Supposing Him to be the gardener

A sermon for St Chad’s church 22/07/18

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

A couple of months ago I decided to tidy up the garden at my house. Near my front door was a patch of random plants, most were large weeds and tufty bits of grass. As I started to remove the overgrown weeds I noticed three little plants underneath. 

They were not green, it seemed like the weeds had smothered the sunlight from them. As I began to clear more and more I realised they were lavender plants. All three of them were rooted into the ground but they had been in very shallow soil. I carefully re-dug a hole around each of them and pushed them deeper and topped them up with some more soil. I gave them a well needed drink of water and began to water then every day. 

If you come to my house now, you will see three bright green, purple flowering lavender plants that have been resurrected from their smothered beginnings. Their fragrance is beautiful. I couldn’t help thinking about about how these plants had had a new lease of life because their environment had been transformed.

Thinking about transformation made me think about one of my favourite Saints, Mary Magdalene who we celebrate and remember today. Mary’s life was transformed when she encountered Jesus, He healed her from seven demons that were inside her, we can only imagine what illness and distress she may had been suffering before she felt the healing touch of Jesus. Like the lavender in my garden, the weeds and things that were hindering and smothering Mary’s life were removed, her environment was transformed and she began to blossom and grow.

Mary’s liberation freed her to follow and serve Jesus she travelled around with a group of women who had also felt the liberating healing of Jesus. They travelled with the disciples, however we do not get to hear much about her journey during Jesus’s day to day ministry. 

Her close connection with her Lord was one that led her into the shadow of the cross, into the agony and despair of the crucifixion. Mary did not scatter like the disciples, or deny knowing Jesus, she handled His wounded body and mourned at the tomb. She portrayed a visible tangible ministry of her own, a bringer of resurrection joy. 

Her story of her encounter with Jesus, His healing and resurrection inside her heart, is powerful, so powerful that she was the one to witness His actual resurrection first. 

As she stood weeping outside the tomb, her heart that once was filled with joy and hope is muted. She bends down to peer inside the tomb, as if to hope that the missing body of her Lord was just a figment of her imagination, that when she looks inside again that she would glance His precious body once again.

It’s her hope in the resurrection she had felt herself that leads her to the actual revelation of the Jesus’ resurrection. She sees the angels and they ask her why she is weeping, Mary continues her loyalty to her Lord and wishes to know where His body is.
She turns around and saw Jesus standing there but mistakes Him as the gardener. 

I love how Mary thinks that Jesus is the gardener, it’s so symbolic that the man who had nurtured her, who had removed all the weeds that were suffocating her life, the man who had resurrected her heart and re-planted her was now stood in front her being described as a gardener.

Like the lavender in my garden, Mary explodes, blossoms once again in overwhelming joy, calling Jesus teacher. Now Mary’s Lord, her teacher gives her final instruction, Jesus says,
“Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

When Mary reaches out for Jesus she knows she would love to stay in this moment with Him forever, however her joy that is being felt is meant to be shared. Jesus tells Mary to go and share this resurrection joy with His brothers, this is her job to do. She bears the good news to the ones who were seen as the good news bearers.

So how does Mary’s story interact with us here in Rochdale?

Well for many different reasons each of us are here at church this morning. At some point in our lives Jesus has met with us and we have felt that resurrection joy, we have seen Him when we thought He was someone else, maybe in the face of someone who helped us in need, maybe in the silence of crippling grief, maybe in a helping hand to escape from a situation that was causing us harm.

We hold these stories of the resurrection of our heart, and like Mary we hear the voice of Jesus telling us to go, to go and tell our brothers and sisters about Him. We would like to hold on to Him and make Him ours and ours alone but this is a joy that we have to share. There are people around us that are lost and awash in sadness and have no feelings of hope. Jesus tells us to not to cling on to our personal joy but let go and tell everyone the same announcement that Mary said to the disciples.

I have seen the Lord.

And typically they did not believe her at first and she waits to see the resurrection joy transform their hearts.
Resurrection joy comes in many forms, but when we see it we say,

I have seen the Lord.

When I look at the beauty of my lavender plants that greet me every time I leave my house and when I return I look at them and remember that, 

I have seen the Lord.

That our faithful gardener continues to re-plant us and make our roots stronger, He clears away the things that are smothering our lives so we can be in a deeper relationship with Him, so we can feel the sun on our faces, the blessings that He pours over us. 
And all of this resurrection joy, this resurrection message of the heart is given to us from Mary Magdalene, the one who followed Jesus through the joys and the pains. The woman who stood at the foot of the cross and cradled His lifeless body who became the first to share the resurrection promise. 

This week I pray that we may have a moment where we can think back and say, I have seen the Lord, and let our faithful Gardener begin to nurture and tend to us once again.



He must increase, but I must decrease

My preach from Morning worship at St Mellitus college 25th June

It’s feels amazing that we’ve got to the end of this academic year, we’ve seen friends leave and become ordained, we seen tutors following their call from God, we’ve seen new faces coming to study theology, and we’ve seen each other change and being formed. 

I feel like college is a bit like that scene in Jeremiah were he is watching the potter form and shape his clay, we are watching our fellow peers being transformed and worked into Christ-like shapes, never becoming the finished product though as we remember that the potter continues to dance with us on the wheel outside of college and beyond.

The process of being formed makes me think of my favourite Gospel story, where Elizabeth who is pregnant with John, meets Mary who is pregnant with Jesus. I love the imagery of John leaping in the womb when his mother hears Mary’s greeting. 

John was fulfilling his calling already in the womb, identifying and pointing to Jesus.

I just love the connection of these two women, both meeting together with the promise of God’s plan literally inside them and in their hearts. “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” 
blessed are we who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to us by the Lord” 

The meeting of John and Jesus before they were born, the way that John is the voice in the wilderness preparing the way for Jesus, the way that John baptises Jesus, suggests to me that as we strive to live Christ-like lives, we also strive to live John-like lives.

John’s vocation was to bring people back to God, for them to repent of their old ways to become open to the coming of the Lord. John proclaims Jesus the Messiah, the fulfilment of all prophecy. 

John did all this with no want for glory. The message he proclaimed was authentic, different to rhetoric that was being heard around, people came to listen to what he had to say and then were led to be baptised.

Striving for a John-like life means that we have to become less, so Jesus can be more.

It is amazing that we have finished this academic year, but we could not have done this without God’s help. We could not have written those essays, led worship, preached, prayed, listened, cared, and all the other things we do on our own without God’s strength. 

When we stand here feeling pleased with ourselves because of good grades, delivering a successful sermon, leading some exciting worship, connecting with the poor and destitute, we must remember it is the Spirit that guides us, that all glory is to God, the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of god will stand forever.

When I finished my last session on my BAP, at our final worship the homily was about how we had received a lot of attention leading up to BAP, and now it was time for us to become less so He could become more. It was time to let the spirit lead and wash over, time to repent for fleshy things like ego and pride.

I believe that over the summer break this teaching is important.

We must become less so Jesus can become more.

We must be the voice calling out in the wilderness, the prophetic call to point people to God, to direct them back into His loving arms, it is God’s grace that forgives and transforms, we walk with and point the way with encouragement and witness.

We must bear witness to the truth, to stand up and question, to reach out and hold, to weep with those who are suffering and afflicted.

But through all this, we must become less so Jesus can become more, we shine like the focused rays of the sun through a window, radiating the warmth and healing heat of God through ourselves.

John says these beautiful words as he listens to the stories of Jesus carrying out His ministry, he says,
“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled.”

I pray that our witness and work in the spirit, our living Christ-like and John-like lives, will fulfil us with joy and keep us pointing and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.

Speak lord for your servant is listening

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

My childhood was lonely. I always felt like I was standing on my tip toes looking over a fence at everyone else. I couldn’t seem to be able to get over the fence and fit in with everyone else. I often retreated into my bedroom and lay on my bed not knowing what I was meant to do in life, or where I was supposed to be.

In those quiet lonely moments it was where I met the love of God. God was my best friend, he listened when I was upset, comforted me when I felt alone, danced with me when I was happy. At night whilst I watched the light drain away from the sky, when the stars took over from the sun, he would be with me until my eyes closed to sleep.

In those years a seed was sown. A seed that lay dormant through my teens and into my twenties. I didn’t know that I had glimpsed the kingdom of God, that the almighty had kept me company, that he had shown me love that I’d never felt before.

Fast forward to 2013 when I had lost myself, I had become a robot, I was working 24 hours a week, as well as raising my five children, I didn’t really know who I was anymore, I didn’t know what I liked, and I didn’t like who I’d become.

It was then that dormant seed was awoken, I felt that it was time to start praying again, to be able to know the love and comfort from my Heavenly Father, the one who had always been the light in the darkness, the voice in the silence.

On that night I had a dream that changed my life, I dreamt that I was walking with the blessed Virgin Mary and she had her arm around my shoulder. She led me into a temple and as we went inside I saw that it was completely golden. The brightest gold that I’d ever seen. She pointed to a statue of Jesus that was so tall I couldn’t see any further than his waist. She then pointed to his feet and a cross began to glow, the golden light began to shine brighter and brighter and soon it engulfed me, and I woke up.

The seed that God had sowed in my heart years ago had began to grow, the delicate fresh green shoots had started to break through the cracked dry ground. 

As I began to explore what this dream and call had on my life, I found myself being led to church to have my children baptised. On a wet dark evening I walked through the door of St James church and knew that everything that God was telling me had started to make sense. 

These whispers of His promise to love me and to guide me had started to help me flower. The vicar in my church saw that maybe the spirit was working something out in my life. And through his encouragement and belief in me, I began to spread my wings preaching and leading. I realised that he was calling me to be a Priest and deep in my heart I knew that this was something that He had shown me as a child.

Jesus says that “the kingdom of god is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow he does not know how.”

I do not know how Jesus called such a sinner like me and watered, nurtured, and cared for me. I wake up everyday thanking God that he did not give up on me and that if He can call me then I am an example to all who may think that God would never call them. 

Because guess what? He does call you. 

God called me outside of church, I was not part of a congregation and I had not regularly attended church before. I didn’t go to Sunday school, I found my connection to church through music and through Him.

God calls everyone, because that seed that is beautifully sewn inside of us is waiting for the right environment to grow. 

It’s waiting for the yes.

It’s waiting for the, well yes God I could but I’m not sure but maybe it could be me but no way can you call me.

That acknowledgment is all that the seed needs. 

God is the greatest Gardener, he tends to us like delicate flowers, watering, cultivating, shielding, pruning, sitting and waiting for our first petals to open.

Today the gospel speaks of the kingdom of god being like a mustard seed, something that begins so small yet grows into something so big the branches can support others and give shade and comfort to others. This process of finding out what God is calling us to includes other people, I’m a firm believer that God brings us the people we need on our journey of discovery, we are not not meant to figure this all out on our own.

When I think about callings and vocation, I think of Samuel, who hears a voice in the night but doesn’t realise it is the Lord calling him. Eli says to him to answer the voice with a simple sentence,
“Speak lord for your servant is listening”

I encourage you all to pray these words, whether you feel God is calling you, or if you want to ask God to show you what he is calling you to.

There are so many different roles that God calls us to, it’s not just ordained ministry, it’s members of the PCC, it’s litter pickers, children’s workers, tea makers, biscuit providers, floor sweepers, hand holders, tissue providers.
We are all windows for God’s grace, because through us He can be seen, as I stand here before you this morning I am not here because of my own merit, I am here because Jesus bore my sins, I am here because the Father forgave me, I am here because the spirit guided me. 

We can be confident because we walk by faith, not by sight, we walk on the journey that Jesus calls us to, the journey that resurrects and transforms us in His holy name. 

God calls us all and he loves us more than we could ever imagine, when we feel that there is only darkness, he shows us the glimmer of light to guide us.

In the night as a child I lay in bed alone, the darkness felt thick, like an inky pool that I could not swim in, yet when I called out he came to me, the spirit comforted me and gave me strength to carry on.

Our faith is that seed sown underground in that very darkness, waiting for the refreshment of the life-giving water that Jesus gave us to help our roots to grow, that moistens the ground so our shoots can break through, the warmth from fire of the Holy Spirit that helps us to bloom and the care and love from the father that opens us up to fullness of His glory.

I want my story here today to give you all hope, that God does and will call people to serve. That He does call people outside of church and He does lead them here. We can be the ground that nurtures those seeds of all who are called. We can send out and grow because He is already doing it right here in Rochdale, let us take strength and courage from this knowledge.

I pray for you all here today that we may grow in His care, that we will open in flowers of joy as we serve Him and His people and on the day of the harvest, where we see the full glory of the kingdom of heaven we will sit at the table that Jesus calls us to.


Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

On Friday night my eldest child came down stairs to tell me that there was a commotion going on outside on the street opposite our house. I did the nosey neighbour thing, went upstairs, opened the window and tried to see what was going on. 

As I peaked through the trees I could see and hear a young girl rolling around on the pavement screaming at the top of her lungs. Her friends were around trying to calm her down, yet the more they tried to stop her yelling and thrashing the more violent she became. I reached for my mobile and as I did I heard one of them say that she should have learnt from last time that she couldn’t hold her vodka. These children were not much older than 14 maybe 15. I dialled 999 to get her some help and an ambulance turned up very quickly.

I felt a huge sense of sorrow for these young people, especially the girl who was so unwell because of alcohol consumption. My heart broke for all the young people in our town who spend their weekends like this, playing Russian roulette with their lives, whether it is with alcohol, drugs, or racing fast cars. 

On another night, as I was driving home at around 11:30pm I saw a young boy walking along the road on his own. He was not much older than my son who turned 8 yesterday – these babies, alone in the increasingly hostile world that we live in, fending for themselves.  

And it’s not just the children who are at risk, young adults are witnessing harder and harder environments to study in, student loans are increasing leaving most in debt of around 40k and graduates are fighting for a job after study. My friend who has recently been teaching Young adults who have struggled in secondary education, speaks of students who cannot write full sentences, who have been forgotten in the system because they find it difficult to learn in certain ways. 

This week that a young man lost his life just down the road in Falinge, through senseless violence.
I felt and feel helpless when I think of the young girl, the little boy, the forgotten students, and the young man who died this week.  

All I could do was pour out my heart to God and pray.

By praying we start to chip away at the hardness of our hearts, we are hardened every day by the deluge of news that we absorb every day. We are less shocked by terrible things, images on the screen of war zones and queues outside food banks become so regular we can’t see the shock anymore.

Ezekiel perfectly describes the process of prayer, the power of conversing with our Father,

 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

We see from this passage how inviting God into our situation carves and releases our hearts from the numbness of witnessing events that harden and freeze us. Through regular prayer our hearts beat again with the spirit of God, opening our eyes and minds to the plight of His people.

Through His spirit as we cry out Him, He says to us you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

In the Gospel reading we hear Jesus praying for His disciples. I find this amazing. Jesus, the son of God praying for His followers. If Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, prays for us, then we are seeing first hand how important prayer really is.
Jesus prays, I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.

This is an important example of how our prayer can shape the world around us, we ask God on a person’s behalf, so the young girl, the little boy, the murdered man, we pray for them on their behalf, we stand in the gap between heaven and earth, and pour out our spirit filled hearts.

Jesus prays that we may know the closeness of the Father that he knows, that we and Him can be one.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

One community, one kingdom, one love in the Father, through one act – prayer.

We are in the middle of Thy Kingdom Come, An initiative created by our Archbishops to get us all to pray together over the period between ascension day and Pentecost. Through these ten days all who pledge to pray are one, just as Jesus prays for us to be.

If anyone would love to join in, we are encouraging you to pray for five friends, the prayers are on this piece of paper. If you are struggling to choose five people, please pray for Rev Mark and his ministry here with you all, and please pray for the renewing power and joy of the Holy Spirit for us all here in Rochdale.

Jesus prays that the Father’s word is truth and this is what we should keep close to our hearts. 
We keep close to us the promise and witness of the resurrection of Jesus, that in dark times Jesus exploded from the tomb, conquered death, ascended in joyfilled glory and sent the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire.

This weekend we await the coming of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and I encourage us all to speak to our Heavenly Father, whether this might be the first time, or the first time in a while, or a renewal of a lifetime of prayer, take time and sit in God’s presence, and lift up to Him those who we can on their behalf.  

The forgotten young, the lonely, the destitute, the abused, the drug user, the alcoholic, the prostitute, the councillor, the homeless, the traffic wardens – we are one, one in Christ always.

God of mercy,

who in your great love

drew your Son from the depths of the Pit,

bring your people from death to life,

that we may rejoice in your compassion

and praise you now and for ever.

A grain of wheat

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

Yesterday my husband and I decided to go for a walk up around Watergrove reservoir. It was around 2pm between the intermittent snow showers that were blowing in and out. As we scaled up the hill towards the wind turbines it seemed that we were inbetween two weather fronts. To our right the once clear and blue sky that had allowed us to see Manchester in the distance was now filled by a thick grey blanket. To our left, the wind turbines were now not visible as the strong wind swept the snow fall across the burnt orange tufty land.

We stopped to admire the dramatic scenes listening to the rhythmical turning of the turbine blades and the increasing howling of the snow glazed wind. As we turned back to walk down the long causeway pack horse route, a clap of thunder ripped through the sky above us. With the snow falling, the wind whistling, and the thunder roaring it was quite an intense situation.

As I walked quickly through the immense sound of the thunder it made me think about the gospel reading today. As Jesus is fortelling His death to the Greeks who had asked to see Him and the disciples who were there, a voice came from heaven saying, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder.  

Imagine what it must have been like to hear the voice of God ripping through the sky as if it were like thunder. The crowd around Jesus were already in a dramatic situation, they were hearing a teaching that was difficult for them to understand. That the man in front of them was not only going to die but those who wished to follow Him would also have to face the same journey. 

The Greeks who asked to see Jesus seemed to have got a lot more than they bargained for! They wanted to see the man who had been healing the sick, feeding the five thousand, raising the dead, perhaps they wished to witness His miracles first hand so they too could say they had met and been with Him. However instead they witnessed the uncomfortable information of Jesus’s impending death, confirmed by God himself.

The Greek’s presumed experience of Jesus is quite reflective of how we wish to see Jesus. We wish to see Jesus on our terms, that when we call on Him He can tick off our prayer todo list and we go home feeling pleased with what we’ve received and turn up next Sunday. 

However Jesus is the son of God, the one who rebukes demons, who raises the dead, heals the sick, turns the tables in the temple, stands up for the poor, empowers women, values children, the one who died for us, He is the grain of wheat that dies to become the bread of life and when we meet with Him we are changed. We are changed into His likeness, that from His death we are re-born to bear much fruit that brings God’s kingdom to earth, that brings hope, love, and joy to His people.

There is a real temptation to be consumers of God’s life, gathering what we need, from the fallen grain of wheat, and then carrying on with our own agendas and routine. When in fact Jesus longs to meet with us, and be with us not just in the transactions of His endless love but in the stillness and quietness of our hearts.

Today we ask to meet with Jesus as we begin Passiontide, which is the final two weeks of Lent commemorating the increasing revelation of Christ’s divinity and His movement toward Jerusalem. 

We set our faces to the cross just like Jesus does in accepting His Father’s will, He cries out, Father will you glorify your name? 

And like the thunder that ripped through the heavy laden sky yesterday, God roars through our hearts His plan for us, to be lifted up with the precious body of Jesus on the cross, confirming that He is our God, and that we are His people. 

May we through these final weeks of Lent, draw closer and know our God through the sacrifice of His Son, give thanks that our sins will be no more, reaffirm that our old lives are put to death, and open our hearts to be formed and purified, kneaded and shaped into the bread of life, from the grain of wheat that fell to the earth and died for us.

Swift wings

The silent flight of my soul’s delight,

on swift wings thy burdens lie,

breaking through the deep darkness,

come to me Lord, oh fly.

On my journey you softly walk,

with bare feet red and sore,

you hold my heart and when you call,

on my face with reverence fall.

Oh sweet Jesus shield my soul,

with dazzling clean white wings,

and from the garden do you appear,

to settle and comfort all things.

Break the silence precious Lord,

with the flow of water and blood,

wash clean my heart and my eyes,

let me be yours as I truly should.

Listen to Him 

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

Today we celebrate the transfiguration where Jesus took three of the disciples, Peter, James, and John up a mountain and they witnessed the full glory of the man that they had left everything to follow.

The story of the transfiguration appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke just after Jesus foretells His death and resurrection. In the passages before the transfiguration, Jesus is showing the disciples what is to come, that what He has been telling them, is actually going to happen. That Jesus really is the Son of God. And through the witness of the transfiguration His glory is seen for all.

Jesus’s clothes become whiter than the whitest possible white. I wonder what the brightness of this must have been like, and the image I return to is the light produced when the sun shines off the surface of water on a clear day.
We can imagine the scene, stood at the edge of a lake, beautiful clear water radiating the bright high skied sun of midday. The intense light that bounces off the water is mesmerising, transforming the water into a dazzling crystal light display.

I wonder if seeing the transfigured Jesus was like this? 

Jesus the living word, the life giving water, the light to lighten the gentiles, reflecting God’s glory.

On that mountain the gate between heaven and earth was opened and the disciples saw Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus. Moses representing the law, Elijah the prophets, Jesus as the living word.
As I thought about Jesus standing between the law and prophets I thought of the words we say during a BCP service from Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 

This, the greatest commandment, love your neighbour as yourself, is the transfigured world that we live in, the world that can be transformed by loving each other.

Jesus in His revealed glory transfigures us all, as we live out the gospel life we are inviting God to dwell with us, we are opening up our hearts to Jesus, Emanuel, God with us.

Jesus radiates His glory from us, that we could be that moment for someone, the transfiguration of their faith, where they glimpse God’s glory from loving our neighbour.

Peter didn’t want the experience to end and wishes to set up shelters for Moses and Elijah in a typical hospitable human response. And suddenly a cloud descends. 

I can only imagine what it felt like to be on top of a mountain, one moment being able to see for miles around, to suddenly being engulfed by a thick mist.

Last weekend I went to Grasmere with my husband. On the first morning of our stay there was a thick cloud of mist that had rolled down the side of the mountain range and rested delicately on the surface of Grasmere lake. 

The stillness that the mist brought was peaceful but not only that, it had completely hid the dramatic hill scape that surrounds Grasmere. 

On the following morning, the sky was perfectly clear and as I stepped outside to walk to the edge of the lake I gasped with astonishment. The mist that I had seen the morning before had completely hid the glory of the dramatic hills all around us. It felt like a blindfold had been lifted from my eyes.

I can only imagine that this experience was similar to the disciples as the cloud was cleared with the voice of God ringing in their ears, This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 

Listen to Him.

And they look around and it is just them with Jesus and everything is suddenly so clear.

For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The face of Jesus Christ who gazes on us in His revealed glory, who longs to be with us.

As we walk towards the beginning of Lent this week, let us hold the mystery and the glory of God who dwells with us, our lord Jesus Christ close to us and may the clouds around us be lifted, our faith strengthened, our eyes opened, and our heart set on fire with love for Him.