Saturday morning, I finally got a moment at the end of an otherwise hectic week, and in the midst of busy Old Stone marriage preparation weekend, to bring my thoughts into focus for my message today. I was a little torn because I wanted to attend the women’s march that was scheduled to happen outside of my Public Square condo at the same time but was pretty sure that particular moment would be the one and only time I would have to write my sermon.

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“Eutheos” – the “immediately”that the gospels keep talking about is that moment when everything finally crystallizes for us. It’s that moment when you know that you can longer sit in your armchair working on a sermon while there are 15,000 on your front lawn crying out for justice.

As the crowds started to gather beneath my window – 15,000 people according to the Cleveland Police – I was quickly distracted, however. Of course, I kept getting up out of my chair to take some photos to post to Facebook and Twitter, but there was something else drawing my attention toward the Square. I saw an elderly woman carrying a sign that read: “Feminism? I Can’t Believe We’re Still Having this Discussion!” I saw a little girl about 9 or 10 years of age with a sign, too. Her’s read: “I don’t want to live my life in fear.”

But the sign that really spoke to me was being held by a young woman in her 20s – she was about the same age as my daughter who lives in London. Her sign read: “This is what happens when you tell a woman to calm down.” It made me chuckle at first. I’ve known for years that you don’t tell any woman to “calm down,” especially the strong women in my life. But then I started thinking about my daughter, and the kind of world she is living in today, and all the things that Jesus promises her, and you and me: a world of peace, equity, justice and compassion. I thought about my grandmother, my mother and my beloved, Beth, and all the things they have worked so hard for throughout their lifetimes. The things they have endured, and they Christian faith and strength they have exhibited. I saw the grand dame of Cleveland, the Old Stone Church watching over the rally the way Old Stone has watched over so many of the historic events in our great city with a steadfast faith and with prayer.

It was then that I felt an acute sense of urgency about the day: I needed to be on the Square, and I needed to be there now. It’s where Jesus was going to be. And it’s where Jesus wanted me to be. My sermon, if I was going to have one at all, could wait. Besides, it is absolutely impossible to write a sermon about any biblical topic while there are 15000 women, men and children on your front lawn marching in solidarity against misogyny, racism, homophobia, racial inequality, religious intolerance, bigotry, nationalism, abuse of power and fear – in other words, all the things Jesus himself preached against and lived and died in opposition to.

Let’s not forget, Jesus was that amazing, 1st century, radical, cosmopolitan Jew who crossed just about every line and human division you could possibly name in order to reach us: religion, nationality, gender, ability, illness and disease, class and economy. And in the end, he crossed the line between life and death and restored us to God and God’s unwavering grace, all the while, holding out for us the promise of life eternal and life abundant.

I imagine that’s why those early fisher-folk responded to the call of Jesus with such a sense urgency, too. Simon-Peter and his brother Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee dropped everything to follow Jesus – fishing nets, boats, even family. They followed “Immediately” says Matthew. Immediately they dropped their nets. Immediately they left their father.

In Hellenistic Greek the word is “Eutheos” – just to let you know that I’ve done a little homework here. It’s a word that shows up a lot in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) – especially that one with the awesome name “Mark”, which uses the word “Eutheos” no less than 40 times in 16 short chapters. Mark’s gospel says that after Jesus was baptized, “eutheos” – “immediately” he saw the Spirit of God descend on him. And after that, “eutheos” – “immediately” the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. It’s like the gospel writers want us to understand that now that Jesus is in the world, the kingdom of God is in our very midst, in the here and the now. We are a “Now Testament” people: Jesus calls and “eutheos” – “immediately” people follow.

Sure Simon-Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John, probably knew Jesus before that day at the docks. They had time to mull over, or consider who Jesus was or what his mission in the world was going to be. After all, Jesus lived in Capernaum at that time. Matthew’s gospel says that after John had been arrested, Jesus moved “up the lake” so to speak – to the small fishing village of Capernaum – a town of only about 1500 or so. Capernaum was a place where folks easily knew each other. They bumped into each other at the docks, in the market, or in the synagogue. I’m sure they knew Jesus before that historic encounter when Jesus actually called them.

But something happened that day, didn’t it? Something clicked there by the boats, the way Jesus’s call clicks in all of us – it stirred a sense of urgency within them until finally moments of indecision were replaced by a need to get up and go with Jesus; an acquaintance had now become a relationship of commitment. Eutheos!

Being a child of the church and a preacher’s kid, I wrestled with my call for a long time before I felt that sense of urgency. It’s been said that everyone likes sausage, but no one likes to know what goes into making the sausage. That’s how it was for me as a preacher’s kid; As a preacher’s kid, I had the insider’s view of the church – the late night phone calls, the grumbles and complaints, the gossips, the relentless committee meetings, the board meetings, the Presbytery meetings – none of them ever seeming to go anywhere! From my perspective, being a Christian seemed like you were always working on a great ship, the church, that never left dry dock, and I didn’t want any part of it. I wanted to get out and sail! And besides, everyone who had little or nothing to do with Jesus – the non-Christians in my world – seemed to be having so much more fun than the Christians!

And if you know me, you know that as a teen, I wanted to be a rock star, or an urban planner, a homesteader in the North West Territories, hunting, trapping, fishing – anywhere, doing anything else but with Jesus in the church.

But one day, Jesus got me. He shook my bed in the middle of the night and told me it was time to get up! It was time to tell people about just how much God loves them, and the world. It was time to tell folks the truth: there is a better path life than the one they’ve been living. So I got up, and Jesus made me a fisher of people, too!

Friends, sometimes God’s “Eutheos” – the immediacy of our call as Christians – comes quickly – kind of like those who have experienced love at first sight; other times it doesn’t arrive until we’ve wrestled with God and the inner voices for a while, or walked in relationship with God for a bit. But in the end, I believe, “Eutheos” – the “immediately” that the gospels keep talking about is that moment when everything finally crystallizes for us. It’s that moment when we know that we can no longer sit at home in the armchair working on a sermon while there are 15,000 people outside your front window crying out for justice, trying to find and build strength in one another and to spread a little light in an otherwise dreary world.

Maybe eutheos is that moment when you finally decide that you’ve got to get up and out of bed on Sunday morning and come and worship God, and not just because God needs you there, but because you’ve been overwhelmed by a sense of urgency about your own need to be there. Eutheos is that seaside-moment when you feel Christ calling you away from the safe and the familiar, the easy or the comfortable, and invites you be a part of the new and the now that he himself is ushering into the world – the “what should be and what will be” – the kingdom of God here on earth.

May God bless you today with a sense of urgency in your own life. May God strengthen you and bless you with courage so that you can drop what you are doing, come and follow Jesus and his word and become a fisher of people, too.

-RMG

Clarissa Pinkola Estes offers us this eloquent and powerful charge – amazing sustenance for the good work to which we are called. 

image002“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes
American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!

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“Ignite the light of love in your heart and you’ll have much less to fear in your life.”

R. Mark Giuliano (Power2ools: 2 minute tools for life)

Happy Thanksgiving to all our amazing Canadian friends! If there is only one prayer you ever learn, let it be “thank you.” Please enjoy and share this inspirational 2 minute video and then, in the comment section below, tell us what you are giving thanks for this year. Thank you!

We’re not surprised are we? I mean, if we’re being honest here, and I hope we are, we have to admit that we’ve known what kind of man Donald Trump is for a long time. The 2005 Access Hollywood video that the Washington Post released Friday, the one in which Trump is caught by a  . . . (Click here or photo below to read full article by R. Mark Giuliano on Huffington Post).

The Washington Post released a video, another damning piece of evidence pointing to the immoral behaviors of Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

The Washington Post released a video, another damning piece of evidence pointing to the immoral behaviors of Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

“Make us one, we pray, in the magnificent mosaic of faith.”

world-communionWhat table will you be at as you celebrate World Communion Sunday? World Communion Sunday is one of the most special days on the Christian calendar. It reminds us that the God who made us in our wonderful uniqueness and diversity, also fashions us into a splendid mosaic of faith and, therefore, moves us into a common mission of global compassion and justice. We’ll use the following prayer at the Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland this Sunday (please join us if you’re local). You may want to adapt it for you church, pray it individually or with family and friends wherever you break bread.  

A Prayer for World Communion Sunday

One: God of bread and wine, of grace and mercy: you set a large and abundant table for us today in the heart of our city. Gather us, we pray, from our many different places:

All: We come from our homes in suburbs to the east and west and south; from apartments and condos in the neighborhoods on the lakeshore, uptown and downtown, from treatment centers, hotel beds and conference rooms, from city shelters and makeshift hideouts in parks and under bridges. We are newcomers and long-timers. Yet, here, we are one at a table big enough for all.

One: Today is World Communion Sunday. We break bread with Christians around the world:

All: We praise you, O God, for your global Spirit which tethers your local people with sisters and brothers, children and grown-ups in everyplace. We remember those who are hungry, lonely and most vulnerable in our city, our nation and throughout the world. We give you thanks for your grace that finds us and binds us together at a table large enough for the entire world. Makes us one, we pray, in a magnificent mosaic of faith that is bound together by your gentle mercy, wrapped in your unconditional grace, and in convicted by the overwhelming truth of your eternal love.

In your Holy Name we pray; Amen.

WHO WANTS TO BE A BLACK MAN? I published an article called John Hosa Wants to Be a White Man! on The Huffington Post last week. While it received some interesting comments on Facebook and on Huff-post, I have yet to find any white folks who said they wanted trade places John Hosa, Keith Scotts, Terence Crutcher, Tamir Rice, or any other African-American, killed or living.

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My friend, an educator and organizer, shared a short clip of American educator, Jane Elliot speaking about race to a group of college kids. It’s a powerful scene. She invites all those white people in the lecture hall who want to be treated the way “our black citizens are treated in this society” to stand. Of course, not one person stands up. Elliot says that the fact that no one stood-up “says very plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willingly to accept it or allow it to happen for others.”

If you’re not already involved with a good church or with community organizations that are actively engaged in conversation about justice and working toward racial healing in America, I encourage you to get engaged now. And while you’re at it, get out and vote this November for those people and issues on the ballot that will best support the goal of ending racial inequality and injustice, and help us bring hope and healing to America.

Vote. Then act. Then act some more. If you find yourself losing steam, then answer the question: why does John Hosa want to be a white man. Or why you would never change places with him.

– RMG