Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Are We Waiting For? (First Sunday of Advent Sermon Text)

Sermon Text: Mark 1:1-11

What are we waiting for?  This is a common advent theme, as Advent is the season of waiting, expecting, longing, and hoping for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.  While I would love to to begin with a clever story, a crafty illustration from my childhood, or even a humorous anecdote that would "prepare the way" for this sermon, I confess- I have nothing. That said, I thought that I would dive right into today's theme, text, eventual proclamation from today's "Face of Advent," John the Baptist, and what all this means for us as God's waiting and expectant people in and for the world.

So, what are we waiting for?

As my family gathered for thanksgiving this year I was reminded that many Americans are waiting for the holiday shopping season to begin.  Actually, we cannot wait so Black Friday is now Black Thursday night.

This time last year Amber and I were anxiously waiting through a high risk pregnancy.

The Imago Dei Youth have spent the past four weeks working through and conversing about the message of the prophet, Habakkuk, who begins his discourse with a similar question consistent with many of the prophets, "How long, O, Lord?"  Here were some of their responses of waiting written on old pieces of wood:

I could ask those who attend Celebrate Recovery, "what are you waiting for," and they may say, you may say: we are waiting for strength to overcome addiction.  Comfort as I struggle with deep rooted grief.  Healing of pain buried for far too long.

If you ask members of this congregation and the roughly 8-10% of our national population (depending on polls), "what are you waiting for," the response is sure to be: steady employment.  I am waiting for work, a paycheck.  I long for the ability to provide for my family and their future.

If I asked new friends in Honduras, "what are you waiting for," they may say: we are waiting for an improved education system.  We are waiting for our police force to provide protection versus promote corruption.  We are waiting for justice in the political realm and peace in our neighborhoods. 

If you ask victims of abuse, "what are you waiting for," you may give pause to their hopes for a voice, justice, healing, to be heard, safety, and protection.

If I asked the same question to Occupiers, "what are you waiting for," they would probably say: a fair and balanced economy.  We are waiting for accountability.

I bring these up, because, despite what this season may reflect in the consumer-driven culture, we are a people and a humanity that are waiting for far more than new products, great deals, and Black Friday shopping sprees.

We are a people who have deep-seated anticipations and longings for the world around us to be different. 

While we may participate in the race to nowhere, we want to be taken somewhere. 

While we may wait through suffering in silence, we long for a voice. 

We want to be delivered.

We want the creation to be liberated.

How long, O Lord, will this day ever come?

Then we turn to the first century, the very real context of today's passage, and we are invited to ask, "what were they waiting for?"  What was John the Baptist, this prophet from the wilderness, waiting for?

In order to gain a glimpse of the longings and expectations of those who eagerly gathered by the Jordan to hear John's message, we must consider the religious tradition of Judaism.

Judaism is a religious tradition that hinges on story, narrative, and memory.

The poetic stories of creation. The flood stories.  The patriarchal stories, i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Yet the bulk of their storied tradition hinged on the Exodus motif.  That is, they were to remember their story as an oppressed and enslaved people in Egypt, liberated from Pharaoh, and delivered through the waters of the sea.

This led to the Torah story and the gifting of God's people with a way of being in the world through the Law.  They were to remember this story and live into this story as God's called and covenanted people, a light to the surrounding nations. In other words, the liberated people out of Egypt were to be a liberating community in and for the world, especially for the poor, oppressed, widows, orphans, resident aliens, and dwellers on the margins.

Again, their story of liberation and deliverance was to be the world's story of liberation and deliverance.

Yet everywhere they turned they witnessed suffering, injustice, oppression, and heinous crimes against humanity, to include those committed by God's people.  They would even be overcome by neighboring nations and violent emperors, empires, and related armies.  In short, their story and God's story were not meshing with reality. It could then be said that the story of Israel up to and during the time of Jesus was of exile, oppression,wandering, pondering, hoping, and expecting for God to act again and bring a new exodus, a final way out. This exodus, which would be led by a new Moses, a Messiah even, would be once and for all. 

The real story of ancient Israel was of waiting.  What were they waiting for?

Waiting for deliverance.

Waiting for salvation.

Waiting for peace.

Waiting for fair and balanced economics.

Waiting for direction.

Waiting for hope.

Waiting for home.

Waiting for God to act and make all things new and right.  This may sound familiar...

Prophets often vocalized this waiting.  How long, O, Lord? They would cry.  Will you forget us forever?  They would plea.

Prophets would even head out to the desserts to fast and pray on behalf of God's people.  In the wilderness, much like their storied ancestors before they entered the land of promise, these prophets would petition and wait for a voice from God to announce that deliverance, once and for all, was coming...

Insert John the Baptist here- dressed in an attire that included a leather belt and camel hair and disciplined by a diet of locusts and honey.  It is clear that despite the vocation of his father, Zechariah, John is no temple priest, rather a radical prophet.

What I love about today's text is that Mark's beginning is unlike any other of the gospels.  Matthew begins with a family history of Jesus.  Luke interweaves the birth stories of both John and Jesus.  The Gospel of John hints at Jesus as the Word of God in flesh as the  "beginning" of a new creation.  But Mark gives us a rather odd illustration and characterization of John the Baptist that seems to parallel not only the Baptizers ministry, but also and especially that of Jesus, with the prophetic hope for a new Exodus. 

Hear the echoes:

"Prepare the Way."

"A voice cries from the wilderness."

"They were baptized by him in the river Jordan."

John came out of the wilderness, as the passage Mark cites from Isaiah reminds us, to prepare the way out of captivity. 

The message of John is urgent.  John came out of the wilderness to announce it.  The Baptist prophet invited his disciples to be baptized into it as preparation for this new exodus that was on the horizon.

And John's baptism was a baptism of repentance.

The word repent is a difficult word to digest.  We have heard it on our television sets, maybe on city street corners, possibly at conventions, and on occasion in pulpits.  We may cringe when it is spoken...maybe we should?

But I think scholar and author, Marcus Borg, helps to redeem the word for us:

"to repent is to 'go beyond the mind that you have'- to go beyond conventional understandings of what life with God is about" (Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, 201)
That in mind, envision anew John's proclamation of a baptism of repentance.

It is as though the prophet John is saying to those gathered:

Go beyond your mind consumed by suffering.

Prepare yourself for an unconventional kingdom that is breaking in all around us.

No longer look towards temples or traditions, emperors or kings, for religious or socio-economic security.

Instead, get ready for God to act once and for all and incarnate a fresh understanding of what life with God is all about. It will be an unconventional way of deliverance.

Then we read the final stanza of today's text:
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Jesus is not baptized here by John because he is in need of the confessional rite.  Jesus is baptized because he is the one whom John has been waiting for.  Jesus is the one the people of God gathered by the Jordan had been waiting for.  Jesus is the new Moses, the Messiah, who announces and embodies this unconventional understanding of what life with God is all about.

Hear yet another Exodus echo as Jesus, much like the people lead out of Egypt, comes out of the water of his baptism, the Spirit descends upon this Messiah, and a voice announces, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased."

If you read on in Mark you will find that Jesus then immediately heads out, much like John, into the prophetic wilderness, only to return with a message similar to John's, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

As N.T. Wright phrases it:
"[Jesus] was, in fact, to this extent very like John the Baptist, only more so" (Jesus and the Victory of God, 163)."
This is what the people of God had been waiting for.  Jesus is who they had been, who we have been, waiting for.

And the signs, works, and message of Jesus' inaugurated kingdom are quite unconventional.

So, what are we waiting for?

It is easy to read today's text, sing a few songs, and leave this place inspired yet unchanged.  Yet Mark reminds us throughout his gospel, especially in the dramatic beginning, that deliverance has once and for all come.  Therefore, we are to stop waiting, change our minds, and live lives of urgent preparation for this unconventional kingdom of God that comes to us in and through the person and work of Jesus.

Again, what are we waiting for?

John calls us to look towards Jesus and pursue lives of unconventional preparation now.

In other words...

What are we waiting for to extend radical hospitality to our neighbors in need?

What are we waiting for to share resources and ideas in regards to poverty alleviation in our communities and around the world?

What are we waiting for to speak on behalf of those on the margins, the widows, the orphans, the homeless, and those long silenced by the powerful elite?

What are we waiting for to extend compassion to those who grieve and comfort to those who suffer?

What are we waiting for to look towards Jesus as the one who can set us free from addiction, lead us out of our greed, and move us towards a new family and community called the church?

What are we waiting for to confess our participation in unjust systems that exploit and creatively pursue alternative means to give, to serve, to love, and to live into God's future now?

What are we waiting for to share the good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God with friends, family, classmates, and co-workers?

What are we waiting for?  Christmas?

May we repent from our waiting and proclaim with our lives and lips that in Jesus good news has come once and for all. 

May we be a people who live unconventional lives of preparation for this new exodus that began in Jesus and will one day lead all, to include you and I, into a new and resurrected creation we will all call home.

So, may Jesus meet us in all our forms of waiting and longing this Advent.

Still more, may Jesus lead us out of and beyond our waiting and into unconventional preparations for the kingdom of God.  Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Joe Paterno and Habakkuk?

"With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." (Joe Paterno)

This is more than an epitaph on the career of one of college football's greatest legends, it is an indictment on all of us.

I am not interested in writing too much about the Penn State scandal. In fact, I hesitate to write anything at all, as the emotions it generates within a youth pastor and new father are so raw that a blog post neither does justice nor brings appropriate healing. Moreover, the vileness of child sexual abuse should speak for itself. It should. But it doesn't. Instead, like most forms of injustice, abuse, violence, and oppression, the issues are engaged and the victims find advocacy only in hindsight.

I confess: I have been enamored over the past week with the constant streaming of interviews, anecdotes, updates, and press conferences that have regarded the Sandusky scandal, the Paterno firing, and the grand jury report that brought both to the forefront of all news stations (I cannot bring myself to actually read it). However, as I have contemplated the atrocity I have also found it ironic that at the same time our youth ministry continues to engage the prophetic and woeful visions of Habakkuk:

“Alas for you who get evil gain for your houses,

setting your nest on high

to be safe from the reach of harm!”

You have devised shame for your house

by cutting off many peoples;

you have forfeited your life.

The very stones will cry out from the wall,

and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.

---Habakkuk 2:9-11

This is what I wrote for the students as an introduction to a contemplative and prophetic exercise, which engaged the above passage:

Often we interpret sin as when we do the wrong thing. But is it possible that sin can be understood as not doing the right thing? We are exposed to so many forms of suffering, abuse, evil, and injustice, whether they are in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, or schools. Even when we turn on the news it hits us: we live in a world that cries out to be made right and eased of its pain. Yet, how many times do we distance ourselves from these cries in the attempt to save ourselves, our stuff, our reputation, and our image? We have set ourselves apart from others harm only for the stones and plaster of our security to cry out on behalf of the weak and wounded of this world.

So what does Habakkuk have to do with Joe Paterno and Penn State?


Again, "with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

If we pause to consider the plethora of injustices and acts of violence that take place "on our watch," we would find that not only is Joe Paterno to be held accountable, but also each one of us. It is easy to demonize a fallen hero, much more difficult to listen to the cries of the stone and plaster walls we have constructed around our own reputations, families, goals, and lusts for security. We prefer to separate and ignore, isolate and overlook versus engage and advocate on behalf of a wide range of sufferings...and the list goes well beyond sexual abuse. How long must we cry never again and promise "not on our watch?"


Sexual abuse.
Domestic violence.
Oppressive schedules.
Declarations of war.

The list could go on ad infinitum. Yet what will it take for us, for me, to respond and engage suffering and injustice before any one of us has to offer our own statement, "I wish I had done more."

There are many reasons that have been suggested for Joe Paterno's forced exit. Some have suggested that it was the Board of Trustees best opportunity to make a coaching change that has eluded them over the past 10 years. Others have demanded his resignation or termination with a level of hostility that would make one think that he was the actual perpetrator.

But I wonder, is Joe Paterno not only the scapegoat for a University and community that failed to respond to one of, if not the greatest manifestations of evil, but also one who now bears the guilt of all of us who have ever failed to do something. In other words, is our anger not only warranted, but also the projection of the shame each of us carries in light of our ignorance and silence in the face of so many forms of human suffering near and far.

If that is true, may this scandal no longer focus on a football program, a university, or legacies that have evaporated right before our eyes. Instead, may this be the opportunity for us to allow the stones and plaster of our communities to cry out on behalf of all those who suffer from whatever form of injustice, oppression, and marginalization. Still more, may we no longer ignore these cries but choose to echo and reverberate them.

May we prefer to act out of foresight versus hindsight.[1]


[1] As a youth pastor, I encourage every person who works with children to challenge their ministries, organizations, and institutions to revisit their child protection policies. This must be done not just to protect and preserve institutions from legal threats and accusations, but primarily to educate and inform people how to interact with children safely and responsibly. This may be one of the most compassionate extensions of our missional vocation, i.e. protecting children from abuse. In Pennsylvania each county has a Children and Youth Service organization, e.g. Chester County: http://www.chesco.org/cyf/site/default.asp . On a national level, a great resource is: http://www.childwelfare.gov/index.cfm
[2] Also, a great sermon by good friend Tony Sundermeier: "Not So Happy Valley: Power, Abuse, Leadership, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don't Worry. Look. Consider. Strive.: Part II of Fall Retreat Reflections

"So why do I worry? Why do I freak out?  God knows what I need.  You know what I need." (Jon Foreman, "Your Love Is Strong")

Good question.

We are conditioned to worry.  We live in a culture that promotes worry.  The expectations of ______ demand that we worry until such expectations are met.

I suggest three reasons for our worry that come from Matthew 6:24-34:

High Expectations + Believed Lies = Increased Insecurities
We may be insecure about our own identity, body image, and self-worth. We have bought the lies spoken to us by those we thought were supposed to love us, at least tolerate us.
We face daily pressures by a world bent on status and success; we pursue the myth of achievement that tells us not to love neighbor, but to outdo and outlast our neighbor.
Even if we were to "achieve" these goals, by the time we do new ones are set or the old ones are not good enough- are we ever good enough?

Co-opted Imaginations + Forgotten Stories = Confused Identities
We frame our life around narratives and marketed images that have co-opted our imaginations. We believe that we are defined by what we own, what we wear, how we look, what teams we are on, or what parts we play. We no longer are allowed to discover our passions and gifts as God has given them to us, and then use them to transform the world around us.  Instead we are given an identity and presented a portrait of who we should be, who we could be.
We pledge allegiance to these stories, forgetting that we are already stamped with an identity, the imago Dei (image of God) who live into the story of Jesus who has begun to put the whole world to rights.

Experiences of Suffering + Unanswered Prayers = Is God Really Concerned?
Most of us, maybe all of us, have experienced deep pain and suffering in some way shape or form.  We may even be in the midst of the prophetic prayer, "how long, O Lord" and we wonder "will it be this way forever?"  We cry out to God, yet things still seem the same.  We the ask, "is God really concerned?"

Then we hear the voice of Jesus:

Look at the birds of the air...

Consider the lilies of the field...

Strive first for the kingdom of God.

It is as if Jesus is saying to us:

You are made in God's image; this is your secure identity unable to be purchased or stolen.

Together you are the people of God living into God's dreams for the world.  This is your story, live into it as best you can with creativity and ingenuity.

If the same God who created the birds of the air and the lilies of the field created and called you, God surely is concerned and goes with you this day and every day...

Why do we worry? Because it is part of the real human experience.

Yet, Jesus transcends human experience and invites us to a new and transformed life. Jesus reminds us that worry is wasted energy that robs us of the ability to see who we really are, the story that we are really called to, and to embrace the God who created us and goes with us as we strive first for the kingdom- God's dreams for the world.

And this story that God has called us to, the dreams of God, the kingdom of God.  Jesus says strive after, seek after this first...


After this session we dismissed the students into small groups and later that evening they contemplated, "the kindom of God is like____?"  We not only engaged a variety of Jesus' parables, but also contemplated contemporary attestations to this kingdom.

If we are honest, we spend so much time on the death and resurrection of Jesus, as we should, only to forget that Jesus also lived for something, died for something, and rose again as the beginning of something i.e. the kingdom of God and God's future breaking into the present.

What I find most intriguing is that Jesus did not say, "the kingdom of God is," but "the kingdom of God is like."  In other words, Jesus illustrated and painted pictures of the kingdom and then invited us to enter into them...to strive first and seek them.

Jesus speaks in the present. Despite what we may think, God's kingdom is not only something that awaits us in the distant future, but also and especially God's dreams for the world inaugurated in the present, the here and now.

The Gospel of Luke says it this way, "For in fact, the kingdom of God is among you" (17:21)

Do you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear?

I think it is important to back track at this point to an earlier portion of Matthew 6.  Jesus is situated somewhere on a hillside, like any good rabbi, calm and collected, when he says, "your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Pray then in this way..." Jesus proceeds to pray a rather prophetic and poetic prayer that hinges on, "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."




Look. Consider. Strive first for this kingdom.

But what is this kingdom like:

The kingdom of God is like a small seed that invades these fields and provides shelter and rest for all the birds of the air (Matthew 13:31).

The kingdom of God is like leaven that rises up within a hungry world and nourishes those in need of daily bread (Matthew 13:33). 

The kingdom of God is like three churches coming together in a small town on the shores of the Bay for worship, play, conversation, rest, and laughter.

The kingdom of God is like an invitation from one high school student to another to join in this weekend of rest.

The kingdom of God is like music that resonates through a small meeting room, is sung on bus rides home, and echoes throughout the halls of schools in West Chester and New Jersey.

The kingdom of God is like:

 [The students crafted origami birds and lilies out of written prayers and confessed worries and hung them along side and all around their musings about the kingdom of God that they strive after...]
This kingdom is so real and of such great value that Jesus not only lived into it as he walked and talked, but also and especially died for it.  Even more, in and through Jesus' resurrection, this kingdom has begun to transform the worries of the world, and those that dominate our lives, into new creations of hope and peace.

Said best, the kingdom of God is like the Son of God who died on a Roman cross only to be resurrected three days later.

The kingdom of God is like resurrection. 

Strive first for this kingdom of God.  May this kingdom and the Jesus who died for it, resurrect your life into something new and without worry.

Don't worry. Look. Consider. Strive.

A Liturgy for Those Who Worry

Leader: God of creation, make us a people freed of worry and eased from anxiety.

People: We look to the birds of the air, as you provide for them so you will provide for us.

Leader: God of grace, make us a people confident and secure in out identity as the imago Dei, the beautiful image of God.

People: We consider the lilies of the field, as you made them so you have made us.

Leader: God of concern, remind us that as you have made us so you are with us, for us,  ahead of us, and by your Spirit, you dwell within us.

All: We look to the birds of the air, we consider the lilies of the field, we rid ourselves of worry and strive towards your dreams for the world. Amen

For Part I of Retreat: http://gregklimovitz.blogspot.com/2011/11/abraham-heschel-on-fall-youth-retreat.html

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Abraham Heschel on the Fall Youth Retreat?

This past weekend the Imago Dei Youth along with two other churches engaged in retreat.  The focus: Matthew 6:24-34. Don't Worry. Look. Consider. Strive.  Here is session 1: Why Retreat? [1]

A quick story about 8-year-old Greg: I had a good friend who lived up the street from me, at the top of what then seemed to be a hill as tall as Everest.  We used to ride our bikes down the hill everyday, a race to see who could make it to the bottom first.  One summer day after a recent sleepover, we decided we would race to my house at the bottom.  I hopped on my BMX, no helmet of course, and started to crush said friend.  I released my hands from the handle, turned to see my competitor in my dust, lifted my arms in premature celebration, lost control of the bike, went up a curb, and slammed the back of my head into the corner of a mailbox.  Eighteen stitches and a missed tee-ball game later, I was sure next time to slow down and certainly wear a helmet.  I also never took my hands off the handle bar again.

I was moving too fast.  I lost control. I crashed and burned.  Despite traveling faster than my friend, I never arrived home...only at the hospital.

Many of us are moving too fast, we are traveling at an unhealthy speed and are about to crash and burn if we don't turn around and adjust our pace.

If we are honest with ourselves, we need retreat, we need rest, we need Sabbath.  We need Sabbath for reasons different than we may think: We rest, retreat, and Sabbath, not as a means to recharge our battery for yet another hurried week.  We rest, retreat, and Sabbath so to live into a completely new and fresh rhythm of life.                                            
"To the biblical mind, however, labor is a means to an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day from abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one's lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor.  The Sabbath is a day of rest for the sake of life...it is not an interlude but the climax of living" (Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath, 14, italics mine).

I believe that our lives are to be deeply formed by our hope for and understanding of God's future.  We are to live in the present the way we dream God will make the world and all related rhythms in the future.  Yet our present lives are so much formed, shaped, and owned by rhythms and beats that none of us really like: hurry, worry, and cluttered schedules. 

I love what Susannah Heschel writes in the introduction to her father's, Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath:
"the goal is creating the Sabbath as a foretaste of paradise and a testimony to God's presence; in our prayers, we anticipate a messianic era that will be a Sabbath, and each Shabbat prepares us for that experience: 'Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath...one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come" (xv). 
However, I think that if we were to paint pictures of eternity based off many of our present "relishes" it would look much like runners on treadmills, constantly moving yet never really arriving anywhere.  Indeed, this is our present pace.  Still, upon such realization we convince ourselves that if we continue to turn up the speed, maybe even adjust the incline, we will arrive at some phantom destination more quickly.  Nonetheless, although constantly moving and burning energy, we never arrive.  The only fruit we bear: exhaustion, fatigue, and frustration.   Sometimes we may even fly off because we are moving at a speed too fast for us to maintain.

Switchfoot's song, "Thrive," on their most recent album, Vice Verses, says it best:
"I feel like I'm traveling but I never arrive.  I want to thrive not just survive."

I think this is precisely "why retreat?"  To retreat is to make a break from the oppressive patterns and rhythms that many of us are caught in and to contemplate what it looks like not just to survive, but to thrive. 

And in so doing, when we retreat, we are actually living into an ancient discipline of Sabbath rest.  This Sabbath rest and retreat is not so much a recovery from worry, hurry, and cluttered schedules.  We are not here to recharge our batteries so when Monday comes we can be rested enough to hop back on the treadmill, maybe even turn it up. Instead, to retreat, to Sabbath, is to begin to embody the future rhythm of rest and peace that awaits us in the new creation yet to come.  To retreat and to rest is to enter into a new and full rhythm of life.

I recently read an ancient Jewish allegory told by a rabbi during the time of Jesus, i.e. first century A.D. The tale goes that each day of creation was a son of a King and wed to the corresponding element of creation.  Yet when the seventh day came- nothing.  The Day of Rest was alone.  So the Sabbath made his complaint known to this King who said, "the Community of Israel shall be your mate" (The Sabbath, 51). 

The People of God were wed to the Sabbath, and what God had joined no one could separate.  This was especially important for the Jewish people who throughout history, to include the first century, were constantly ruled by foreign dictators: Assyria (8th Century), Babylon (6th Century), Rome (1st Century).  Yet no one could take away the Sabbath.  They were wed to the rhythm of rest as a reminder that not only was God's presence with them, but also and especially there was hope for a future to come. No empire, emperor, or cultural pattern could take this away from them. As long as they kept Sabbath they held onto life.

We live in the midst of another oppressive cultural context. We are wed to hurry, worry, and bulimic schedules. What we need is to be reunited with God's rhythm of rest that enables us to experience the Divine Presence.  Only then can we enter into life as God intended. Only then can we live into the kingdom of God as we follow Jesus in and for the sake of the world.

That's why this weekend we begin with a reflection on "why retreat?"  We want to invite you, if nothing else happens this weekend, to experience the rest of God.  We dare you to cast aside worry, fear, hurry, and pressures and to retreat with one another.  As we retreat we practice a form of Sabbath, which is an invitation to gain a glimpse of God's future that will break into the present this weekend.  Even more, we will be then sent from this retreat to enter into real practices of God's future as they break into the present.

[1] This session served primarily to introduce students to the concept of "retreat," which is often new to students and a helpful reminder to those who have been many times before.