Feb
10
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Hello, Table of Gracers! I’m Kristie Berglund, your new co-pastor and mission developer. I am very happy to meet you and so excited to serve alongside Pastor Jess and all of you in this exciting adventure, as we invite our friends and neighbors to find a life worth living around Christ’s table of grace!

In case you’re wondering, here’s little bit about me. I’m originally from Southern California, though I’m a Navy brat, so my family moved around a lot when I was young. My parents always cast these moves as “new adventures” and I’ve definitely retained that spirit of adventure as an adult, always ready to explore a new place or try something different.

I didn’t grow up going to church regularly or having much of a relationship with God. It wasn’t until high school that I began to know and follow Jesus in a meaningful way. Through the invitation of a couple new friends in my algebra class, I began attending youth group and I quickly grew into a passionate disciple. By my senior year in high school, I had become the president of the Christian club on our high school campus and was regularly leading Bible studies, prayer groups, and outreach events.

When it came time to choose a college, all I really wanted to do was study the Bible and learn more about this faith that had so captured my heart. At the encouragement of my pastors, I enrolled at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where I earned a BA in Bible and Theology. After Moody, I desired deeper study and so went on to graduate school at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, where I earned a Master of Arts in Theological Studies.

My path then took me back to Chicagoland, where I worked for InterVarsity Press for five years, first as an editorial assistant, then as a sales and marketing manager. This was a formative time for me, as I had the opportunity to read some wonderful books, interact with inspiring authors, travel to many conferences and seminaries, and grow comfortable with my public speaking abilities. Little did I know God was using all of this to stir within me the desire to enter full time pastoral ministry.

When I could no longer deny the call to ministry, I packed up my bags once again and returned to Southern California, where I attended Fuller Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity degree while pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

My first call as a pastor was to a Presbyterian congregation not too far north of here in Brookings, South Dakota—a place I had never even heard of before!—where I served for about three years, leading a process of healing, visioning, and renewal. This was a challenging time, but I was grateful to serve a loving congregation who patiently helped me develop my pastoral gifts and identity. During this I time, I also began to serve on the steering team for Table of Grace, which is how I met Jess and eventually heard the call to come on board here.

What else to mention? Oh, I have a cat, Eowyn, named after one of my all time favorite literary characters. In my spare time I enjoy reading, writing, traveling, practicing yoga, hiking, playing guitar, coloring, watching Netflix, and—most of all—enjoying good food (and beverages!) with friends.

Anyway, that’s more than enough about me for now. I hope to get to sit down with many of you in person and hear your stories too in the months ahead.  And I also hope to see you here at our TOG blog again soon. We’re planning a fun series for the weeks to come!

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Aug
24
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We celebrated a joyful milestone in the life of Table of Grace last Sunday! We held our first weekly worship service! Worship was at 4:30pm, as it will be every Sunday from now on. The space at 518 N Cliff was full of the warmth of people gathered around The Table to share in God's presence in Word and Water, and Bread and Wine. All ages made a joyful noise as we sang with our guest musicians: The WestSide Lutheran Band. We blessed backpacks, students, and teachers, reminding them that God goes with them back to school this week.

Thanks to the help of so many who have spent hours preparing the space and inviting neighbors, the day was full of wonderful things. We're excited to see the wonderful things that God will continue to do as we get together to find a life worth living around Christ's Table of Grace. Join us any Sunday at 4:30! No reservations necessary. You will be welcome!

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Jul
10
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I mostly see my neighbor's face in a car window as they pull in their driveway just before the garage door closes. Gone are the days of dropping by with cookies to greet a newcomer. Most of us are happy to dwell in our houses in peace and not be bothered by unexpected guests. Besides, who has time to bake cookies?

Still, I long to connect with those who live around me.  Luckily, summertime brings opportunities to bump into one another. As my husband and I push our daughter’s stroller, we relish the chance to wave and chat with those mowing yards, grilling steaks, walking dogs or splashing in sprinklers.

Do you know your neighbors? If so, what has motivated you to make those connections, and how did you begin those relationships? If not, what keeps you from meeting the people in your neighborhood? How could you reach out to start new friendships?

Jesus mentioned the concept of neighbor often. He famously said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” A simple enough directive. But we wouldn’t be the first to ask him to define what he means by “neighbor.” When asked this by someone looking for a loophole, Jesus responded with a story you’ve likely heard: the Good Samaritan.

The Good Samaritan comes to the rescue of a stranger hanging on for dear life. The Samaritan who helps is not the type you’d expect to act neighborly. He’s the grumpy guy who never mows his lawn. He’s the refugee who doesn’t speak English. He’s the enemy you’ve sworn never to forgive. Yet he is the one who goes out of his way to give aid to his neighbor in need.

When Jesus says to love our neighbor, of course this includes those closest to us: our family, friends, people in our physical neighborhood, those we like and love. But our neighbors in Christ are also those in the next town over, people we’ve never met - never will meet: the outcast, the lost cause, the unlovely and the unlovable. Luckily, Jesus embodies this love better than we do. Thank goodness Jesus extends love and grace, forgiveness and life to those who don’t deserve it - to you and to me.

May this perfect love flow from us without the question on our lips, “But who is my neighbor?” In this broken world, we are neighbors all, and we need each other to love.

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Apr
20
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In the past six months, I’ve had a lot of coffee. I’ve been on more blind dates than ever in my actual dating life. I’ve walked into coffee shops and restaurants and introduced myself to people who were not the person I was supposed to meet (oops!) I’ve called individuals on the phone I’ve never met before (Ask my husband...this is a big deal! I’m not a fan of talking on the phone). All of this is so that God might grow this newly forming congregation called Table of Grace. All of this so that we might become people who are together finding a life worth living.

Table of Gracers met a couple of weeks ago to listen to each other, to our community, and to God. We were hoping to figure out our Core Values...the ideas and things we want to guide our life together as Church.

Discovering your values isn’t very hard to do. Take out your bank statement and your calendar. Where we spend our time and our money---those things/ideas are our values. But, sometimes, the values we’re living--the ones taking up our time and money--aren’t ideal, aren’t what we wish. When that’s the case, we are invited by grace to realign, to get back to the core.

As we got to the core, our heads began to nod. Yes, this is the good stuff.

The first value we hold is this: Belonging

In our own lives and the lives of our neighbors, we see people who are struggling to find belonging. We tend to value our families...small, close networks living under the same roof. But our families can’t sustain themselves in isolation. We need a bigger network of belonging to thrive.

People often mention that they wish they knew their neighbors. But families are always moving in and out of homes in our neighborhoods, and usually the most we see of one another is a face in a car window before a garage door opens and closes and we retreat to our family life inside. Table of Grace is hoping to help people connect outside of their homes. God is knitting us together in community.

We are finding a life worth living around Christ’s Table of Grace as we build networks of belonging and create space for relationships to go and grow. Come and belong with us. You already do.

 

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Apr
16
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Scripture paints a rich picture of what it means to be Church. Jesus has always shown that Church means something more than Sunday morning worship, programs on a calendar, and maintenance of a building. It means being sheep. Following the shepherd. Being the ones who lie down and receive the goodness of God. As His sheep, Jesus' voice calls us to find a life worth living in his flock and fold. It shouldn’t be hard to live as sheep, but it sure can be!

 

In Acts 9:36-43 we see what exactly this looks like: to be the followers of Jesus…

It's post-Easter, and the Church is just beginning to gather and form as the community of the Good News of Jesus' resurrection. Tabitha, aka Dorcas, was a woman whose faith shined through all she did for her community and for the Church. She died. Perhaps of exhaustion from all of her works, who knows. She died and she was so very missed, deeply mourned. The people were remembering her, holding up things she made--tunics, it says, but you can insert the image of beautiful quilts if you’d like. I like that picture. The disciples joined in the sharing of memories. They called for Peter. “Come, the church is hurting and broken; we’re missing a saint.” Peter came, but instead of joining the weeping and wailing, he sent everyone away, he went upstairs, he prayed, and he commanded Tabitha rejoin the community of the living. Tabitha, who had died, obeyed the command "get up!" from beyond the grave and was alive again.

The Church looks like this: resurrection of what’s dead.

New life in the here and now. Life worth living.

Over the next few days, follow our Table of Grace  blog as we reveal and describe the 5 values that are shaping the flock of Christ called Table of Grace. They are the way the particular way in which the sheep-life is unfolding as we answer and echo God's call to gather his sheep into his care in Harrisburg, SD.

 

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Mar
26
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2016-03-24 (2).jpgOn Easter morning growing up, my sister and I would wear brand new spring dresses and white bobby socks. Never mind the fact that Easter was usually cold and sometimes snowy. With little time to spare, our family would pile into the car and head across town to church. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, generations streamed into the sanctuary together, where, for this one Sunday a year, my entire extended family would take up a full row. We sang, we listened, we fidgeted in our seats. Grown ups shushed us, and we negotiated for cheerios and maybe just one preview piece of Easter candy during the service.

By the time worship had ended, as we stood in line to shake the pastor’s hand, my mind was set on one thing: discovering what the Easter bunny had left for me at home. On my grandparents’ front step, so close to the goal, I would inevitably be detained for obligatory family photos. Smiles were coerced, “If you want any candy at all…” And siblings tugged secretly at one another’s hair, throwing bunny ears up in protest.

Finally the permission would be given to dig in to my Easter basket and devour the chocolate bunny, Cadbury egg, jelly beans, and other seasonal sugary goodies only available to a kid like me this one blessed day of the year.

Chicks and eggs. A giant white bunny. Chocolate overload. Ham dinner. Forced family photos. As a cultural holiday, Easter is a strange one. As a kid, like most holidays, it was all about the candy. As an adult, the value of holiday candy has drastically decreased since I can now purchase and eat nearly any variety of it any time I want. This is one of the main perks of adulthood.

In the 2,000-plus years since Jesus Christ rose from the grave, the celebration of Easter has managed to pick up a basket-full of odd symbols and cultural traditions. And honestly, all of it often leaves me searching for something more. It can be a little hard to sift through the plastic eggs, Peeps, and baby animals in order to find that the tomb is empty.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed” (John 20:1). She, too, was looking for something more. Specifically, she was looking for the body of Jesus, so that she could honor him and grieve him. But when she arrived at the grave, she found no body there. Jesus, who had been crucified, would not be found among the dead. He had risen, and he is alive!

Jesus doesn’t leave Mary lost in Easter morning confusion. He appears to her and clears away all uncertainty and distraction as he calls her by name. Jesus calls you by name as well. Jesus calls you past the Easter confusion and into a wonderful, ridiculous mystery. Jesus has overcome death itself, and in Him you will find a life worth living. So we proclaim with Mary at the tomb and the Church across time and space the only thing about Easter that matters: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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Mar
25
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Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really thirsty. As I imagine that dry mouth, loud lip smack feeling, the word that comes to mind is parched. I’ve never been as thirsty in my entire life as in the few, far-between moments where I’ve realized that water isn’t available.

This past week, Tuesday, March 22nd, was World Water Day, a day in which we think--as the water, hot or cold, flows freely on demand from our faucets--of those one in ten fellow human beings on the planet who lack access to safe water. There are thirsty people, even in our modern world. And, as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has shown us, clean, drinkable water is not a thing to be taken for granted.

Sometimes, after a clear, cool glass of water, I find I’m still thirsty. How easily I become spiritually and emotionally dry. In these moments, not even Gatorade will do. I thirst for living waters, for a refreshment that will finally quench, refresh my faith, rejuvenate my life.

They call today “Good Friday." At first glance it can be hard to see what is good about the day Jesus died on a cross. The whole ordeal had to be hard to watch: Jesus was tried unfairly, beaten senselessly, paraded through town, and nailed to the tree.

“After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (The Gospel of John, Chapter 19:28-30).

 

Even Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world thirsted. To the very end he entered into this human experience, this limit-filled life we live. He went through it all, both life and death, in order to open the way for us through death into true life. So that the life that flowed out of him in death might flow into us and make alive in him.

 

After Jesus had died, the soldiers pierced his side--perhaps to be sure he was really dead. They expected blood to spill out of the wound. They did not expect the living waters that sprung forth, mingled with his blood, flowing down. While he was alive, Jesus promised a thirsty woman at a well, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In his death, Jesus gives his blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of sin. Around his Table, we receive the food and drink that finally satisfy. That is exactly how it is that this Friday can be called good.

 

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Mar
24
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“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Love all, serve all is a registered trademark of the Hard Rock Cafe. But, they basically stole it from Jesus. Which I guess is okay...I think Jesus would be in favor of their goal “to make the Earth a safer, healthier and better place for all.”

Today is a Christian holy day called “Maundy” Thursday. The word maundy comes from a Latin word meaning “mandate,” which is an official order or commission to do something. On Maundy Thursday, Christian churches remember Jesus’ final meal with his follower friends before his trial and death the next day.

Before this Passover meal, which would come to be known as the Last Supper, Jesus started the evening in the strangest of ways. He took up the towel and basin and washed his friends’ feet. As a leader and teacher this was not his job. In fact, it was the lowest of household duties--typically taken care of by the lowliest servant. Jesus flips things upside down here, though, and rearranges our thinking. In order to be the greatest, he says, you must become the least.

With his death coming into view, Jesus chose some of his last words to be these: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). He showed the disciples what he meant by kneeling at their feet. Later he will show that his love has no limit as he gives up his life for their sake on the cross. The life worth living is in Christ, who calls us each to love all, serve all, but who even more so loves you and serves you to the very end, no matter what.



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Mar
18
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It’s Daylight Savings Time week, people. And it’s the end of the week. And I’m tired. Spring forward is a special kind of torture to me. I feel like I deserve an award because, for the most part, I’ve managed to function like I’m not exhausted. And I’ve managed to wear pants. Everyday of this work week. And some weeks, that, in itself, is an accomplishment.

I’m so tired. As I write this, I feel a yawn coming on. In fact, I’m writing from the couch, where a cozy blanket and comfy pillow beckon me temptingly. I will refuse the allure of a nap so that I can share this moment of solidarity with you. Because, I hope that I’m correct in guessing that you’re tired too. I don’t want you to be tired too. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But I don’t want to think that I’m the only one living in this land of exhaustion. If you have all found the key to rest and rejuvenation and you haven’t shared it with me, I’m going to be real bitter.

No, I’m going to assume you’re tired too.

Today after a lunch meeting, I was introduced to a colleague I hadn’t met before. She has adult children, and I have a one year old. We acknowledged the obligatory remark between new parents and those who are seasoned about the way time flies. I told her that it can be hard for me to hear wise people’s advice to “soak up every minute” of these days while my daughter is young. Because there are some minutes I just cannot relish. There are some minutes I wish my daughter’s needs weren’t thrust upon me by way of her insistently declaring one of the many words she has learned have the power to make me do something. “Snack!” “Wawer!” (water) “Down, down down...up!” (Down is like “aloha” at our house...it means I want down, or up, or whatever it is that I don’t currently have.) There are some minutes I wish I was on a beach somewhere. There are some minutes I wish I was taking a nap.

As we walked to our cars, my new found friend told me a story of when her three children were young. Sometimes, she said, she would play a game while she was driving them from one thing to another in the car. She challenged them to watch the stoplight and tell Mommy when it turns green. I understood the point of the game before she even said it. The kiddos watched for the changing light so that, meanwhile, for just a moment or two, Mommy could rest her eyes.

I don’t want to take stoplight naps. I don’t think any of us do. I’m aching for balance in life. I love to be productive. God created us to bear fruit, to be useful. It feels good and right to serve a purpose. But we’ve got things backwards in our weary, work-obsessed world that worships busy-ness.

I’ve been reading a bit of work by Mike Breen. He’s exploring a crisis in the life of the Western church. He has observed that many folks may claim Christian faith and even attend worship or engage in the life of a congregation, “but few have the kind of transformed lives we read about in Scripture.” One of the pieces of this crisis, he believes, has to do with how we experience (or don’t experience) rest. I’ve talked with many people in my neighborhood and community who don’t go to church on Sunday mornings because it’s the one day of the week they can sleep in, make coffee, sit around in pajamas, and relax. I can relate to that! We’re too exhausted to show up for worship, let alone sign on for the life of discipleship.

In his book, Building a Discipling Culture, Breen suggests that we re-order our lives. We tend to rest from our work...when we can even do that. We take a vacation once we’ve deserved it. We use the last bit of energy we have to fling ourselves onto our beds on Friday evening, dreaming about the break from work finally in store for us on Saturday. But if you look at the order of creation, human beings were created on the sixth day, and God and people and everything restedon the seventh day. For God the work ended with rest. For us the work flowed from that rest. Breen suggests that we are created to work from our rest, not rest from our work. What would this look like for you? I don’t know exactly what it could look like for me. But it sounds so good..

Itl begins with discovering what truly brings us rest. I think I’m an extrovert and I renew by being with others, but maybe there’s a part of me that needs quite alone time too to recharge my batteries. What restores your energy? What would it mean to schedule that first as you look at your calendar in coming months? Does it seem lazy to make rest an intentional part of your rhythm? The world doesn’t hold together because of our effort. It won’t fall apart if we take a break. In fact, Jesus talks a lot about pruning. Pruning is the work of doing less, so that more fruit might come from us who have rested. Be still. And know God is God.



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Jan
30
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A Review of "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

Was Jesus a Republican or a Democrat? I tell you, the answer is no. "Of course there were no Democrats or Republicans when Jesus lived on earth," I'm sure you'd press me, "but if Jesus lived today...?"

Our book group wanted to read something related to politics this month. It is an election year afterall. And living in South Dakota, a state that neither has an early primary not is a primary target for candidates of any party, we aren't yet burnt out on political ads, debates, and discussions. I'm sure we soon will be! So, we hoped that Jesus for President would prepare us for November by shedding a little light on the seemingly dark world of politics. We hoped its 335 pages would give us direction as to how to engage in the civic life as informed and thoughtful Christians. It's a long book after all, so we had high hopes!

The book didn't do this. I'm sure nothing can quite simplify the complicated and artful dance of living at the intersection of faith and politics. But, our reading did affirm our understanding that politics and faith go hand-in-hand. The two cannot be separated. Claiborne and Haw redefine the word political to mean "how we relate to the world." And I like that. I think our faith in Jesus is more than a personal relationship bringing us individual peace, enlightenment, or a seat in heaven. Christian faith calls us to behave in a certain way. It makes a claim on every aspect of our lives: what we do for a living, how we relate to other humans (even the ones we don't love to be around all of the time), what we wear, where we shop, the food we purchase and cook and eat, with whom our country engages in war, how our money is invested, and, yes, even how we vote.

Jesus doesn't direct us to one particular political party per se. Jesus does direct us to engage the Word of Scripture and its overarching message of amazing grace, to think deeply about the issues that face our world--especially the ones that affect 'the least of these.' Jesus calls us to give our allegiance to "the politics of the cross and the kingdom of our God" (page 335). This is a tall order, and the book gave examples of people and communities living this out in various ways. Ways that left me feeling overwhelmed. Others are doing so much to radically live out and live into the identity of a set-apart people, a Jesus people. And here I am...eating meat and processed foods, throwing away recyclables, wearing things that were more than likely made by underpaid workers (things I certainly didn't make myself!), and...I'll admit it...shopping occasionally at Walmart (gasp!) And I don't really have the energy or ability to change. all. of. this. How can I ever be saved?!

Enter Jesus. Thank God for Jesus. While our faith in Him must change our lives for the good, thank goodness that "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). I'm not a big fan of pulling out a verse from the Bible and leaving behind the context. But if you're ever feeling like a great big failure, unworthy of God's love or anyone else's, this assurance from Romans 5 that God loves and claims you 'as is' is likely just what you need. It's lovely. And it's the refrain in my mind as I struggle to weave together the strands of faith and politics, as I stumble along in this Christian life in the world.

So the book didn't solve all of our problems or tell us the secret to voting faithfully. It did helpfully highlight the important tension we ought to feel over how to engage in the world as a person who follows Jesus and believes that He is the hope for, not just our nation, but the whole, wide world.

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Oct
03
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Candles flickering against the night, flowers, photos, teddy bears gather on the sidewalk as it becomes an altar, people standing together, tears, words of support, love expressed in whatever way we know how. We are holding a vigil.

How many times have you seen it? Friends, neighbors, strangers drawn together in the face of loss. Too often we witness moments of grief that rock a community. We see the news and observe from afar, thinking and hoping: it won't happen to us. Sooner or later, though, we awake to the reality: no community is immune. Violence, accidents, nature. None of these forces discriminate. And when the unexpected, the unthinkable comes our way, we are lost. What do we do? What do we say? There are no words. Nothing that will change what has happened. Nothing we can say or do can bring back what has been lost. There is an empty space everyone can see.

What is there, in that empty space, is a sense. A sense that there's strength in numbers. The pit that loss leaves is soon filled with a need to join with others. If we each bring with us our own scrap of hope, just maybe we can piece together the possibility of a future. Hand in hand, we can begin to move out of the darkness and face the light of the next day, and the one after that.

To keep vigil means to be awake when you ought to be sleeping. Chances are you can relate to the feeling of being unable to sleep. In fact, an estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder. So, you are not awake alone. There are plenty of things that keep us up at night. No shortage of causes for anxiety. The reasons for our insomnia are endless.

But keeping vigil is staying awake on purpose. It means to watch and wait...and hope. It is to hope against all odds that there is something more to life than we can see. We keep vigil because we believe that there will come the dawn of a new day even at the end of the longest night.

In the face of community tragedy, we keep vigil as a way to cope, to show we are strong, and to build that strength. And as people of faith, we know that we do not keep vigil alone, we watch and wait and hope in the company of the One who does not sleep. Indeed the God who keeps watch over us "will neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).

As we watch and wait and hope, we pray, Sometimes our prayer is simply a sigh, because words escape us. We know, though, that God will hear and understand. God speaks the language of grief and loss. God has experienced the brokenness of our hurting world and sighs along with us, even as God is busily and powerfully working to restore what has been lost, to build up what has been torn down, to redeem creation and each of us from the grip of death and despair.

Vigil: our candles, flickering like a protest against the darkness. Our little lights join together as a sign representing the greater light, the Light of the World. Hand in hand we declare boldly our Easter-people story: that "the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

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