The Rev. Dr. John Judson
June 27, 2021
Genesis 3:1-12; Philippians 2:1-11
I want to begin this morning with three stories rather randomly chosen from this week’s news. They each come with a disclaimer that they are disturbing, yet they are necessary for our morning’s discussion. First, a survey was conducted this week of service workers; those people who serve us at Starbucks or in grocery stores. The survey showed that 50% of all service workers had been either physically or verbally abused over the past year. And this is one of the reasons that many of these workers are not eager to return to their old jobs. Second, in Arvada, Colorado a man named Gordon Beesley, who was a resource officer at a local school, had agreed to pick up a shift with the Arvada Police department. He responded to a call about a suspicious person and was killed as soon as he exited his car. The man who killed Beesley did so simply because Beesley was a police officer. Third, a doctor here in our area was arrested by the FBI for selling hundreds of thousands of highly addictive opioids, perhaps addicting thousands and killing some. If these stories, and the hundreds of others like them, don’t make us believe in the brokenness of the world, I am not sure what would. The question then becomes who is to blame?
If we are to listen to our tradition, the answer of who is to blame can be found in this morning’s story. The one who is to blame is the woman; the woman, Eve, who listened to the talking snake and ate the fruit. Within Christianity, this is called the Fall, meaning that moment when Eve ate, and the perfection of creation was broken forever. What I want us to do, though, is to rethink this interpretation. I want us to rethink it for three reasons. First, Judaism never refers to this story as the Fall. The Fall is a Christian invention used to create a narrative about sin. Judaism instead saw this story as a tale about all human beings, and not just about the first couple. Second, I want us to rethink this story because Eve was not alone with the talking snake. Adam was right there beside her. And for the first and last time in history he chooses not to “man-splain” that she probably did not want to listen to the talking snake. Finally, I want us to rethink this story because it tells us that there were preexisting conditions within the first couple that made them vulnerable to the talking snake’s offer. Let me repeat that, there were preconditions within the first couple that made them vulnerable to the talking snake’s proposal. And these preexisting conditions did not go away but are still with us today. These conditions make us vulnerable to brokenness as well. And we can find these preexisting conditions in verse six. “And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.”
The first preexisting condition is that of dissatisfaction. Let me ask, how many of you, during Covid, stood in the cereal aisle of the grocery store scanning for your favorite cereal, and then were disappointed when you the store was out; when they didn’t have what you were looking for. If you have, this is dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction is the condition that causes us to fail to see the abundance around us because we are only focused on a single thing. This is what is going on when the scripture tells us that Eve saw that the tree was good for food. I say this because the writer of Genesis is clear that the garden was filled with all sorts of fruit producing trees. Those trees would have met every physical need that the first couple had. They would not have gone hungry because God was providing for them. But none of those trees would do because the man and woman were dissatisfied with what was on the Eden shelf. And the thing about dissatisfaction is that it leads us to internal brokenness. When we are dissatisfied, we are never happy. We are never content. We are always upset, angry and irritable. It is as if we have a hole inside that can never be filled. And I would argue that it is dissatisfaction that is behind the physical and verbal attacks on service workers. People are dissatisfied with their food, or their fancy coffee drinks, and so they lash out…even when their food and coffee is being set before them. Dissatisfaction breaks humanity.
The second preexisting condition is desire. So, a second question for you this morning. Have you ever wanted something so badly that it was all you could think about, dream about, or talk about? If you have, then you know desire. Desire is at the heart of the first couple seeing the tree and saying, “It was a delight to the eyes.” A literal translation of the phrase “a delight to the eyes” is simply “lust” meaning that the woman “lusted” after the tree. This is what I mean by desire, that desire is an almost uncontrollable lust for something; an unrestrained need to possess something or someone; an unrestrained need for power or position. The problem with this kind of desire is that it leads to brokenness by causing us to do whatever it takes to possess the object of that desire. We will risk anything. We will sacrifice anything. We will lie, cheat, steal, or kill to have that thing that we so desperately want. And so, we not only break ourselves, but we break others. We break communities. We break families. We break relationships. Desire leaves a trail of brokenness everywhere it goes. And I would argue that it was desire that drove that doctor to sell the opioids. He desired more wealth, more status, more power…and so he risked everything including his practice, his family and his freedom for that which he desired. Desire can break humanity.
The third and final preexisting condition is deity. The final question for this morning: Have you ever been in a situation of conversation in which you knew that you were absolutely right, and the other person was absolutely wrong, and you felt justified in looking down on that other person from your lofty heights of knowledge? If you have, then you know deity. Deity is focused on the first couple looking at the tree and thinking, “It was desired to make one wise.” Wisdom in this context is not good wisdom, as in Biblical wisdom. Wisdom here is tied in with verse five where the talking snake tells Eve that the fruit of the tree will make her like the gods. Yes, the Hebrew is gods, not God with a capital G. In other words, it would make her equal to the god she knew, or in later times to the whole pantheon of gods. It would allow her to determine her own destiny. To see herself as greater than anything else in creation. And where this causes brokenness is when we catch a bad case of deity, we begin to look down on other people because we are greater than they. We can dehumanize them, oppress, and use them for our own ends. I believe was the cause of the death of Gordon Beesley. The man who shot him decided to play god because he, the shooter, knew that police officers ought to die and were lesser human beings. Deity breaks humanity.
The question then becomes, what can be done about these preexisting conditions? Is there a prophylaxis or vaccine that would prevent us from catching bad cases of dissatisfaction, desire and deity? The answer is yes, and it can be found in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. It is to be injected with the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ can defend us against deity by making us humble. We see this humility in that Jesus did not see equality with God as something to be desperately held onto but instead humbled himself. Humility reminds us that we are not gods, but creatures dependent on the one who created us. The mind of Christ helps us desire through service, by taking the form of a servant just as Jesus did. By being a servant our focus shifts from what we want or desire, to what others need. Finally, the mind of Christ helps us overcome Dissatisfaction through sacrifice, just as Christ sacrificed his life for the world. In sacrifice we no longer focus on what is missing in our lives, but on self-giving for others. The gift then of the mind of Christ is that it allows us to become healers rather than breakers of humanity. It allows us through humility, service and sacrifice to begin to heal the wounds of humanity and our wounds as well.
My challenge for this week then is this, to ask yourselves, how am I vaccinating my life with the mind of Christ so that I can help heal the world?
The Rev. Bethany Peerbolte
June 20, 2021
Genesis 2:18-25; Philippians 2:1-11
I can remember the first time I saw a Cirque Du Soleil show. There was a time Cirque Du Soleil was just one traveling troupe that performed in parking lots under big top tents. When they would come into a city nearby my brother would buy us tickets and we would make a grand night of seeing the show. I loved the energy in the parking lot, the way they lit up the tent to make it visible from any angle. The people selling food and colorful brochures and the general joy of the crowd. We all knew we were about to see something amazing.
I can remember my first Cirque Du Soleil show because halfway through the first act as people flipped and flew through the air above me I glanced down at the floor and realized there was a whole different show happening out under the trapeze as well. Other performers were watching from the sidelines. Fully engrossed by the act currently performing as the audience was. They reacted with oohs and aahs like it was their first time seeing the show too. As the show went on I realized they were the following acts about to go on. And the acts that were done then switched spots with them and watched from the sidelines. The acts were switching places and swapping roles of performer and observer.
A year or two later I learned why the performers stayed on the sidelines. One reason was there was literally no backstage in a tent, but they also were there to spot the other performers and keep each other safe. I figured this out because an act slipped, missed a hand hold, and the person balancing at the top of the human tower came tumbling to the ground. Cirque Du Soleil does not use safety ropes, or at least they didn’t in the 90s. With grace and ease a couple performers from another act stepped forward from the side of the stage and caught the falling artist in their interlocked arms.
This is the structure God creates in our Genesis passage today. A structure of balance between being the main attraction and being a helping hand. It is the type of community Paul urges the early church to be as well.
Paul reminds the early church their place is to be Alongside one another, counterpart to each other in community. He uses language like being of the same mind but this does not mean agreeing on everything, it means being committed to the wholeness of the community together.
Paul uses Jesus as the ultimate example of how to keep the wholeness of the community as one's focus. Jesus could perform miracles, but he allowed the newly sighted person or the formerly paralized to be in the spotlight too. He allowed them to speak their truth as he slowly slipped away to the next town. Jesus could have easily, and with every right, taken the spotlight, but he knew the community would be better if they knew the stories of these other people too. Jesus lifted up humanity as a whole and made spaces for lesser heard voices to have their moment at center stage.
Paul is not creating a new way to be in community based on Jesus’ example, he is calling Christian communities back to the created purpose of a diverse humanity. There was a time when humanity was just one being, the Adam of Genesis 1, but then God saw that it was not good for the Adam to be alone, and so the ezer kenegdo was created and a suitable helper was made.
Before I get farther into ezer kenegdo’s creation I want to take you through this Genesis passage and touch on a few shortcomings of the English translation.
First: The “Adam” Pastor John pointed out last week is better translated as “humanity.” One being created entirely in God’s image. In Rabbinic tradition, The Adam contained both male and female characteristics, male and female soul types, and male and female body types. When Jewish readers heard, The Adam at the beginning of Genesis chapter 2 they did not attach a gender, it is all in one.
Then we hear that The Adam is in need of a helper. God says “It is not good for ha’adam (humanity) to be alone. I will make them a helper (an ezer kenegdo).” God and the Adam look for an ezer kenegdo (suitable helper). No animal created to this point fits the bill so God begins creating again. Humanity is put to sleep and their side is separated from themselves.
Here is the second place the translation we have in our pews fails to help us see the depth of what is happening. When we use “rib” it makes it sound like a small little thing was taken and a new person formed. The Hebrew word translated here as rib, in every other part of scripture is translated as side. God does not take a rib, God takes a whole side of humanity. This is an equal slice right down the middle to create two sides of humanity!
The Adam confirms the equalness of this dividing. When he wakes up, he suddenly is aware of his gender being in opposition to the gender of this being in front of him. He suddenly knows who he is because he is in the presence of his opposite. While before he had been the Adam he now declares he is “Ish” - he is man. And this new creature is “ish-shaw” woman. Ish and ish-shaw are now separate but related to one another because they are both originally from the Adam. The man continues to confirm the equal parts by saying not just bone of my bone, not just my rib, but flesh of my flesh. He recognizes their interconnectedness though separated more than they were before, they are still very much a part of one another. There is a strong relationship between them. They know who they are better because they see the opposite.
From what I know about God, I highly doubt we are looking at a creation of two options, just male and female. God just doesn’t work in neat lines like that. When God created animals he didn’t create a couple of options he created trillions. When God gave humans talents and passions, there aren’t two options or even two extremes on the same line, there are billions of combinations and expressions of talent, passion and personality; languages, races, nose shape, and colors. God does not create in simple mode, so I cannot accept that when God separates humanity into two sides that this was the one time in God's existence that God said, “two is enough.” God does not change, God loves the complex.
So if we are not looking at a straight line with two extremes, what are we looking at when God pulls these two sides of humanity apart? If you have ever seen that toy that starts as a small sphere, and then you pull apart two sides so that it creates a huge sphere, that is what I think it looked like when God created the diversity of gender. God grabed the two sides of male and female and unfurled a very complex structure.
Inside this sphere structure are millions of opposing points connected by a line between them. So the inside of the sphere is a complicated web of opposite gender identities. The minute God let go of the sphere it was impossible to tell which two points were male and female to begin with.
You might think, “we know what male is and what female is,” but we don’t. Not according to God’s definitions. We never get that definition in the creation story. We have our social idea of what makes someone male or female, but even within those expectations I think we can all identify something in us that makes us slightly less than perfectly male or female. The reality of the web inside the sphere is we don’t know which way is female and which way is male. We are all a little off of the expected gender norms. I hate snakes and love dresses but I also love football and hate pink, so where does that leave me in the sphere? None of us have any idea, we are all some combination of male and female and neither.
But when the sphere was first created it didn't matter anyway if you knew where you were in relation to the two random points God originally pulled apart. The only thing that really mattered was why God had pulled open humanity like this in the first place -- which was to create ezer kenegdos, suitable helpers -- someone to be a counterpart for another human.
Ezer kenegdo is the third translated bit that needs some unpacking. Ezer kenegdo is used in three contexts in scripture. One is here is Genesis to describe the reason God separates humanity. The second is to describe how God steps in to “help” us, and the third is to describe a military force. When ezer kenegdo is used to describe God, it is as an all powerful defender and champion. When ezer kenegdo is used to describe a military force, it is the company that steps in to save the battle from imminent defeat and whose lended strength wins the day.
Ezer Kenegdo is not a docile servant there to help when needed. This helper is a powerful champion for the cause of another. They show up at the exact right moment to clinch the victory. When God sees that it is not good for humanity to be alone, it is because God sees days ahead where we will need people to fight for us. This is why humanity is separated so that we can be each other's warriors.
Paul is reminding the early church of this created purpose. There are times we need to realize our battle is not the priority, and we humbly come to the aid of another who is struggling. If we are pulling too hard for too long on our end of the line, our counterpart on the other side of the sphere is going to get weak and that side of the perfectly round sphere is going to collapse. If we favor one end of the line over the other, the sphere stretches and warps.
In God’s plan we all have our time to be performers, and we all have a time to be observers on the ground ready to step in if disaster strikes. We are entrusted with a performance, an expression of God’s image that we show the world through our identity, AND we have a counterpart, an ezer kenegdo, that is also supposed to show their equal but opposite side of God’s image.
Life in community is then a balance of taking center stage and sitting on the sidelines. If we take up all the time in the spotlight and never fulfill our role as ezer kenegdo, the sphere warps farther.
We can clearly see how this has happened in our world when we consider gender. The sphere has collapsed on itself and created a binary that God did not intend. As humans we are uncomfortable with complexity. We want to classify and make patterns out of God’s complex structures. It is so much easier to see another human and say Male or Female rather than open ourselves up to the reality that it’s just not that simple.
What has happened is whole sections of our sphere are going missing because their humanity is denied. Their ezer kenegdo refused to stand up for them. The average life expectancy of a transgender female of color is 35 years. Many of these women are murdered before reaching the age I am now because people do not see them as valid humans and feel threatened by their insistence on existing. But I would argue they are more human than many of us will ever know how to be, because they have traversed the inner web and gone from one side of the sphere to the other. Imagine what wisdom they hold about what it is to be a human. Imagine what they can teach us about occupying our area of the sphere and how to more wholly express the image of God that we hold within us because they have experienced that image from different vantage points.
We have to balance our times to shine with our ezer kenegdo responsibilities. One thing that keeps us from being able to support our counterparts is knowledge about them. But we do have the world's knowledge in our pockets if only we can take a moment away from performing and be the spotter. If you don’t know what transgender means, google it. If you see a Pride flag and you don’t know what it stands for, google it. If the stonewall, pink triangles, or die-in don’t mean anything to you, please spend some time learning. www.history.com/pride has a great page of articles for Pride month.
We have forgotten to be ezer kenegdo and champion the cause of our counterparts. Our sphere has collapsed, which is terrible for our gender queer siblings, but worst of all it means we are no longer expressing the fullness of God’s identity as a community of humanity. We are favoring two parts of a structure that has billions of parts. We have to salvage this sphere and bring wholeness to humanity's expression of God’s image or else we may not recognize God when the time comes to meet them.
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
June 13, 2021
Genesis 2:1-3; Mark 2:1-13
It was the late 1800’s and the session of First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham was in a tizzy. They were in a tizzy because one of their members was caught doing something that he should not have been doing. And this was not the first time either. This member had been caught doing this same horrible thing the year before and was warned that there would be dire consequences should he ever transgress again. And yet he did. Someone had seen him and reported him. The session knew what they had to do. The vote was unanimous, this member would be expelled from the congregation. What was his crime? What was the horrible infraction that he had the audacity to engage in not once, but twice? He was caught…wait for it…harvesting his wheat on Sunday. Yes, that’s right, this man was caught harvesting his wheat on the Sabbath; the Sabbath, a holy day on which no work was to be done. I have to say this is one of my favorite stories from the church archives because it is such a great parallel to this morning’s story in which the Pharisees get upset when Jesus’ disciples do their own reaping on the Sabbath.
Just so we are clear on the similarities, let’s take a moment to review our story from Mark which we read a couple of minutes ago. Jesus and his disciples are on the road. It is the Sabbath. They are hungry so they pluck some wheat heads from a field and eat them. For most of us this would seem like a rather innocuous action. But for the Pharisees, who were a group of Jews who spent their lives trying to be faithful to God through strict adherence to the Torah, the disciples’ actions were appalling. The Pharisees found the disciples actions appalling because the disciples engaged in more than ten percent of the works prohibited on the Sabbath. Let me explain. Over the centuries, to ensure that Jews did not break the commandment to honor the sabbath, 39 types of work had become prohibited. Among these prohibited work actions were reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. The disciples managed to engage in four of these prohibited work actions. In order to understand all of this, we would have to go into a wheat field and try to pluck and eat grains of wheat. To do so really is work. Needless to say, the Pharisees had the disciples dead-to-rights. The question was, what would Jesus do about it?
The short answer is that Jesus did what we hoped he would do. He chastises the Pharisees for being legalistic and makes it clear that he has authority over what happens on the Sabbath…more so than the 39 prohibited work rules of tradition. Chances are most of us are thinking something like, “Go Jesus, go. You show those legalists what’s what.” Which is fine, except for one thing…which is…that we have in many ways thrown out the Sabbath altogether. Since there are no more legalistic regulations we have simply let the Sabbath slide. The problem with letting the Sabbath slide is that the Sabbath is baked into God’s recipe for creation. Not having the Sabbath would be like baking bread but not letting it rise before putting it into the oven. I say this because the Sabbath is the seventh day of God’s creative act. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments in which God commands people to honor the Sabbath. The Sabbath is one of the great issues with which the prophets deal in their critique of God’s people, meaning God’s people failed to honor the Sabbath. It seems then that with the Sabbath occupying such an integral place in the life of God’s people, perhaps we need to spend a few minutes reminding ourselves about the purposes of the Sabbath; that the Sabbath is a gift of God to help us.
The first way the Sabbath helps us is to give us rest; to give people a day off. What is fascinating is that the Christian church took a day that was intended for rest and turned it into a day for worship. Let me be clear, I believe that worship matters; that attuning our hearts toward God in corporate worship is part of what we are called to do as Jesus’ followers. Yet, the sabbath was originally intended as a day in which men, women, children, animals, and even the earth were to be given a chance to rest and refresh. It was intended to be a day that reminds people that rest is important; that life is not about endless work and drudgery; that life is not about endless accumulation. For many of us this call to rest comes as a challenge and a relief. It comes as a challenge because there is an unwritten rule that we are what we accomplish. That if we are not accomplishing something then we are wasting time. So, we work hard. We play hard. Yet ultimately all that hard work and play takes a toll. It comes as a relief because it says down time is good time. Down time is meaningful time. Therefore, Jesus could say that the sabbath was made for human beings because rest is in fact part of God’s purpose for the world.
The second way in which the sabbath helps us is to give us an opportunity to enjoy God’s good creation. Let me ask, how many of you have ever finished a project, looked at it, declared it to be good, and then just sat back and enjoyed it? If you have, then you have an image of what God did after finishing creation. God took time to enjoy God’s own creation. We can see this by linking the end of Genesis chapter one and these opening verses of chapter two. At the end of chapter one we listen as God declares all of creation to be very good, meaning that creation is well suited for its purpose of bringing forth the fullness of life. Then in chapter two, we are told that God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, meaning God set aside this day for the sole purpose of rest so that God could enjoy and appreciate all that had been accomplished. What then we are invited to do is to stand with God on the Sabbath and enjoy this good creation as well. We are to stand with God and appreciate the beauty and complexity of creation and as we do so, to give thanks to God for creating a universe that can be depended upon.
One of the great joys of living as long as Cindy and I did in San Antonio was having our pick of a wide variety of Tex-Mex restaurants. Some were standalone eateries, others drive thrus and still others were chains. On a regular basis we would choose one of our favorites and we would indulge our craving for enchiladas and tamales. Occasionally we would do so on a Sunday after church or in the evening. What we knew though was that there was one chain to which we could not go. And that was Las Palapas. We couldn’t go there because they were closed. They were closed because their owners believed in Sabbath. A sabbath for their employees. And on the sign out front of all their stores were these words, “Sunday, closed for faith and family.” I always admired that because it said that they understood Sabbath as a time to set aside working and striving and to simply rest and enjoy God’s good creation. So this is the challenge that I am offering to us all on this Sunday, to ask ourselves, “How am I taking the time for sabbath, to rest, to enjoy and to simply be in God’s presence and creation so I can be refreshed for the week to come?”
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
June 6, 2021
Genesis 1:26-31; Galatians 3:23-29
It is considered one of the greatest aspirational sentences ever written. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This sentence is at the heart of the Declaration of Independence of the American colonies and is perhaps one of the most quoted lines from any document in the history of our nation. But as I said, it is aspirational, meaning the desire for equality is one to which this nation has always aspired but never fully lived into. This is not a criticism of our nation. It is not a criticism because there is no nation, organization or culture that has made this kind of equality a reality. What I mean by this is that if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that even if it is an oxymoron, there are some people who are more equal than others. Some people are more equal because of the families into which they were born, or the nation in which they were born, or the schools they can attend, or the experiences they can have, or their gender, sexual orientation, abilities, or skin color. There are countless life circumstances that prevent the aspiration of equality from becoming a reality…not only in the nation but in the church.
I say not only in the nation but in the church because the church also has an aspirational statement about equality in its founding documents. This statement is not simply found in Paul’s words to the churches in Galatia but in some ways is hardwired into our faith through the words we read this morning in Genesis 1. I say hardwired because these words calling God’s people to equality cover all aspects of human life. Let’s take a few minutes and see how Genesis 1 calls us to three distinct aspects of equality: the aspects of personhood, purpose, and provision.
The first aspect of equality concerns personhood. Listen again to verse 26. “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’” At the heart of this verse is the word “adama,” which is Hebrew for humankind. It is a genderless noun describing the totality of human beings. It does not describe a man or a woman. And even though the passage continues by differentiating man and woman, the initial act of creation is focused on reminding God’s people that all human beings are equal because they are made in God’s image. Thus, there is equality in personhood, meaning that even when the world wants to claim that some people are more equal than others, God’s word shouts from the rooftops that this is not so; that every person is created in the likeness and image of God and so is to be treated as such.
The second aspect of equality concerns purpose. Genesis continues, “…and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” In essence what this portion of the verse tells us is that we all have the same purpose in life, and that is to care for and watch over God’s creation. I realize that the words “have dominion over” have been taken to mean domination, or the freedom to do whatever we want with God’s good creation. It has meant that humans have the ability to pollute the air and water, and to deforest the planet. The problem with that interpretation is that it forgets that to have dominion means to serve the one who created and owns creation. In other words, to have dominion means to steward this amazing world as if God were here personally overseeing everything. I like to think of having dominion as being a forest ranger, whose task it is to care for and nurture creation. Thus, every human being is equally responsible for acting on God’s behalf to care for the world and everyone and everything in it.
The third aspect of equality concerns provision. In verse 29 God says, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” What this means is that all of creation and the goods in it are given to all people and not only to a select few. Of the three declarations of equality this is perhaps the most difficult to attain because human beings have long lived with the sense that what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine if I can take it from you. From the dawn of creation, human beings have lived with a mentality of scarcity, meaning that enough is never enough and so I need to keep taking for myself, my family, my people, my nation even when that taking impoverished others. Consider that the wealthiest 16% of the world’s population consume 80% of the natural resources. Or in this moment of Covid19, our nation is at a place where there are more than enough doses for all, and other portions of the world don’t have enough to vaccinate more than a percentage or two of their population. What Genesis makes clear is that this is not the way the world is supposed to be. There is to be equality in provision because the goods of this world belong to all humankind.
Where then does the call to live into these three aspects of equality leave us? And by leave us, I mean where does it leave the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan, Everybody’s Church? Where I believe it leaves us is that we are aspiring to be a community in which this Godly equality is not only aspired to but is being lived out. This equality can be found in our Inclusion Statement, “As Everybody's Church we strive to be a faithful, open and inclusive community. We welcome the full participation of all people of any ability, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other life circumstance.” This equality can be found in our attempts to make our building energy efficient so as to minimize our impact on creation. This equality can be found in our mission work of sharing our resources with others. We are aspiring and working toward equality. The challenge I want to offer you this morning is this, to ask yourselves, “How am I working to make this world a place of equality in all that I do?”