic, earth-shattering and tomb-opening fashion. His wasn’t a peaceful death. It was violent and chaotic. Just as the heavens were torn open at the baptism of Jesus, now the temple curtain is torn open. Matthew says that even the dead are raised and start walking around town like some kind of zombie apocalypse. This isn’t a peaceful death.

Those who schemed and plotted his death got their wish. Pilate’s will was done. The soldier were coldly efficient in their whipping and nailing and watch keeping. The crowds left his limp body. Nothing more there to see. Let’s move on now to the next thing that captures our fancy. The next lynching…because we all know there’s going to be another one somewhere. Blood lust is never satisfied.

Except for one soldier (and Matthew adds, knowing it takes more than one witness to be “official”, “those who were with him.) One soldier suddenly realizes what they have done. One soldier’s eyes of faith are finally opened. “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

The death of Jesus leads one person to faith. The first confession of faith after the death of Jesus comes from a Roman soldier. I don’t care who you are – no one could have seen that one coming.

As I have often heard it said, if even one person were to come to faith, it would all be worth it. I believe that. I believe Jesus would say the same thing. Because that is how Jesus works. One person at time.

And the first was a Roman soldier. Perhaps even with the blood of Jesus on his hands.

This death wasn’t peaceful – it was the fulcrum of time.

And know this as well – this death was for you.

Let us pray: Jesus, rouse us from our complacency. Fill us with the power of your Spirit that our eyes might be opened anew to the depth of your love and the power of your presence. You, dying a horrible death, swallowed up death. You, rejected, refused to reject. Hated, you refused to hate. May our hearts and lives, like that soldier, come to new-found faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 27:45-49

July 23, 2019

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Matthew 27:45-49

Three hours. Three tortuous hours. Finally Jesus cries out, not to those who are taunting and tormenting him, but to the God who has forsaken him.

When I was a kid I remember wondering how this could be. How could Jesus (who is fully God) be forsaken by God? I used to wonder the same thing in the passages where Jesus prays. Is he talking to himself? It was a mystery to me.

Then I went to the seminary and studied Christology, that branch of theology that focuses on the person of Jesus. I learned words like hypostatic union and adoptionist. I got good grades for all my work. I headed off to be a pastor and lo, these many years later, it still remains a mystery to me. It always will.

But what is not a mystery to me is how it feels when it feels like God has utterly disappeared from my consciousness. (Notice how that sentence combines feeling and thinking.) When life turns dark and hopeless, my mind might remind me of how Jesus said, “I will never leave or abandon you” or the biblical assurances of God’s continuing presence in all times and places but my gut tells me that I’m all alone. I’ve been fooling myself to trust in God. The only thing that makes any sense at that point is “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Luther said that the greatest of all sins is despair. This sounds strange if you tend to think of “sin” only as moral failures. Despair is a feeling. We have no control over our feelings, we just have them. But if you think of “sin” as relational brokenness, as disconnection, as isolation, then Luther’s idea makes sense. And so does Jesus’ prayer.

Yes, Jesus does feel cut off from God, abandoned, forsaken. In this, Jesus bears our sin on the cross. But what does Jesus do with that? Jesus takes it to God. Jesus prays about it. And in that prayer, we need never again feel disconnected from God when we are in the darkest places of our lives…because we know that Jesus himself was right there too. For us then, with us now.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, in the darkest of moments, in the agony of your death, you reached out to God with your sense of being cut off, abandoned, rejected not only by the people you loved but by the God from whom you drew your life. We pray today for anyone who finds themselves in that place of deep despair. Come to them. Encourage them. Remind them that they are not alone. You’ve been there and you are there with them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 27:33-37

July 19, 2019

And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Matthew 27:33-37

When you travel to Jerusalem you might be very surprised, as I was, to discover that there are two very different places where the death and resurrection of Jesus are remembered.

One is inside of a cathedral, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a strange place, bustling with tourists, divided into zones which “belong” to various Christian communities. You climb some steps to the altar table controlled by the Orthodox church which, they tell you, is on top of where the cross was planted.

Down on the main floor you pass the rock upon which Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.

And then you find, right in the heart of the building, the Roman Catholic Church controlled ornate altar hidden from view from the main floor where, they tell you, Jesus was laid in the tomb. I was there for a week and was never able to see back in there because it was always roped off for the special “invite only” masses booked long in advance. So there is that.

But then there is another place in town. Right behind the bus station. Called the Garden Tomb, it is quiet and reflective. Its most prominent feature is a rock formation that really does look like a skull. And, down below that, another tomb for the body of Jesus. This place has long been pretty much a Protestant thing.

Is it surprising that Christianity is so divided that we cannot even agree on the place where the most important historical event in our faith took place? Or could it be, like the four gospel letters, that the point is about being righteous, not being right? Could it be that the Christian faith is a conversation more than a set of conclusions? Could it be, in the wonderful diversity of life, that seeking unity which embraces diversity is more faithful than seeking uniformity which tramples diversity?

Matthew notes that the soldiers “divided his clothing” as an allusion to Psalm 22, “They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” To this day, we continue to end worship on Maundy Thursday by reading Psalm 22. The altar is stripped bare. The lights are turned low or off. We leave the sanctuary in silence.

Like those soldiers, we watch.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, like any family, the Christian family which continues to carry your story to the world has long been divided. Like your clothing on that day, we divide things because we all want a special piece of the pie, a special seat at the table. In our sin, we seek power, position, privilege, authority. We seek to be served rather than to serve. We seek to be right more than we seek to be righteous. Yet you bind us together. You bind us by your blood which was shed for all people. You bind us together by your love, which you seek us to demonstrate in the lives we lead. As your arms were stretched out on the cross, you embrace us in our divisions and, in that love and mercy, we find healing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew 27:26-32

July 18, 2019

So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. Matthew 27:26-32

I wonder where Barabbas went after he was released? I make up in my mind that someone came to his prison cell and shocked him with the news that he was to be released immediately. Can you imagine? Whether or not, as Matthew says, he was a “notorious criminal”, or, as Luke says, he was imprisoned for “insurrection and murder”, Barabbas was a political prisoner. And the fate of political prisoners was crucifixion.

Why? Because it was an excruciatingly painful way to die and it was a very public way to kill someone. Crucifixions usually happened alongside the main roads into a city as a public warning to anyone who might get the crazy idea of crossing the Roman authorities. However long Barabbas was imprisoned, that destiny was his constant companion.

He heard the footsteps. He heard the voice calling his name. And the next thing he knew he was back in the streets of the city, free to go wherever he wanted.

I wonder where he went?

Did he go back to his same old haunt where he could hoist a few glasses of celebratory wine with his old friends?

Or was he curious enough to ask about the reason for his sudden freedom? Was he curious (and potentially grateful enough) to follow the crowds to the edge of town? To the side of the main road? To see the bloodied body of the Jesus who died in his place?

I wonder how Simon felt when he was asked to carry a cross intended for the staggering man surrounded by soldiers. Had he heard of Jesus? Had he met him before? Matthew tells us nothing, no details at all. But it is interesting, isn’t it, to realize that Jesus didn’t carry his cross alone?

The suffering continues and gets worse and worse. Jesus, the King of Kings, the Author of Existence, is treated like a king with his scarlet robes, his reed scepter, his royal title – not honored but beat, spit on, and taunted.

How about us? How do we treat our king? Do we follow Jesus to the cross or do we use our freedom to go party? Do we take up our cross and do our part or do we expect the Christian faith to be a snuggly blanket protecting us from the world?

Let us pray: All that you endured, O Lord, you endured for us. All that you suffered, O Lord, you suffered for us. Give us courage to follow, compassion to care, and the willingness to allow you to birth new life in and through us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.