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Letter from Amy: Nov 8, 2023

The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Mafa Project, Cameroon, 1973

Dear Incarnation,

What a beautiful All Saints Sunday. It is a privilege to carry each other's griefs and remember each other's losses together each year. If you missed the service and would like a handout, please let us know.

And it is a joy to renew our commitment to faithfully follow Jesus like those saints who have gone before us. Sunday's sermon focused on Matthew 5:1-13 — what we call the beatitudes ("blessed"s) — and asked the question: what if Jesus actually meant for us to live this way?

In preparing to preach, I came across two other versions of the beatitudes that I loved and wanted to share. Sometimes it's helpful to hear familiar texts recast in unfamiliar language.

The first is from the First Nations Version of scripture, a translation created by a council of Native North Americans. I am particularly moved by "the ones who walk softly and in a humble manner." In a world that rewards loudly asserting oneself, our Creator sees every soft footfall.

Creator’s blessing rests on the poor, the ones with broken spirits. The good road from above is theirs to walk.

Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who walk a trail of tears, for Creator will wipe the tears from their eyes and comfort them.

Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who walk softly and in a humble manner. The earth, land, and sky will welcome them and always be their home.

Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who are merciful and kind to others. Their kindness will find its way back to them—full circle.

Creator’s blessing rests on the pure of heart. They are the ones who will see the Great Spirit.

Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who make peace. It will be said of them, “They are children of the Great Spirit!”

Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who are hunted down and mistreated for doing what is right, for they are walking the good road from above.

Others will lie about you, speak against you, and look down on you with scorn and contempt, all because you walk the road with me. This is a sign that Creator’s blessing is resting on you. So let your hearts be glad and jump for joy, for you will be honored in the spirit-world above. You are like the prophets of old, who were treated in the same way by your ancestors.

And the second — no surprise here — is from Eugene Peterson's The Message translation. Eugene looms large as a saint for me. If you haven't read his biography by Winn Collier, I cannot recommend it highly enough (along with, you know, all of Eugene's books). Here's how he renders the beatitudes:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world — your mind and heart — put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that — count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens — give a cheer, even! — for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.


Other happenings

  • This Thursday, we will celebrate All Souls together at 7pm at Greenbrier Baptist. This is our quarterly Healing Eucharist, with a particular focus on loss and grief. Katie wrote a beautiful post about All Souls here.

  • This Sunday, our November outreach partners from Restoration Immigration Legal Aid will worship with us, including our own Johanna Montague, followed by an outreach lunch to hear more about their work.

  • The bishop will visit on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec 3. He will confirm/receive/reaffirm people at that time. I wrote about confirmation last week (scroll about halfway down) for those who are curious what it all means. If you have recently returned to the church, are experiencing inward spiritual renewal, or are going through a significant life transition, this can be a wonderful opportunity to be strengthened in the Spirit for the journey. The bishop's visit will also include a Saint Nicholas outreach event and an Advent retreat on Saturday, Dec 2 — stay tuned for details!

  • On Sunday, I announced several leadership changes at church. First, Cory Warden is stepping down from the Music Director position after serving faithfully for the past year. Cory's not going anywhere, but is in a season where his attention is most needed elsewhere — a decision I wholly support and bless. We prayed with thanksgiving for all the ways he has blessed our church. And second, our vestry met on Saturday, November 4, and elected two new wardens: Grant Sung and Will Montague. They are wise, insightful, and humble, and they love this church. Praise God!


Blessed are you, Incarnation, when you light candles of remembrance and carry each other's sorrows and break bread together and pray to be saints. It's a gift to be your pastor.




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