Sunday, September 20, 2020

How Do You Know God is There When You Can't See God? You Remember This.

He called me late last Sunday night, just to talk about a story from the fires on the West Coast that he had heard on the news.   You might have heard it as well. 

A man was looking for his family missing in the fire.  As he drove along, he encountered a badly burned woman wandering down the road.  He got out to get her to safety.  He told her he was looking for his wife and son.   And she turned to him and simply said.  “I am your wife.”  So badly burned she was, he did not recognize her.  And the man who called me simply repeated those words, “I am your wife.”   And then he said something like, “Boy, that’s something,” clearly moved and saddened by the tragic horror of the scene. Then he said, “You know.  You might want to use that story sometime.”   And I said “Yeah, maybe so.” But honestly after that, I dismissed it.

But the story kept hanging on.  It kept hanging on because I knew it didn’t end there.  The son they were both looking for did not make it through the fire. No. That 13-year-old boy died with his dog at his side, in a car he hoped would protect them both.  But it didn’t.

I am tired of those stories, from the fires in the West, and the storms in the Gulf.  I am tired of the ones from this awful pandemic where so many have died alone, or even now struggling to find food for their families.  In a time like this, do you find it hard at times to see God?  I gotta admit.  Sometimes it seems like God has left the building. 

This past Saturday, I was seeing my optometrist, and she was frustrated she did not have the right contact for me to try out.  And I said, “Well, it’s not the end of the world.”  And then she turned with a half-serious look in her eye (that’s all I could see – the mask covered the rest), and said something like, “Well, in your job, I guess you’d kind of know.”    

But it can feel a bit like the end of the world, this world where God’s presence, provision can be hard to find.   So, in times like these, how do you know?  How do you know God is still there?   How do you know God is still at work, still moving in the world?  How do you know God hasn’t just left the building?  In this story, where God doesn’t seemingly show up at all, God shows you the way.   Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.

Ruth 1:1-22

Storms and floods on the Gulf Coast.   Fire and flame on the West Coast.  And a pandemic, happening, well, everywhere.   In times like these, do you ever wonder?  God, where are you?  Or maybe, you don’t exactly ask that question, but you feel it.   You feel a weariness with life.  You carry more fear than hope.  And at times, at almost paralyzing uncertainty rises up as you wonder.  What’s going to happen next?   And with all that, God just fades further and further into the background.   But in this story, God shows you.   Just because you don’t see God, doesn’t mean God isn’t there.  For you may not see God now.  But, one day, without a doubt, you will.     

As this story begins, it sure looks like God has left the building.    Everything seems off.  Bethlehem, of all places, faces a famine.   Bethlehem means literally “house of bread.”   How can a place with a name like that not have bread?   Yet it does.  

Then we hear that this man named Elimelech decided to leave Bethlehem for, of all places, Moab. His name, Elimelech, means My God isKing.    But in Moab, Elimelech’s god definitely doesn’t rule anything.  No, the god Chemosh does.   In fact, these folks in Moab, they’re enemies. They’ve attacked Israel off and on for years.  Yet Elimelech heads there.   It’s almost like someone named “Jesus rules” deciding to join the Taliban.  It makes no sense.   And how he names his kids’ makes no sense either.  Mahlon means sick, and Chilion means wasting away.  What sorts of names are those for your kids?   But they sure tell you where this guy’s head was. And it wasn’t a good place.    Thank goodness, his wife, Noami has a decent name.  Her name means Pleasant. 

Still this family moves to Moab, but then Elimelech dies.   Somehow Naomi and her sons survive.  They even get Moabite wives, but then that comes crashing down.   Both sons die.  Naomi finds herself alone.  

This painful double loss means more than deep grief.  It means economic ruin.  Naomi has no way to survive, no one to protect her.  With nowhere else to go, she hears.  Things are better in Bethlehem.  She decides to return home.  She invites her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth along for the ride.  It seems that over the years, they had gotten close.   And Naomi can’t face letting them go. 

But her invitation makes no sense.  She’s asking Orpah and Ruth to leave their families to go to the land of their enemies?  How are they going to have a future there?  Now halfway there, Naomi comes to her senses.  She urges them.  Go back.  And Orpah does.  But Ruth doesn’t.  Ruth refuses to go.  Instead, Ruth says.   I will never leave you.   Your home will be my home. Your people will be my people.  Your God will be my God.  

Why would Ruth do that?   Why would she leave her country, her family, even her religion to go to a place that offered her no future?  She loved Naomi.   And she wasn’t going to leave that love behind.   Now, strangely, amazingly, in that decision, in those moments, God is there.   But no one can see it, certainly not Ruth or Naomi.  But one day, one day, they will. 

Because, just because you can’t see God, doesn’t mean God isn’t there.   Yes, you may not see God then, but one day, without a doubt, when you look back, you will.

It began with a simple ride I gave to a man to get some formula for his baby son.  He seemed like an ok guy.   Then the next day, in the newspaper, I read how that same guy, had that very night beat that baby boy to death.   For three months that summer, I had been working in the brutal inner city of Paterson, NJ, creating of all things, Vacation Bible Schools, in churches struggling to survive.  I had been commuting every day from a sparsely furnished, flea-ridden vacant house in a wealthy suburb into the bleakest city I had ever seen.  I had been accosted by drug dealers, who thought I was a customer, and visited with folks who had seen their share of poverty and despair.   But that moment, reading the story of a man who less than a day before had sat in my car, and then gone home to kill his own son, that broke me.      

I came back a few weeks later for my last year of study to be a pastor.  Over the next year, a relationship I thought would end in marriage would just end.  A semi-truck would rear-end and totaled my new car, leaving me making payments on a car that no longer existed. And I would decide no way was I up for leading a church anywhere.   So, there I was, a seminary graduate, with no job, no girlfriend, no car.  I ended up working as a low-level publicist for a small firm in New York City and living in a small room in a church.    My whole life felt derailed.  And I didn’t know if would ever get back on the tracks.      

Now, my struggles do not come close to what Naomi faced here.  But I still get why she told folks.  Don’t call me Naomi. My life has nothing pleasant. It’s all bitter.  So, call me that.  Call me Mara, the bitter one.  But here’s the stunning truth.  Just because Naomi can’t see God at work, doesn’t mean, God isn’t.  For she may not see it now.   But one day, she will. 

As for me, that job in New York City gave me time I needed to heal.   And I got to meet a few soap stars.   And that church I lived in gave me a community that touched my life in more ways than I have time to share in a 20-minute talk.   And, I didn’t know it at the time.  But the church that I would serve for 16 years was an hour’s train ride away.   My life looked derailed.  But God was working, nonetheless, even if I couldn’t see it.         

And in this story?  Well, let me give you a glimpse of what happens next.   

Israel had no food stamps, no public assistance.   If you were poor, and Naomi and Ruth were definitely poor, you had to rely on the good graces of the better off.   Basically, you picked a particularly good field where workers were harvesting.   And you hung out behind them, hoping to pick up what they missed, what is called gleaning. 

So, Ruth goes out to glean.  And she ends up in the field of a wealthy man named Boaz.  But Boaz isn’t just any rich guy.  He is related to Naomi’s dead husband.   It means, if he chooses, he can help Ruth, even marry her.  He can give her the life she lost when her husband died.  But Ruth doesn’t know that. 

And Boaz sees her.  He finds out who she is.   And having already heard of her faithfulness to Naomi, he makes sure that his workers take care of her.   She comes home from her first day in the field with about twenty-five pounds of grain!  Naomi, blown away, asks. “Where did you go to get that?”  Then Ruth tells her about Boaz.  And for the first time, Naomi begins to hope.  She knows who Boaz is, that he can help. 

And indeed, if you read on in the story, you will find.  He does.  He not only helps Ruth.  He marries her.  And in the end, Ruth, an outsider, a Moabite woman, becomes the grandmother of the greatest king in Israel’s history, King David, the very King from whose line Jesus comes.   

But you don’t see any of that here.   No one could see it.   Not Naomi or Ruth or Boaz.  But just because you don’t see it, does not mean it’s not happening.   In fact, in all this pain and hardship, God is laying the groundwork for God’s own coming in Jesus, a thousand years in the future!   

So, is God at work in these days.  Yes, God is.  But does that mean, you will see it.  No, not always, at least now.   But one day, without a doubt, you will.  

That’s what this cross proclaims.   On that day, as an innocent, righteous man suffered a brutal and unjust death, it sure looked like God had left the building.  But God was right there in Jesus, dying for you, for me, for this broken and hurting world.  God was right there, defeating evil, destroying death, liberating creation.    And if God did that in the ugliness and evil of the cross, then no place exists that God cannot and will not work.   No place or time exists that God cannot redeem and restore.   No person exists that God cannot save and free.   And in these days, remember that.   And on the days you can’t see, trust that, one day you will. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

How Do You Face the Unfairness of Life? You Remember This.

It all feels so sad, and so unfair.  Every time, I see the date.  I realize what happened.   

You see this week, I’ve been reading hundreds of resumes as we look for who will succeed our office manager, Lynn, as she retires. And on so many of them, I notice the date, the date of their last job.   I see a lot of dates in March or April when everything began shutting down.    And seeing that, this pandemic hit home in a whole different way. 

Yes, lots of folks have gotten terribly sick, too many.   And too many of those, sick, have died.  But you don’t have to get sick for this virus to wreck your life.   This virus may not take away your health, but it might have taken away your job, your financial security, even threaten to take away the roof over your family’s heads.

And yet, lots of us haven’t been hurt like that at all.  Now, we may not be able to travel.  We may have issues with our kids’ schools.   But we can still put food on the table, pay the bills.  And some folks have even done better in the pandemic.  The founder of Zoom made the list of the billionaires this week for the first time ever.

But life has a lot of unfairness like that.  Heck, I’d like to still have hair or look like Brad Pitt.  But hey, that’s life.   But these days, the pandemic can show just how serious that unfairness can be. Heck, even the virus doesn’t treat you fairly.   Some people the virus doesn’t affect at all.  But others, the virus sickens, even kills.  And the doctors still don’t know why.

So, when the unfairness hits us, hits you, where is God in that?   How is God working in those times when you face the unfairness of life?   In this story, God shows you the way.  So, let’s listen and hear what God has to say.

Genesis 32:22- 33:4

How do you face the unfairness of life?   More crucially, how does God face it?   When you face the unfairness, sometimes the brutal unfairness of life, how do you find your way through to hope, to peace, to even joy?  Here God tells you.   You realize.  The picture is always bigger than you see. And in that picture relationship trumps winning every time, in fact only relationship leads to justice.  And in that bigger picture of relationship, nothing, not even unfairness gets wasted. 

But before you can see that bigger picture, you first have to see how our smaller picture thinking gets in the way, how it hurts us more than we realize.  And to understand that, you need to understand how the man in this story, Jacob, dealt with the unfair hand life dealt him. 

In fact, he got his very name because of that unfair hand.  You see, Jacob had a twin brother named Esau, but Esau came out first.  Jacob came behind so quickly he was born with his hand literally on Esau’s heel.   So, his name Jacob literally means just that, “may he be at the heels.”  But come on, what sort of name is that?  May he be at the heels?   It’s literally a name that destines you to be always second place to your brother, just like you were at birth.

And sadly, that’s how Jacob’s life goes.   First, his brother, Esau, as the one born first (albeit by less than two seconds) gets the lion’s share of the family’s wealth.   But beyond that, Esau also got the lion’s share of their father, Isaac’s love too.  Esau was a man’s man, a hunter and outdoorsman, and his dad, Isaac loved that.  But Jacob liked to hang around the kitchen with mom.  And daddy Isaac did not like that much at all.   And Jacob knew that.  He knew that his own dad really didn’t like him that much, certainly nothing like how he adored his brother, Esau.   Talk about unfair! He doesn’t get a fair share of his family’s wealth.  He doesn’t even get a fair share of his father’s love. 

So, how does Jacob react?  He decides.  He will do whatever it takes to not just even the score. He will do whatever it takes to win.  So, he first gets his brother to give up the lion’s share of the inheritance for a bowl of soup (clearly Esau isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer).   But that isn’t enough.  He wants his dad’s blessing too, even if it means stealing it from his brother.   And so, he goes to his blind dad, and tricks him into thinking he is Esau, just so he can get those words of affirmation, that blessing.      

But you do something like that, you are not going to get away with it.  And Jacob doesn’t.  When his brother, Esau, finds out, he vows to kill him.  And Jacob has to flee.    He will never again see his father and mother.  Not only has he lost his brother’s inheritance, he has lost his own.   His obsession with winning has left him with nothing.   So, why does he do it? 

Why does anyone want fairness?  Why do you want fairness?  You want someone to see what you see.  You want someone to see that the way things are, is not just, is not right.  And because of that unfairness, no one is seeing the truth of who you are, the value of who you are.   You simply want someone to see you and the rightness of your cause.  

But here’s the problem.  Jacob goes beyond simply wanting fairness.  He doesn’t want to just be seen.  He wants to be seen as the winner, the one who has gotten ahead.   But in his obsession with winning, he loses everything.   But even if he had won, if he had gotten everything, he still would be lost.  Jacob’s picture of what he needs is far too small.  

And yet that small picture drives so many lives.  If I just get this job, this relationship, this family, this whatever, then I’ll have won.  Then I’ll have what I need. It can even drive those who have been unfairly treated.  You can think.  If I can just get my piece of the pie, what’s rightfully due me, or even more than that, if I can just win.   But it’s never enough.  The writer Oscar Wilde said it well.  “There are two great tragedies in life.  The first is not getting what you want, and the second is getting it.” 

 Yet as Jacob flees, one thing he hasn’t lost, something he maybe didn’t even realize he had. He doesn’t lose the love of God.  No, God finds him, and in a dream of a ladder to heaven tries to give Jacob, the bigger picture.  He promises him a future of blessing.  Yet, even then, Jacob doesn’t get it.   God is inviting Jacob into a relationship, but still all Jacob wants is to win. 

 So, after the dream, he offers God a deal where for whatever God gives Jacob, Jacob will get to keep 90% and God will get to keep 10.   Even with God, he simply wants to get a win.

 So, Jacob flees, and sets up shop with his mom’s brother, Laban.  And there he meets his match.  He wants to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel.   And he agrees to work seven years for free  to earn her hand.  But Laban tricks Jacob into instead marrying his older daughter, Rebekah. 

You see.  In those days, you didn’t see the bride at the marriage ceremony.  The veil never came off until after the marriage. So, when the veil comes off, Jacob realizes.  He got married to the wrong sister.   Laban has won, and he has lost.

But Jacob doesn’t give up, he works another seven years, to win the wife he wants.   And then, in an ingenious livestock breeding scheme, Jacob figures out how to win the best of Laban’s flocks and, thus his wealth, for himself.   But again, Jacob loses.  He gets found out, and he has to flee.   Now at least this time he flees with his wives and his flocks.  But he has nowhere to go, nowhere to go but home, home to his brother Esau, the brother who vowed to kill him.

And that’s where we take up the story.   Jacob has already heard that his brother, Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.   And being Jacob, he has sent sheep and goats on ahead to hopefully buy his brother off.  Still, he fears the worst.   And at that moment God shows up. 

But this time, God shows up in a way Jacob will understand.  God shows up to give Jacob a win.  But God doesn’t just give it.  No, God and Jacob wrestle over that win all night.   Do you know how long a real wrestling match lasts, even in the Olympics?   It lasts about six or seven minutes, and that’s with two breaks in between.  Why?  Because wrestling is brutally exhausting.   But God and Jacob don’t wrestle for just a few minutes.  They wrestle all night long.   God knows Jacob needs that.  Jacob needs to feel he earned that win.  And Jacob does until the twist comes. 

For right, before the win, God gives Jacob a wound.  The translation says here that God struck Jacob.  But the word is literally touched.    Basically, God touched his hip, and ripped the whole thing out of joint.  Then Jacob gets it.

Have you ever played a game with a child, and given the kid the win?  Maybe you were wrestling on the floor, and that four-year-old pinned you down.   Or maybe you had a race where that six-year-old broke past you at the finish line.   Why did you do that?   You did it for the same reason, I’ve done it with my son.  You didn’t care about the win.   You cared about the relationship.       

And Jacob gets it.  God will give Jacob the win because God wants the relationship more.  And to celebrate that relationship, God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, the wrestler with God.   And that name has power.  For God is telling Jacob in that name.   I see you.   I see your hunger.  I see your passion to win.  And yes, I see how it messes you up.  But I see too the wounds from where it comes.  In fact, the wound I gave you shows you that. 

And in that moment, Jacob becomes free.  He realizes.  He never needed the win as much as he needed the relationship.  He needed to know that God saw him, really saw him, in all the pain, and the hurt and the injustice.     And that’s how true justice comes too.   Sure, it may require some wins along the way.  But before the wins come the relationships.   For it is in the relationships that people see; that people see each other, that people see the wounds, the pain, the injustice.  And then the justice comes.  I’ve seen that again and again in our work building relationships in Bold Justice, with other people of faith, with public leaders, how through those relationships, through seeing that pain, wins come.  

Now, we still live in a world of broken relationships, a world where unfairness still reigns too often.  But in this story of God’s feigned loss, of God’s pretend weakness, God points you to another time, where God would lose in order to win, not just Jacob, but everyone and everything.        

In Jesus, God did become weak for real, even vulnerable unto death.    And while that night God saw Jacob.  On that cross, few saw Jesus.  Instead they saw a criminal, a man to be despised or mocked.   And while Jacob was wounded so that his heart might be healed.  But Jesus was wounded even unto death, so that you might be healed.   And Jesus held on to that cross, so he could be blessed, but so you could be.  He held on to give you a new name, beloved son, precious daughter, beloved child of God.  He lost everything so you might win, so you could see yourself as God sees you, beloved and precious.    And in that love, God will, in the end, heal and restore every wound, every injustice.  But until that day come, you now know God has seen you.  God has called you his own.  And nothing, no injustice, no evil, not even death will ever take that away. 

And the more you know that love, the more peace and hope and joy come even on the darkest of days   For, now you know.  The darkness will never be the end of the story.  The light of God’s love will.   That is the bigger picture.   And in the light of that, you can work with joy and hope to see the justice, the goodness that Jesus died to give.   For you know, even on the darkest of day, no darkness will ever be able to withstand that light.  

Sunday, September 6, 2020

What Can Hurt You Most in These Days? This Can. Here's How You Get Free.

Did you ever hear that term “stranger danger?”  Folks use it to warn kids about talking to strangers.  By the way, it turns out kids face greater danger from people they know than a random stranger. Go figure. But now stranger danger has a whole new meaning to me.

Every time I go to the grocery store and reach past someone to pick up an item or just get a little too close for comfort to a person in the aisle, I wonder.  Could they have it?  Could they give me the Covid? Heck, they’re probably thinking the same thing about me.  It’s so weird.  Every person you meet could carry this invisible thing that could kill you or if nothing else, make you really, really sick.  So, we do what we can to be careful.  We even steer clear of neighbors we know when we meet them on the sidewalk.   Heck, these days, anyone could be a danger. 

And in a world like that, fear can easily assume too much power, take too much control.  Yet, here’s the problem.  Again and again God warns how dangerous fear can be.  In fact, God gives no other command more than simply the words, “Do not fear.”   As a wise rabbi once said; “You must accept that fear is not only harmful but evil, not only unhelpful but deeply destructive.”  (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach).  But in a world that can feel pretty scary, how do you not let fear harm you like that?  How do you protect it from even destroying you?  In this stunning story, God shows you the way.  Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.

Genesis 18:1-21

In this story, God shows you a simple yet profound truth.  The more you move past fear, the more blessing comes.   And the more you let fear take control, the more you open the path not simply to harm but even to your own destruction.

Do you think that the first time God went undercover happened when God came in Jesus?  No way.   God did it before, including in these words you just read.  Right at the beginning of the story, God tells you something stunning.  When these three men show up outside Abraham’s tent, God isn’t just sending some angels down.  No, in these three tired strangers, God himself has shown up, standing right on Abraham’s doorstep   Christians have seen in this story even the first hint of God as the Trinity.   In fact, A famous Russian icon of God that celebrates this very story has an image that hints at just that.    

But Abraham doesn’t know that.  As far as he knows, these three strangers are just that, three strangers.   Now before we get into what Abraham does, it’s important to know one thing. In those days, no one went on vacation.   No one took a few days off to go visit Uncle Bob in Babylon.   If you left home, it typically meant something bad.   Famine had struck the land, and you had to go search for food.  Invaders had taken your town or city, and you had to flee.   That meant.  If someone showed up at your door, they were fleeing trouble.  And so, generally people helped.  They provided something to help the travelers along their way.   After all, you never knew when you might need that help.  

Yet, what Abraham does goes way beyond the norm.  First, he not only welcomes them, he bows before them, even calls them “Lord” (which is kind of ironic since they are the Lord).  But then he goes further, he literally kills the fatted calf.  He provides them a meal fit for a king.  Now we know that these three are God in disguise, but Abraham doesn’t know that. 

Not only that, three men traveling alone doesn’t sound like a family fleeing hardship.  No, these guys could have been criminals, scouts for a raiding party.  Abraham had a lot of wealth, sheep, goats, cattle.  But Abraham doesn’t hesitate to lay out a lavish spread, to welcome them with open arms.   For him, the call to share, to care matters more than anything else, including any fear he has.  And as a result, he ends up welcoming, a blessing he and Sarah had yearned for their entire lives, a child.    

For God has shown up to tell them, even though they are old, so old the idea of a child is laughable (as Sarah shows us) that it is going to happen.  A baby is on the way.  As God says it so well, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

But then God’s conversation takes a shift, a shift to something much darker, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  And that’s where we ended the story, but the story didn’t end there for Abraham.  No, Abraham tries to save the cities.  Yes, he knows his nephew, Lot, lives there.  But he doesn’t ask God just to save his family members.  No, Abraham tries to save everyone, folks in two cities, he doesn’t even know.  He even starts haggling with God over it.  Talk about no fear!  And He gets God to make a bargain.  If God finds only ten people who are righteous between both these cities, God will save them.

And that’s where the stunning contrast between these two stories becomes clear.  For God does send angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, to look for the righteous.  But here’s the tragedy. God can’t find them.  And why?  Sodom and Gomorrah are captured by fear.     

The story goes like this.  Abraham’s nephew, Lot sees two strangers/angels arrive.  Like, Abraham, he welcomes the strangers into his home.  But Lot’s adopted city doesn’t feel the same.  No, they fear.   Who are these strangers?  Maybe they’re scouts from an enemy city.  Whoever they are, they don’t belong here.  So, the men of the city decide to gang rape them.  They think.   If we humiliate, brutalize them, then kill them, then wherever they come from, they’ll know.  You don’t mess with Sodom and Gomorrah.      

Now, Lot does try to save the strangers. But then Sodom’s fear turns on him. The folks of Sodom say.  “Hold on a second.  Lot’s an alien.  He’s not one of us, either.  Let’s kill him.”   Now, that doesn’t happen.  Instead the angels zap the folks outside with blindness.  So, they can’t even find Lot’s door.   And then, Lot gets it.  These aren’t strangers. They’re angels.  And Sodom and Gomorrah just failed God’s test.  The next day Lot and his family flee. And God destroys the cities, cities that now lie in what is now called the Dead Sea.   

Do you see the irony?    Sodom and Gomorrah’s fear, fear that led them to violence and brutality, ends up destroying them, even making them a byword for evil and depravity ever since.   The rabbi is right.  Fear, at least fear like this, it’s evil. 

But as much as I wanna bash Sodom and Gomorrah, I can’t.  Sure, I haven’t engaged in the brutality they did.  But out of fear, I have distrusted strangers for no reason whatsoever.   Out of fear, I have seen danger in people simply because they looked different than me.  I have let fear too often drive how I see the world and those around me.  And it has hurt me.  It has hurt others. Can you honestly not say the same?  Who hasn’t let fear drive them into a dark place? 

And that’s why this story gives me hope, because it points me to this table.  Now, you might be thinking.  What? What does this story have to do with Communion?

Don’t you see?  When Abraham bargained with God, he reversed the way everyone in his day saw guilt.   If one person in your family did wrong, it tainted your whole family.  The guilt of one stained the many. But here, Abraham says. Why can’t the righteousness of the few save the many, even save them all?   And God agrees. And in that, God is pointing you to God's most profound act of love.

For in Jesus, God did become the one who saved them all.   He, the righteous one, came to us as a stranger.   And captured by fear we turned him away. We even killed him.  But our fear did not destroy him.  No, Instead, his love saved us.    In Jesus, the one did save the many.  The one, this One saved us all.   His love defeated, even destroyed our fear.   And the more you let that love in, the more it will free you from the fear.  The more it will open you to the blessing God yearns to give.  For there is no fear in that love.  Indeed, God’s perfect love casts it out, and will in the end destroy it forever.     So, where are you captured by fear today? Where do you need God’s love to free you?  Let the love of this God free you, this God that has saved us all, now and forever.