Easter 5C: Where I Am Going

15-01-18-CFIRST LESSON:  Acts 11: 1-18

To read the Acts passage

This story is actually told in Chapter 10 and then again in Chapter 11 of the Book of Acts.  The issue that was rather hotly debated was whether the newfound faith of these early Christians was intended only for Jews or whether it was to include Gentiles (while allowing them to remain Gentiles).  In other words, was circumcision so important as to keep people out of the community of faith?  The biggest concern was eating and sharing bread and food with these “unclean” believers.  And there was no lack of voicing of people’s opinions about this matter.  Conflict and confrontation was open and loud, rather than being swept under the carpet the way we often do today.  Perhaps it is a reminder that voicing conflict can indeed be transformational for a community.

So Peter has heard this confrontation and conflict and responds to it.  His response is to tell a story (Gee…wonder where he learned that!).  He retells the story of what happened to him in Chapter 10.  He tells the story of his vision and the sheet with all of the creatures and the reminder that nothing of God is profane (and that everything is in effect “of God”.)  He did not charge in angrily shouting theological platitudes.  He just told them a story.  As Stephen D. Jones says in Feasting on the Word (Page 453), “a story invites people across the separating chasm, making everyone the winner.  Jesus knew this as he changed so many hardened hearts with parables.  His parables often left people with questions for them to explore, rather than theological issues for them to debate.”

Peter was not trying to go outside the boundaries.  He just recognized that God had somehow shown him a different way of looking at something.  The point for Peter is that God had given those Gentiles the same gifts of the Spirit received by the apostles and the more orthodox believers.  That is a turning point for the whole Book of Acts and, for that matter, the whole Christian message.  Here, Peter was in no way demeaning Jewish belief; he was just saying that God’s vision was a larger one.  Rather than characterizing this Way of Jesus as an alternative boundary, it becomes an alternative vision, a different way of viewing all of Creation.

It is a good reminder that theological reflection is not a list of rules; it is a way of living, a way of understanding how God is at work in our lives as well as the lives of those around us.  It is also a good indicator that bringing people of a different culture or a different lifestyle or a different focus into a faith community requires us to rethink and re-reflect theologically on the statements of that faith.  It is in that way that our faith community grows and truly transforms the world.  It is not a matter of “accommodating” or “tolerating” or even compromising; it’s a matter, rather, of continuing to listen to God and how God is working in the world.  According to Peter, the things in the faith that do not change are speaking the name of Jesus, bearing witness to the resurrection, and acknowledging the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps everything else is open for discussion…

 

If Golgotha was the day of reckoning for our salvation, then the day that Peter dreamed of innumerable unclean creatures made clean in God’s estimation was the day salvation actually came to our house, to you and to me. Before that moment, Christianity was not available to those who were not born and ritually inducted into Judaism. But ever since the early church was opened to Gentiles, Christians have struggled to be as open in other times and places, and as willing to embrace those we thought were unclean but whom God has declared clean.

Christians have always struggled with two images that describe the church: is the church the Virgin Mother, pure, unsullied and unstained? Or is she an Earth Mother gathering her wayward children to her skirts? In the church of the Virgin, no eye is pure enough to see God, no tongue clean enough to speak God’s name. This church is vigilant in covering her children’s ears and tries to keep them from seeing or touching the world’s impurity. Its clergy are a model to the flock in morality, goodness and self-control. In the church of the Earth Mother, however, the dirty hands and unwashed faces of her children are a delight. “I am come that you might have life,” Jesus said, “and that you might have it abundantly.” This church’s children gather to her like Ma Kettle’s kids come in from the barnyard, frogs in their pockets and grass stains on their jeans. What they lack in cleanliness they more than make up in joy. Her clergy are earthen vessels.

Of course all churches are a mixture of these symbolic figures. Christians are neither all heaven nor all earth, but a wondrous mixture of dust and glory, which is why churches are hospitals for the soul—less like sterile operating rooms scrubbed and sanitized for elective surgery and more like MASH units where mangled bodies of injured humans are rolled in for emergency treatment.

The situation of the 21st-century church is not that different from that of the first-century church in Jerusalem. Today we struggle to maintain a holy community in the church where the glory of God can shine brightly in the lives of God’s humble servants. But we do so realizing that we are only human, and that strive as we may, we are not all holy.

In the first century the dividing line between exclusionary holiness and holy hospitality was circumcision, dietary laws and ritual observance. Today it is homosexuality, gay marriage, women’s ordination and the right of property ownership. Today’s fixations are not the issues that divided Christians at Chalcedon or Nicea or even Jerusalem, but they are, nonetheless, issues on which we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

It would have been so much easier if the Spirit had left well enough alone and not blown where it did, showing Peter the wider dimensions of a gospel meant for all people, both clean and unclean. But the Spirit is a spirit of love and cannot resist drawing disparate elements together; it has a broader vision of the future and a greater hope for our humanity than we have ever imagined, a vision articulated by the 148th Psalm, which sings of a time when all the earth and all created things shall praise the Lord. Angels praise God, sun and moon, sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, kings and peoples . . . all of us praise the Lord. Salvation, occurring in all times and places through the Holy Spirit’s direction, is today offered to one and to all. (From “Dreaming in Joppa”, by Jon M. Walton, in The Christian Century, April 17, 2007, available at http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=3194, accessed 28 April 2010.

 

For us, who is it that we deem “impure” (either intentionally or without even thinking), that we view as unworthy of church membership or church outreach or just love and acceptance in general? What boundaries have we improperly drawn through this glorious vision that God holds for us?

 

1)      What is your response to this passage?

2)      What does that truly mean that the Gospel is available to everyone?

3)      What would it mean for us to live as if theological reflection were a way of living, rather than a way of rule-following?  What would that mean for our faith?

 

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT:  Revelation 21: 1-6

To read the Revelation passage

We are probably accustomed to hearing this passage read at funerals.  And yet, this vision reveals what God has in mind for all of life—even now.  This is the New Jerusalem that God is bringing into being—not after we are gone but now, as we speak.  And the reason we as Christians know these things is through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  This is the way that the vision for all has been revealed to us as Christians.  Eugene Peterson writes, “The Biblical story began, quite logically, with a beginning.  Now it draws to an end, not quite so logically, also with a beginning.  The sin-ruined Creation of Genesis is restored in the sacrifice-renewed creation of Revelation.  The product of these beginning and ending acts of creation is the same:  “the heavens and earth” in Genesis, and “a new heaven and new earth” in Revelation.”  (From Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, 169)

For many people and indeed many Christians, the hope lies in heaven only.  This is a reminder that hope is here and now—if we will only imagine it and claim it.  It speaks to the broadness of Creation and perhaps reminds us that we should care for THIS Creation rather than banking on the possibility that we’re going to leave it all behind anyway!  But remember—God is here, making the Divine Home among us, among the “unclean” to go back to the Acts passage.  Wasn’t that what the whole Emmanuel, God-with-us, was about?  Wasn’t that why Christ came as God incarnate?  The hope expressed in Revelation is the one that makes all things new.  Isn’t that remarkable?  It is not about personal conversion; it is about world order.  It is about staking one’s very life not on the way things are now but on the way things could and will be, the way God envisions Creation.

This passage is a promise to us.  Perhaps it is a call for patience; perhaps it is a call to not be so hard on ourselves (in spite of St. Augustine’s purporting that we are hopeless and helpless sinful creatures!); perhaps it is simply a call to imagine—to imagine what God can do in our lives and be open to what that looks like, to be open to newness, to be open to the place between endings and beginnings.

This is not a dream for a different place, for a different city.  It is the dream for THIS one, the place where we are living now.  And it’s not just putting us back in that perfect utopian garden in which we started.  After all, we have grown WAY beyond that, fully embracing that whole free will thing and all.  I don’t think that’s what God has in mind.  I think the Garden was a beginning.  Maybe God even MEANT us to break those boundaries.  Maybe that was the whole idea, the place that we learned that boundaries were meant to be explored and pushed and, yes, even blown wide open so that the Spirit of God could blow through unhindered and recreate all that is.

 

While our passage today starts off with a beautiful and all-encompassing vision of a new heaven and a new earth, there is a very specific city, the New Jerusalem, at its center. “While the story of the Bible begins with a garden, it ends in a city,” writes Michael Pasquarello III (Feasting on the Word). And Dana Ferguson develops this further: “Why a city? Because cities are places where people live together in dependence upon one another. A city works when everyone in it does something to contribute to its welfare. It is the welcome place where people arrive home at the end of a long and confusing journey. It is where God lives” (Feasting on the Word). What an intriguing way to spur our religious imaginations about our own cities and communities (no matter how large or small), as places “where God lives.” Imagine what it might look like for our cities to be places where we live not in competition and anxiety but in graceful community, welcoming people home and inviting them in. Such a vision is the opposite of destruction, separation, loneliness, and exile. (From a reflection by Rev. Kate Huey, available at http://www.ucc.org/worship/samuel/may-2-2010.html, accessed 28 April 2010)

 

 

1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What does that “newness” look like for you?

3)      What does it mean for you to look upon this passage as a promise for THIS place, rather than a new place?

4)      What gets in the way of our own “imaginings”?

5)      What does it mean for us to participate in God’s vision for Creation?

 

 

GOSPEL: John 13:31-35

To read the Gospel passage

This Gospel passage is also read for Maundy Thursday.  But on this fifth Sunday of Easter, we are asked to go back to before the crucifixion.  The Gospel writer uses the word “now”, implying that all that has happened up to this point is coming to fulfillment.  It is Jesus’ way of preparing the disciples for his impending death, for the time when they will feel deserted and alone.  He urges them to have patience and to lean on each other, to care for one another and forgive one another.  It is a plea for them to abide in the life that he has shown them.  Rather than allowing their fears and their insecurities to pull them apart, Jesus is laying out a life that will bring them together.

This was a completely different way of looking at things, a completely different concept of what “glory” is.  This glory is the one that feeds that self-giving love that is contained in the “new commandment”.  Glory comes not from being placed above but by allowing Christ’s love to take root deep within oneself.  In other words, we find life and love in community, in the community of Christ.  Without that relationship, everything else falls apart.  No doctrine or theology can replace it.

Joan Chittister refers to community as a “social sacrament”, a sacred act far beyond connections or acquaintances.  Perhaps Jesus saw it the same way.  Once again, the spiritual walk is much, much more than rules or doctrines.  It is about seeing everything and everyone around you as part of God’s Creation.  And, interestingly enough, if you back up to the verses prior to this passage, we read of Judas’ impending betrayal of Jesus.  And then this.  Yes, even Judas, is part of that love, part of that Creation.

Now is the time.  It is time for Jesus to go.  But it is not the end.  It is time for those who love him and follow him to step into place, to experience what it is like to bask and embrace in the holy and the sacred.  Love one another…for that is the way that you will experience the holy and the sacred.  But this is not some sort of passive, saccharine-type love.  This was active.  This was putting oneself aside for another, putting one’s life down for another.  This, again, was breaking all those boundaries open in the name of love.  For it is in each other’s eyes and each other’s lives that you will experience God as Christ said that you could experience God.  And THAT is what glorifies Christ—your being there, your living in that sacredness, your embracing and being holiness.  It is a love that surrenders to God and God’s vision for us.  It is a love that imagines what God can do.  So, love one another…rest deep in God’s love.  That’s what it is about.  “Where I am going, you cannot come.”  You cannot come because there is much work to be done here.  You have to stay and be Christ in the world.  You have to stay and blow all those boundaries wide open.  You have to stay and love one another.  That is the way that we are called to be.

The following chapter goes on with Jesus’ words.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself.”  Jesus’s absence breaks open a new boundary.  Jesus’ Presence, always and forever here, is in our Presence, in our love, in our willingness to follow, to choose that new vision that God holds.

 

1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What does this “new commandment” mean for you?

3)      In what ways does the Christian community feed your own faith journey?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

Turn your face to the light and the shadows will fall behind you. (Maori Proverb)

 

Faith is being grasped by the power of love…it is recognizing that if at Christmas Jesus became like us, it was so [today] we might become more like him.  (William Sloane Coffin)

 

People do not enter our lives to be coerced or manipulated, but to enrich us by their differences, and to be graciously received in the name of Christ.  (Elizabeth Canham)

 

 

Closing

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity may one day be restored:  And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

All praise to the [Creator], from whom all things come, and all praise to Christ Jesus, God’s only Son, and all praise to the Spirit, who makes us one:  And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.  Amen.

(Peter Scholtes, 1966)

Proper 11B: Living in the House of the Lord

beautiful-creation-0-0-god-the-creator-9762092-1280-960OLD TESTAMENT: 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a

Read the Lectionary passage

Up until now, David has been anointed king of Israel, has consolidated power in Jerusalem, and has brought the ark of the Lord to rest in a tent in Jerusalem. Things seem to be going well. And so David envisions now a more permanent structure to house the ark of the Lord. In other words, David now desires to build a temple in Jerusalem.

But that night the Lord intervenes by way of Nathan with a promise not necessarily of a permanent “house” but, rather a permanent dynasty, an everlasting house of the line of David. David has risen from shepherd boy to king and has apparently felt God’s presence through it all. He now sits in his comfortable palace and compares his “house” to the tent that “houses God” in his mind. So he decides, in spite of the message, that God needs a grand house too.

God, through the prophet Nathan responds by asking, in a sense, “Hey! Did you hear me complaining about living in a tent? No, I prefer being mobile, flexible, responsive, free to move about, not fixed in one place.” God then turns the tables on David and says, “You think you’re going to build me a house? No, no, no, no. I’M going to build YOU a house. A house that will last much longer and be much greater than anything you could build yourself with wood and stone. A house that will shelter the hopes and dreams of your people long after ‘you lie down with your ancestors.'” God promises to establish David and his line “forever,” and this is a “no matter what” promise, even if the descendants of David sin, even if “evildoers” threaten. This Davidic Covenant is a promise of life eternal.

Walter Brueggemann identifies this Scripture as “the dramatic and theological center of the entire Samuel text.” But this also would represent a major upheaval to the way that the people understood God. The permanent temple structure would no longer represent a God who traveled with the people but rather a God who expected the people to come to God.

The truth is, the “House of God” is not, contrary to what we sometimes say, the sanctuary. In essence, it is all of Creation, all that we see and know, all that we experience in life. But, as humans, we often think we need something tangible to secure our life as we know it, something to “hold onto”. We crave something that “matters”, something that can prove, I suppose, that we exist, that WE matter. So, do we then try to squeeze the “House of God” into that model? This Scripture could be taken as yet another warning to not get so comfortable with who we think we have figured out God is. And, after all, is it so important that the “House of God” be conveniently located, user friendly, and of historic significance? What does it say to us that in order for our churches to “succeed”, we need to have good coffee, air conditioned classrooms, and a never-ending array of children and youth activities? Do we risk colonizing the “House of God” and, thereby, limiting God to what we can imagine and what we can control? We continue to live with that tension. It is part of our faith; it is part of who we are as Christians. There is nothing wrong with a beautiful sanctuary or a comfortable pew. There is nothing wrong with trying to systematize our belief system into theological precepts or acceptable hymnody. It is who we are. It is our way of understanding God. But we need to remember that our belief system, our theology, and even our sanctuary is NOT “God”. In fact, it’s not even the “House of God”. Rather, it’s what helps us experience the God who is already with us, already inviting us to the table, already providing the promise of life forever. THAT is the House in which we live and move and have our being.

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. Are there places that you sense God’s presence more than other places?
  3. What does the change in this understanding of God mean for you?
  4. What does this say about our “model” of church?
  5. Where do our thoughts about “church” and “House of God” get in the way of our faith?

  

NEW TESTAMENT: Ephesians 2: 11-22

Read the Lectionary Epistle passage

In the opening of this passage, the writer addresses his or her readers as “Gentiles by birth”, so this was probably intended for converted Gentile Christians. But rather than incorporating Gentiles into Israel, the writer is claiming that both Jews and Gentiles are brought together as one in Christ. They are both now members of something new. There is a new household of God, a new building or temple, if you will. The community is now celebrated as one with a new access to God through Christ.

The dominant theme here is reconciliation between the two groups—peace with God and peace between the two peoples. There is an allusion here that the “dividing wall” is the old religion, the old laws, in other words, the commandments themselves. So perhaps it is a recognition that sometimes what we have revered as infallible and irreversible may actually be destructive and dividing.

But this is in no way meant to create a smugness about the “new people”. This passage and all of Ephesians has sometimes been used for that, as a type of religious imperialism or religious conquering. This is, rather, a new creation of all.

Dr. Sally A. Brown says this about this text: “No doubt some relatively tame sermons have been preached from this text from time to time — maybe taking to task a congregation fussily divided over the color of the carpet or over the price of adding ten parking spaces to the parking lot. But the text is meant to do more than coax cranky congregants toward compromise. This is a text meant to shake empires.” (From “Preaching This Week”, 07/22/2012, available at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=7/22/2012&tab=3, accessed 18 July, 2012.)

The truth is that the “household of God” is not just something that we visit on Sundays when we are at our best.  It is part of who we are at the deepest core of our being.  It is part of every aspect of our lives.  So what does that mean, then, to live as spiritual and reconciled people in EVERY aspect?  What does that mean to knock down not just the walls between us comfortable pew-sitters but rather the walls between us and the outside?

In a commentary on this passage, Walter B. Shurden relates a story from quintessential storyteller, Dr. Fred Craddock:

Craddock tells about returning to his small west Tennessee hometown each Christmas. Every year he would visit an old friend named Buck. Buck owned a cafe on the main street of the town, and he always gave Craddock a cup of coffee and a piece of chess pie. One Christmas when Craddock went in to get his coffee and pie, Buck said, “Come on, let’s go get a cup of coffee.” “What’s the matter?” asked Craddock, “isn’t this a restaurant?” “I don’t know; sometimes I wonder,” Buck fired back.

Later, sitting across from Craddock, Buck asked, “Did you see the curtain?” “Yes, Buck, I saw the curtain; I always see the curtain.” The curtain was in Buck’s cafe, separating the front half of the cafe from the back half. White folks came in the front of the cafe from the main street, but black folks came in from an alley behind the cafe. The curtain was there to separate, to separate white people from black people.

Buck looked up and said, “Fred, the curtain has got to come down.” “Good,” Craddock responded, “Pull her down!” “That’s easy enough for you to say,” said Buck. “You come in once a year and tell me how to run my business.” “Then leave it up,” Craddock countered. In personal agony, Buck said, “Fred, I take that curtain down, and I lose my customers; I leave that curtain up, and I lose my soul!”

Buck was right, of course. Some curtains have to come down. Some curtains have to come down because if we leave them up we will lose our souls, no matter how many church customers we gain! The church of Jesus Christ simply must rip some curtains from top to bottom and dump them in the garbage. So “Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mt. 27:50-51).

Not only curtains but walls came tumbling down that day when Jesus cried with a loud voice. The walls of anger, the walls of hostility, the “I’m-better-than-you walls,” the “I’m a chosen one and you are not walls,” the “I’m a male one and you are not walls,” and the “I am a clergy one and you are not walls.” [(or the “I am righteous and you are not”, “I am right and you are not”, or “I am straight and you are not”)—inserted by Shelli] My! My! My! How those walls came crashing down at Calvary! And no one has described it better than Eugene Peterson in his rendering of Ephesians 2:14 in The Message:

The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the walls we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated bycenturies of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human  being, a fresh start for everybody. (From “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down”, by Walter B. Shurden, available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NXG/is_2_40/ai_n14919573/, accessed 18 July, 2012)

So, what, then, are we holding onto? Let it go. Let this New Creation come to be!

  1. How does this passage speak to you?
  2. What “dividing walls” do you see still exist?
  3. What does this “new household” mean for you?
  4. What is the first wall that we need to take down in our understanding of this “Household of God”?

 

 GOSPEL: Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

Read the Lectionary Gospel passage

The beginning verses depict the returning of the twelve. They had formerly been sent out and now they return. In the verses preceding the ones we read, we hear the account of the death of John the Baptist. And at this point, we are told that the apostles return and gather around Jesus, telling him everything that had been happening with their mission. Earlier in this same chapter, they had been sent out to continue the work of healing and teaching. And during that time, John the Baptist had been brutally executed. This is certain to have cast a somber shadow over their elation at the success of their mission. This had to be scary. After all, John had been part of Jesus’ work. John had, essentially, been one of them. But, as we know, we cannot always control or predict what happens in life. And so, in the midst of their shock and sadness and grief, and probably fear, Jesus tells the apostles, to “come away and rest”. He tells them to go to a deserted place, away from the crowds, away from the terror in which they now live, and just rest.

And yet, the disciples have been carrying out the mission of healing and teaching. They have been doing what they are called to do. Jesus calls for them to take a rest. He was encouraging them to desist and take care of themselves and not feel that they have to respond to every need or every cry. They are not God. They are not Saviors. They are limited human beings who need their rest. A life of faith is a balancing act between all aspects of life.

This “broken up” passage frames the account of Jesus feeding the thousands. This passage comes out of the height of success of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is pictured here as a shepherd-king with Godlike compassion as he looks upon the multitude wandering like sheep without a shepherd. He looked at the people and saw the hurting, the sick, and those who needed him. And he recognized that they also needed the sustenance of rest. They needed that time of Sabbath to renew themselves in God. Fully participating in life with God is realizing that.

In her book, Sabbath Keeping, Donna Schaper says that “Sabbath is a way of living, not a thing to have or a list to complete. By observing it we become people who both work and rest, and who know why, when, and how we do either. We also recognize the occasions on which we do both at the same time. We know how to pray, how to be still, how to do nothing. Sabbath people know that “our” time is really God’s time, and we are invited to live in it. We are living our eternity now—this Tuesday and Wednesday, this Saturday and Sunday. (Sabbath Keeping, p. 8)

Isn’t that what we are trying to do—find that rhythm of life to which God invites us, that balancing act, if you will, that is God’s call to us? This is the way that our time and God’s time converge and become one. This is the way that our hearts beat the heartbeat of God and our ears hear God’s music. This is the way we become the Household of God. In a Christian Century article by Martin Copenhaver, he says this:

A COLLEAGUE of mine recently resigned from a suburban parish where relentless demands on his time and energy were beginning to wear him down. He left to become a missionary on the coast of Maine. In his new position he visits small clusters of Christians in remote locations. He reports that in many ways his ministry is the same as it always has been: he preaches, teaches, visits the sick. But there is this difference: between ports of call he travels long distances by boat. Between sermons he can listen to the wind. Before teaching another class he can study the horizon. After visiting the sick he is anointed with sea spray. Interspersed with his demanding pastoral duties he takes a watery road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

John Westerhoff has remarked that atheism in the modern world is characterized by this affirmation: “If I don’t do it, it won’t happen.” The apostles–even after their newfound success as teachers, preachers and healers–knew better. They waited in the boat.

Those who are empowered by the gospel and act under the influence of Christ’s spirit need that reminder too. The apostles learned two lessons: that the power of God can be at work through them, and that God can be at work without them. When their compassion was spent and their ability to respond to need exhausted, people were fed anyway, as if with manna from heaven, while the apostles could only watch from the boat. (From “Watching From the Boat”, by Martin B. Copenhaver, The Christian Century, 1994)

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What does the directive to the disciples to rest say to you?
  3. Why is that so difficult for us?
  4. What does that say about us?

  

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy Presence. (Susanna Wesley)

Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you can find. (Jesus)

 

Faith dies when religion declares its certainties beyond question. Faith is a journey, and there is always more to discover. If you want a solid “Biblical truth,” it is that we have more to see. The other is the freedom to rest. Not just take a day off from work, but rest, stop, open our mouths to sing and, from no hymnal ever fought over, discover the song we and God are composing. We cannot know what that song is until we stand still. We cannot know what work God is doing in our lives until we stop our own striving. We cannot know what truth God would show us until we set aside all that we think we know. We cannot accept the gift God would give us until we put down tools, weapons, certainties, and pious accoutrements, and simply hold out open hands to God. (Rev. Tom Ehrich, from “Rest”, 05/22/2005)

 

Closing

Consider the lilies of the field, the blue banks of camas opening into acres of sky along the road. Would the longing to lie down and be washed by that beauty abate if you knew their usefulness, how the natives ground bulbs for flour, how the settler’s hogs uprooted them, grunting in gleeful oblivion as the flowers fell?

And you, what of your rushed and useful life? Imagine setting it all down papers, plans, appointments, everything, leaving only a note:  Gone to the fields to be lovely. Be back when I’m through with blooming.”

Even now, unneeded and uneaten, the camas lilies gaze out above the grass from their tender blue eyes. Even in sleep your life will shine. Make no mistake. Of course, your work will always matter. Yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Lynn Ungar from What We Share (Collected Meditations, Volume 2)