All are welcome

Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of Empowerment

 Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.



From Edwina Gateley, There Was No Path So I Trod One (1996, 2013)



just tiny stirrings

which disturb our even surface,

prodding us into new and different shapes…

claiming their place

on our horizons—

stretching us

where we would not go—

yet we must.

Driven by life forces

deeper than our dreams,

we dare to rise

and grasp towards

the new young thing—

not yet born—

but insistent—

like a tight seed bursting

for life,

carrying within it

all the power

of a woman’s

birthing thrust.

New Beginnings aren’t easy. The life that was once known is no longer. The dinner table has one less. The trip to town no longer involves chatter in the car. The soul mate, the supporter, the leader, the one with energy and excitement and belief is no longer.

New beginnings aren’t easy. The seed sits in the dark ground, comfortable, warm, resting. But the time to explode out of husk, out of the earth’s crust into the bright and brilliant unknown must happen for life to occur. Getting revved up to go into the unknown callings of tomorrow demand a type of empowerment that comes from within as well as from those around us offering wisdom, knowledge, encouragement and all manner of empowerment.

For some strange and odd reason one image continues to shout in my head — “Cowboy UP!” Best known in the world of bull riding, cattle and ranching, “Cowboy or Cowgirl Up! offers empowerment to go that next hour or continue to work the herd of calves even though the winds are howling, the back is aching, the sun is burning or the rain is pouring.

Cowboy or Gowgirl up!

Keep going into what might seem insurmountable. Life is over…, it is just beginning.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…..

Go. Don’t sit and weep. Don’t hole up like a wounded cat. Don’t waller in your pity. Go.

Make disciples of all nations. Not just the people you are drawn to because you like them and you think they will be receptive to your message. Go to all nations. Go into Wilkes, Avery and Caldwell counties. Go into the back hollers that don’t normally get trod. Go into the back hallways where the sign on the door leaves you wondering. Go into the opposing politicians office and listen.

Go making disciples of all nations.

“Making disciples” is an interesting term. Is this like making bread or making a dress or making beer? Because if it is, it’s not going to happen quickly. The yeast must proof, the dough needs kneading and then not one but at least two rises before it’s put into the oven to bake. You beer and wine makers or dress makers can craft your own metaphor that works here.

Making disciples is a process. Connecting. Listening. Teaching. Connecting deeper. Listening deeper. Offering insight. Supporting a new way or understanding. Offering grace when the newfound concept, belief or idea is confounded. Grace upon grace upon grace as the learning process proofs, rises and bakes.

And this is a little easier when the disciple is like you. But, the verse says to go into all nations. Language like Cowboy UP, you-uns and chitlins, I’m fixin to, and you don’t have no common sense when we really all know that no sense is common ….shows up and you wonder how to connect, to listen and to teach.

Cowgirl Up! Baptize them and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Teach them to obey everything…… you got to be kidding me. I don’t even obey everything. I do now have a North Carolina license and North Carolina tags on my car – but I still can’t figure out how not to get a parking ticket.

Teach them to obey everything……Does this then mean that I must first be obedient setting a good example of obedience? I must love my neighbor — even the ones with the barking dogs and the strong smell of garlic and the ones who never smile?

Does this obedience mean that I must pray for my enemy. I must walk the extra mile for the one who demands my time and energy that I do not want to give.

Cowgirl UP! Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister writes:

We are surely called to believe that God who is everywhere is with us. And we are called to believe that this God is Energy and Love. Not the Grand Inquisitor. Not the Great Circus Master. Not the Indifferent Professor who does distant research on our lives. God is the one who made for us a good world and walks with us to hold us up as we go.

–Joan Chittister

In an article for the National Catholic Reporter, Sister Chittister Cowgirl Ups taking on the mantle to teach us as she writes about religious thuggery. She begins with defining religious thuggery as……..”It’s about people who are driven by a kind of primitive energy devoid of thought, philosophy, or human compassion. It is thuggery based on the purported directions of a God who they say destroys those who find spiritual wholeness differently than this God commands. It is thuggery justified by a distorted notion of religion. It is a religious thuggery that in this case distorts the very Islam [or I might add Christianity] out of which of it claims to grow.”[1]

Chittister’s response to the destruction of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud is one that expands the thuggery beyond ISIS and Islam calling each of us to peer deep into our own discipleship commissioning us to notice what we are obeying.

She concludes with……

From where I stand, it seems to me that that’s where we are now — trapped in a moment of passion so great, nothing stands to survive it. Not the countries this so-called new caliphate has constructed out of hate. Not the heritage of this great culture, whatever this present revolution names it.

What worries me is that not even the cultivated public doctrines of the countries being swept into it — ourselves included — can possibly come out of such thuggery unscathed. All of us whose gifts to the world are art, music, literature, human rights and political philosophy are faced with a great question: Are those who have stooped so low to save this world from barbarism only closer to becoming barbaric themselves as a result?

[And hear these words she offers to us …] After crushing whole villages at one time, using drones instead of scimitars [an Arab saber] to take the heads off civilians and their children, what shall we ourselves do then for standards? What will this do to the heart of our own country? To civility? To civilization? To religion?

Then who are the thugs?

Cowboy UP! Cowgirl UP! Go into all the nations, teaching and baptizing and offering God’s grace and love because I am with you always. And to the two thugs on the crosses on either side of him, he said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Today. With me. Paradise.

If this act of forgiveness and love and grace and offer of peace doesn’t empower you, I don’t know what else would.

Let us Draw the Circle Wider as we offer ripples of empowerment to those we encounter, those we search out and those we know in our gut, we have been called to empower. May we live into our calling to be Easter People!

With this charge – I invite you to rise as you are willing and able to remember that each day is new. As the waters of baptism symbolically wash us clean, I invite you to start anew today with a sprinkle of water to remind you of your calling to be God’s people.