Sunday is coming! “John the Baptist: No random oddity” Advent 2C

He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance.” (Luke 3:3)

What conditions may have produced this odd character?

Luke outlines rather carefully in his “orderly account” (Luke 1:1) what is happening on the world stage as John (and shortly Jesus) begin their local ministry. Tiberius is the Emperor of Rome. Pilate is the Governor of Judea having direct control over the Southern part of the country. Two brothers: Herod and Philip rule the local Northern regions but remain subordinate to Rome. Annas and Caiahphas serve as High Priests in the Temple. One could cross-reference the dates of these leaders to locate both John and Jesus in history. Luke has gone to great lengths to ensure that we (and Theophilus [Luke 1:4]) understand the context of the story that is about to unfold (Luke 3:-3).

Bishop and scholar N.T. Wright points put there is more going on than just historical precision:

Behind that list names and places is a story of oppression and misery that was building up to an explosion point…The old prophets had spoken of a time of renewal, through which God himself would come back to them. They had only a sketchy idea of what this would all look like, but when a fiery young prophet appeared in the Judean wilderness, going around towns and villages telling people the time had come, they were ready to listen. Baptism, plunging into the river Jordan was a powerful sign of renewal.” (N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone. [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001], pp. 32-33.)

The conditions were ripe for something new.

Luke wants the reader/hearer to know this is not a random fanatic who drew a crowd. Beginning in chapter 1, Luke provides a background narrative for both the coming of John and for Jesus. The first story that Luke (and only Luke of the four canonical gospels) tells – is the angel Gabriel visiting Zechariah to tell him that he and Elizabeth will have a child, and he is to be named John (God is gracious). “He will turn many of the people to the Lord their God. With the spirit and with power of Elijah he will before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17).  God is orchestrating the redemption plan. The groundwork is being laid for John to set the stage for Jesus.

What is coming?

Looking back to Advent 1C, we heard warnings of destruction and judgment, yet Jesus promising “Your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28) “The kingdom of God is near” (Luke 3:31) and “My words not passing away” (Luke 21:33). These are tall orders in wake of the system of power in place, and the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in the recent memory of Luke’s hearers, and to the us all these centuries later – removed from the historical context, but still longing for hope and renewal in our own time and lives.

Prepare the Way

Our time and our lives are ripe for renewal just as they were in the time of John.  We look at the world and see the difference between the wealthy and the poor; the important and forgotten; the powerful and the oppressed; those who are high and those who are low; those who attempt to ensure their own safety and those surrounded by violence; those who are connected and disconnected; those who seem to get away with hate, abuse, injustice and greed and those who suffer for it. We are often left scratching our heads wondering,”How might we respond?” or “Can I do anything about it to change things?” or better yet, “Where is God in all this?” We feel the pinch of changing church participation and the strain it puts on our community, its leadership and shared resources and we fear the future. We wonder of our own lives matter or could make a difference. In a world full of noise we struggle to find our voice, and wonder if anyone is listening.

John reveals that sometimes what God is up to in our world comes to us in odd, unconventional ways; if we are but open to hear it, look for it, believe it and live it. John remains a key symbol of Advent because he represents a voice calling us out of our own wilderness into repentance (a life-change; new perspective; going a new direction); leading to hope, faith, joy and peace. He enters our story just when it feels darkest; not to be the Light, but to point to the Light that is coming (John 1:7-9). We are invited into that same calling us to “prepare the way” for Jesus to come in our lives, relationships and communities.

In the promise of our coming Christ, we are immersed into the way of love as fear is cast-aside and no longer has power over us. We are on the way.

What strange new things might God be doing in your life and/or community?

Look hard and carefully…Do you see them?

Are you odd enough to join-in?


Sunday is coming! “The beginning at the end.” Advent 1C, Luke 21:25-36

Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)

Do you ever get the feeling the world is coming to an end?” said a friend in response to the major world events happening at the time – natural disasters, political strife, conflict between nations, anxiety, angst, turmoil, fear, doubt.

Jesus tells his disciples that unsettling things are coming. The promise he gives is – don’t be unsettled when they do; redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).  Luke’s hearers would have already experienced the destruction of the Temple and the sacking by of Jerusalem by the Roman army in the year 70. This cataclysmic event would have incited fear and panic as much as it did pain and suffering. It is easy to look at bad things happening in our world and/or in our personal lives as God’s judgement and wrath against us. (Just ask Job and his friends.)

The message Jesus offers to the gathered community in the first century rings out to us in the twenty-first century – when it looks like things are bleak – we should expect Christ to be with us – not to bring wrath; but salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

How will we know when it is about to happen? Just like a fig tree growing leaves we know when it is spring. Look for the signs Jesus warns of – but also don’t get into the predicting business. That only incites fear and panic. Instead, hold steadfast; keep awake; be alert. Our faith calls us reach out to others with comfort and peace; especially when things look bleak. In that moment of perseverance as the world collapses – we catch a glimpse of the kingdom. We call it hope.

Where have you seen hope?

Share that story with someone who needs it.

Advent is here. It begins at the end.

Can you see it?


Sunday is coming! “What world are you from?” John 18:33-38a

Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over… But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’” (John 18:36)

This trial scene between Jesus and Pilate reveal two distinct worldviews.

Pilate sees the world in terms of the powerful and the powerless. The valuable and the disposable. Those who matter and those who do not. The wealthy and those to exploit. The conquerors and the conquered. Rome versus the world. Us and them.  Peace through victory. Might makes right. Submission or the cross. The crosses that line the streets as a reminder of who is really in charge. The invincible, eternal empire and those who will be long forgotten. This bizarre peasant rabbi insurrectionist without an army to defend him, who is wasting Pilate’s precious time.

And then there is Jesus, the word made flesh full of grace and truth (John 1). Jesus pointed to the ‘truth’ throughout his ministry – turning water to wine (John 2); welcoming a seeker in the night (John 3); engaging a Samaritan woman and her village (John 4); healing on the Sabbath (John 5); feeding 5000 hungry people (John 6); teaching in the Temple and angering the religious establishment (John 7); defending a woman caught in adultery (John 8); healing a blind man (John 9); declaring himself the good shepherd (John 10); raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11); entering Jerusalem to the shouts of ‘hosanna’ (John 12); calling his followers to love and washing their feet as a servant (John 13); declaring, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ while promising an Advocate to come (John 14); giving his followers a command to ‘love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15); reassuring them that when ‘the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth’  (John 16); he prays ‘that they may be one as he and the Father are one’ (John 17); and even with his betrayal, arrest, rejection and trial – know who he is, who he is for ,and what he has come to do.

In Pilate’s world there are limits. There is a limit of power, wealth and prestige – there are the exploiters and the exploited. Only the successful, important and connected people are of any value. The powerful make the rules. The victors both make and write the history.  What is ‘true‘ is determined by those who matter.

For Jesus there is no ‘us’ versus’ them.’ Reality encompasses both spirit and flesh as the eternal and temporal come together. Love is more powerful than violence or hate. Forgiveness, hope and selflessness overcomes death every time. Truth is not defined or controlled by those who set the rules but is lived by those who know compassion and mercy. And those who know compassion and mercy, listen to Jesus’ voice.

Which world are you from? From which perspective do you engage others? Who is the Jesus on trial? Between Pilate  and Jesus – who is really on trial here? To which worldview do you belong? Which kingdom do you hope to call home?


Sunday is coming! “When the sky is falling…Trust God” Mark 13:1-8

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.” (Mark 13:8)

Jesus may not be describing a dystopian future to fear as he is describing the real world in which we live. He is calling a thing what it is: the world is violent and unfair; full of forces more powerful than us we cannot control. Our present day news cycle reminds us of how dangerous and fragile the world is.

This scene takes place as Jesus and the disciples leave the Temple after a few days of teaching and calling out the hypocrisy and corruption of the religious establishment. The cross on Good Friday is only days away. The disciples comment that the buildings are beautiful – a hope built in stone that God is near and they will be God’s people forever. Jesus tells them that the Temple will be razed, the things built by human hands will pass away and all they take for granted will be destroyed. The birth pangs are coming.

What is the message?

Fear? Wrath? Helplessness?


Trust God. Especially when the world is on fire and everything we know seems to be shattering into pieces…

Our sense of permanence is broken into pieces every time our temples lay in ruins.

Our sense of control is thwarted by every new disaster; every new tragedy; every new horror unleashed into the world.

Our sense of justice is challenged every time the innocent suffer and the guilty go free; the impoverished are squeezed as the greedy are rewarded; and the oppressors get away with exploiting the vulnerable.

Trust God.

Nature threatens us.

People threaten us.

Change threatens us.

Trust God.

Jesus does not teach us to avoid suffering or how to escape from life when it challenges our false sense of stability, security and scrutiny. He shows us how to face it when it feels like the sky is falling by living for others.

Do not be afraid. Pray. Act.

Trust God.

God is with you no matter what destructiveness threatens you. Jesus raises you to be part of a new community that brings life to a dying world. Stay attentive to today and all its troubles. Then love your neighbor with everything you’ve got.


Sunday is Coming! “Learning stewardship from a poor widow” Mark 12:38-44

But she out of her poverty, has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:44)
After reading through this passage a few times, this scene seems to say much more about faith than it does about financial giving. True, the widow puts her last two bits into the offering while the rich people congratulate themselves about the large sums they have offered. True, many (including this preacher) have used this story as a motivator to urge people to dig deep when it cones to financially supporting the work of the church. True, Jesus wants our whole lives and not just a portion of our time, efforts and possessions. When Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:24) it is a full-time, whole-life devotion he invites us to pursue.
But there is another angle to explore in this text that is worth considering. Notice the difference between the wealthy and the poor widow. They don’t give this money for the good it might do, the people it might support, or the programs it might expand or continue. They give it to feel good about themselves. They give it out of obligation. They give it so others can see them because they are concerned about what others think about who they are. This passage calls us to check our own motivations for the good we do (or hope to do) or the things we support through our time, efforts and resources.  Is our giving selfless or for the greater good? Or do we give to primarily serve our own pride?
The widow on the other hand is alone. She has no one to impress. She doesn’t give her last bits to feel good; she goes to the Temple to give her last possessions away so she can die. She doesn’t give out of obligation; she gives away all sense of attachment she has left. She doesn’t care what others think; she has only come to be with God. She ultimately puts her life (and whatever comes next) into God’s mercy and care. What attachments keep you from giving your whole life to God? Maybe this is a stewardship text after all – but not in the ways we once thought. The question for us as both hearers of this story and as managers of the lives God has given to us is this: Which of these people we hope to be?
Do we manage what we have based on peer pressure? or can we dig a little deeper than that and focus on our relationship with God? Do our resources and relationships say more about what we hope others think about us or does our time, efforts and resources reflect our trust in God?
The widow is an example of faithfulness that brings our stripped-down selves before God saying,  There is nothing left to keep me from you. I am yours.”
I hope to trust in God like that. Do you?

Sunday is Coming! “Come Out!” John 11 for All Saints

“(Jesus) cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” (John 11:43)

Come out – followers of Jesus. Those whose uncertainty prevents them from trusting that where Jesus is leading or knows what he is doing. Those whose falsely projected courage reveals only their true fear underneath. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Come out – Mary and Martha; whose pain accuses Jesus of abandoning them in their time of need. Grief kept them from seeing the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) now embracing them. Get up. Turn around. Believe.

Come out – from behind your tears those who are in sorrow. Jesus weeps with you (John 11:35). His love embraces you. His life is given for you.

Come out – of the grave Lazarus. Be raised to new life. Join the banquet. Untie those bandages (John 11:44).

Come out – church. Stop hiding behind closed doors. Be not afraid. Take with you the promise of grace, mercy and peace that Jesus brings into the world. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Death has no power over you.

So why be afraid?

Rejoice and be glad for the Lord is near.


“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”  (Revelation 21:4-5)

Sunday is coming! “Our Blindness and Bartimaeus” Mark 10:46-52

This is a beautiful and straightforward passage that is anything but simple as this encounter reveals much about ourselves as it does a blind man named Bartimaeus.

The story is goes like this…

Bartimaeus, blind and begging by the roadside outside of Jericho, calls out to Jesus for mercy (Mark 10:47-51). Jesus gives him sight and commends his faith. Bartimaeus then leaves Jericho to follow him “on the way” to Jerusalem (Mark 10:52).

The crowd’s dismissal. Mark tells us there is a “large crowd” (Mark 10:46), who “sternly ordered him to be quiet” (Mark 10:48).  Like the disciples who have not understood Jesus or his mission, the crowd is more annoyed by the presence of Bartimaeus than they see an opportunity to help, listen, learn, connect or befriend him. They seem to have not heard Jesus just say, ‘whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first must be slave of all, for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). The crowd would prefer Bartimaeus not to be there at all, to be docile and quiet, or to blend in to the shadows and become invisible so they can go about their business. We can be just as dismissive as this crowd to people in need or suffering from injustice in our own time.  It is much easier to be cruel and/or indifferent than it is to meet people in their struggles, acknowledge they exist, listen, learn from their experiences and do something to help.

  • Who do we overlook, ignore, or hope would just go away in our own time and context?

Persistence as faithfulness. From his position of powerlessness, Bartimaeus refuses to be ignored and silenced. Mark has him interrupt the journey to Jerusalem on purpose. This is the last scene before Jesus enters the holy city on the donkey to fulfill his Messianic vocation. Only blind, begging Bartimaeus ‘sees’ that this Jesus is “Son of David” (Mark 10:47, 48) – a clear link to Jesus’ Messianic role. He will call out to Jesus until mercy comes. Jesus (unlike the crowd or the disciples) reminds us the reader/hearer that mercy is what the kingdom is all about – bringing God’s amazing grace to the places that call out for it which includes outcast, blind, beggars – just like Bartimaeus. The time to call upon God’s grace — is now. The time find our voice –is now. The time for us to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8) — is now.

  • What keeps you from calling upon God’s mercy, and acting upon it for others?

Leaving our old life behind.  Bartimaeus left not only his blindness, but his old life behind to follow Jesus. He left his cloak – likely his only earthly possession – in order to participate in the Kingdom of God. He left everything he knew for the unknown. He left what was safe for uncertainty. He left fear for faith. He left limitation for possibility. He left silence for proclamation. He left worrying what others said or thought of him for doing what he believed to be right. He left his exclusion for community. He left being stuck for “the way.” (Early Christians called themselves ‘the Way.’)

  • What is holding you back from following Jesus? What might happen if you left it behind for a whole new life?

In Bartimaeus our blindness is revealed. In Bartimaeus we see courage, faith and hope in action. In Bartimaeus we catch a vision of the joy of following Jesus to the cross and the new life that awaits us all.


Sunday is coming! “Moving from Power, Privilege and Prestige to Service” Mark 10:35-45

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for the many.” (Mark 10:45)

Jesus told his disciples for the third time that he was on the way to Jerusalem to suffer and die (Mark 10:32-34). James and John reveal that they have no idea what Jesus is talking about by the conversation that ensues, because they are more focused on themselves and their status than what Jesus has promised he is about to do.

First, James and John demand Jesus do what they ask of him (Mark 10:35), treating Jesus as their subordinate.

Second, James and John ask for positions of power at his ‘right hand and left hand’ once Jesus ‘comes in to his glory’ (Mark 10:37). Even after all Jesus has done to heal the sick, cast out demons, forgive sinners, feed the hungry, love the poor, connect the outcast, rebuke the religious establishment, and teach about a different kind of kingdom of grace, mercy and peace; they still understood Jesus to be the one to overthrow their Roman occupiers, not as one who came to suffer and die at the hands of sinners for the sake of the world.

Third, James and John upset their fellow disciples for even making such a request of Jesus, clamoring for positions of privilege selfishly for themselves (Mark 10:41).

Jesus responds by telling them they have no idea what they are asking (Mark 10:40). While they are thinking of attaining power, privilege and prestige once Jesus establishes his authority; Jesus is preparing to drink the cup that is before him (see Mark 14:36); one that will lead to his death.

Jesus then reminds them (and us) what his mission is all about – selflessness humility and service.

In this upside-down age Jesus is bringing to bear; it will not be power, privilege and prestige that matter, but in how we live our lives for others. Power, privilege and prestige focus on what we can get from others whose purpose it is to give us what we seek and desire.

Jesus came not to be served but to serve. The way of Jesus is the way of service. Service offers our lives for the sake of others to make their lives better.

No one shows us how to serve selflessly with humility to live a life worth living for others better than Jesus does – and his greatest act for others is the cross.

Perhaps the ‘ransom’ Jesus offers by giving his life for the many (Mark 10:45) on the cross is not only salvation from sin and death, but also brings about our deliverance and liberation from only seeking to serve ourselves.  Jesus reminds us that a faith that lives in the here and now is focused on service to others – a truth we sometimes too easily forget as we long for the age to come.

What are some ways you could serve others; rather than looking on them to serve you?

What might this turn-around do within your relationships?

How could looking at the world for places you can serve – change you?


Sunday is coming! “The Richness of Grace” Mark 10:17-31

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘you lack one thing; go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 20:21-22)
In a capitalistic society like our own, one would expect disgust, dismissal or blatant laughing in Jesus’ face at his demand to sell everything and give it to the poor as a prerequisite to following him. It is easy to imagine this man shaking the dust of his designer suit, adjusting his fancy sunglasses, tie and slicked hair before chuckling to himself and getting back in his limousine to leave this loser behind. 
As fun as it is to imagine that scene unfolding, that is not the story Mark is telling. 
Mark tells us the man walks away “shocked and went away grieving for he had many possessions” (Mark 10:22).
This should tell us three things.
  1. This man actually wanted to follow Jesus. Why verbally spar with Jesus over the commandments if you weren’t serious about your faith life? His concern over living a righteous and abundant life (eternal life) – leaves one thinking that he was a true seeker. He was successful in life and now he was looking to live a meaningful one. There is a genuine, recognizable, endearing quality in this guy that moves us to like him, root for him and even see ourselves in him. We are him in many ways. On our best days, we want to make a positive difference in the world, but Jesus makes it harder (not easier) for us to do so by pointing out that our possessions and our wealth – hold us back from total devotion and humility. We are often too comfortable, and get in our own way of truly following Jesus with our whole heart, soul and mind. This interaction inspires reflection: What is holding you back from following Jesus?
  2. This conversation also reveals how enslaved by our consumerism we are. Would any of us actually give up “everything” to follow Jesus? We live in a culture that keeps us desiring the best things in the moment (even if we cannot afford them) and longing for more and more comfort and material goods. The disciples complain that they have “left everything” but still struggle. Perhaps there is some consolation in knowing we are in good company in wrestling with Jesus’ demands upon us while we try to make a living, provide for our families, share what we can and plan for the future as stewards of our finances. By inviting us to leave it behind and follow him, what kind if life is Jesus offering us to live?
  3. Salvation, discipleship and witness is impossible, but only if we seek to it for ourselves. The example Jesus gives of a camel passing through the eye of a needle reveals how outlandish a proposition it is to enter God’s kingdom on our own. But, Jesus insists, all things are possible for God (Mark 10:27). Ultimately this interaction with both the rich man and the disciples is a reminder of God’s undeserved mercy and grace. This invitation may come as shock and amazement to us, but Jesus offers it in love (Mark 10:21). Are you ready to trust in that love?
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Sunday is coming! “That terrible divorce text” Mark 10:2-16

“Because of your hardness of heart, he wrote this commandment for you.” (Mark 10:5)

Jesus comes across as a hardliner against divorce the first time one reads Mark 10:2-16. While the breakup of marriages is a painful reality for people both inside and outside the Christian community – it is worth a closer look to see what Jesus is up to in this conversation with the Pharisees. There is more going on underneath the surface than just divorce.

This conversation is about humanity’s “hardness of heart.”

The Pharisees come to Jesus with the question of divorce; not to get an answer – but to test him. Their hardness of heart will never accept who he is or what he has to offer, since they saw themselves as the authorities of both law and tradition. They reveal their hardness of heart by the callousness of their question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2). Women had very few (if any) rights in that culture, and if divorced, would be shamed, rejected with little to no prospects of survival. Divorce for a first century woman in Judea was a death sentence. The Pharisees were asking, “It is OK to just throw these worthless women away because it is legal, right?” Jesus exposes their hardness of heart in their question, not only in his response, but by the virtue that there are no women present or given voice in this encounter at all and Jesus advocates on their behalf.

The disciples also reveal their hardness of heart by shooing away the children when they approach Jesus. Even more vulnerable than women in that culture were children who were completely dependent on adults for survival. Infant and child mortality rates were high. Children were deemed worthless until they came of age and began contributing to the family. Children of divorced mothers were often rejected alongside the women, making them even more expendable.

So what does Jesus teach here?

Jesus acknowledges that divorce is a real part of the human experience, but we are not to be flippant or dismissive about it. We are to take our relationships – especially our families – very seriously. When families are broken-up (because of our hardness of hearts) creation itself mourns.

Jesus highlights partnership and equality by quoting Genesis 2:24. As we come to greater understandings of human sexuality and gender identity in both the life of the church and our wider society, Jesus’ exposes our hardness of heart by advocating the goodness of creation and worth of each person; especially those we so often overlook.

Jesus addressing the hardness of heart that leads to adultery. Unlike his contemporaries that only blamed women for adultery, Jesus extends the equality of our sinfulness to everyone. With that equality comes both the shared responsibility of our treasured relationships; the possibility for reconciliation; and the need for community when what was once “one flesh” is put asunder.

Jesus cares for the powerless by inviting the children to come to him. Just as women in the first century were extremely vulnerable (few if any rights, little opportunity); children were completely dependent. Jesus is highlighting his care and blessing for the least of these and inviting us to relate to people out of compassion, mercy, inclusion and love – not judgment, exclusion, shame and dismissal.

The way of Jesus is to go looking for the vulnerable and suffering; then value, embrace and bless them as Jesus does.

The church has a lousy track record when it comes to caring for people in the midst of family trauma, separations, break-ups and divorce. Too often the message has been judgment, shame and blame; not compassion, mercy, love and an embrace of blessing when we need it most.

We can do better.

An ongoing practice of faith is to repent of our own hardness of heart; trust in God’s forgiveness, and seek to see others as Jesus sees them.

Questions to keep wrestling with:

-How do we care for, support and include those who are preparing to enter into marriage?

-How do we care for, support and include those who celebrate their marriage?

-How do we care for, support and include those who struggle within their marriage?

-How do care for, support and include those who are in the process of separation or who have gone through divorce?

-How do we care for, support and include those who are, and will remain single?

-How do we care for, support and include people who are non-binary, LGBTQ+, and/or are still discovering who they are?

-How do we care for and support children who live in a variety of family arrangements – so that they can know the welcome and love of Jesus who blesses them, and a community that cherishes them?


(Thanks to my colleagues: Pastors Sarah Barnes, Dick Burgess, Daphne Burt, Scott Harris, Brett Hertzog-Betkoski and Mary Robinson for their insights prior to the composition of this post.)