Thursday, 30 September 2010

St Michael & All Angels sermon

St Michael & All Angels (2010) RCL Principal


Problems with Angels

Let me start with a confession. I have a problem with Angels… Not that I mean I have Angels under the bed or falling out of cupboards or anything like that, but I struggle with the whole culture of Angelic beings that has sprung up both within and beyond the Christian Church. Guardian Angels, Healing Angels, Warning Angels. New Age Spiritual Beings. All the Angelology (if that is a word) that I’ve heard about since I was a child. And this obsession with Angels isn’t a new thing – the Church wasted far too much time in the medieval era talking about how many Angels could dance on the head of a pin, or what the exact order of rank in the nine heavenly choirs is.

The problem I have is that so many of the descriptions that people give of Angels, and the new age obsession with some form of Spiritual beings, and those wings of the Church (no pun intended) which have complex teachings regarding Angels seem to have little or no Scriptural substance to them. And, to be blunt, if it ain’t Bible, it ain’t Gospel. The focus of our reading of Scripture should be the working out of God’s wonderful plan of salvation, and the application of God’s living truth to the world we live in and the way we live.

So there’s a certain irony to the fact that forty percent of the Churches God has called me to serve here in our Mission Community are dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. And even more so that the first major feast we observe following Kate’s ordination, and therefore the first Communion service at which Kate presides is the feast day of St Michael and All Angels. Perhaps God is trying to teach me something!

I followed a link to a site on the Internet courtesy of the Bishop of Texas which did make me think again. It was an encyclopaedia of Feast Days of the Church and started with a wonderful introduction to this day written by someone called James Kiefer.

On the Feast of Michael and all Angels, popularly called Michaelmas, we give thanks for the many ways in which God's loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God's creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

I don’t dismiss the possibility of the reality of Angels, certainly because Scripture, and Jesus himself, refers to them. I’ve not seen them, but if I only believed in what I saw I would be a very sorry excuse for a Minster of God’s Gospel, and steward of the mysteries of the God beyond all understanding! If we were to trawl through our Scriptures we would find a number of references to Angels in the Old Testament and the New. Often appearing in visions, and in the Old Testament almost certainly meant to be God appearing in some kind of human form there is an allusion, thought not completely clear that there is an order of created beings that worship God and serve him. Calling again on the words from the online guide:
The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligences other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them, and it is not clear how much of what we are told is figurative.

With this in mind we also have the visions of Ezekiel, Daniel and St John of Patmos in the Revelation which give some more ideas. Michael is referred to as an Archangel and leader of the armies of heaven. He slays the Dragon in the book of Revelation, often causing confusion in some artworks with St George! Again the question of literal or figurative language comes up, and I have to ask – what does this add to my understanding of a God who is intimately involved in this world, in an earthy, real and everyday way. My problem with Angels isn’t actually whether they exist or not – that’s a question far beyond my ability to answer – but whether they are a distraction from the reality of faith that needs to be lived out everyday!

But on this feast Day of St Michael and All Angels which is also a celebration of the ministry of our new Priest in the Five Alive Mission Community, I do believe there is something to learn from this whole ‘Angel thing’ that we can apply to our everyday life and faith.

I liked the introduction from James Kiefer which reminds us that within our faith and in our Scriptures there are mysteries beyond our understanding. We need reminding sometimes that we don’t have all the answers, that human beings with all our cleverness and Theology and knowledge cannot grasp all the mysteries of this universe, or indeed of our faith.

The very act of sharing this Holy Communion, this service of thanksgiving we call the Eucharist presents us with one of the deepest mysteries of our faith. As Kate prepares to preside at this service for the first time she leads us in the mysterious sharing of Bread and Wine which somehow for us becomes the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Anglican Tradition we don’t believe in Transubstantiation, which means these elements literally become the blood and body of Jesus, but we do hold to what we call the ‘real presence’ – that Jesus is here, shared in bread and wine. The technical term is ‘Consubstantiation’ which I am more than happy to discuss at length later!

In her role as Priest Kate shares with us the mystery of the Eucharist. Priest’s are often called ‘stewards of the mysteries of faith’ which means not that we want to keep things mysterious and secret, like some kind of society where arcane knowledge is passed on through the generations, but that we carefully lead in prayer, presiding over certain rites and rituals of the Church even though we can’t describe exactly what is going on or what happens!!! In faith we hold to God’s reality made present here in the bread and wine and in our sharing, just as in faith we proclaim God’s special presence in the bond of marriage, and we proclaim (along with our lay sisters and brothers who also perform this ministry) the mystery of eternal life in the face of death at funerals.

These are mysteries beyond our explaining, yet we continue to carefully share them. Perhaps not being able to sum up the how, why and wherefore is part of the gift of them to us. As James Kiefer says
‘we give thanks for the many ways in which God's loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God's creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.’

Also, our meditations on Angels can remind us of our essential calling as Christians. The word ‘Angel’ comes from the Greek word ‘Angelos’ (from which we also get the word ‘Euangelion’ from which comes the title Evangelist) in turn the Hebrew word is Malach. Essentially it means messenger. Angels crop up a number of times in Scripture, both in visions and in meetings, to share something of God’s purposes and plans in humanity.

Angels share with Abram his wife’s impending pregnancy, they ascend and descend the ladder that Jacob sees in a dream, they proclaim the coming birth of the Messiah to Mary and they sing of God’s peace shed abroad to all people at the birth of Jesus.

Again, in her Priestly ministry Kate bears that responsibility for bearing and sharing the message of Jesus, in word and deed. In this Holy Communion, the proclamation of forgiveness of sins, the offering of blessing she is messenger of the good news of God in Christ, present with us through His Holy Spirit. But, as I said on Saturday, it’s not just Kate’s responsibility to share that message, it belongs to all of us as the Body of Christ.

In this Communion God offers his grace, his sustenance, his power as he feeds and nurtures us not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of the world. If anyone wants to know why I hold this Eucharist so highly it is because Jesus is shared here, not just in bread and wine but in prayer, in song, in sharing of God’s word. But not only that, the purpose of the Eucharist is summed up in the last sentence our Priest will utter in this service – GO in love and peace to serve the Lord. We are sent as Angels, as messengers of the Gospel, to share the Good news, the Evangelion, in all we do and say, indeed to be the message as well as the messenger.

So Angels can remind us of the mysteries of God beyond our understanding and of our own calling to share that mystery and the message of Christ in our everyday life as Christians. Perhaps I shouldn’t have any problems with Angels whatsoever.

An Ordination Sermon

It is very unlikely that I will ever get to preach at an ordination again - but last week I had the immense privilege of speaking at the ordination to the Priesthood of our Curate, the Revd Kate Woolven. It is worth following the link to the lessons for the day before reading the sermon here....


Ordination Sermon – Kate Woolven

What a privilege it is to be here. Celebrating the ordination of Kate as priest within the Church of God as part of the people of God! Today is a good day, and a wonderful ocassion. Already in the weeks Kate has been with us she has proved herself to be a competent, compassionate, warm, funny, thoughtful, faithful, spiritually mature and committed minister – and I still keep being told how good her sermon was at the last Mission Community service we held! Now we share in the next stage of Kate’s journey of being and becoming who she is called to be under God. We are here to support her as Bishop Bob ordains her to the office and work of a Priest within God’s Church. Alleluia!

Kate takes on this role of priest in a changing Church that sometimes seems to be struggling with a changing world, and a changing role within that world. Yet in the midst of that change she – and we – hold on to truths that are eternal, and we continue to listen for where God, through his Holy Spirit, leads us. And in the midst of a changing world we would do well to hold on to the truths which we believe to be unchanging – the life and teaching, the death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God revealed in that story of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of God still living and active in the Church and in the world, and in the lives of faithful people seeking the will of God.

And somewhere in all of that comes the Church. A Church which, though flawed and sometimes broken, is still loved by God. A Church which gives us a spiritual home, and from whose authority we who are called to be priests receive a calling to serve the people of God and minister to a world that cries out for the life and light of Christ.

So, what is this priestly role to which Kate is called? What is it particularly that we celebrate here this afternoon? For some idea of that we have to turn to our Scripture readings for today – taken from those suggested for any ordination service. I could speak at length to any of these passages, and got very excited reading them in preparing for this sermon, but I want to take one thing from each of them partly because I promised that this wouldn’t be a long sermon – and more importantly because all that we do here, in Kate’s ordination and in sharing bread and wine in this Holy Communion is so filled with meaning that I don’t need to layer too much on top of that!

In ordaining to the priesthood we carry on in a perhaps undefinable way the calling that Jesus gave to his disciples in the Gospels, and particularly in our reading from John’s Gospel chapter 20 that Priests proclaim peace, and forgiveness from sins. One of the great privileges of being in this ministry is the sharing of peace in the Eucharist, and being able to offer both absolution and a blessing on behalf of the Church – carrying on with sharing the breath of God in the Spirit that Jesus breathed upon his disciples. Though that breath sweeps not just through those of us called upon to be priests, but through all Christian people – but more of that in a moment.

What else particularly are we ordaining Kate to in this service? Well in my days as a university Chaplain a colleague of mine used to talk of the role of a Chaplain as ‘keeping the rumour of God alive in Academia’. But that equally applies to the everyday life of a priest. We are called to keep the rumour of God alive, sometimes to say those things which are uncomfortable and sometimes declaring the light, life and light of God against the darkness of the age. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me” says our passage from Isaiah “because the Lord has anointed me...” and the reading from Chapter 61 of the book of Isaiah goes on to talk of proclaiming good news to the oppressed, binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming liberty to to the captives and release to prisoners, comforting those who mourn and givng gladness and praise instead of mourning and ashes. But we also read that the day of vengeance of our God is proclaimed alongside the year of the Lord’s favour. The priest doesn’t always get to share good news, some of the things she or he is called to share might be difficult to say and even harder to hear. As you may have heard me say before, the Holy Spirit is the comforter of the afflicted, and afflicter of the comfortable. In prayer, study of scripture, pastoral care, sharing of the sacraments we speak out the word of God as we are bidden, and we cannot flinch from sharing the hard truths about our Church, about the true cost of taking up the cross of Christ, about the discipline that is inherent in being a disciple as we follow the way of Christ.

And there’s an uncomfortable, or potentially uncomfortable thing I think I need to say in response to the other reading of our three – that wonderful reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter four. And I hope this comes under the heading of ‘speaking the truth in love’ that Paul mentions....

The priest isn’t here to do your faith for you.

Though we celebrate Kate’s gifts and talents, and we rejoice that God has called her to this place to excercise the ministry of being a Priest and a Curate in our Mission Community. Though we hold to the ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons to serve and minister to, within and beyond the Church of God. Though we rejoice today that Kate’s journey has brought her to this place and that we in the Five Alive Mission Community get to share that and to support Kate in her ministry, even as she blesses us with all that she offers. We remember that in the Church of God no order is higher than another, that no calling is greater than another, that we are all a part of this wonderful body of Christ who have Christ alone as our head. Through our shared life in baptism we all have a vocation and ministry to serve and to share and to live and BE the Gospel.

St Paul writes ‘EACH of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ – not just the priests, or the bishops or deacons of the Church but each one of us. Even as we celebrate Kate’s calling and benefit from her leadership and service we remember that every one of us has a place within the Mission and Ministry of God’s Church. We all have our God-given gifts, we all have a part to play.

As Priest, part of Kate’s role and responsibility will be to foster and nurture the spiritual life of the people of God. This is in order that, as Paul writes, we may no longer be children. Small children, as we know, need everything done for them – but it isn’t long (and I speak from sometimes painful experience) before they are striking out, making a bid for independence and wanting to do things for themselves. So it should be in the body of Christ. Kate has her part within the body, just as all of us called to ministry and leadership have a part, but it is not her (or my, or any Priest’s) role to do Church on everyone’s behalf. As a representative of the Church she will preach, lead, preside at the Eucharist, Bless, Absolve and offer pastoral care and prayer – but it is the responsibility of all God’s people to find their gifts and offer them in the service of Christ and his people.

You may or may not be amazed to hear that I have heard the words ‘It’s good that you’ve got a Curate, another Priest, that’ll be a help to you’. In response to which I often want to say ‘actually it’s a help to you’. Kate in her priestly role is here to support the work that WE, the Church are doing, to reach out to those beyond our congregations, to live and proclaim the love of God in Christ. But she is here in partnership with each one of us as together we make up this wonderful, strange, challenging body we call the Church.

So we rejoice that God has called Kate to this work. We rejoice in the celebration of the life of this Five Alive Mission Community. And we rejoice that together we have such a great salvation to proclaim. May God join and knit us together as we are equipped for service, evangelism, worship and let us pray that we will be built up in love for the sake of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, our living head.

Bless you Kate in this ministry – in a wonderful place, with wonderful people. And God bless us all in his body, the Church.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

St Giles Patronal Festival Evensong


St Giles Patronal 2010

Saintly Calling

It’s a pleasure to be gathered here with the people of God to celebrate our patronal festival at this evensong this evening. A pleasure because our remembrance of Saints, and today we remember particularly St Giles of Provence, is an uplifting way of reminding ourselves our our heritage of faith, and because a patronal festival reminds us of our heritage and history in this place, and calls us to faithfulness as God’s saints here and now in our parish and as part of our Mission Community.

As I said this time last year (though I would be interested as to who could remember that, I had to look it up). We have a good example for us in St Giles of Provence whose feast day was actually on Wednesday of this week just gone. Little is known about him apart from his birth in the early 7th Century, probably to noble parents who were Athenians, and the foundation of a monastery in Provence, in a place now know as St Gilles-du-gard between Arles and Nimes in South East France. The stories talk of him being nourished by the milk of a Hind, crippled by the arrow of a Frankish king and therefore the ‘patron saint of cripples and lepers’ as it says in one history, and of his service to the poor and needy.

Churches of St Giles are often dedicated to the saint because his feast day was the nearest day to the opening of the church or because they are churches particularly welcoming to outcasts, often found on the outskirts of a town or on a pilgrimage route. I suspect this Church was first dedicated on or near the 3rd of September so we find Giles our patron, meaning our guardian saint.

That tradition of welcome and embrace, particularly of outcasts and the needy, is though, the best legacy our naming. It is that which should inspire us rather than devotion to any one person in our church history!

Despite how it may seem Christian faith doesn’t – or perhaps shouldn’t - really go in for hero worship. Yes we have many ‘Saints’ in the tradition of the Anglican Church, which comes from our Roman Catholic roots, but they are remembered with veneration not in order to place them on to pedestals, but to inspire and to challenge us in our own walk of faith. These ordinary-but-special individuals, often deeply flawed yet deeply faithful, are fellow-pilgrims on our journey of faith. Their passion should be our passion, they are brothers and sisters not set apart but alongside us as we seek to live the Gospel in this time, this place, amongst these people here in Kilmington.

That wonderful short but powerful reading from the Song of Songs (also called the song of Solomon) is a cry of love from the heart. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” is the passionate cry of human love which can be translated into our devotion to and love for God. St Giles in giving up all he had and following a way of poverty, chastity and obedience is simply an example of the way we should all, with God’s help through his Holy Spirit, live. We are called to lives of simplicity and obedience, of faithfulness and mutual love.

Our Scriptures again and again call each one of us to faithfulness – not just a chosen few, but each one of us. When Paul refers to ‘The Church’ he is referring to the people of God, not a building (for there weren’t any Church buildings) or an institution or organisation. Paul also frequently refers to ‘Saints’ – by which he means all those who have accepted the life Jesus offers and who are being transformed in the power of the Spirit into the likeness of Christ.

On this Patronal day, when we celebrate St Giles – we don’t simply celebrate that one man, we celebrate the people of faith who have lived and prayed and worked and worshipped here in the village of Kilmington over many years. We don’t just celebrate the Vicars, or the Readers, or even the Curates – wonderful as they may be. We celebrate the Churchwardens and PCCs and Vergers, the bellringers, flower arrangers, church cleaners, those who have been baptised, married, buried here, those who have played the organ or been in the choir, those who have read lessons and led prayers, who show the mission and ministry of God in this village with acts of love and kindness, those who have come faithfully week by week, to pray, to think, to learn, to grow and to live and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

They, and we, are the Saints of St Giles.

The Christian faith doesn’t divide us up into who is more or less worthy of God’s love, or of respect. Each one of us are saved sinners, being sanctified – made holy – by the Grace of God. For just as the Bible tells us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God’ it also tells us that each one of us, saved by faith and rooted and grounded in Christ, are being built into the Body of Christ with the risen Jesus as our living head.

Another common name for a Patronal Festival is a Dedication Festival, so called because it is the day that the Church was dedicated and consecrated for worship. Let us use this dedication festival to be a people so dedicated to Christ, and so consecrated for worship that not just on this day, or just on Sundays, we are bearers of the life and light of Jesus Christ. In our second reading for this evening – readings taken from those offered for festivals of the Saints – we see St Paul writing with passion ‘Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. ‘ If each Christian person echoed such passion, and the passion that leaps out from the words of the Song of Songs, then our Churches would be living, active, attractive, challenging, inspiring places in which people would continue to encounter our living God.

So in the light of our Patron Saint Giles, and following on from the great heritage of faith that has been shared with us here in Kilmington and in our Mission Community, we have an opportunity to put our own journey of faith into perspective. We, like the saints, are followers of Jesus Christ our living Lord. Are we like them willing to allow God to transform us through his Holy Spirit into the the disciples he calls us to be? Are we willing to give our all for Christ, no matter what the cost?

If we want our Church to grow in faith, if we want to reach out to the world around us, if we want more people to be a part of the life of our Parishes then it’s not going to be your Clergy that do that, It will be the prayers and faithfulness of the whole Church that will make it possible.

We must pray for one another in our common task of living and sharing the Gospel. The Saints give us examples not of spiritual heroics, but of what it is possible for each of us to do in the power of the Holy Spirit and bathed in the prayers of all God’s people. So let’s recommit ourselves to prayer and to each one of us finding our vocation and ministry within the Church, through the Holy Spirit and in Prayer we can all fulfill God’s calling to us to live faithfully and to share in the task of bringing the Gospel to this world that God loves so much.

As St Paul says:
this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Thanks be to God.

The sermon this morning....

Proper 18 (2010) Year C RCL Principal


Grow Up!

One of the subjects that comes up again and again in our household, as is probably the case in any household with small children, is ‘growing up’. What do you want to be when you grow up? Is one of those questions that Katherine and Jack seem very happy to keep replying to, despite giving different answers most times its asked. Or there are comments about ‘how grown up they look’ or ‘aren’t they growing up fast’. Most of us have probably heard all this before and if we don’t remember people saying it to us, then we probably remember it being said to our children, or grandchildren, or other family members or friends.

And scripture is quite keen on the subject too. St Paul talks of Christian faith needing to mature, in 1 Corinthians 3v21 of needing to move from ‘milk to meat’ in our spiritual journey as a child needs to be weaned. Paul also talks in Ephesians 4 v 15 of ‘growing up into Christ our head’. Jesus too, whilst instructing us to be child-like, never calls us to be child-ish, and in fact calls us to be mature in our faith, to be willing to make sacrifice, to truly consider the cost of our faith, and to be open to losing everything for the sake of the Gospel.

Crumbs, Christian life is hard.

On a purely personal note I am reaching the end of my second year in these parishes, and though it has been and continues to be very rewarding, it can also be really hard. This isn’t a complaint, and if it had been too much I wouldn’t be wanted to stay! But it has been a tough couple of years. I have to say that I have been on quite a steep learning curve in my personal, pastoral and professional life. I know I’ve not always been right, and there have been some things I could have done better, things I didn’t do as I should have, and things I wish I’d known when I arrived. But I hope and trust that I have learned and grown in my time here, as many of those in our Parishes have done also.

Our parishes are going through major changes too, in personnel, in our times and styles of services, in the fabric of our buildings and the organisation of our Mission Community. Many of these changes have been overwhelmingly positive but alongside that we have lost some very special people, we’ve struggled with the issues facing our villages today and we’ve had pain and sadness alongside the joy and the rewards of our ministry.

For those who think that this Christianity lark is a doddle and that Churches are havens for the weak, a short time in our villages would soon show what a nonsense that is.

I have had people say to me that ‘religion is a crutch’ and that it props up those who are too weak minded to carry on without some kind of spiritual panacea. Actually, if we were to carry on that metaphor I would say that religion isn’t a crutch, but a stretcher, because the only way we can truly encounter God is by being carried there by his grace, and through grace alone.

But those of us who have actually committed to following Jesus know that it is difficult to be a Christian. It’s not a way out of the ‘real world’ but a way which makes us sensitive to the pain and brokenness of our society and the world around us. Christian faith doesn’t make us immune to suffering or pain, in fact it more often than not makes us more aware of the suffering of others and prevents becoming apathetic or uncaring towards one another or the world.

But none of this should surprise us. Being a Christian is hard, and today’s Gospel reading is quite clear about that. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. Jesus compares following him to setting off to war, or preparing a major building operation, not something to be taken lightly, and not something to be undertaken without planning to see it through to the end. Even more so he says ‘Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’.

Crosses would have been a relatively familiar sight to the people Jesus was speaking to. A grisly, agonising and long lasting form of execution it was used as much as a deterrent to those thinking of disobeying Roman law as a way of punishing lawbreakers. Crosses were put in prominent places where people would see them, and before each crucifixion the condemned would be forced, as in the Good Friday story we know so well, to carry their cross to their place of execution – a very public spectacle.

So Jesus refers to something that is both familiar and shocking to try and give some idea of the cost of discipleship. There is no hint in this passage, or indeed in any of Jesus words, that being a disciple is an easy option, or the route to a cushy life. In fact throughout the Gospels Jesus talks of his own homeless status, about the need to endure suffering, about the threat of persecution, about working hard and about absolute devotion to God’s cause – a devotion that is equivalent to hating family, friends and even life itself.

But this suffering is not an end in itself, it often comes as a part of the life of the disciple, part of every life – but we don’t follow in order that we might suffer, but we endure suffering that we might be faithful. Our call is not to suffer, but to remain true to our faith and to the truth of Christ no matter what we endure.

And even from suffering God can bring life. Jesus suffered and died on the cross that he might defeat the greatest suffering, that of death and the power of sin. Then through his faithfulness was brought back to life again through the power and the love of God.

“But what has all this got to do with being grown up?” you may ask. Well, Jesus doesn’t want us to have a na├»ve, blind, infantile faith, but to take on board the very real, very difficult, even very painful cost of being a Christian. One of the commentators I read on this passage tells us that Jesus is encouraging us to have a mature, reflective attitude to our journey of faith.

For those of us who remember the pains of growing up, of finding the world to be less and more than we had imagined as children, of discovering that things weren’t quite as much fun when we became adults as we thought they would be as children, we are reminded that Christian faith shouldn’t have a rosy or incomplete picture of the world. Being mature means accepting responsibility for our own journey of faith, being willing to take on the responsibilities of adulthood, and to behave and respond to the world in a thoughtful and appropriate way.

In the church that means that we all take responsibility for the ministry of the Church and no longer hope to be spoon fed by someone at the front, or that the work of ministry will be done only by the ‘spiritual grown ups’ we call clergy and readers. St Paul says, we ‘work out our own salvation with fear and trembling’. – we all have some responsibility for our own spiritual growth, our education, our calling to serve in the name of Christ here in Stockland and the other villages in the Mission Community to which God has called us.

It means being willing to take up our cross and follow.

Let’s pray not that we might escape all the troubles of the world, but rather that through everything we may endure and be faithful, allowing the potter to reshape and create something new, fashioning from the struggle something beautiful and filled with purpose. That we may mature through good and bad and grow up into Christ our head. And let’s pray that we will have the faith to see God at work, even when it seems the struggle is too much.

May God bless us in all we endure, and give us strength, faith, hope and love.