Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What to do about Demons?

What to do about Demons?
Sermon from Feb. 4, 2018
Church of the Advent, Cincinnati
Mark 1:29-35

If you’ve been paying attention to our gospels for the last few weeks, you’ve noticed that this is the second week in a row in which we encounter Jesus, in rather dramatic fearsome detail, talking about - and healing people from - the grip of horrifying demons. They appear like monsters in our scripture, leaping out at Jesus, speaking to him in gruesome voices pointing to him, even calling out his name!

On top of it, remember that not long ago Jesus called these four fishermen out of the boat to come follow him, and in the very first city they visit as new disciples of Jesus, here they are face to face in the grip of a physical one-to-one battle with demons in the flesh! Not exactly the way I’d want to start my first day on the job! Have you ever had a day like that, where you decide to start something new, and as soon as you walk into the door on day 1, you’re thrown right into the deep end, thrashing around trying to figure out what to do & how in the world you’re supposed to stay afloat. I hate to tell you, but sometimes following Jesus is like that!

Now - before I get too much further, I know this subject of demons is a very tricky one in the church. Generations of bad theologies and painful teaching in some traditions has have pushed some awful ideas, often identifying anyone or anything they didn’t like as “demonic” and even making good people to believe that they themselves were possessed by demons for thinking, feeling, or behaving a little different from what those in positions of power would have wanted. So often the victims of this theological mistreatment have been the marginalized, who because of who they are are made to believe that they are demons or posessed by demons just for being a little bit different. And other times it’s those we disagree with politically who in this age of political extremes and abject division, we on both the right and the left characterize one another’s beliefs not just as disagreement but as demonic - leaving us virtually no way to move toward reconciliation and to move forward together. 

Maybe in a reaction to that sort of awful theology coming out of the extremes of the Christian faith, we “mainline protestants” sometimes overreact in the opposite direction, failing to talk about that which is truly evil in this world at all. Instead we paint pictures of flowers and roses, but shy away from doing what Jesus did - confronting the demonic powers of this world head-on and bringing about healing as in our gospel today. We know that what was considered “demon possession” in Jesus’ time was what we would call severe mental illness today, rendering people unable to speak, or to speak non-sensically, making its victims pariahs cast out of society or left on the street in an era long before therapies or modern concepts of mental health.

What are some of the demons (problems, not people) you see in our society? In our city, country, our world? What are some demons we see within?

In last week’s gospel, just a few verses earlier than what we’ve read today, the demon cries out “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God”.  - The demon calls out Jesus by name and proclaims his holiness even before the disciples do! And at that, he uses nearly the same words  This demon recognizes Jesus’ authority and so do the crowds around them, as Jesus commands the demon to be silent and casts it out of the man who was possessed. 
Immediately afterward, as we begin this weeks story, the disciples seeing Jesus’ healing power take him to the mother of Simon (Peter) and whom he heals - or in the Greek “raised up” from a fever, which in those days was a seriously life-threatening condition. This, we are told, was a physical illness and certainly not a demon, but Jesus goes out and immediately back to casting out more demons, and we get this fascinating line at the end: “and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”

What do you think this means - that the demons knew him? Where do you see that reflected in the world today?

That takes us right back to the beginning of that story from last week where the demon calls out “Jesus if Nazareth” “Holy one of God” and Jesus commands him to “be silent”. That is one of the primary ways Jesus confronts evil in the Gospel of Mark. “Jesus commands the spirit to “be silent” with the same word as he commands the sea to “be still” “be silent” (Mark 4:39). He rebukes the unclean spirit, the sea (Mark 4:30) and even Peter (Mark 8:33).

I have to say I really like Jesus’ approach - in an era when we see so much pain and degradation from the demons at hand in our society - when there’s so much grief that you don’t even want to pick up a newspaper or turn on the tv for fear of finding out what horrific acts of human violence have taken place today - It feels good to tell those demons to be silent. 

What are some ways in which we might be called to bring silence to the evils of this world? 

It’s a whole lot harder to do in real life than for us to imagine in our heads. It’s a lot harder to confront the racism or the sexism or the mean-spiritedness in the voice of someone you know or even love, and to tell that mean-spiritedness lovingly to be silent. It’s a lot harder to stand up against the threat of physical force to tell the oppressive powers and authorities of this world to “be silent”.

But I really do believe that’s what we’re called to do as the people of Jesus Christ in this world. But first, I’m going to watch a football game.


What Does a Deacon Do All Day? - Annual Report

Preaching my first sermon at Advent in July 2017
People ask me all the time what it is that a deacon actually *does*. Is it like a priest, but just not yet? Far from it! Take a look at my Annual Report for Church of the Advent from our January 2018 Annual Meeting. In it I share much of my varied and interesting ministries at Advent and beyond!

On July 1 2017, I was proud to join Church of the Advent as its Clergy Resident for a period of two years, through June 2019. In my first six months at Advent It has been my pleasure to participate in a broad range of ministries in nearly every part of life at Advent. As a deacon, my primary purpose is to focus on service to those most in need in our communities, and in the words of our ordination vows, “to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world”. My ministry is also to assist in worship including preaching and in the Eucharist, and to help the priest in matters related to leadership of the Church. I am also a “transitional deacon” which means that I am in preparation and training, with God’s help, to be ordained a priest in the near future. Some of my service here involves training to provide the skills and practice needed for me to be a successful priest. My areas of focus here are are administration, pastoral care, empowerment of others, liturgy, preaching, justice, administering the sacraments, teaching and Latino ministry (with special emphasis on the first three).

Administration: Each week I participate in a number of activities related to the administrative care of Advent. This often includes attending meetings of the vestry, wardens, Open Door advisory committee, or others. This often includes discussing financial matters relating to the management of the church and Open Door. Each month I closely review the budget documents prepared for vestry to check for anything that may be a concern and to better understand the fiscal health of our parish. I also speak with the money counters nearly every week as they record weekly contributions, so that I might better understand how these processes take place and how donations are to be registered properly. In early November I completed a six-week online course in Episcopal Church Financial Management by Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Additionally I meet with Rev. Stacy at least once per week to discuss staff and administrative concerns as they arise. Bishop Breidenthal also recently appointed me as a member of Diocesan Council, which is one of two major governing committees for the roughly 65 churches in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

Pastoral Care: My pastoral roles at Advent vary from week to week based on the needs of parishioners & the community at the time. Sometimes I am making pastoral visits with Rev. Stacy or alone, including to a few shut-in, elderly or injured parishioners and to those in the hospital. Alternately, sometimes I am meeting with parishioners in my office or Rev. Stacy’s office, or I am pulled aside during the week or at Sunday coffee hour to discuss some issue going on for that person. Sometimes this also involves conflict resolution interpersonally or helping others to process emotional or spiritual difficulties.

Empowerment of others for ministry:
For me, empowerment of others has largely taken on two forms; internally at Advent and externally via the Faith Alliance in Walnut Hills. At Advent this has meant helping to train new acolytes and altar guild members, helping to identify potential new vestry members, and discussing with Rev. Stacy ways in which to involve a number of our parishioners in a range of diverse ministries around Advent. As for Faith Alliance, I am pleased to work with a number of lay leaders and fellow clergy from at least eight neighborhood congregations. I also manage the group’s Facebook page and email account, and I help to spread the word about its events digitally, in person and through print media.

Liturgy: Worship planning is of course a very regular part of my role at Advent. I discuss with Rev. Stacy each month the liturgical events to take place in the coming weeks, especially including upcoming feast days or important occasions on the worship calendar. We begin to plan together some ways of bringing the scriptures and traditions of the Church to life within our Episcopal structure of liturgy. I often prepare several of the liturgical resources that may be needed and help those plans to materialize as a worship leader each Sunday, including leading Psalms, prayers etc. I also take turns leading our weekly Morning Prayer on Wednesdays, along with Rev. Stacy.

Administering the Sacraments: As a deacon my role is to prepare the sacraments for the priest to administer. Each week I prepare the bread & wine in the sacristy before the 8am service, and often assist the altar guild in setting up the table for 10am if needed. I also liturgically assist the priest in distributing Communion and help with any other sacramental services.

It is a really special part of my ministry to get to help teach about scripture, the Christian and Anglican/Episcopal traditions and other important aspects of our Christian life in our church. Sometimes this takes place in the context of our Wednesday Bible Study, or in helping to instruct new acolytes or Altar Guild members in how to carry out their duties well. Again often I am pulled aside and asked questions about faith, scripture, tradition or spirituality which often leads to a wider conversation. It is also my role to continue to teach and educate myself as a leader of this community. I am now preparing to teach a course during Lent 2018 in “Episcopal Church 101” as an adult confirmation class.

(Diocesan Latino Ministry) Since September 2016 I have been a weekly tutor for the Price Hill Learning Club, which is a program of the Diocesan Latino Ministry in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. We meet on Mondays & Wednesdays from 5-6:30pm with normally about 25 elementary or middle school kids and five adults. The kids are mostly the children of Guatemalan immigrants whose parents speak no English. I help to tutor the students in English, Spanish, math or whatever subjects they need. I also help to be a role model for the kids, and sometimes provide lessons on various events of the Church like Ash Wednesday or All Saints. I also serve as a member of the Latino Ministry Commission for our Diocese, which governs the 4 Episcopal organizations geared to Latinos in Southern Ohio. Because nearly all of our organizations’ parents are undocumented, this leads us at the Bishop’s encouragement to engage in pro-immigration advocacy with elected officials and others.

Note: Some of this report has been previously shared with the Resident's Formation Committee.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

“Fishers of Women - Pescadores de Mujeres”

Charles Graves IV
Sermon, January 21 2018
“Fishers of Women - Pescadores de Mujeres”


Almost 2.5 years ago, I was standing on a boat with some friends. It was a good-sized wooden schooner, fitting about thirty of us on board, rocking gently on the soft wind-blown waters on a clear spring day. That boat was perched peacefully upon the Sea of Galilee, with Israeli soil a few miles behind us, Jordan to our right and the edge of Syria straight ahead, just 10 miles in the distance. Looking out across the water to the seashore, I stood astounded at the mountains that seemed to jut out almost directly from the waters with very little lowland in between.

Taken by Rev. Charles at the Sea of Galilee, May 2015
With a 360 degree view to the waters’ edge on every side, I could almost see Jesus standing there at the shoreline, his voice ringing out clearly on a nearly windless day. Some local fishermen taught us how to throw out a large fishing net, quite like the type that would have been used in Jesus’ time. It was enormous and heavy and unwieldy, requiring several strong people and lots of practice to accomplish correctly. I gave a hand at it myself, trying my best to cast it out far and wide without getting tangled in between! Long story short, the net went about 2 feet outside the boat, fell against the side and nearly caught up my ankle along the way! Needless to say, I would have been a TERRIBLE fisherman if I had been around two thousand years ago! We certainly did NOT catch any fish that day.

Fortunately Simon (who would later be called Peter), along with Andrew, James and John were by all accounts much better fishermen than I am! It wasn’t an easy profession, nor incredibly lucrative, but it was their life, and as we can tell here in this story it was a family profession, carried from generation to generation. 

What strikes me every time I read this passage is how abrupt Jesus’ call to these soon-to-be disciples seems to be. He doesn’t walk up to them saying “Hi, my name is Jesus, you probably haven’t met me before... can I take you guys out for a cup of coffee...” or any of that. Maybe they had heard of him and the big scene at his baptism a little while earlier, or heard his preaching which we hear about at the beginning of this gospel, but we don’t know that. He doesn’t even say his name, much less anything at all about what he’s doing or why they should follow him at all. All we get is that odd but memorable phrase “And I will make you fish for people” or in the older translations “fishers of men”. What does that even mean? What about leaving their families, their professions, everything they knew and everything they had in the blink of an eye? 
Rev. Charles at the edge of the Sea of Galilee

Think about it: these men knew nothing at all of what would lie ahead. It was dangerous, following this man they’d never met, and they couldn’t possibly have imagined where it would lead or what they would encounter along the way. They couldn’t have anticipated the dangers it would expose them to or the violence they would risk along the way. Nor could they have known the blessings, the incredible sights, visions and miracles they would not only see but perform, or this thing called the Church that would still call their names 2,000 years down the line!

They didn’t even know where they would sleep that night, or what they would eat, or who they would stay with, or where they were going, or how they would get there. For those of you who are like me & like to have a plan or a schedule in life, it’s enough to give you the willies!

Many of you know that one of my great privileges in ministry is to serve a wonderful community of Latino & Latina immigrants and their children here in Cincinnati. Over the last 16 months I have learned a great deal from them, not least of which about their backgrounds, their former lives, and the journeys that brought them and us together. 

Young mothers, years younger than myself tell me that in their home village in Guatemala, girls usually don’t get past 6th grade because they don’t have pencils, and if you can’t afford pencils you can’t go to school. They come from some of the poorest and most war torn places on earth, and some have been threatened by the cartels that if they don’t pay the ‘impuestos’ - the “taxes” drug lords charge for “protection”, they and their families are dead. These young women, living through the kind of fear I cannot even imagine, have no greater dream than to scratch out a life so that their children will not have to endure these same horrors.

So many of them set out on a journey - an extremely dangerous and expensive one that could easily cost them their lives, and especially for women carries added risks of sexual violence and all manner of other potential disasters. They, like these four fishermen called by Jesus at the sea shore, have no idea where this journey will take them or if they will even survive it. But they have to go.

Whether by walking across great distances, or in the modern world by jumping on top of the treacherous northbound train through Mexico called “la bestia” - the beast - for the number of people who’ve lost their lives on it, to being smuggled in cars or trucks by “coyotes” - coyotes, the drug lords who take every cent they have and abandon them at any sight of trouble, this journey is a treacherous one. Jesus’ disciples would risk martyrdom at the hands of angry mobs, gory deaths at the hands of lions in the arena, crucifixion itself or all manner of bloody demise for the road they would walk with Jesus.

The good news for us, and for these four fishermen whom we would come to call disciples, and to these young mothers from Guatemala is that Jesus Himself is the one who tells all of us “Follow Me”. And that same Jesus is the one who walks with us, who guides us, teaches us and even carries us every step of the way. Jesus who himself was a refugee in the arms of his mother  fleeing to Egypt from the murderous desires of King Herod, that same Jesus walks ahead of us, and beside us, so we never have to journey alone.

How might Christ be calling you to get up and “follow me”? What does your “follow me” journey look like? What is our “follow me” journey together as a Christian and Episcopalian community in Walnut Hills? How might we be called to support those who journey with us, or whose journeys may be very different than our own? What new directions could Christ be calling us into, and what do we need to leave in order to get there?
If you’re seeing some connections to the Exodus, and that long journey story from captivity to freedom, then you’re right. Think about that this week, as we prepare for the annual meeting next  week, as we consider together where God may be calling us to go in 2018 and beyond.

May it be so.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Follow Jesus. New Beginning. All People.

Follow Jesus. New Beginning. All People.
Sermon for January 7, 2018
Baptism of Jesus (First Sunday after the Epiphany)
Church of the Advent, Cincinnati
Mark 1:4-11

Our own Nativity creche here at Advent, with Magi watching
If the Gospel I just read sounds really familiar to you, it’s actually because it’s the same reading I preached on less than a month ago on December 10th, for the 2nd Sunday of Advent. If you find it a little odd that we would do the same reading twice within such a short span - you’re right! but the reason is because the Church is encouraging us to pay attention to 2 different things. During Advent, our focus was on John’s gospel of repentance. But now as we re-read it, our collective focus turns to another important theme in scripture: Baptism. It’s the remembrance of the Baptism of Jesus. 

Some of you know that I’ve been pulling my hair out this week (figuratively!) over a sort of odd situation in our church calendar that left me torn all week about what I was going say to you all today. You see, Yesterday was what’s called the Feast of the Epiphany- it happens always on January 6th. And on the Feast of the Epiphany - a word that means “revealing” or “revelation”, we remember that beautiful story of the Magi - the wise men or kings who came from the East, following the star by night and bringing their gifts to the Christ child. Now, this story takes place, we believe, when Jesus was probably a toddler of about 2 years old.

Now for us here in modern times, we have a really big jump forward, because the very next day - today - we jump forward to the Baptism of Jesus which takes place when he’s a grown man of about 30 years old! So we jump about 28 years in less than 24 hours! And if, by chance you’re not the sort of person who likes to celebrate religious feast days on a Saturday, it’s an even bigger jump because we miss the story of the Magi, the “holy innocents” and the flight to Egypt altogether. We’ve just gone from the birth of Jesus all the way to adulthood from just one Sunday to the next!

So I asked around - I talked to some of you here at Advent, I talked to some clergy friends in Cincinnati, and I even polled my seminary & clergy friends on Facebook about how I ought to deal with these two extraordinarily important but really very different remembrances that we’re both basically celebrating at the same time. I vacillated back & forth for days & eventually my friends appealed to me that actually there’s a lot to be learned from them both. 

Door marked for Epiphany House Blessing. Credit: Mark Branch
Now, I’m giving you a homework assignment. Take out your bibles & open yo Matthew, chapter 2. Sometime this week I want you to read that whole chapter, it should only take you a few minutes. But really spend some time with it. Reflect on it, pray with it, visualize it in your head and walk around with it throughout the week. Find me sometime in the next week or two and tell me what you think. It’s not only the story of the Wise Men from the East, but it’s the story of the terrible order by King Herod to murder the boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to stamp out this newborn baby Jesus who would be a threat to Herod’s grip on the people of Israel. And it’s the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing as refugees into Egypt until Herod’s death, and their starting a new life in Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus would come to grow up.
I have a sentence I want you to remember. Repeat after me: 

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.

Following Jesus

Just as the Wise Men got up and followed the star, making the sometimes dangerous and uncertain journey to worship that child Jesus, so we also commit our lives to following Jesus, no matter how far and how difficult the journey. From the day of Jesus’ baptism onward he would call all of us to follow him. For the next several weeks we’ll be talking about what it means to follow Jesus.

New Beginning

As with any young child, a birth represents a new beginning, a new life - and especially with this young baby boy whom these men came from the East to adore. And it was a new beginning for the Wise Men too - their lives would be forever changed by this journey, this encounter with the Christ child. Baptism too, is a re-birth and a new beginning. Jesus’ baptism by John was the beginning of his ministry as an adult - the launching point for the three years of his life that would change the entire world.

All People

The Wise Men were not Jews - they were Gentiles, and people from far away - foreigners! And yet they were among the first to adore and worship Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s Baptism and our baptism - all of us are able to enter into the redeeming mercy of Jesus. Baptism is open to all, and it obligates us to all people. As Episcopalians, we pledge at our baptisms to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and to “respect the dignity of every human being”.

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.

So in this Season of Epiphany, over the next month or so as we walk this journey together, I encourage you to write down that phrase. Carry it with you as you go. Pray with it and live it every day of your life in Christ.

Following Jesus is a New Beginning for All People.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Epiphany Dawns

The following is my article for the January 2018 edition of the Church of the Advent parish newsletter.

2018 - It’s the dawn of a new year on our global calendars, even though for us in the church, our “New Year” was a month ago at the beginning of Advent! During that month, we spent time in preparation for the birth of Christ in our world, and we rejoiced at the celebration of his arrival in the Christmas Season. Now that Christ, the Word made flesh, is born among us once again, we stand at the edge of another joyous and profound celebration. It’s not New Year’s Day, it’s the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. Epiphany is the day when we remember the visitation of the Magi (often known as the Three Kings or Wise Men) who traveled from the East, following the star to find Mary and Joseph with the young boy Jesus. Of course, these Wise Men famously bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor and serve this child who would be called King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

As we collectively turn the page to 2018, God reminds us again to consider how each of us is called to offer our own gifts to Christ in serving the Church and supporting one another. What skills and talents might God be growing in you & challenging you to share in 2018? How might God be nudging you in new directions, or moving you to nurture others to share in new ways? 

Maybe it’s as an acolyte, or altar guild, or as a lay reader or usher or as a Vestry member. Maybe it’s by bringing others to church with you, or by visiting someone who is sick or alone. Maybe it’s something else entirely! 

At the end of January we will have our Annual Meeting of the whole congregation. This is our chance to take stock of our successes and challenges of the past year, and plot a course for the journeys on which God is guiding us for 2018. We will continue to examine where our Lord is leading our whole congregation in the new year, and how to continually offer our gifts to Christ in Walnut Hills and beyond. Join us, and discern with us together as we look to share the treasures of our lives with the newborn King. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

That Awkward Waiting

That Awkward Waiting
Sermon, December 24, 2017 (Advent 4)
Church of the Advent, Cincinnati
Luke 1:26-38

-A few weeks ago, on Advent 1, Rev. Stacy preached about Kairos and Chronos, two Greek words for time that remind us that God’s time is not the same as our time. The Church’s time is not the same as society’s time. It seems to me that we’ve been feeling this particularly strongly in the last month or so. 
-I’m willing to bet that for some of us here, the tree is up, and the stockings are hung. The mistletoe is out and the presents are already under the tree. All of that is well and good, after all it is December 24th, but what’s odd is that today, what you’ve just heard, is the first mention this season of a virgin named Mary, a carpenter named Joseph, and an angel with a message that would surprise us all.

-You’ll notice, that I didn’t read anything in the Gospel about a birth, or Bethlehem, or a baby, or a manger, or shepherds or kings. All that will come later. And when you come back at 4pm today, we will continue the story together. But for now, we’re still in the expectation of Advent. 

-After all, this is Church of the Advent after all, and we’re going to enjoy our season until the end! But it’s not just us, the whole Episcopal Church and many others are experiencing this very same moment. In society it’s been the Christmas season for some time now, but for those of us in the church, we wait with patient expectation for what is to come, remembering the anxious stirring of an arrival but we do not know exactly when, or what, it will be.

-Take a moment with me - look at today’s Gospel and shout out a word or phrase from it that sticks out to you. Anything from the Gospel - shout it out.

-What’s it like when you have to wait for something you really want? What does it feel like? what’s so hard about it?

-This is the end of the waiting. Like kids everywhere will sit sleepless tonight, waiting, wondering, hoping, dreaming of what may await them in the morning, so all of us are at this very moment. 

-The waiting is hard for all of us, no matter how young or old we may be. We want to get straight to the tree, to open the gifts, to sing our favorite Christmas songs and share a Christmas meal. But we’re not there quite yet. God tells all of us to wait just a little bit longer. 

-So wait with us, friends, just a few more hours. Pray, and prepare with us for the birth of a new reality in our world. The reward is more than worth the wait. 


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Penitential Advent - Metanoia

Penitential Advent - Metanoia
Sermon, December 10, 2017
Church of the Advent, Cincinnati
Mark 1:1-8

-Amidst the joyful outside energy of the world preparing for Christmas, you'd expect we might be reading the beginning of one of the Christmas narratives. Maybe the annunciation, etc. But instead our lectionary reminds us that we're not there yet.

-instead we have what seems the complete opposite: the grizzled terrifying looking john the baptist not saying "hooray" but saying "repent"! The guy is a total downer!

-John has 2 claims to fame: "prepare the way of the lord" which we talk about this week and next week, and the baptism of Jesus which usually shows up in  late Jan or Early Feb. but today I want to highlight something else, and it's that word "repentance".

-Advent is one of 2 of what's called "penitential" seasons, along with Lent which is much better known for being about Sin. But while Advent is about preparing for the birth of Christ and a new beginning, it's about doing that by clearing out the sin in our spiritual houses to make room for the entrance of Christ into our world.

-"penitence" and "repent" come from the Latin for "to feel sorry for". The Greek, however goes deeper. The Greek "metanoia" actually means "second-thought" or "change of heart/mind". That's what repentence really is - it's a complete change of life, a 180 degree shift that changes us from the inside out, not just a smattering of guilt.

-Perhaps it comes at a perfect time. Even those who are not religious, toward the end of the calendar year begin to take stock of themselves and look to change in the new year. We Christians get an early start.

-There's so much individually and collectively that we need to really examine as deep and persistent sin. Sexual harassment, racism, economic injustice, mistreatment of the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, extreme violence, the threat of war, on and on and on until it can get overwhelming. It seems to get worse every day. I know some who wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night over this and so many other truly horrible faults.

-Blue Christmas, sometimes guilt, sorrow or other grief. This may be one way to move toward healing in this Advent season. Take time away, get out of the hustle for a day or a few hours just to pray, spend time with God. Truly repent and make amends to those you may have harmed.

-And get active! Make your voice heard against injustice when and where you see it! Not only repent privately, but call for repentence publicly in politics, in the media, in the economy, in every aspect of society!

-The good news is just as John says - the one who is greater is coming soon! For us that means joy and the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. Repentence is actually a good and maybe even joyful thing because it means the possibility for a second chance to right what we've done wrong.

-That's the penitential spirit of Advent. Amen