Reflection: "Prayer for Unity"
Did you know that you’re mentioned in today’s Gospel reading? You are – and so am I.
In this week’s reading from John, we find Jesus praying to the Father.
It’s the night of the last supper, where Jesus shared a meal with his disciples, washed their feet, gave them a new commandment to love as he loves, told them of his leaving – and now he prays to God.
So, we are overhearing a portion of his prayer to his Father – who is also our Father – and Jesus prays for us.
Three times he beseeches the Father that we would all become one, just as he and the Father are one.
In the first part of John 17, Jesus has been praying for his disciples, the ones he’ll soon be sending out as his apostles. You would know them as Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew, etc.
But then, at verse 20, Jesus shifts his prayer to also include others, when he says: “I don’t only ask for those closest to me, but also for those who’ll believe in me through their word.”
That’s us - all of us, because we’re among those people who have believed in Jesus through the apostles’ word - the inspired witness of the apostles, that we find in the New Testament scriptures.
Through the gospel that’s been preached, through the apostles’ teaching and through the sacraments, the apostles were commissioned to pass on the gospel message to the church from generation to generation. Through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, you and I have come to believe and trust in our Lord and Saviour - Jesus, the Christ.
The first thing Jesus asks for us in his prayer is: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)
Jesus is praying for the unity of the church – not just based on warm fuzzies, holding hands and singing Kumbaya.
No, it’s more than that - it’s a unity created by God’s own work of binding us to himself, giving us the gift of faith.
His work of uniting us in the life of the triune God – triune meaning “three in one”.
Notice how Jesus describes this unity: “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us,” and again, “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.”
In theology, this is what they call the “mystical union,” that all believers in Christ are one, incorporated into the life of the one true God, in the one true church.
Oneness isn’t about eliminating differences, but it is about love – which is the only thing that can overcome division.
Over and over Jesus tells us that we should love God, love our neighbours, love ourselves and love our enemies.
To love our God, neighbour, self, and enemy, reveals our oneness, and the measure of our oneness is our love.
In love there may be differences, but there is no division.
God’s love knows no boundaries, because God loves all his creatures, male and female, rich and poor, etc.
All are loved fully, completely, and uniquely, as each one needs.
We should thank God that he has brought us into his one church.
The Holy Spirit has given us faith to believe in Christ our Saviour and now we all know the Father’s love.
We believe in one true God, and many have been baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is a God-established unity that cannot fail.
It exists now, in spite of all the divisions and fractures and errors we see in Christendom.
And this unity will last forever, when by God’s grace, and in the love of Christ, all those warts and flaws in the church (and that also means within us), will no longer be visible.
They’ll be healed and Christ will present the church as a bride, radiant and beautiful, holy and without blemish.
Now, of course, we should want to do everything we can to walk in the oneness that God’s given his church.
We should want to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
By speaking the truth in love, the church will be built up and grow strong – not be blown around by every wind of doctrine, instead holding to the faith that was once delivered to the saints.
We should work towards agreement within the church, seeking consensus in its pure doctrine and striving for a God-pleasing uniformity in church practice.
This is a fitting follow-up to what Jesus is praying for us.
And there’s an outcome that will surely follow, as we dwell in God, and he in us, and we’re built up in the one apostolic faith.
Our oneness in God will result in mission, as Jesus says: “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
People will come to faith in Christ as the church lives in, manifests, and testifies to, the love of God.
You’ll probably remember those well-known words from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This is the love of God that we have received and experienced, and it is a love that will then shine through us, out into a sin-darkened world, drawing more and more people from every nation into the one holy church.
It’s happening all around us in the world today.
What Jesus is praying for in this prayer, is coming to pass as the church grows and the gospel expands into every corner of the world.
In Africa, Asia, South America and many other countries, the church is growing by leaps and bounds.
In places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Argentina, Korea, China and Peru, we see the church expanding and establishing new beachheads for the kingdom on every shore.
This is the same gospel that saved you and me and it speaks of God’s own Son coming to earth to pay for our sins.
It’s the good news of Jesus Christ, wholly God, yet wholly man, bearing the sins of the world in his body on the cross. He’s the one and only Saviour that God has given for all men, everywhere and he’s the only one you’ll ever need.
In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Christ won this for us on the cross, purchasing our salvation with his precious blood.
And then he rose, victorious in the strife, defeating all our foes - death, the devil, the grave, the condemnation that you and I deserve because of our sins.
These all are overcome by the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Christ our Saviour.
Now in heaven, he sits at God’s right hand, making intercessions for us, just like our own High Priest.
And he’ll come again at the last day, to take us home to be with him forever.
And that then is the other thing Jesus prays for us in this prayer. Jesus prays to his Father in these words: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
Jesus prays this as he’s about to go to the cross, to complete the saving mission for which he was sent.
What follows is his resurrection and, forty days later, his ascension to be with the Father.
So when Jesus prays that we may be with him where he is, to see his glory, he’s talking about our eternal life in heaven in the age to come.
There, with him, we’ll see his glory, undimmed and undiminished.
We’ll be with him and will see him face to face.
What a glorious day that will be!
An endless, joyful eternity with our Lord and with all his people, in a paradise restored and made even better!
Friends, this is paradise restored - creation restored, and made even better.
No more sin, or sorrow, or death - only life and abundance and joy.
This is what we have to look forward to and this is our hope - our lively hope that animates all our days.
We look forward to that day with great expectation.
“Come, Lord Jesus!” is the church’s fervent cry and friends, this will be the ultimate fulfilment of Jesus’ own prayer, the prayer he prays for us, that we may be with him where he is.
The majority of Australians are city dwellers and although our social history draws heavily on the wide inland areas, from the wheat fields to the cattle stations and the vast sheep runs, we’re predominantly urban dwellers.
Although our geographical myths romanticise the Red Centre, Uluru, Cape York, the Simpson Desert and the Birdsville Track, the majority of us cling to the coastlands and mass together in the capital cities of each State and Territory. We eulogise about the country, but we tend to huddle together in cities.
If cities are our thing, then it may be good for us to explore a couple of cities mentioned in the Bible.
One near the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, and another at the end, in the Book of Revelation.
The first one is the city founded by the murderous Cain, and the other is the city of God, the New Jerusalem.
Both cities are metaphors, so they’re not to be taken in a factual, mundane, ‘ho hum’ way - like me saying, for instance: “Hobart is the capital city of Tasmania, and Darwin is the chief city of the Northern Territory.”
No - the city of Cain and the city of God are far more important and more real, than our Australian cities.
They’re like parables - plumbing the depths of human shame and frustration and declaring the saving ways of God.
THE FIRST CITY - In Genesis Ch. 4, Cain became a restless nomad after murdering his brother Abel and rejecting God’s disapproval (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”).
We’re told that Cain went off and lived in the land of Nod, which, in Hebrew means “wandering”.
Cain lost the ability to stay still and be contented, becoming forever restless because he was alienated - even from the soil – we read that “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”
Filled with guilt and denial and with anxieties gnawing away at his being, Cain travelled far away from home, always on the move, never settled. He married and had children, but the restlessness persisted.
That’s what happens when we alienate ourselves from others - we live in the land of Nod, in a meandering life.
Cain looked for an alternative. If he couldn’t be spiritually close to others, then at least he could be physically close.
So, he gathered people together and built a city, which he named after his first child - Enoch.
He congregated with others, longing for human warmth to quell the inner cold of his spirit.
His city (though much smaller and less ‘sophisticated’ than ours) is a symbol of the cities in which we herd together. Often, we settle for physical proximity rather than sustaining personal interaction.
Cities appear to be full of life, but they may not always have meaningful community. Yes, they may provide plenty of coming and going, with diversions like busy shopping centres, discos, casinos, crowded train stations, large sporting events and musical spectaculars, packed light rail cars and busses and ample choices to wine and dine.
These sorts of cities thrive in the land of Nod, cropping up everywhere for restless wanderers.
They promise much - but deliver very little to the person who is at odds with themselves and with God.
Cities can be the loneliest places on the planet!
THE FINAL CITY - please don’t misunderstand me - I’m not anti-city, as I’ve lived in big cities all my life.
There are many wonderful opportunities in cities for those who want to grow in grace, wisdom and love.
It’s not insignificant that the Bible concludes with the vision of a city where people live together at close quarters in peace and love and profound joy.
In John’s vision, or Revelation, we find the city of God - the New Jerusalem.
It comes down from heaven to earth like a bride adorned for marriage and this city is God’s ultimate bonus.
Here is God’s redeemed community, the final fulfilment of the long and painful human story. It’s a gift - it’s grace.
The city of God is beautiful - a place of gold and jewels, symbols of rare and valuable beauty, where there’s nothing ugly or obscene and there is perfect symmetry in the dimensions of this city.
It is a place that’s in harmony. “The city lies foursquare, its length and breadth and height are equal”
Here everything has been planned to have its perfect place, and everything is in that right place.
A community where all is in divine balance.
The city of God has twelve gates, so that it can welcome people from every conceivable direction.
These gates are never shut, for its free citizens never need to be shut in, enemies don’t need to be shut out.
This is truly a community of “shalom”, a city of peace, where there’s no hunger or thirst, no suffering, no separation, no loss or grief.
Most remarkable of all, there is no temple - no church building, no cathedral, no chapel, because all our temples are secondary to God - no matter how beautiful.
Such sanctuaries are a witness not only to our hunger for a God who often seems to be absent, but also to our kinship with wandering Cain.
In the New Jerusalem, God is never felt to be absent and the kin of Cain have come home - forgiven and restored.
The light of God illumines everything in the holy city.
Here there are no more misconceptions, no more doubts, no more prejudice and error, no more need for doctrines and creeds, no more need to cry out “Lord I believe. Help me in my unbelief.”
God enlightens everything and everybody. “The city has no need for the sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light and the Lamb is its lamp.”
As I said earlier, this “New Jerusalem” is a metaphor – but what a majestic metaphor!
In the beginning - there is the city of Cain, where people jostle together for warmth, and try to hide from the chill of alienated existence, but without much love and community and in the end we have the city of God, where all is light, warmth and joyful community.
So where does that leave us? Where are we now?
Well, I believe that we’re the in-between-people.
We are the church - a flawed, yet hope-filled, community.
In spite of literature that’s likened the church to the city of God, we’re still far from that light, that beauty and love.
I don’t think we should expect too much of the church.
It’s not, and should not, ever presume to be the final Holy City. But equally, I don’t think we should become disappointed, bitter and cynical when things go wrong. The church community is made up of people like you and me. And unless I am gravely mistaken, the mark of Cain still shows on all of us.
So please don’t expect too much.
Yet also, please don’t expect too little of the church.
Don’t settle for less than what is achievable.
We should not become apathetic because with Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, change and growth are always possible for us.
We who are in the church, this in-between-city, this flawed community of faith, are on the way to something better.
By the grace of God, we stand with John in the promise of what the new community will truly come to be.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth........ and I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven like a bride adorned for her husband. And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine upon it, for God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut.”
What a promise from the God who loves us so much, so let us be thankful for his grace to us and may we focus on our journey toward the vision of things to come.
Let us keep striving to reach our goal of life within the golden city within the family of God.
It’s up to us which city we want to reside in – and my vote goes to the one provided by our Lord.
Blessings in your journey through life…………………. Pastor Rick
Reflection: "How Do You Spot a Christian?"
If you ask the average Aussie how they would identify a person as a Christian, the chances are that you’d get one mention of something they do - and also a list of things that they don’t do.
The one identifying thing they say we do will probably be: “Well, I guess they go to church.”
The list of don’ts will probably vary a bit, depending on who they’ve bumped into recently.
Perhaps their response might include: “They don’t drink, or swear, or have sex until they’re married.”
Being against these things is a million miles away from what Jesus wanted his followers to be known for.
A recent survey in the US by the Barna Group found that, over the 20 lifestyle elements studied, there was remarkably little difference in attitudes between those who profess to be Christians and those who don’t.
I think Jesus would be heartbroken over this result, don’t you?
As we find in today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells his followers to: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Presumably then, the answer that Jesus would wish for his followers to have inspired from the average Aussie Joe in the street, is: “They just love everybody, those Christians. They’ve got no idea! They treat the deadbeats like royalty. They think everyone should be welcome here. They want a second chance for every lowlife loser. They’re over the top. I mean, I’m all for love your neighbour and love your family and all that, because charity is supposed to start at home, but these Jesus followers, well, they’re just fanatical about it. They don’t seem to know when to stop.”
Tragically, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that answer given, but it did, however, seem to be what was said about Jesus himself, in his time with us and I guess that’s the point.
In John’s gospel, the words of Jesus about his “new” commandment, follow immediately on from him saying: “I am only going to be with you for a little while longer.”
They’re part of his conversation with the disciples at the last supper and are some of his parting words tp them - his last will and testament, if you like.
So, in the short term, he’s thinking about a situation in which people will remember what he was like when he was walking the streets, and so the point is that people will recognise his disciples by their similarity to him.
They’ll say: “These people treat everyone the way Jesus treated everyone. They must be followers of his, because no-one else would behave like that.”
For that to be the case - for people to automatically make that connection - there has to be this “over-the-top”, “above-and-beyond” aspect to the love that’s shown.
It’s quite common for the average Aussie to say, “Yeah, I reckon I’m a Christian; I follow the golden rule, you know, love your neighbour and all that.”
But Jesus is saying that what people WILL notice is something that’s clearly abnormal, something beyond the norm.
In another context, that was the point that Jesus offers by telling the parable of the good Samaritan - in answer to the question, “who is my neighbour?”
Loving your neighbour is not re ally radical, so long as you can give your own safe definition of who your neighbour is.
But to paraphrase what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: “Why should you expect any special reward for loving those who love you? Even the gangsters and people smugglers do that.”
Right the way through the gospel accounts, the things that are constantly getting Jesus into trouble with the religious leaders - and sometimes with the people in his hometown - are things where his words and actions make loving someone a priority over just obeying rules, observing social niceties, and maintaining the conventional boundaries of “who is my neighbour and who is not”.
Jesus could be thinking: “This bloke needs healing and, yes, I could do it, but it’s the Sabbath and I’m not supposed to do that sort of thing on the Sabbath. But I love him. Why make him wait any longer. I’ll do it now.”
That kind of thinking would get you into trouble with the religious authorities.
Or, “this woman has been caught committing adultery, and the crowd have gathered to execute her by stoning, as the law requires. Do I endorse the law and let them do it. No! Love doesn’t stand by and let this woman die. I’ll stick my neck out and point out that she’s no worse than anyone else here and challenge them to claim otherwise. That will save her.”
Now we’re talking about being in BIG trouble!
Again, “these people are sitting here in the synagogue applauding me for saying that God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, but they’re so racist. They hate the Palestinians, Sidonians and the Syrians. I’ll tell them that God loves these people just as much as he loves them and he wants them to do likewise.”
Now we’re in BIG, BIG TROUBLE!
Jesus is going to get himself thrown off a cliff.
This last example is the same issue we see played out in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and it goes to show that the first generation of the followers of Jesus were still struggling with the implications of this boundary-breaking love after his resurrection and ascension.
They were still caught up in an assumption that, to be a follower of Jesus, meant being Jewish first and still following the religious laws, like what they could and couldn’t eat.
But God had sent Peter to speak to the household of Cornelius - who was not only a gentile, but an officer in the hated Roman occupation forces.
And when God obviously pours out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family, Peter and the church leaders have to decide what to make of this outrageous disregard of the boundaries.
Are they supposed to love these people? Accept them? Sit and eat at the same table with them? Unthinkable! It goes against everything they’ve been brought up to believe! But, in the end, they rightly conclude that if the Lord himself is breaking the boundaries and pouring out his love on these people, then they either have to follow suit, or get themselves out of step with what God is doing.
So they’d better love as Jesus loves, no matter what trouble it might cause.
Perhaps then, instead of just saying, “If you love like me then everyone will know that you are my followers,” Jesus could have said, “If you love so generously and extravagantly and outrageously that you stir up scandal and controversy and get denounced as fanatics and lunatics and sympathisers and bleeding hearts, then everyone will know that you must be one of my mob.”
The call of Jesus to love as he loved, affects pretty much every question and issue we face in life, both as a church and as individuals in the other circles we move in.
It goes to the core of our discipleship, not just because Jesus issued it with the force of a commandment, but because it was the most distinctive feature of his own life and ministry, of his own way of being.
When we gather around the communion table to offer ourselves to Christ and to his people, love is what it’s all about - loving God, loving one another gathered here and loving others, wherever they are.
Every time we celebrate Holy Communion, we’re challenged again to come to terms with just how radically and extravagantly and dangerously Jesus loves us, and with that challenge comes the call to offer ourselves to him, to be remade in his image, as people who love as he loved, for his glory and for the liberation of the world.
Are we ready to go on new and risky paths?
Will people look at, and to, us when they’re searching for that “Christian” difference to change their life?
I pray that you and I will be able to rise above the masses and stand out as someone that Christ would be proud of.
Allow the Spirit to fill you with a fiery passion to be a follower of the way of Jesus.
Let us be open to God speaking through all God’s people and be delighted to see Jesus in the face of each other.
Filled with the Spirit, go out in peace to love with openness and serve with justice in God’s world.
Reflection: "God the Faithful Shepherd"
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers.
Even if you’re not one, we’ve all had one, and on this day, we give thanks to God for everything they’ve done for us.
In Psalm 23, we read that “the Lord is my shepherd” and this conjures up some great feelings of safety and security.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells those assembled in front of him that only his sheep can hear his voice.
And in Revelation, we’re told that “the lamb will be at the centre of the throne and will be their shepherd.”
So, we can see that shepherds are very important people in the Kingdom of God – a bit like mothers are!
But if you’ve ever been on a sheep station then you’ll probably agree that sheep are not very clever creatures!
You’ll notice that they all tend to follow each other, often in single file and for no apparent reason.
As citizens of the twenty first century, we don’t take kindly to being likened to sheep.
Granted, in earlier generations, Australia is said to have economically ridden on the sheep’s back, but that’s about where our respect for these animals ends.
The wool cheque’s welcome - but not the preacher who makes a comparison between us and woolly imbeciles.
Therefore, I won’t be the one making the comparison; I’ll leave it up to you.
But actually, if you’ve ever had a pet lamb, or petted them at the Royal Easter Show, you’ll know how easy it is to become quite attached to them; and I’m sure that’s how it was for the shepherds in the time of Jesus.
They lived with their flock, day in and day out, knew them individually and would even risk their lives to save them. Therefore, it was a natural thing for Jesus to relate us to a flock of sheep, which he had gathered together, and to this flock, looking small and vulnerable among the powerful “wolves and bears” of the Roman Empire, Jesus made this promise when he said:
“I give them [that is, my sheep] eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
What does this concept “eternal life” mean to you?
Sadly, some people get the idea that all it means is living forever, staying just as we are.
But let me say, if that’s all it means, I’m out of here.
I don’t want to feel trapped in the limitations of this earthly life - life as I now have it - forever.
The God of Jesus offers us something infinitely better.
Eternal life to him means the fullest possible life, life of the limitless new age, that which humanity has dreamed of.
An awesome life, unlimited life; unbounded in every way, without walls and barriers - nothing to stop us.
It has new horizons, new depths, new heights, new joys and love beyond anything we thought possible.
I feel like I get close to defining it when I say: “Wow!” - eternal life is a “wow” life, with an exclamation mark!
Not life with a comma, or a tired old semi-colon; not life with a question mark, or life within parentheses.
Certainly not life with a full stop.
The timeless dimension, immortality, is just one of the many facets of eternal life.
To be liberated from this time and space, is merely one of the wonders of its amazing abundance.
Of course, this is important and I’m not trying to minimise this part of it.
For example, when I see a child wither and die from say, leukaemia, I find profound comfort and encouragement that their life-force, their soul, isn’t terminated along with their physical body.
Even so, they have an opportunity to still be and grow and love, because eternal life includes an unlimited future.
Please don’t limit your vision of eternal life to this one element, as it’s only one of the kaleidoscope of opportunities.
Eternal life is gloriously expansive, opportunity beyond measure, a level of bliss and growth that no number of earthly words could possibly describe.
A chance to be with the Lord forever and who could want for anything more than that?
The next important thing I want to try and express to you is that this “wow life” is a life that begins right now.
Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, we read that the disciples had already commenced eternal life.
Trusting in Jesus and his God is the way to begin that new life now.
As Paul says: “If anyone is in Christ, there is new creation, old things have passed away, all things have become new.”
Caught as we are in the limitations of the here and now, eternal life is only a foretaste - but it is also the real thing. Our bodies and minds limit us, the social and political structures of the world limit us.
But in Christ Jesus, we begin to explore the unlimited dimension - that for which we were created and redeemed. We begin to experience the awesomeness of: “Wow!”
When I look back upon my own little life, scratchy and patchy though it still is; when I remember how my faith grew and my experiences altered from the moment I decide to follow Jesus, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.
It didn’t happen all at once, as the growth can be incremental.
Often, I’ve been impatient – sometimes, I’ve lost the plot, but through the greatness of God, it is happening!
So, I hope I’ve convinced you that eternal life is with us right now.
It’s as if, with Christ at our side, we’re surfing the wave of eternity - right here in our current time.
All around us are the many limitations of time; but on that wave, with Christ beside us, we’re riding along on the crest of the unlimited; the wave of eternal life.
And the most significant joy of eternal life is love.
It’s no surprise that John’s Gospel, which is the one that favours the words “eternal life”, is also the one that most forcefully speaks of the importance of love.
Any man or woman who thinks they are surfing the wave of eternal life, but who are not caught up in a greater love – both divine and human – are just fooling themselves.
Love is the only valid test - love of God, love of each other and love of ourselves.
Love is a far more important ingredient of eternal life than is the fact of surviving death - for without love, just surviving death would be pointless.
Christ assures us that none of his flock will perish.
John 10:27 and 28 remind us that:
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Here, once again, we encounter that strong word: “perish”.
Flowers wilt and perish, fruits perish, blue Ulysses butterflies perish, leaping red kangaroos perish, our personalities can be corrupted and perish, our bodies will perish, but not the soul-being of those to whom Christ has already transferred eternal life - the flock of Christ won’t perish.
What matters to us, especially in times of crisis, is not our grasp on the Lord, but his grasp on us.
It’s by his grace that we’ll make it, not by our own skill or cleverness.
When we think we can go it alone, then we’re surely in trouble.
But with Christ, we can make it through, knowing that his is the stronger grasp.
That’s a part of the “Wow!” I’ve been talking about.
Are you ready to give up trying to do it all by yourself and to surrender to the love of the shepherd?
God is faithful and will never let us down or abandon us.
So, if you haven’t already done so, give yourself over to him and join the eternal flock.
Open yourself to him in prayer and surrender to his eternal, wow, life.
I know that you’ll find it to be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Take a moment now, in prayer, to talk to God and ask him to be your life force, now and into the future.