The Sanctity of Human Life

We see God’s heart for the vulnerable in the story of Ishmael and Hagar wandering in the wilderness, and it should compel us to serve and protect the vulnerable in our society.

Scripture: Genesis 21:14-20

Transcript | Audio


Matt Chandler: Good morning. It’s good to see you. If you don’t know who this is, his name is Jamin Roller. I’ll talk about him here in a second. If you’re like, “Oh man!” let me… In the 8:30 when I walked out here, someone said, “Yes!” right in front of me. So if I seem a little offended today, it’s because things started in a bad spot for me with someone celebrating that someone else is preaching this morning instead of me…in front of me. Didn’t even have the respect to celebrate internally but had to voice it externally.

If you’re a guest with us this morning, The Village Church is in the middle of a season we’ve called Multiply. We feel brought under the conviction of the Holy Spirit that what the Lord would have us do next is to roll off our campuses to be autonomous churches. We have four other campuses besides the Flower Mound Campus, and one of those is our Plano Campus. There are about 1,500 souls there, just an incredible team present on the ground there in Plano doing incredible work. Plano will be voting as a membership… The rest of the campuses won’t vote, because how shady would that be? “We vote that you guys roll off.”

The members of the Plano location will be voting in two weeks on whether or not they want to roll off and become autonomous, and we wanted to get Jamin in front of the entire church as a picture of the kind of leadership that’s in Plano right now. Hunter Hall out there is incredible. If you guys remember Melissa Lampe from Little Village, now Melissa Cotter, and Taryn Mays, as well as many others over there, just a really gifted group of men and women out there doing good work.

So I’ve asked Jamin to come and open up the Book. Jamin has a gift. It’s a unique gift in preaching. It’s not just that his content is excellent; it’s the way he presents it is helpful. The Spirit has just anointed him to preach the Book to us. So I’m going to pray for him, and then I’m eager again to listen anew. I know they kind of change a little bit here and there as the services go, so I’m eager to hear round 2. Let me pray for you.

Father, I thank you for this man of God. I thank you for how he loves his wife. I thank you for his faithfulness toward his children. I thank you that he loves you and he loves your Word. I just pray now, God, that you would allow him to preach from his heart, rooted in your Book, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and you’d give us ears to hear. One of the more consistent refrains in the Scriptures is that the Spirit would give us eyes to see and ears to hear, so we ask for that and just ask that you bless this man of God. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.

Jamin Roller: Amen. Good morning. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Genesis 21. Thank you, Matt, for that. So kind. It’s so good to be here with you guys. If you would, just be praying for us there in Plano. Part of what we’re asking for in those prayers and part of what we’re saying is just that we simply don’t want to go anywhere that God is not leading us. How much of a waste of time that would be. So pray with us. We’re excited about what God is doing.

We’ll be in chapter 21 of the book of Genesis, starting in verse 14. It will take us just a bit before we get there. This Sunday is when we historically set aside a service to talk around the issue of the sanctity of human life. If you’ve been here over the last few years, you know what that typically means for us and maybe how that typically goes. This weekend we’re considering that.

What we mean by that is that every life has intrinsic value from the moment of conception all the way through life, from womb to tomb, if you will. Before anyone does anything, before anyone contributes anything, before anyone has anything to offer, before anyone is impressive, that person has intrinsic value bestowed by God simply because they’re a person, because they’re made in the image of God.

As I say all of that, what I want you to know… Just a few comments, because even as I say things like “Life begins at conception,” maybe some things start to happen in your head or in your heart. What I want you to know is that does not mean this is the Sunday God brings you to church to shame you about your past. Maybe an abortion somehow or in some way is a part of your story. God did not bring you here this morning to shame you about that. God redeems our histories. They shape us; they don’t shame us.

In the Bible, Jesus is described as being full of both truth and grace. If you look at the life of Jesus, those two things are never in competition with one another. As that comes out in the way Jesus ministers to people, both grace and truth work in tandem with one another. They don’t cancel each other out. So if there is truth spoken this morning that feels heavy, if there’s truth that feels hard to hear, I want you to know, my friend, that grace in that moment increases to you in the form of a Savior who lifts burdens; he does not add to them. Of all of the things that are loud, may grace be as loud to you.

I also want to say this. This Sunday and talking about this subject does not mean I’m about to make a political speech, thank God. Issues of life are always theological before they’re political, because all of life owes its existence to God. I can assure you that the only political statement that belongs in the church of Jesus is that Jesus is King. He is all we have, and he’s all we need. His campaign speech is an empty tomb. His term of office is eternity. He does not win votes; he changes hearts.

Those realities do not belong to political parties that will one day fade. Those realities belong to the church of Jesus, which one day is the only thing left standing. That’s true about today. So why we approach this and what this is all about is saying that life is sacred to God and, therefore, should be sacred to us. Matt kicked off Epiphany last Sunday and put before us simply that God made himself known most clearly and most explicitly by sending his Son in human form, Jesus, and Jesus put on display the heart of God and the character of God, and it has changed everything.

We are the people who believe that, and our lives are changed because of that. So when it comes to any issue, but especially issues of the sacredness of life, as a believer, the driving question, the foundational question changes. The moment we put our faith in Jesus, the moment we give him our allegiance, it changes from, “What do I believe?” it changes from, “How do I feel?” it changes from, “How was I raised?” and it changes to, “What most captures God’s heart?” because that’s what we have been called to do.

I think so often on issues like this we can see ourselves as opinionated individuals instead of seeing ourselves as a commissioned people, and God has called us to be that. God has called us to represent him to the world. Let me offer an illustration that has been helpful to me in thinking about this. I had a professor in Bible college who described the role of the church, the role of every Christian on earth.

Part of that role is to be like a movie trailer for God, to be a movie trailer for who God is, for what God is like, how God intended his creation to look; in a sense, to be a preview for what the world will look like when Jesus returns and is done restoring all things through his rule. In my home the last few months, one of the things we’ve done… We did this really all of 2018. We wanted to introduce our older two children, our 7-year-old and our 5-year-old, to movies that were meaningful to my wife and me in our childhood.

To date us, late 80s and early 90s is when we were growing up. So we sat them down one Friday night, and we wanted to give them three options of movies to watch from our childhood. “You could watch Little Giants, you could watch The Mighty Ducks, or you could watch The Princess Bride.” Anybody having any intense nostalgia moments right now? Those were important to us.

Here’s what we would do. To help them decide, we would show them the trailer of each of those movies. And what is the trailer supposed to do? The trailer is supposed to preview the movie. It gives them a taste of what the movie is like, who the characters are, what the storyline is. Is it funny? Is it interesting? What’s the quality of the movie?

The problem we ran into is that a lot of trailers in the late 80s and early 90s are really bad. They’re just really poorly done. Do you remember that weird narration voice that was a part of every single trailer? So we would get to the end of some of these trailers, and our kids would look at us like, “Seriously? Aren’t there some chores we could do instead or something like that?”

For instance, the greatest movie ever made is The Princess Bride. Okay, testify. The only trailer we could find… Maybe there’s a better one out there. I don’t know. The only trailer we could find to show to our kids was so bad it was almost impossible to get them to watch the movie. The church is God’s preview of himself on earth displaying to the world what he’s like, giving glimpses and pictures of what the world will one day be like when Jesus returns.

You see this when he gives commandments to Israel, the Ten Commandments. “Be like me. Be holy as I am holy.” You see this when Jesus says, “The people of God are salt and light.” You see this when Peter writes in 1 Peter, “The church is a kingdom of priests.” It’s imperfect and it’s affected and it’s not the full picture, but to walk into a gathering of believers should be to get a small taste of who God is, of what he’s like, almost as if we took a few small steps into the future world after it has been restored by and through Jesus.

Friends, when it comes to issues of life and life being sacred, we cannot afford to be so unlike the God we represent that no one would watch the movie. We can’t afford to be such a broken picture of who God is in the way we treat people that those looking say, “Oh, well, if that’s God, I want nothing to do with that.”

So to talk about life being sacred, we have to first see that life is sacred to God, and if our job is to be the preview, if our job is to be that small reality that points to the greater reality, what is true about God that has to be true about us? Let me tell you. Here’s where we’re going: God sees vulnerable people. He sees them. He responds to them in their need. God sees vulnerable people, and so should we. That’s my one point.

Genesis 21:14: “So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child [Ishmael], and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.” I apologize. We picked up right in the middle of a story, which is right in the middle of a longer story that is the life of Abraham. Let me summarize that just a bit.

Do you remember Abraham? God makes a promise to him and says, “You’re going to be a great nation. You’re going to have children like the sands in the sea and like the stars in the sky.” If you don’t remember that, maybe you remember, “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham.” (Good luck getting that out of your head the rest of the day.)

To have many sons, you first have to have a son, and here’s the problem: Abraham and Sarah can’t get pregnant. So Sarah has an idea. She brings her Egyptian servant named Hagar, who we just heard about. She says, “Abraham, you should sleep with Hagar. You should have a baby with Hagar. You should fulfill God’s promise by the child you have with Hagar.” Abraham says, “Okay.” Abraham is a man whose life oscillates between moments of great faith and moments of great impulse.

So he and Hagar have a baby, and that child’s name is Ishmael. How do you think Sarah feels about all that? Not great. She grows bitter. It grows more and more dysfunctional. You fast-forward several years, and Sarah gives birth to the promised child Isaac. Isaac is young, and one day Ishmael makes fun of Isaac, as brothers do, and Sarah is done. She goes to Abraham and says, “Abraham, you need to get her…” Meaning, Hagar. “…and him…” Meaning, Ishmael. “…and you need to get them out of here,” which is what we just read in verse 14.

With a heavy heart, Abraham gives them food and water and sends them off. Now it would be really easy to miss how dire a situation this puts her in. What it means in that moment, as they’re walking away from Abraham… They’ve lost all their protection. They’ve lost all of their covering. They’ve lost all of their resources. They’ve lost all access to the basic things that keep us alive. Ishmael has lost a sizable inheritance, and most importantly, he has lost a father.

Together they represent the most vulnerable people in all society. Functionally, she’s a widow. She’s a single mom. She’s a refugee. She’s poor. He is an orphan. He’s abandoned. He’s disowned. Not only did they lose all they have; they lost any hope for a future. Their future extends only as far as the water they’re carrying, which runs out in verse 15.

“When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, ’Let me not look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.”

This is one of the more bleak pictures in all of the Bible. It’s one of the more bleak pictures in all of human existence. Not the most but as bleak as anything else. Death is so certain that a mom carries or sends her son, sets him under a bush, starts to walk away. “Mom, where are you going?” and she can’t even respond because she’s so overwhelmed with tears.

For death to be so imminent that Hagar sends her son far enough away so she does not have to hear or see as he cries himself to death… The only question at that point is which one of them goes first. As dad, that is just the stuff of my nightmares. Then God intervenes. Look at verse 17.

“And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ’What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow.”

We read that God intervened. Spoiler alert: It has a happy ending. God shows up. Here’s my question…Why? What is it about them that God responds to in this moment? Let’s put it this way. If you were there and were watching all of this play out and you were going to make an appeal to God on their behalf, what about them do you offer to God as an appeal?

“God, would you save them? They’re rich. God, would you save them? They’re of noble birth. They come from noble people.” That’s not true. None of that’s true. “God, save them. He’s part of your promise.” No, that’s Isaac, Sarah’s son. “God, would you save them? They’re impressive. God, save them. They’re powerful. They’re influential. They’re friends with influential people.” No, none of that is true.

She is the forsaken slave mistress of Abraham and he is the newly disowned orphan of Abraham who was the product of his disobedient adultery, and they have no food and no future. What do you say to God? The only appeal you could make in that moment is, “God, save them. They’re human. They’re people.” And that’s enough for God. That’s all he needs.

It’s what makes this story… Why we’re here this morning. It’s what makes this story at the beginning of the Bible so staggering and yet so clarifying. From here, the story moves away from Hagar and Ishmael. They don’t factor in again. It’s all about Abraham. So why save them? Why do they matter? Why does it matter? Because they matter to God, because people matter to God, especially people who are in need.

He says to Hagar, “I heard the boy crying.” The irony and the beauty that Hagar got out of earshot of her boy’s cries, and even when she could not hear, God never stopped listening. He sees and he hears. His senses are heightened, even, toward them. This is who God is. This is what God is like. It’s the picture he gives to us of himself in his Word. He shows up in their life and changes it. He provides a well and meets their most immediate need, which is so important.

Then listen in verse 20. What did it say? It said that God was with the boy. What does that mean? He stays with him. “Ishmael, you just lost your dad. I, God of heaven and earth, will be a father to you.” That’s what that means. God does not come in as a handout to the fatherless. He does not come in offering a favor to the fatherless. He comes as a father to the fatherless.

This is one of the first times we see it in all of the Bible, because it’s who God is. God defines himself that way. In Psalm 68 it says, “A defender of widows and a father to the fatherless is God in his holy dwelling.” Tim Keller on that very passage makes this point: How true does something have to be about you for it to make it into a description of yourself? How true does something have to be about you for it to be how you define yourself?

For me, I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I’m a pastor. When I think of my identity, when I’m describing myself, when I’m introducing myself, those things factor into my description because of how true they are about me. Now I’m also kind of into making craft coffee as of two months ago, and right now the cups of coffee I make are only a little better than Keurig. No offense if Keurig is your thing. That’s between you and God.

That piece of information isn’t part of who I am. It doesn’t factor in. It’s not so true… It wouldn’t make itself into meaningful conversation about me, but when God is describing himself, being a God who sees the vulnerable is so true to who he is he leads out with it. He leads out with it: father to the fatherless, defender of widows. When God becomes a man, who’s he born to? Where does he spend his time? It’s not palaces and princes; it’s villages and peasants. This is who God is.

Jesus’ ministry is so much to outcasts and needy and vulnerable by way of miracles and healings and teachings. This is our God. He sees people, especially vulnerable people. Sanctity of life. Every human life is sacred because it bears the image of God. Life’s sanctity needs no other argument than that. Hear me: God’s response to people who are hurting and vulnerable needs no other motivation than that. Neither do we if we’re the preview, if we’re supposed to capture that reality about God on earth.

That’s where we maybe need to be confronted, because in our world, in our lives, whether or not someone gets our sight is so often an equation. Here’s what I mean. Person and something else means they’re worthy of my sight. Person and impressive. Person and they have something to offer; they can help me. Person and they look like me. Person and they believe like me. Person and I could really benefit from their network. Person and they’ve never wronged me, never offended me.

But when you start to fill in the blank with “Person and needy, person and grieving, person and poor, person and disabled, person and unborn,” then our senses just dull a bit. I don’t see, don’t hear, because it’s not my problem. In those moments God says, “It’s in those moments my eyes are even sharper, my ears are even more sensitive, and yours should be too.” Ours should be too.

Hear this, please. The ands that matter most to the world are the ands that matter least to God: and powerful, and wealthy. The ands that matter least to the world are the ands that matter most to God: and needy, and endangered. God actually demands that those ands matter most to us too. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a group of people, “Depart from me. When I was hungry you didn’t feed me. When I was thirsty you didn’t give me drink. When I was wrongfully imprisoned, when I was naked, you did nothing.”

They’re like, “Jesus, when was that you? I feel like I would have remembered that when that was you.” He says, “When you did not see them, you didn’t see me.” Now look. It’s really important to be clear that what is not being said is that the gospel is helping people. Matt did a compelling and clear job on that last week in ways God has gifted him and him alone to do, in a sense.

The gospel is Jesus’ death for sinners and his reign as Lord of all things, inaugurated in his resurrection, consummated in his return. We respond to that through repentance and faith. That is the gospel, but when Jesus speaks to his followers, he holds up without apology the truth that belief in that gospel will come out in our lives as seeing and responding to vulnerable people, as his Father sees and responds to them.

The most popular story of love Jesus tells in all the Bible is about a man dying on the side of the road on the way to Jericho. Two religious men walk by. A Samaritan sees him and helps him. Who was the neighbor? The one who saw as God sees. Go and do likewise. For us to walk by without seeing, for the people of God to treat people as commodities, as those who we either use or ignore, is to be a preview of a god who is just not worth our time. It’s to be a preview of a god that certainly is not the one who has shown us who he is in his Word and who has seen us and saved us and changed us.

So our question is…Where are God’s eyes right now? Who does he see? Who out there is vulnerable and needy and God’s eyes are just fixed there? One answer to that question is that God’s eyes are toward babies in wombs…no voice, no rights, no ability to defend themselves. Over 60 million of them have died in this country in the last five decades, 41 million worldwide in 2018. It’s the leading cause of death on planet earth. I know the argument is that it’s not death because it’s not a person, but that claim is so unsubstantiated by science and so contradicted by our normal experience.

Let’s think through it this way, not that you have a choice, but it’s the way I have thought through it so much lately. I have a 9-month-old baby at home, a 9-month-old little girl. Eighteen months ago we found out we were pregnant, so the last year and a half or more we have gone through all of the things, all of the pregnancy appointments and then all of the infancy and all of that. I just can’t think about this without thinking about our experience.

Right now, at 9 months old, my baby girl’s life is sacred. It’s worth defending. It’s worth protecting. If she were in need, the people of God would prayerfully see and respond to that. When did that start? When did that begin for her? Well, she has this beautiful light hair, light brown, dirty blond hair. It’s really thin, and sometimes it sticks up on the back of her head. Her older brother sometimes calls her “Alfalfa,” which is another 90s movie we watched.

That hair that sometimes sticks up started forming on her head in the womb around 14 weeks. She has these chubby little legs with no ankles, or maybe they’re there, but you definitely can’t see them. Then she has these puffy little feet that look like if you touch them they’re just going to explode. Those little legs began to form six weeks after conception.

She has these eyes that just glow, the kind of eyes that make you, as a dad, want to forbid her from ever leaving the house, if you know what I mean. Those eyes started forming at four weeks, and as early as 16 weeks those eyes actually respond to light in the womb. She is full of smiles, and she has these huge cheeks, so every time she smiles there’s a lot going on on her face and you just can’t look away.

At first I thought she really loved her dad because she smiled at me all the time, and then I realized she smiles at everybody, which is frustrating. All of that began forming so early on. When I hold her, I feel her heart beating, and that started at eight weeks after conception. When did her life begin to be sacred? Well, if I’m looking for the earliest scientific signs of when the life I hold now first became a life, it’s far earlier than when most abortions happen.

When did her life begin to be sacred? Listen. All of the answers around this issue culturally are so contradictory. Regardless of where we land, we should at least be really confused. Last year, as we’re going to all of these doctors’ appointments, we turn out of our home and head south. When you get to 15th Street in Plano, you make a right. At the intersection of Independence and 15th you make a right, and if you make a right and go a few miles west, you go to my wife’s OB.

At that same intersection, if you make a left and go a few miles east there’s an abortion clinic. So what we did is last year, appointment after appointment, we turn right, and in turning right we go and hear heartbeats and see sonograms, and the doctor says, “Take your prenatals.” Then there are brochures about the dangers of fetal alcohol syndrome, and all of that is telling a story. At that moment, all of that is communicating that there is a life worth celebrating and a life worth protecting. But if you go left it’s a completely different story.

Whether we go right and it’s a life worth celebrating and protecting or if we go left and it’s a courageous decision to vacuum out a fetus is all determined by what my wife decides? That’s confusing at best. If we can afford her, we can call her a baby and post pics, but if we can’t, it’s okay to act like her life isn’t sacred. Or the most devastating, if she’s healthy, just go on about your day, but if she has Down syndrome, then maybe it’s not life and the pregnancy should be terminated, as 67 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies are in this country.

Think of the outrage on social media when a video goes viral about a special needs child being bullied at school, and where do those voices go when that same special needs child is in the womb and are not even given a chance? When does it start? Had we gone right and there was no longer a heartbeat, we would grieve, like so many of you who have grieved and who know that pain, and I’m so sorry. Had we gone right and there was no heartbeat, we would have grieved. It would have changed everything for us. But if we go left and we stop a heartbeat, we’re supposed to just go on about our day.

It’s like the woman I read about this week who had two miscarriages and one abortion, and she says, “I had so many friends willing to grieve with me about my miscarriages, but when I decided I needed to grieve my abortion, I had to grieve alone.” What are we doing? What is that? In all of that confusion, my friends, who brings the clarity? God does. Whose voice matters? God’s does. Whose eyes matter? God’s. And what does God say? God says, “I’m the one who put them together in that womb. I’m the one who sees them. I’m the one who gives life.”

So when did her life begin to be sacred? When did it begin to be worth seeing? It starts at conception, and maybe even before that, as God knows them and sees them. Maybe you’re a little cynical and you think, “Okay, Jamin. That’s unfair using your daughter. That’s manipulative because it’s personal.” No, my friend, that’s the point, because they’re all personal to God. He knows all of them.

Let me ask you something. When will her life stop being sacred? When will her life stop being worth defending and protecting in her time of need? His eyes are not just toward the vulnerable in the womb. At what point can you stack something on top of her life that all of a sudden makes God blind to her? Is it when she starts to make mistakes? Is it one day if she’s poor and doesn’t have any money and needs help? Is it when she’s displaced from her home and needs shelter?

Maybe in all that she believes differently. Maybe she has rejected God, but at what point do her decisions or circumstances so strip away her personhood that God stops seeing her? When does that happen? Never. If she were ever Hagar in the wilderness, confused and in need, if she were ever the single mom barely making it in the apartment behind your house or if she were ever the person who’s so easy to label and so hard to love, would God still see her? Yes. Would we? I hope so. Do we now?

What we mean by sanctity of life is that we, as the church, are the people who will always meet people with dignity and help. We will always turn our eyes toward a person in the womb or toward a person in a mess or toward a person in need, because we are the people of God and God is the one who sees. What that means for us this weekend is that we have organizations that need your help to partner with. They’re in the lobby at all of our campuses. They are organizations that see people as God sees them, and they need us to join in that fight. That’s a really great outworking of this.

I think it also means, more specifically and more personally, that we have to ask ourselves the question, “In the circles God has placed me in, with the people God has entrusted to me, who does he see who maybe I’m blind to right now? Who does he see that my senses need to match God’s senses so I can be a present representation of God’s heart toward them in my home, in my neighborhood, where I work?” What a prayer it would be to wake up every day and say, “God, would you just help me to see like you see?”

Here’s what’s true. The God who sees vulnerable people sees you right now. What that means is if you’re in here and, just like we started with, this is tough for you… I remember after the Sanctity of Life Sunday a few years ago I talked to a Home Group leader who told me their Home Group got together after the sermon and talked, and their Home Group had 17 adults, and of the 17 adults, 14 of them in some way were responsible for an abortion.

Listen. If that’s you and in that your takeaway is guilt and shame, it’s not what God has for you today, my friend. Please hear this. The right response to being reminded of sin, the right response to being reminded of sinful past is not, “It’s just too much to bear.” The right response is to remember that when it was too much to bear, Jesus carried it. So now sin doesn’t have to take center stage in our minds or in our hearts. Jesus and his love for us takes center stage. God sees you.

If you are here now, in a church our size with the campuses our size and the Internet presence we have, if you’re here now and maybe you’re pregnant and considering having an abortion, God sees you. There is a person in your womb who God sees and loves and you are a person who God sees and loves. You are.

I don’t know all of the circumstances. I don’t know all of the whys. I don’t know why that is factoring in to the decision for you, but maybe you feel a lot like Hagar right now, just overwhelmed and so torn and confused, so for you an abortion would be like setting your baby out of earshot and walking away to cry because you just don’t know what to do. Can I tell you something, my sister? God sees you, God hears you, and God will provide a well for you. He will.

You are right now among the people who have been commissioned by God to see you as God sees you. He does. We do. Would you just give us a chance to be his heart for you today? He loves you. Would you give us that chance? I know that this church, as we have done for a decade, will respond in a way that makes you feel loved and makes our God feel so honored. Would you pray with me?

Lord, we love you. It is in moments like these that I am so grateful that you are God and I am not, because you, O God, by your Spirit… I am confused as to who might be here and what they might have heard and how it might be landing, and you know all of it with clarity and empathy and compassion. How you, by your Spirit, appropriate this to the souls and the lives and the hearts you love and see… None of that is going to return void. So would you help us and be with us, and what would resonate, what would be loud would be your tender heart and your never-ending grace? We love you, amen.