FORGIVE ME

By: Maggie Leonard

THE PROBLEM

I think I might be too churched. Not in a I’m-too-institutionalized kind of way, but rather in the well-duh-of-course-God-and-Jesus-forgive-us kind of way. In Matthew 9, the legal experts are offended by Jesus’ IMG_20150831_171826forgiveness, and somehow I am completely unimpressed by Jesus ability to forgive sins. It is odd how blasé we can view the amazing things God is at work doing. These are the two responses—indifference or offense—I have seen time and again in different Bible passages about Jesus forgiving sins, and physically healing someone in the process. Every time I read them, I remain unimpressed.

For the first time ever, I have realized that there is a third response to Jesus—one different than indifference or offense, it is the response of the crowd. After the man leaves, the witnesses ‘were afraid and praised God who had given such authority to human beings.’ Not authority given to the Human One—the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah.—God’s authority of forgiveness was given to human beings, to us. The crowd saw the implications of Jesus’ authority, and it terrified them. They saw that they were called to follow and do likewise, to forgive others.

What would it look like to live in a world in which only God forgives? I shudder to think of it.

What is truly offensive is not that Jesus forgave the man, but that God has the audacity to call us into a life that includes the hard work of forgiveness as well. Jesus does not just forgive sins because he is God and can do nearly impossible things, but because he is forging the path we are so resistant to take.

Writing this article has been challenging for me, and so absolutely necessary. As is true of many of us, I have had a lot of experience in my still young life with forgiveness—sometimes more successfully than other times. Probably like you, I have been the one who needs to be forgiven, the one who forgives, and sometimes the one doing the work all alone. In all its complexity, I think that forgiveness is one of the most important things that we can learn to do—and one of the things that as a society we often quip proverbs about doing but rarely engage in reality.

In preparation for this article I was curious, so I googled, ‘how to forgive’ just to see what would come up. I found most of them lacking. Almost all of the hits involved lists of reasons that pointed to the philosophy of why we should forgive, as if we needed to be convinced that forgiveness is ultimately a good thing.

I hope all of us can agree forgiveness is good.

If the advice went any deeper than ‘this is why you should forgive,’ it was entirely based on self-work. Now self-work is incredibly important for forgiveness, and sometimes our only option. Sometimes, however, we need to forgive people with whom we would like to maintain connection. This is even trickier and something very few articles try to tackle. None of the articles I found tried to take on forgiveness as a joint effort, in large part, I suppose, because it is work that is half-way out of our control.

With God, forgiveness is always there, so it gives the illusion of being something that only we, as the offender, need to engage. Jesus is so good; he lets go of things so quickly. I wish it were so easy for me.

I have started to think of forgiveness as the work we do in our hearts—both the inward look of self-reflection, as well as the outward look of understanding the other person with whom our relationship is broken. True reconciliation—the work of forgiveness between humans—requires inner work and outer conversation. To bring about reconciliation much work and willingness to sit with discomfort is required, but with two willing parties, reconciliation can be truly incredible.

WHERE WE MESS IT UP

Below I have outlined some of the pitfalls of forgiveness and reconciliation that we fall into, both as the forgivers and the offenders. It is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a working list that I am sure I’ll be updating all my life. I hope you will explore the different dimensions of forgiveness with me and in your own life. I will warn you, reading this list is a bit of a bummer and is a little dry. Hopefully, it will help us all become more aware how we might hope to engage forgiveness and reconciliation differently the next time around.

We hide behind God’s power

We are comfortable with God forgiving us, but if someone else hurts my feelings, you’ll be lucky to be forgiven—and I’m surely not going to forget! We often add that last part just for good measure.

By telling ourselves only God can forgive sins, we excuse ourselves as participants from God’s work of reconciliation in the world. We philosophize ‘sin’ to the point that we no longer see sin as the real ways in which we actually hurt one another. As we hear the call in Matthew 9, we are called to give others the same gifts God gives us.

We doubt forgiveness or think it is something to be earned

We really do doubt forgiveness when it is given—either because we do not believe it is truly a gift or we do not see ourselves (or others) as worthy of it. Perhaps this is why Jesus had to visibly demonstrate the healing that had occurred. We put so much more stock in truths that we see—proof, data, and pie charts are crucial to our buying into a vision. Forgiveness is something earned, or so it seems sometimes. It comes with strings—real or perceived. For many of us, forgiveness is something that someone else has held as a carrot in front of us, always out of reach. Other times in our guilt we feel that we must make amends but don’t believe that we have made up for what we did in the first place. We do not believe that a gift can be freely given or that we can freely accept it. When we are unforgiven, we are downcast with hurt or guilt, turning our eyes away from hope. Maybe this is why Jesus told the man, ‘be encouraged’ or ‘take heart.’

Forgiveness is a gift. It is freely given by the person who has been hurt. It is not a tool for manipulation nor is it something we can earn. There may be other consequences for our actions, but the gift of forgiveness is free.

We define ourselves by our hurt, believe we are a martyr, are lonely, or wear our hurt like a badge

Sometimes we tell the story of how we were hurt again and again to our friends, remaining angry about the nerve of the other person. We cling to the hurt. We ban together with others who have also experienced our hurt. We push it in the face of others. We want others to know how hurt we are.

When we feel hurt and lonely, we wish to have company where we are—which is most easily done if someone Cody, Arnold, Genaroelse also feels lonely or even just lowly. We dwell on the negative and tear down the other person in or conflict—or even lash out at unsuspecting passersby. In a way, we are comforted by someone else feeling what we feel.

Too often we are so focused upon our pain that we forget that the person who hurt us may already feel hurt too. In fact, some of their prior hurt is probably at the root of their action.

Finding solidarity with others who have been hurt is not a bad thing. However, eventually, the healing process takes us outside of our hurt. We have to do the hard work of letting go that Jesus makes look so effortless. We liberate both ourselves and others when we forgive. This work takes time. It is hard. But it is also good to be defined by something other than hurt.

We say it is too hard, avoid it, or believe others should just ‘get over it’

The truth is that forgiveness is hard, so we frequently gloss over it or avoid it entirely. True Christians forgive, we say to the person we hurt. Or we decide it’s really their problem if they don’t like what we did, they should just get over whatever ails them.

Sometimes we even engage the process of forgiveness for a little while, then stop and abandon the relationship entirely—it really was not working out anyway and I don’t have the energy for this.

Some of us believe conflict is to be avoided at all costs, and so we avoid the elephant in the room or even the person if we think that they will make us talk about our difference of opinions. Or perhaps, we tell ourselves, if we turn a blind eye to a problem, it will cease to exist. Even when the other person is eager to put in the work, we step away and make excuses like, ‘I am stable, my life is stable, and those who rock my placid stability do not maintain a lifestyle that I wish to further engage.’

Talking about hurt feelings is always hard and uncomfortable, but it has to happen. Never will we find someone else who agrees with us all of the time. We will find ourselves lonely or without real, intimate relationships if we always run away when conflict arises.

Yes, there are times when the healthiest thing we can do is take time away from a relationship. But at the very least, we should directly name our intention to stop the conversation for a time and express our hope for the health and well-being of all involved.

We get defensive

Defensiveness is not an emotion or a tactic that we are taught early on to identify, like happy or sad or angry. I literally had no idea what the term meant for years. When we are defensive, we all make excuses for ourselves and our bad behavior based on what we intended. When we hear that we have hurt someone, we defend what we did—after all, ‘I am a good person’ or ‘I didn’t mean that.’ Even if we can admit fault, or that we should have done things differently, we forget the simple power of two words: ‘I’m sorry.’

Without blaming the victim, it is important to see how both parties always play a part. Learning happens for both the offender and the offendee—perhaps I need to learn to control how I express my anger, perhaps I need to leave an abusive conversation more quickly, perhaps I acted without consulting someone. Not only will humility be your friend in this process of self-reflection, but it will also help you hear and honor the experience of the other person.

When we stand alone

And when one of us cannot, for whatever reason, engage the process, we still have to separate out what we contributed to the situation from what the other person contributed. Sometimes we will have to learn to forgive someone without conversation. Other times we will have to forgive ourselves for our poor choices in engaging another.

It is such a relief when we offer forgiveness to one another, but we should never remain ensnared in guilt or shame or hurt or anger because someone continues to try and punish us. In every painful situation, there is much more there than is ours alone.

OUR HOPE

I am grateful to say that I have some truly remarkable colleagues, friends, and family members with whom I have the privilege of sharing the gift of life. Things are not always easy, but they have helped teach me how to live in love and work through both my hurt and their hurt.

We need to have the courage to say ‘I’m sorry.’ We need to have the courage to say, ‘I forgive you.’ So often we say everything else.

Some things are a big deal. Some things are a small deal. But all the things need to be dealt with. To journey through difficult times together, we must be dedicated to our relationships and trust that what is said is said in love. We will both have work to do along the way. When we are healthy, we can allow ourselves to feel the full spectrum of emotions—grief, anger, hurt, kindness, and compassion—toward a person with whom we are in 64681_865416436388_2703986_47956248_1169912_nconflict. In forgiveness and reconciliation, we acknowledge our hurt and anger, but more than that, we learn to respond to our feelings from a place of kindness rather than rage. Working through hurt requires both parties to be vulnerable—vulnerable about weakness (I was hurt) and vulnerable about fault (that happened as a result of what I did). We will both feel exposed.

We have to learn to name what we need after a conflict—not to hold another person for ransom, but to help speed the process of reconciliation. Naming needs can help us establish new boundaries or regain trust. Sometimes we just need to sit in silence, to take a break from anger and sadness, or to return to the situation later. Eventually, we are called to learn from our mistakes, to move forward, and to make memories.

Thanks be to God that God offers us the gift of forgiveness and empowers us to forgive each other.

A Holy and Wholly Different Experience

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http://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/7/21/holy-and-wholly-different-experience/

By: Parrish Jones

Pastor Maggie Leonard likes to throw water around, especially baptismal water.

As she writes in her church newsletter, “It is no mistake when the water poured into our baptismal font gathers energy and sloshes over the sides onto the floor. God is there, right in the middle of the mess of our relationships.” Worshippers at Atlanta’s Mercy Community Church, which is nested in the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, where Leonard serves, find the spray from the water a bit surprising, but Leonard hopes all will come to accept it as “a delicious drop of grace on our skin.”

Being at Mercy Community Church is like entering into baptism as one finds oneself immersed in a holy and wholly different experience — homeless people eat breakfast, serving each other, anxious to share about all that is being done in the community. Instead of the housed serving the homeless, one finds the homeless serving each other and the housed. Following breakfast, the participants immerse themselves in fellowship, worship and the Word.

Each of the five weekly services, occurring on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, incorporates a different creative enrichment program: writing, small group counseling sessions, drawing and painting. Also on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, worshipers prepare food and serve it on the streets. On Sundays, Mercy feasts at the Lord’s Table and, then holds a common meal.

This schedule sounds like a full plate for the two-full time pastors — Leonard and Chad Hyatt —both of whom are serving without compensation except for the few donations Leonard gets from friends and family. Hyatt and his wife derive their income from her work at a local university.

This decision came after several years of serving as a full-time staff member of a Pentecostal church. Hyatt experienced a transformative experience in Jamaica when he traveled there to do mission work with the Roman Catholic order Missionaries of the Poor. He helped monks trying to rescue a man from a stoning and then ministered to him in his dying moments. Hyatt referred to this experience as a baptism that led him and his wife to move closer to the margins of ministry.

Leonard got involved in Mercy while working as a chaplain at an Atlanta hospital. She went with a friend and couldn’t stop going. When her first call came up, she felt committed to the community and followed that call, receiving validation through the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. She was ordained by the presbytery at a service at Mercy. Those who can’t afford a full-time pastor need pastoral care just as much as those who can, Leonard said.

It is an odd mix for a church to have a Presbyterian pastor working with a Pentecostal pastor who studied at a Methodist school of theology. But Hyatt and Leonard celebrate their different styles of worship just as they celebrate the diversity of Mercy, which includes members of all ages and of Anglo, African American and Latino backgrounds.

The diversity is also celebrated by music ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to quietly meditative. The singing is accompanied by guitars, an African Djembe drum, a vase with glass stick, a soup pot, coffee cups, tambourines and a gourd shaker.

While Mercy is made up of mostly people who are homeless, other members have homes of varying degrees of stability. Mercy regularly prays for those who are incarcerated or dealing with mental or physical illness. Bible studies deal honestly with the issue of addictions and other “sinful” behaviors.

Who are the members? Hyatt replied as Leonard nodded agreement, “Those who come. Traditional models of membership can exclude and we want to include.” Some who are highly engaged with Mercy are members of other churches. In this, and other respects, Mercy is unlike most churches as Kevin Bowden, who shared his gift of music during worship, said, “I have found God, love, grace and home here at Mercy.”

Also, unlike many churches, Mercy is not insular — it touches the lives of the more than 250 people it counts as its community. Part of Mercy’s ministry is keeping track of those who are serving prison sentences, thereby maintaining their connection to the community.

Three days a week, Mercy immerses itself in the city by loading grocery carts with soup, water, sandwiches and coffee and pushing them to two locations to share food on the street. At each place, they pause and bless the food that it may bless the lives of those who eat it and thereby continue the circle of baptism by which we promise to nurture God’s children with faithfulness.

Parrish Jones is an ordained minister member of St. Augustine Presbytery and teaches philosophy at St. Johns River State College and writes for PNS and other media outlets. He has recently published Presbyterians on the Frontier: A Story of Presbyterian Border Ministry 1984 to 2014. You can purchase his book and learn more about his work at www.presbyteriansonthefrontier.net.

Tubs, Suds, and Glory

By: Alan Mackie

Last month I was having breakfast with Chad and my pastor, George Tatro of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. Over the grits, Chad reminded us of a conversation that we had had some months previously about Memorial Drive washing the clothes for the members of Mercy. IMG_2514

As the need had become quite urgent, the solution was seemingly straightforward. I rather boldly committed Memorial Drive to doing the washing twice a month, starting within the week.

And so our laundry ministry was born. Chad delivered nine large bags of dirty laundry to Memorial Drive.  In committing our new endeavour to God, a bag of the dirty laundry was brought into the sanctuary and dedicated as a part of our weekly offering in our Sunday service. By Wednesday, I had three other volunteers to join me at the Medlock coin wash to sort, wash, dry, and fold.  We had fun and fellowship with each other, so much so that some of the other patrons became curious to know what we were up to.

At the end of the first evening, before leaving the laundry, we stood, held hands and said the grace together. Then one of our number pointed to the ceiling and said, “To God be the Glory”. It made me think: can the simple and practical task of washing dirty clothes be described as “glorious?” I don’t know for sure, but I believe that in God’s hands it can. And God will be glorified, if doing the laundry softens our hearts and makes us more loving towards those who live on the hard edges of society. As the laundry ministry gets underway, I believe God has much to teach us amidst the  “tubs and suds.”

The other week, we read together the late Lynda Baker’s homeless psalm and considered our own struggles and connivance with the ‘System’ that could not break Lynda.

We like to think of the laundry as a ministry, because it sets it apart from our routine chores and helps us to be mindful that we are doing the washing in simple obedience of Christ’s injunctions to love our neighbour and make sure that “the naked are clothed.” We even have a short reflection on Scripture, sitting there on the benches in the coin wash while the washing cycle is underway.

I am also delighted to say that friends from North Decatur Presbyterian Church are joining our laundry ministry and a local mosque is committed to donating clothes. We all believe, you see, that the God of Abraham is a God of promises and God is working through all God’s children.

Our Psalm— Mercy and St. Luke’s Pres

We are all God’s children,IMG_5447

though we don’t always act like it.

Sometimes we feel like we live in chaos,

and it’s scary—we get frustrated.

We know God is always with us and has a plan,

even when we can’t tell.

We are going to help others whenever we can

by listening

praying,

and acting.

We hope that others will have compassion for us,

like we try to have for others.

We commit to being in community, even when it’s messy.

And we will learn from one another with humility.

We do this because we’re trying to follow God’s call—God who is always with me.

Loving one another will be hard, but we will do it anyways.

 

*photo by Lucie Canfield

The Slow Walk of Love

By: Katie Aikins

I’m grateful to Eduard Loring, the man who introduced me to Michael Leunig’s poetry. “Nothing loves at speed,” says Eduard, quoting Leunig, in Cry of the Poor. I don’t know if I was ever before made aware of the speed at which Jesus went about doing his work. Jesus katiestrum1didn’t drive a car. To our knowledge, he only occasionally rode a donkey! How important is it to notice that Jesus was a relatively slow-moving guy? Could this observation teach us something about the nature of love—that love cannot be practiced at speed?

Nothing loves at speed. So it seems that in order to love, step number one is to slow down. If you’re busy and don’t have time to slow down, then you have a problem. Stop being busy. I’m serious! You have to make this choice. Because I guarantee it, our culture, your friends, parents, neighbors, church, Republicans and Democrats are all going to reinforce in you this notion that being busy is a virtue. But does being busy help us love better?

There is a story told of Jesus when he was busy (Mark 5). He was busy getting to the house of Jairus, to heal a little 12 year-old girl. I can just hear the parents of the little girl yelling, “Hurry, Jesus, otherwise she might not live!” The crowds press in on Jesus as he moves briskly through the streets. All of a sudden Jesus stops. He stops because he feels power going out from his body (v. 30). Jesus, who was not moving nearly as fast as an ambulance or a camel, felt something in his body that caused him to stop. The disciples cannot understand it. There are crowds all around Jesus, after all. As it turns out, a woman had touched his clothes, desperately seeking healing for her incurable and devastating illness. She was among the people in society who were largely invisible. Because of her poverty and illness, she is unclean, labeled as a lazy, non-contributer to society. Perhaps she and others like her were hated in part because they were the opposite of busy, because they could not work and therefore didn’t pay into the tax system. They were the leaches of society, the nobodies. The woman comes up from behind Jesus and grasps at his clothes, causing him to stop. Was she not intruding on Jesus’ urgent mission? His mission was up to this point completely legitimate. And yet, as it turns out, his mission has now changed to order to include her.

And in fact, not only does his mission change to include her, she becomes at that particular point in time, his central focus. Her healing, her dignity, her humanness were that important. I wonder if later on Jesus returned to the woman and thanked her for slowing him down and for helping him to notice her.  I would imagine that even Jesus got caught up in the urgency of so many demands placed on his time and his gifts. The woman helped Jesus to slow down. It was her gift to him. In slowing Jesus down, this woman enabled him again to practice love. Nothing loves at speed.

Jesus asks us to stop being busy because it is precisely our busy-ness that is keeping us from opening our doors to the poor who are knocking. Being busy is sinful when it blocks our vision to what is most important. Being busy is sinful when it hinders our ability to empathize with another human being. We must slow down because loving work is slow work. Empathy is a corollary of love, and empathy cannot be practiced at speed either. Being busy, just like possessions, can become an identity-forming mechanism that we cling to for dear life. We are afraid of what might fill the void if we were to give up what seems so precious to our sense of who we are and what we are worth. 

God became embodied, incarnate, to show us the way to life. And God becomes embodied in our midst today through the lives of the suffering. As followers of Jesus, we are urgently asked to slow down, enough, so that we might “feel the power go out of our bodies,” so that we might feel the life, blood, dignity of the woman in need. Do we have time? Time for human beings? For empathy? For the real work of love? If you are too busy, something is wrong. Chris Hedges says that it is only through the “impractical, through that which can empower our imagination, that we will be rescued as a species.” I think all of us need to walk a while with the slow-moving Jesus, who stopped many times, only to be diverted onto an impractical path, in order to love another human being.

A House of Love:

Art and Becoming Artisans of a New World 

By: Chad Hyatt

At Mercy, we believe in God. And we believe in art, too. In all its mediums, art is one way of expressing the many ways God is present with us in both our joys and struggles. Our life together includes Friday Art Class, a safe-space where we draw, paint, Advent House of Love Photoshoppedand work with fabrics. We’ve painted Southwestern retablos, Byzantine icons, and Fourteen Stations of the Cross. We’ve made tee shirts, our own paper, prayer flags, and even the occasional Star Wars-themed piñata. Our walls are now a bright orange and a bold purple, painted by friends and members of our community. We have a mural in chalk of Jesus and the Woman at the Well and a large, made-by-hand crucifix, both in Mercy’s own distinctive style.

But that’s not so strange, when you think about it. Art has always been important for faith. In the image of God, we have been created, after all. And the God whose likeness we bear is the one both Scripture and creed affirm as the “Creator of Heaven and Earth.” It might even be said, as did Paul, that humanity is God’s art.

Art is powerful for faith because it is a way of sign-ing truth. The sacraments that feed our faith are rich in signs for us of God’s new world and the liberating work God is doing with and among us to bring that world to be. The water of Baptism, whether bountifully and lavishly poured over us or into which we are boldly plunged, speaks loudly of vitality, abundance, gratuitousness, washing—even living and dying and being raised again to new life. In the same way, the bread, cup, and table of the Eucharist proclaims a better sermon about God’s life with us than most preachers ever could through the simple signs of meal, invitation, welcome, thanksgiving, and sharing. By these holy actions and common signs, we are guided. By doing them faithfully and remembering them when we gather, God’s people begin to image life itself differently. It is through the power of sign that we, as the old song says, begin to “have another world in view.”

At Mercy, we have ‘art-signs’ of our own that help guide our lives as a community. One of them, often found hastily drawn on the white-board during Bible study or incorporated into our logo on stationary, is a little drawing we call the ‘House of Love.’ Like all such images, it is simple, and yet like the best of them, it’s meaning deepens and expands the more we reflect on it. The picture itself is modest enough. At the center is a little house and, within it, a large heart. Behind the house, towering over it, almost overshadowing it, are the ominous skyscrapers of a prosperous cityscape.

For us, it means we are called to be a community that embodies love while living all the while in systems that are often opposed to love—perhaps not in name, of course, but in practice surely. This is the world of hate, greed, and violence. In such a world, amid such systems, the house of love seems small, vulnerable, and insignificant. It is seemingly overwhelmed and easily overpowered when contrasted with the imposing towers of our present system, which seem at once both strangely alluring and wholly intimidating.

This simple image came to me one day while walking in the city, taking in all its impressive and frankly beautiful sights. I was returning from some errand for the church, and rounding the corner, I saw our little community, fully and wholly alive in the shadows of the much bigger buildings of our city. People of every sort laughed and sang and teased one another, some talking quietly, a few shouting. Here and there, someone sat off to the side strumming a guitar. I knew others were inside, busy sharing clothes, cooking meals, praying. I saw a house of love.

Signs can often be misread, though. Let me be clear: an image of our community as a house of love in a world often opposed to love is not meant to be us-versus-them propaganda. This is not about patting yourself on the back and feeling good. Nor is it finger-pointing. It is about naming ways of being in our world in which all of us are part and participant, for good and bad, for love and hate. And it’s about the call, the invitation, to live with one another differently. Two other images frequently sketched on the white-board in our Bible studies might  help us get a little closer to what I mean: one is a ladder, and the other is a table.

What we call the house of love and the world of hate are driven and sustained by core values. The core values of the world systems, as many of us experience them, might be described best by the image of a ladder. We’re successful, we’ve arrived, we’re somebody—if we sit at the top. The goal is to get there and, after that, to stay there. Or at least to get as far up as you can, even if that means stepping on someone else. For us, the top may look like wealth, power, celebrity, enviable relationships. No matter where you are on the climb, you can take comfort in knowing someone else is beneath you. Everyone has his or her ‘place,’ if you will, and while we want to move higher, it’s safest to make sure those below us don’t. Jesus calls us to flip-over the ladders of our culture. “The first shall be last, the last shall be first,” he said. “The great shall serve, and the servant of all shall be the greatest among you.” That’s not ladder-theology.

The table is an altogether different image. The table is a vision of sharing, of welcome, of hospitality. With a seat for everyone, it evokes a sense of genuine equality and mutual care: loving one another, serving one another, washing the feet of one another. This is an image deeply rooted in the gospels, too. Jesus was known as a “friend of sinners,” in large measure because he sat around tables and welcomed the outcast. Clearly, there are echoes of the Eucharist, the last table meal Jesus shares with his disciples. For us, the table is a vision of a new humanity.

As Peter Maurin said, we are called to build a new world in the shell of the old, finding building materials in the crumbling structures all around us. We can all be sisters and brothers in the house of love or share-holders in the world of hate and greed and violence. And it’s not as simple as transferring your membership from a country club to a church. Daily we must choose: in even the smallest of actions and how we steward our goods, with whom we share relationships and how we handle the power given to us. It does not matter if we have much or little. We must choose daily.

Wherever we are on the ladder, be sure of this: we are called to go down it, not up. To do so is a reversal of all we’ve been taught: the world sells us upward mobility. But in the words of Henri Nouwen, the gospel calls us to something different, a ‘downward mobility.’ This is the way of Jesus, the pattern of life to which he calls all of us who would faithfully follow him toward a new world.  As we go, let us dismantle the ladders themselves, and in their place build a great table for all of God’s children at the heart of the house of love.