In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Well, we know it’s Advent when John the Baptist shows up again! Most of us don’t really know what to do with John. After all, he was actually a little bizarre. John was this wild wilderness man who wore animal skins and made his meals off of locusts and honey and whatever else he could find in the wild. He was actually a little radical, preaching what could probably be considered hellfire and brimstone sermons to convince people of his message. OK, maybe John’s “bedside manner” had a little to be desired. Yes, John was the one who never quite conformed to the way of this world, to acceptable society, but rather chose to focus solely on what it was God was calling him to do.
John never claimed to be more than he was. His only mission was to point to the one who was coming, the One that would BE God in our midst, the One that would baptize us with water and the very Spirit of God. So, though his preaching was often fiery and overly-zealous and maybe even a little off-putting, John was a Light-Gatherer. Light-Gatherers do more than just look for the Light. They do more than follow the Light. Light-Gatherers walk into the Light, gather it in, and reflect it off of themselves. Jesus taught that his disciples and his followers were called to be a Light to the world. That is what John did. He was a Light-Gatherer.
Creation is full of light-gatherers. You remember photosynthesis, don’t you? It’s the process by which plants take in light and transform it into energy and growth. That’s probably a really good lesson for us. We, too, are called to be Light-Gatherers, to take in the Light and transform it into energy and growth for ourselves and for the world. Then we are called to reflect that Light, the Light of God, into the world. We are called to be a beacon, a Light-Gatherer of the Light of God. So, in this season of Advent, go toward the Light but don’t stop there. Gather the Light and reflect that Light to the world. Be a Light-Gatherer.
Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light. (Albert Schweitzer)
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
We talk a lot about light during the Advent and Christmas seasons, that coming of the Light as it is birthed into the world. But go back to the beginning. The Light came to be back then. It was always there, pushing back the darkness and illuminating all of Creation. According to this much-beloved story of Creation, God said the Light into being and there was Light. This opening part of Genesis is essentially an affirmation of faith in the God who created the world and all that exists. It doesn’t refer to the beginning, per se, but rather the beginning of the ordering of Creation. See, the heavens and earth were there as dark, formless voids. And God began to order Creation and into Creation God breathed Light. In the beginning, God began to re-create Creation—with Light.
The Light was always there, always pushing back the darkness of the world. But sometimes our eyes are not adjusted to the light and we miss what it is illuminating for us. We find ourselves in the darkness. So Jesus came into the world not to BE the Light but to show us the Light that was always with us. Jesus was part of that Light, the revelation of the Light, and came to show us how we, too, can reflect that Light throughout the world.
In this season of Advent, our journey guides us toward the Light. It is the Light that has always been there. It is the Light that God created. It is the Light that Jesus Christ came into the world as God Incarnate, Emmanuel, to reflect, to show us how to be the Light. And yet we often travel in darkness. The darkness is not bad. God created the darkness just as God created the light. But the darkness cannot sustain us. Only the Light, the Light that God created, the Light that God came into the world to reflect can sustain us.
So, as you travel through the darkness this season, remember to look for the light, those flashes of light. They are there. They will push back the darkness, illuminating it, making it more bearable. Journey toward the Light. It is the very essence of God coming into the world.
My ego is like a fortress. I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God. But I have stayed here long enough. There is light over the barriers. O my God…I let go of the past. I withdraw my grasping hand from the future. And in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul. (Howard Thurman)
1The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, 5which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; 9the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. 11Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. 13Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
This is a familiar psalm. Centuries of composers have helped bring its words to life for us. (Thank you Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and Haydn, to name a few!) Our Jewish brothers and sisters recite the words of this psalm at Shabbat and Yom Tov. C. S. Lewis declared Psalm 19 “the treasure trove of the Psalter.”
You can look at it in three parts. The first part is a recount of Creation, the Creation that God spoke into being and that still proclaims God’s glory not with words but with an eternal voice that is part of its very being. The second part (beginning with verse 7) points to the voice of Scripture, the laws, histories, stories from the oral tradition that helped to shape how people understood God and how people understood the Creation surrounding them. And the last part is a prayer, a prayer that all these words, both spoken and unspoken, be the very representation of Emmanuel, God with us. Now I read a commentary by someone that said that you shouldn’t try to distill this Psalm down into a single theme. So, that suggestion notwithstanding, I think it’s about “voices”, about the voices of Creation and the voices of humanity joining together in prayer, proclaiming God’s glory with a cacophony of sound. It is the sound of God’s voice speaking through the creatures. It is the sound of glory.
In his book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner says that “glory is to God what style is to an artist…The style of artists brings you as close to the sound of their voices and the light in their eyes as it is possible to get this side of actually shaking hands with them. In the words of Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” it is the same thing. To the connoisseur, not just sunsets and starry nights, but dust storms, rain forests, garter snakes, and the human face are all unmistakably the work of a single hand. Glory is the outward manifestation of that hand in its handiwork just as holiness is the inward. To behold God’s glory, to sense God’s style, is the closest you can get to God this side of paradise, just as to read King Lear is the closest you can get to Shakespeare. Glory is what God looks like when for the time being all you have to look at him with is a pair of eyes.”
Last year, I went to the funeral for the father of my best friend from college. There weren’t a lot of people there so after greeting Cindy and her mom, I slipped in toward the middle of the large sanctuary. In his day, Jim (Cindy’s dad) had begun work in 1960 with a newly-formed government program that had recruited the “best and the brightest” scientific and engineering minds from around the country. That program would become NASA. Well, most of you know the rest of the story. So, in that sanctuary were remnants of that original program—the few early astronauts that are still around (many now in their 90’s), the engineers that went unnamed (like Jim), all of those who pursued the great beyond and finally landed humans on the moon and set the groundwork for our current exploration of Mars.
The text for the funeral was this one. Now, I’ve never heard this used for a funeral but how perfect! It was perfect because these people understood it. They understood that they were not “conquering space” but discovering it, entering it, staying as long as they dared. They understood that there was something beyond themselves, bigger than them, that invites us to look at it, to hear its voices, to come closer and closer, and even to enter the very tip of its being. By being a part of that, they had the opportunity to touch the very hand of God.
We are not different from them. We are all invited to hear these voices—if we listen. We are all invited to touch the very hand of God—if we put down what is in ours. We are all invited into the glory of God. This season of Lent is about getting out of ourselves, learning to see with new eyes and hear with new hearts. Because, see, if you do that, if you truly walk away from yourself just for a moment, you will hear the very glory of God in the voices of the creatures.
Fr. Richard Rohr in (I think I have the right one of his books!) Everything Belongs, talks about the notion of the earth and the heavens, this life and the next, overlapping a bit. The old Celtic thinkers would have called it “liminality”, an Old English word that means “betwixt and between”. Rohr says that during our faith journey, we need to allow time in that space of liminality. He exhorts us to stay as long as we can, as long as we dare. We can’t live there because it’s probably a little much for big doses of it right now. But it is there that we will see the very Glory of God. It is there that we will hear that cacophony of voices proclaiming God’s handiwork. It is there that we will know that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, part of a voices that spoke everything into being long ago and continues to speak to us in still, small voice. So, tonight, go outside. Look at the moon. And you’ll understand.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
God is God and we are not. We cannot do this by ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. Do you have it? Is it clear? (Or perhaps our brother Paul should have written yet another run-on sentence!) And yet, we humans, we “adams”, by our very nature bear at least some of God’s characteristics, some of God’s image. So we can’t be all bad, right? Essentially, there is no such thing as being “only human”. After all Christ was human, “fully human” if I’m remembering correctly. So humanity is not bad. I don’t think our humanness makes us bad, despite what others have maintained. After all, God created us human.
So, perhaps the problem is not that we’re “human” but that we are not yet completely “fully human”. You see, we keep lapsing into doing things or allowing things that are less than human or, for want of a better word, inhumane–injustice, poverty, homelessness, prejudice, greed, inequality, divisions, disunity, ____ism, _____ism, _____ism….need I go on? We lapse into who we are not and who we are not meant to be. The notion of “adam” that we glean from the Scriptures is, basically, a human creature, created by God, loved by God, but a creature that is destined for more. Think of it like some sort of mock up or prototype of what humanity is, a beautiful, naked, picturesque creature surrounded by a beautiful garden. And, yet, on some level, this creature is not yet real. It has to become, become real. It has to become. It has to allow God to recreate it into a human.
Christ, God With Us, is, as we know “fully human” and “fully divine”. Christ was the epitome of real, the perfect image of what humanity is–fully human. Christ did not walk this earth to show us how to become divine. (I don’t think that’s our mission! The job of Savior of the World has already been filled. We need not apply or aspire to have that job.) Christ came to show us how to be fully human, truly human, real. That is who we are called to be. We are human, beautifully, wonderfully-made. But God’s vision of us is so much more. The journey is for us to traverse from Adam to Christ, from the human creature to fully human, to that very image of the Godself that we were created to be.
Do you remember the Margery Williams tale of “The Velveteen Rabbit”? “Real…doesn’t happen all at once…You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” You see, as we journey closer to being Real, closer to being fully human, more and more of “us” falls away and is filled by that very image of Christ. We become fully human. We become who God intended us to be.
We are not human being having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
On this Lenten journey, think what it means to be fully human, what it means to be the very image of Christ in the world.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”…Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when 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, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
So at the beginning of this year’s Lenten season, the Lectionary propels us back into our somewhat sketchy past. St. Augustine and myriads of theologians to follow would have called it the “original sin”, as if it is the cause of all other sins that follow. Now, admittedly, I don’t like to get stuck on that idea of original sin. In fact, I think the notion compels us to sin again by refusing to admit that we just messed up! And I’m pretty sure that if the first humans had not messed up, someone soon after would have. But this is the story we have.
So we have images of humans walking in a beautiful garden hand in hand without a care in the world. We can imagine babbling brooks and peacocks and calla lilies and llamas (I’ve just always liked llamas.) And then we have some sort of talking (and at that point walking snake) that pulls them away from who they are and who they are meant to be. You can hear it…”oh, come on, it’s not going to hurt you. There is no way that you’ll die. In fact, your life will be better. Your life will be grand. Your life will be perfect if you just do this one thing. God won’t mind. God really didn’t mean what God said.” (And for only $19.99, you can have TWO pieces of fruit if you do it RIGHT NOW! It sort of does sound like an infomercial when you think about it!)
And they give in. They give in to the first temptation to be someone they are not. Or perhaps they are just trying to pad themselves a bit against fears and insecurities to come. Then they realize their mistake much too late to change the course of their action. They are left hurt, vulnerable, and alone. Well, we know the story. (Oh, who are we kidding? We’re LIVING the story!) They are no longer innocent and the beauty of the garden is lost forever.
This has always been an odd story to me. Now, admittedly, I’m sure it is of no surprise to most of you that I tend to assume that this is fable rather than a literal historical account. But just because it probably isn’t “true” does not mean that it is not full of “Truth”. In some respects, this is the rawest, most profound, most human Truth that there is. After all, we all wander down the wrong road every now and again and some of us do it daily without even intending it. And we all live with consequences of trying to overreach, trying to be someone we’re not, trying to assume things that are not ours to assume. We all live with consequences of, essentially, overstepping and overreaching and trying to be the god of our own life. And we all lose that innocence that we once had.
But, really, does God want a bunch of mindless innocents walking around in this world? If that were the case, then God would never have shared the part of the Godself with us that is known as free will. You see, God in God’s infinite wisdom gave up omnipotence for relationship. God doesn’t want a bunch of robotic beings (innocent and well-behaved though they may be) following the Great Divine because they know nothing else. (I mean, that would get downright annoying!) God created us to desire, to choose, to follow God of our own volition. Innocence is way overrated. You see, if God wanted us to stay in some sort of garden, fenced off from the rest of the world, I guess God would have left us there, protected from the world and, mostly, from ourselves. I really don’t think that this journey we’re on returns us to the Garden, whatever that was. That was our beginning. The journey returns us to God, to who God envisions that we can be. Think of the Garden as our womb, the place that protected and shielded us until we were ready for the journey, until we found that part of ourselves that chose to follow, that chose God.
So what do we do after the garden? We follow where God leads us; we follow that innate sense that all of us have to return to God and to whom we are called to be. You see, we have no more excuses. Read the end of the passage. Our eyes have been opened. We know where we fall short; we know that we cannot do this by ourselves; we know that God is God and we are not. And in that is our beginning. Thanks be to God!
Sin is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again. (Barbara Brown Taylor, Speaking of Sin: The Lost Language of Salvation)
So on this Lenten journey, open your eyes. Open your eyes and take a good hard look at yourself. What do you need to choose to leave behind? Where do you choose to go? What does your beginning, your escape from innocence, look like?
(Advent 3A) The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35: 1-10)
So, this is probably the Scripture that conjures up that somewhat unreachable and perhaps inaccessible utopian paradise. But it’s not inaccessible. The whole idea is that it WILL come to be. And Advent reminds us to look for that day, to imagine it into being. It is a tension in which we live every day of our lives. We want it, we imagine it, and, on a good day, we believe it will happen. And then we turn on the TV. But it is a holy tension, a liminality, if you will, betwixt and between the turmoil and grit of our lives and the promise that we believe.
This is Creation’s repentance. It is Creation turning around and going a different direction. We’re familiar with that. When we talk of our own, it is uncomfortable to launch off into another direction, to begin to travel where GPS is not available and to a place with a story that we are writing as we go. But here we are told that the desert will bloom. The desert—that mass of dry sand that blows in our eyes and clouds our views, the place where we cannot map where we go, the land where water is scarce and sustenance is hard to find—will bloom! The desert will turn and become something new. Blindness will become sight; deafness will become music; the lame will leap and the mute will sing. The waters will flow with thirst-quenching sound and the lost way will become a clear path. Creation will become something new.
So, if Creation can do that, why can’t we? Why can’t we let go of our fears and our preconceptions? Why can’t we become something new? Why can’t we rejoice and bloom? No more excuses. No more delay. This is not some far-removed vision of a pile of sand with a flower. This is what we have been given. And Advent calls us to begin to see its potential. Advent calls us to begin to see our own potential. Have you ever thought that perhaps our faith journey is not about finding God at all but rather finding ourselves? God is here. Whether we feel God or not, God is here. But us? How much faith do you have in yourself? God has faith in you. God created you to do this, to turn, to change, to repent, to bloom. So for what are you waiting? After all, the desert is beginning to bloom.
Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of Creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless. (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1: 47-55)
We love this passage. It is Mary’s Song, the poetic rendering of her realization that she has truly been blessed, that she has been called to do what no one else has done, what no one else will do. She has been called to give birth to God in this world, to deliver the promise that her people have always known. But don’t get too lost in the poetry and the familiarity. E. Stanley Jones called The Magnificat “the most revolutionary document in the world”. It is said that The Magnificat terrified the Russian Czars so much that they tried to dispel its reading. It is an out and out call to revolution. Less subversive language has started wars. Edward F. Marquart depicts it as God’s “magna carta”. It is the beginning of a new society, the preamble to a Constitution that most of us are not ready to embrace. We’d rather chalk it up to the poetry of an innocent young woman and keep shopping.
See, this is God’s vision for the world. It is not a world where the best and the brightest and the richest come out on top. It is not a world that we can control. It is not a world where we can earn what we have and deserve who we are. It is rather a world where God’s presence and God’s blessings are poured onto all. But it comes with a price. Those who have, those who are, those whose lives are filled with plenty are called to change, to open their lives to God and to others. Because God will scatter the proud, those who think they have it figured out, those who are so sure of their rightness and their righteousness. In other words, those of us who think that we have it all nailed down will be shaken to our core. The powerful–those with money, those with status, those with some false sense of who they are above others–will be brought down from their high places. The poor and the disenfranchised, those who we think are not good enough or righteous enough, will be raised up. They will become the leaders, the powerful, the ones that we follow. The hungry will feel pangs no more and those who have everything–the hoarders, the affluent, those are the ones whose coffers will be emptied to feed and house the world. God is about to turn the world upside-down. Look around you. This is not it; this is not what God had in mind. And God started it all not by choosing a religious leader or a political dynamo or even a charismatic young preacher but a girl, a poor underage girl from a third-world country with dark skin and dark eyes whose family was apparently so questionable that they are not mentioned and whose marital status seemed to teeter on the edge of acceptable society. God picked the lowliest of the lowly to turn the world upside down.
And when you’re turned upside down, things tend to spill. No longer can we hold onto what we know. No longer can we rest on the laurels of our past. If we’re going to be part of God’s vision of the world, we have to give up those things that are not part of it. We have to change, learn to live a new way, look upon the world and others not as competition, not as threats, but as the very vision of God pouring into the world. So, THIS Advent, what are you willing to let go of so that you will have room to offer a place for God? What are you willing to change in your life to come just a little bit closer to what God envisions? How willing are you to turn your world upside down? What do you plan to do with this precious life you’ve been given?
There are those who will read this and dismiss it as some utopian socialist notion, something that flies in the face of our capitalistic society. I don’t think it’s either. God’s vision does not align with any form of government on this earth but is instead ordered with love and grace and abundant mercy. It is not a vision where everyone is treated the same; it is a vision where everyone is loved. So, again, what are you willing to change in your own life? What are you willing to trade for love? Christmas is six days away. Six days…that’s all that’s needed to create a new order.
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. (Thomas Merton)