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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for October 22, 2017:

First Reading: Isaiah 45:1-7

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 33:12-23

Psalm: Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 99

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22

This week's Gospel contains a saying of Jesus that is probably familiar: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Mathhew 22, verse 21). Even people who have never set foot inside a church are probably familiar with this saying, although they may attribute it to somebody else, like Shakespeare or Ronald Reagan.

I love how Jesus realizes that the Pharisees have set a trap for him, and he manages to avoid entanglement. This passage also shows Jesus reacting to the legalistic outlook of the spiritual leaders. He seems to tell us not to be so rigid in our formulas of our finances. We know what we must do. We have bills and obligations (among them, caring for the less fortunate); we cannot escape those worldly cares. But in figuring out our tithes and taxes, we should not lose sight of the larger spiritual picture.

God calls us to more than a rigid formula of living. Instead of dividing up our budget into tight categories, we should always be on the lookout for ways to love each other. Some days/months/years, that love might be manifest in monetary ways. But in a way, just writing a check is much too easy. God calls us to be involved with each other's lives. That doesn't mean we need to hop on a plane to personally respond to every huge disaster. Look around--you'll see plenty of opportunities just outside your door.

My mother has a theory about tithing money. She posits that in our society, giving money isn't the same kind of sacrifice that it would be in earlier times. Most of us have more money than we know what to do with. You might disagree, but if you compare your income to the rest of the world's, you are rich beyond compare. I would argue that we buy so much stuff because we have that much disposable income. Do you really need more than one outfit a day? Is your closet overstuffed, like mine is? There's a disconnect.

My mother says that the more precious commodity in our culture is time, and I think she's right. Most of us can barely find time to phone each other. Have you tried to have anyone over for dinner lately? It seems to take the scheduling skills of those people who used to organize Superpower Summits. My mother's theory is that if Jesus spoke directly today, he'd tell us to sacrifice time, not money.

What if you gave 10% of your time? There's 168 hours in a week. If you gave 17.8 hours to God, how would you need to change your life?

And the reality is, that God wants and needs more from us than a mere 18 hours a week. God wants an ongoing relationship with each and every one of us. And that relationship should transform us to do the tough work of transforming creation, of creating the Kingdom of Heaven right here and now.

In these days of financial ups and downs, the message of Jesus seems more prescient than ever. If we save up our treasures on earth, moth or rust or inflation or deflation or bad policies or some other kind of ruin will leave us bankrupt.

The way we live our lives moves us closer to God or further away. If we devote our lives to God, our whole lives, not just an hour on Sunday, then we'll find a relationship that we can count on in good economic times and bad. And that relationship can help us transform not only ourselves, but our families, our communities, everyone we touch.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

PUMPKIN PATCH CONCERT SATURDAY


Join us Saturday October 21st from 3PM-5PM for a free concernt at the Trinity Pumpkin Patch featuring Trinity's Uke group "Dear Kate," Christian band "Ultreya" and "Kayla and Marina." Enjoy the concert, find that special pumpkin, and food will be available for purchase. All Welcome!

Celebrating Dany Vega's 10 years of service!

For the past 10 years, Dany Vega has held positions as Trinity's custodian and later Facilities Manager, working from her deep love of God to serve both our congregation and community. In honor of her 10 years of service, Trinity will recognize her during a special coffee hour following the 11AM worship service on Sunday October 22nd. The Trinity Congregational Councill will be presenting her with a gift of appreciation for her faithful service and the congregation and community is welcome to add cards and/or gifts of appreciation to a basket that will be made available during the coffee hour for this occasion.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 15, 2017:

First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm: Psalm 23

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

Today's Gospel sounds impossibly harsh. The kingdom of heaven is compared to this story of a king who can't get people to come to the wedding feast? Is God really like the King who murders people who won't come to the party and burns their city? Is God really like the king who punishes a guest who comes in the wrong clothes? And such a punishment!

Some churchgoers, no doubt, will hear a sermon this Sunday that revolves around judgment and punishment. My opinion is that God rarely has to punish us, because our poor choices provide punishment enough.

So, let's look at this parable from a different angle: what's keeping us from accepting the invitation to the wedding feast? If the wedding feast is the kingdom of God, what keeps us away?

Obviously, as we devote more and more of our time to work, we have less time for the things that matter, like family, God, our friends. Many of us don't have time to eat; some of us can’t even slip away to go to the bathroom! Jesus is quite clear on this issue: we must prioritize. What good will it do us to work ourselves this way, to devote ourselves to earthly things, like work and earning money?

Or maybe we reject God's invitation because we feel inadequate. We'll accept at a later time, when we've improved ourselves. But that's the good news of God's grace that we find throughout the Gospels. We don't have to wait. God loves us in all of our imperfections.

Perhaps we should see ourselves in the wedding guest that didn't have the right garment. What clothes do we need to invest in to make ourselves better wedding guests?

Maybe we need to clothe ourselves in the garments of love and acceptance. Think of what attitudes you need to wrap around yourself, and work to shed the ones that do not serve you.

Maybe we need to clothe ourselves in some regular spiritual practices. We have thousands of years of history that suggest some techniques that work: regular prayer, regular spiritual reading, cultivating a spirit of gratitude, taking a day of rest, singing the Psalms to calm our nerves, and the list could fill a book.

Life is short, and Christ returns to this message again and again. We think we will have time to get to the things that will be important. We'll do it later, when the kids are older, or when we don't have to work so long and hard. We'll do it when we retire.  We'll wait until we have more money.  Once we lose that 20-100 pounds, we'll buy the right clothes and go to feasts to celebrate sacred occasions.

But God calls us to focus on the important things now. The apocalyptic tone of the recent readings may seem overly dramatic, but apocalypse dramas remind us that everything that is precious can be gone in an instant--and so the time to focus on what we hold dear is now.

It's a luxury that so many do not have, to appreciate what we have while we still have it, to be able to tell our loved ones that we love them while they're still with us.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 8, 2017:

First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Psalm: Psalm 80:7-14 (Psalm 80:7-15 NRSV)

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 19

Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46

Today's Gospel contains a parable that seems to tell the story of Christ, in the vineyard owner's son, who is killed by the tenants. I suspect that when modern readers, many of whom own property, read this lesson, they identify with the vineyard owner far more than they do with the tenants. But what would happen if we thought about ourselves as the tenants?

Notice how the tenants are so stuck in their self-destructive ways that they can't change. Now, as we settle into the season of autumn, as we race towards the end of the liturgical year, it might be useful to do some self-evaluation. What are our habits that get in the way of us living as the people of God? By now, you might despair to realize that these are the same patterns you've wrestled with before. But take heart. As you continue to attempt to make changes and go astray, each time you try to get back to a more wholesome way of living, it should take less time to make the necessary adjustments.

The Gospels that we've been reading give us reassurance that we can go astray, and God will still welcome us back. Now all this talk of going astray may not be the most useful image for us. Many of us have grown up in churches that berated us with talk of sin and tried to make us change by making us feel ashamed. We live in a toxic culture that tells us that we're not doing enough, not earning enough, not buying the right stuff. Many of us spend our days with voices in our head telling us those same messages. Who wants to come to church to hear the same thing? We've tried, we've failed, we know, we get it.

The danger is that we might quit trying to live the life that God envisions for us. God doesn't want us to live the way we've been living. Many of us might agree--we don't want to be living these lives.

So take a different approach. What would a healthier life look like? What would a God-centered life look like? How would it feel?

Now choose one action that gets you closer to that God-centered life.  We have a variety of choices.  Maybe we'll add one prayer to our day.  Maybe we'll donate to an additional charity.  Maybe we'll read to schoolchildren.  Maybe we'll turn off the news and quiet our brains so that we can hear God's suggestions of how to order our lives.  Small action by small action, choice after choice, day after day, we can structure a life that looks like the one God would hope we could have.

Of course, there will be times of despair.  There will be times of abject failure.  Read the lessons again and think about the natural order of horticulture. The land must be cleared occasionally so that new growth can take place. God continues to call to us to work for the vision of the redeemed creation that God gives us.

Remember that God promises that no matter how far away we are from that vision, God will meet us more than half-way. If we're feeling like a rejected stone, remember that God has great plans for rocks of every shape. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 1, 2017:

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 25:1-8 (Psalm 25:1-9 NRSV)

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32


This Sunday's Gospel continues to explore the notion of fidelity and fairness. People ask about Jesus--who grants him authority?  Jesus gives them a question they're afraid to answer, for fear of getting the wrong answer, and Jesus refuses to answer the question. 

Instead, he gives a parable about two sons, neither of which is true to his word.  One says that he'll go work in the vineyard, and he doesn't.  One says he won't work, but then he does.  Which son represents you?

The lesson of this Gospel is clear: we get credit for our actions, not for our speech. This idea may fly in the face of what we believe to be good Lutheran theology. What about the idea of grace? Many of us were taught that we're such dreadful humans that there's nothing we could do to justify the gift of salvation. God swoops in and redeems us, even though we're fairly hopeless people. That was the message I got from many a church event, Lutheran and otherwise.

But as a grown up, going back to revisit these passages, I'm amazed at how often God requires more of us than just saying we believe in Christ, more than just accepting Christ as our saviour, more than just having faith. In the words of Luther, faith should move our feet. In the words of James, faith without works is dead.  We don't confess belief in Christ so that we can relax on the sofa.  We confess our faith and go to work in the vineyard.

Our goal each and every day is to be the light of the world, the yeast that makes the bread rise, the radiance that allows people to see God at work in the world.  Notice how small our actions can be.  The yeast is tiny, but from its small actions, flour and water transform into bread.

Ideally we're yeast and light, but the good news of today's Gospel, and many of the others that we read throughout our 3 year lectionary cycle, is that even when we fall short, God will still love us. If we've said we'd do the work, and we fail to do it, we have other days when we can show up. God will still welcome us. The world is full of darkness, waiting for our light.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

COLLEGE COOKIES

Our rescheduled college cookie pack up takes place this Sunday September 24th and next Sunday October 1st during coffee hours. Donations of homemade cookies or money to help defray cost of shipping welcome and appreciated!



BLOODMOBILE

The BLOODMOBILE will be at Trinity
Sunday September 24th
from 9AM until 1PM
Please come and give!

Friday, September 22, 2017

THIS COMING SUNDAY

Full worship schedule returns this Sunday
8:30AM for the early birds in the sanctuary
9:45AM for something different in the fellowship hall
11AM for the whole shebang (choir, organ, ukuleles, flute, keyboard, and occasionally bongos) in the sanctuary
At every service we practice radical hospitality.
At every service we are fed and forgiven.
Hope to see you there!
(Thank you Eileen Soler for this awesome pic from our Post-Hurricane Irma Unity service!)


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel


The readings for Sunday, September 24, 2017:

First Reading: Jonah 3:10--4:11

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 16:2-15

Psalm: Psalm 145:1-8

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16


I've often thought that these parables that use work metaphors are less useful to those of us toiling in the 21st century--and I've wondered how the contemporaries of Jesus would hear this parable.

Outrage is the classic response to the idea that the workers who toiled all day getting the same wages as those who show up one hour before quitting time. We howl, "But that's not fair."

Some preachers will use this Gospel as an excuse to preach on the classic idea that life isn't fair. Maybe they'll remind us that we're fortunate that life isn't fair (how often do we pray for justice, when what we really long for is mercy?) or maybe they'll give us a real soul-sapper of a sermon about the grinding nature of life. Or maybe congregations will hear about the idea of grace being extended to us all, no matter how long it takes us to acknowledge it.

But the poet in me immediately searches for a new way to frame this parable. What if, instead of toiling in the vineyard, we're invited to a party? Those of us who come early get to drink more wine, eat more goodies, and engage in more hours of intense conversation. We get to spend more quality time with our host. Those who come later will still get to drink wine, eat goodies, converse, and have quality time. The wine won't have soured, the goodies won't have molded, the conversation won't have dwindled, the host won't be tired and wishing that everyone would just go home. The party will still be intensely wonderful. But those who come late won't have as much time to enjoy it.

God does call us to toil in the vineyard. But toil is the wrong word, or at least, in our world, it has negative connotations that can't be easily overcome.

Don't think of it as the kind of work you had to do in that soul-deadening job with that boss who delighted in tormenting you. It's not that kind of work. It's also not the kind of work where it's OK to just show up and keep the seat warm, wondering when it will be time to return home, to the place you'd rather be (which would be Heaven, in this metaphor, I suppose).

Instead, God's work is like that enriching job, the one where you were challenged, but not overwhelmed. God's work engages you on every level and you look up at the end of the work day, amazed at how time has passed and how involved you have become. At the end of God's work day, you're amazed at all you've been able to accomplish.

God calls us to partnership in an amazing creative endeavour. We're called to transform the world, to help reclaim the world for God's vision. In Surprised by Hope, Bishop N. T. Wright reminds us, "But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15;58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208).

The ways that we can do this Kingdom work are varied, from helping the poor, to enjoying a good meal, to writing a poem, to consoling a friend, to playing with your dog, to painting . . . the list is as long as there are humans in the world. Wright assures us that "God gloriously honors all kinds of ways of announcing the good news" (226).

Do the kind of creating that involves you on many levels, that makes you lose your sense of time, that leaves you unmoored in your wonder at the beauty of creation. That's the work that God calls us to do.

Friday, September 15, 2017

IMPORTANT UPDATE

1. Do you need help cleaning up from the storm? Please let us know!

2. Can you help continue cleanup efforts around Trinity or for someone in need? Meet at Trinity at 9AM SAT (tomorrow) or if other times please let us know.

3. SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 17th there will be ONE worship service at 10AM with pizza after in Charter Hall. It has been a difficult and sometimes terrifying week and a half - let us come together in worship and fellowship all wrapped by and in love for God and one another! Both the Sanctuary and Charter Hall have power and AC.

4. College Cookie mailing will take place over two Sundays, SEPT 24th and October 1st. If you can bake cookies and bring them in either or both Sundays so we can pack them up and send them off that would be awesome!

Ever in Christ,
Pastor Keith

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, Sept.17, 2017:

First Reading: Genesis 50:15-21

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 14:19-31

Psalm: Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 114

Psalm (Alt.): Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (Semi-continuous)

Second Reading: Romans 14:1-12

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

The Gospel for today, at least the first part, is probably familiar to most of us. Peter is looking for the magic number of times that he must forgive--and you can tell he's annoyed, ready to cut off the person who has offended him, but he'll forgive seven times--and you know that he's probably already forgiven that person eight times. Jesus tells him he must forgive seventy times seven.

I remember in fifth grade Sunday school class where we studied this passage. We immediately got to work on the math. And if you were an obsessive child, like I had a tendency to be, you started keeping a list of how many times you had forgiven your sister.

I had unwittingly proven Jesus' point. Peter asks a stupid, juvenile question, and Jesus gives him an answer to let him know how petty he has been. By now, we should all know that Jesus didn't come to give us a new set of legalisms to follow.

Jesus then gives us a parable about the nature of forgiveness. Most of us will need more forgiveness throughout our lives than we really deserve. We are like indentured servants who can never hope to pay off our debt, but we're miraculously forgiven.

Most of us, happily, will never experience indentured servitude in the traditional sense. But in our past years of financial collapse, many of us have discovered a different kind of indebtedness. Many of us owe more on our houses than they will ever be worth again. Many of us owe more on our credit cards than we can ever repay, and we likely don’t even remember what we bought. Because of the lousy job situation throughout the country, many of us are chained to jobs that no longer satisfy. Think of how wonderful it would be if someone came in and relieved us of those debts. Think of forgiveness the same way.

Our task--and it sometimes seems more monumental than paying off a huge financial debt--is to extend that quality of forgiveness and mercy to others.

Who needs your forgiveness? Have you told those people that they're forgiven? Do they know it by your loving actions? To whom do you need to repent? What's keeping you from doing it?

And now, for the part that might be even harder for many of us—have you forgiven yourself? I've gotten fairly talented at forgiving my loved ones, but I'm still not good at forgiving myself. I'm still angry and annoyed when the struggles I thought were past me resurface. I'm still hard on myself for my shortcomings, even as I acknowledge that my shortcomings could be worse.

Fortunately, God has a higher opinion of me than I do of myself. God is willing to forgive me for my shortcomings--even as I fall short again and again.

Let us model ourselves after God's capacity for forgiveness.  And if our capacity to forgive isn’t at 70 times 7 yet, let’s pray for an expanded ability to forgive. Let us also remember to pray for our enemies, both the personal ones and the political ones, the inner voices that berate us, the outer voices that shrilly defeat all peace initiatives, all the enemies who would undo us.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017:

First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-11

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 12:1-14

Psalm: Psalm 119:33-40

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 149

Second Reading: Romans 13:8-14

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

The Gospel readings from the last several weeks have shown us Jesus trying to prepare his disciples to take over his mission, once he's no longer physically there to lead them. Here we see him address issues of conflict management, and his advice seems to hold true, even centuries later: try to work out the conflict privately and go through increasingly public discourse.

The last verse is one of the more famous Gospel verses, the one that tells us that we only need two or three to gather in the name of Christ, and he'll be there. But what does this verse mean for the larger church?

This morning, I'm thinking of the modern church, which seems focused on numbers and growing large.  This morning, I'm thinking of this passage and wondering if Christ calls us to be small.

I think of all the articles I've read that talk about the declining numbers of people who affiliate with a church.  I think of all the people who remember the glory days of the U.S. church, back in the middle of the 20th century, back when stores were closed on Sundays, and it seemed that everyone went to church.  When church leaders talked, communities listened.

Of course, the sociologist and historian in me also knows that many vulnerable members of the community were not heard in those days.  I would not go back to 1959, even if more people went to church on Sundays. Too many people led restricted lives--no thanks.

Still, those of us who have inherited the churches that were built during those glory days might be spending a lot of time wondering how to support those buildings with our smaller memberships.  We look for ways that the building can be a blessing to many groups, not just ours.

It's good to remember that church doesn't mean the building. This Sunday, many Lutherans who aren't experiencing a hurricane will be having God's Work, Our Hands events.  We will see the power of small groups working on a project.  As Texas has been coping with Hurricane Harvey, I've been impressed with how the ELCA Bishop of the Synod and various pastors have helped coordinate clean up efforts.

I am working on this meditation as the most powerful Atlantic storm in history, Hurricane Irene, batters the islands to my south.  I am praying for those people in the path of the storm.  I take comfort remembering that church groups often come to the aid and rescue of those who have been battered by natural disasters--and they'll often stay long after the attention of the nation has wandered somewhere else.

Jesus promises that the presence of God will be with us when only two or three gather.  And we've seen from the lives of the earliest Christians, the transforming power of what happens when groups of two or three go out into the world together in the company of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Hurricane Irma

"Hurricane Irma had maximum sustained winds of 175 mph Tuesday morning, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said additional strengthening is expected."

While the storm is still hundreds of miles away and its precise landfall track is uncertain, now is the time to prepare. Many models have it hitting south Florida. Get your supplies in order. Gas up your cars. If you live in vulnerable housing have a plan on where you will ride out the storm safely.

We urge people to take this storm very seriously. 

Ever in Christ

Pastor Keith 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, September 3, 2017:

First Reading: Jeremiah 15:15-21

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 3:1-15

Psalm: Psalm 26:1-8

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Second Reading: Romans 12:9-21

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28


This Gospel shows us a picture of Jesus who knows that he's on a path to crucifixion. With clear sight and clear mission, Jesus warns his disciples of what's ahead.

Peter has a typical reaction: "That will never happen." Peter reminds me of the certain type of believers, the ones who deny the ugliness of the world and the difficulties of life. These are the ones who tell us that our problems will vanish if we just pray hard enough.  I'm thinking of an encounter I witnessed once, when one woman said to another who had just gotten a troubling diagnosis to pay no attention to the earthly doctors because she's got a Heavenly doctor.  Just keep praying, the woman was advised.

My inner cynic raged, but I kept quiet.  I've lately wondered if our modern sin is that so many of us are so quickly moved to rage.  I also think of the larger sin of despair, the disbelief that anything can change.  This Gospel passage has moved many of us to talk about the crosses that we have to bear, and this counsel has discouraged too many from even thinking about the possibility of change.
We'll have all kinds of crosses to bear, Jesus warns us, and we'll lose our lives in all kinds of ways. But we'll get wonderful rewards.

It's important to stress that Jesus isn't just talking about Heaven, or whatever your vision is of what happens when you die. If Jesus spoke directly, Jesus might say, "You're thinking too small. Did I give you an imagination so that you let it wither and waste away? Dream big, dream big."

 In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright stresses that Jesus doesn't just announce a Kingdom in some Heaven that's somewhere else. On the contrary--the appearance of Jesus means that God's plan for redeeming creation has begun. And we're called to help. Wright says, ". . . you must follow in the way of the cross, and if you want to benefit from Jesus' saving death, you must become part of his kingdom project." (204-205). He points out, "But God ordered his world in such a way that his own work within [our] world takes place not least through one of his creatures, in particular, namely, the human beings who reflect his image" (207). And for those of us who feel inadequate to the task, Wright (and before him, Jesus) reminds us of all the talents that we have at our disposal: "God gloriously honors all kinds of ways of announcing the good news" (226).

For many of us, the most difficult part of Jesus' mission that he gives us will be the willingness to believe that the arc of history bends towards justice, as Martin Luther King reminded us. The arc of history also bends towards beauty and wisdom and love and mercy. Some of us are so beaten down that we forget. Some of us would have no problem being crucified for our faith, but it's much harder to believe in God's vision of a redeemed world and to work to make that happen. But scripture and thousands of years of theology makes it clear, as Wright says, "We are called to live within the world where these things are possible and to agents of such things insofar as they lie in our calling and sphere" (248).

We'll lose our current lives of bitterness, fear, hopelessness, and rage. But we'll find a better one as we become agents of the Kingdom.