40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Finally, a lectionary passage that seems straight-forward! The passage this morning has a theme of welcome. We welcome folks well here, and I think most folks consider themselves pretty welcoming. I know I do, most days at least!
After reading it in context, we must remember that the disciples were not welcomed in all places though. Because of their breaking of social norms, of welcoming the stranger, hanging out with those on the margins, and generally shaking up the status quo by following the example of Jesus, they were often excluded.
So, Jesus is trying to encourage them by saying that if they are welcomed by anyone, then they are also welcoming Jesus personally, and God as well! That’s a powerful statement because those in power sought to divide and define who was welcomed by God, but Jesus was subverting that notion.
Jesus goes on to say that those who welcome prophets, will receive a reward, and a righteous person will also receive a reward. Well, speaking prophetic words can actually lead to some pretty harsh things, just look at the history of prophets. Life seemingly doesn’t end well for them. And, righteous people? You’ve heard the expression, “nice guys finish last”? Maybe so, yet, what the author is saying is that the rewards are a life well lived, culture changed, empathy grown, and peace of mind and heart for doing and being in right relationships and working for the common good.
Being a welcoming presence can be costly, but it’s worth it. Especially in these days of so much uncertainty in our lives and in our culture. Welcoming others can be a key source of healing and growth.
I’ve seen folks who model this in so many ways.
The first time I went to Nicaragua, we did “home stays”. Our group was split up into groups of 3 and we spent the afternoon and, about 24 hours, with a Nicaruaguan family. They welcomed us, gave us the best beds, made sure we were well fed. The family that we stayed with took us out to a restaurant and bought our meal. When we ordered, only one other person in the family ordered. At that point a few other neighbors and family members had also come. The meal was delicious, and it only cost $2. As I was looking at all of the folks there, I had $50 in my pocket, so I offered to the patriarch of the family to buy everyone’s meal. He was very polite, and said, no, you are our guests and tonight we want to welcome you. I realized later my arrogance and privilege, and simply said, thank you and received the hospitality. And, as hard as it was to eat while folks did not eat, and realizing that most Nicaraguans only get to eat a couple of times a day, and that the average weekly salary is only about $10-$20, I received so much in terms of community, conversation, and growth. In Nicaragua, I learned again the growth that I can receive by letting go of my privilege and receiving welcome from others. They taught me, and continue to teach me, what it means to be in community with others.
In India, where I spent three weeks right before formally interviewing here, a group of us went to the border of India next to Bangladesh outside of Kolkata. We did a series of 5K and 10K runs across the country to raise awareness on women’s issues and human trafficking, starting on the border. After our run, the local village government and others gave us a huge a welcome and presented us with flowers and a presentation with amazing food. Here’s a scene from that day:
What is amazing is that these kids were rescued from human trafficking, dance and being in community has given them healing and growth. And, they wanted to welcome us.
Friends, both of these experiences, and so many others where I have had the blessing of extending welcome and receiving welcome, has made me a better person, just as I’m sure many of you can related.
In this world of division, of shutting others out, of privilege and non-privilege, may we cross barriers and extend welcome and hospitality, and receive the rewards of becoming the better versions of ourselves, to become more like Jesus!
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[a] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
Not Peace, but a Sword
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Well friends, here we are in week 2, back in the sanctuary, and in the midst of a new chapter in our church’s life. The good news is that in this new chapter of the book of Fleming Road UCC if you will, we’ve had some great chapters before, and we still have some great chapters to write after this one.
And, this one is a wild chapter, full of all sorts of disruptions, adaptations, deepening friendships, hard cultural conversations, and growth.
This is a hard text. In a world where there is so much fear, how do we not fear as well? Seems to be what the text is sharing is that God knows us, is with us, that nothing that happens in this world or in our lives is separate from God’s knowing it and knowing us. It doesn’t promise that life is easy, just that God is with us.
It also has this wild saying about bringing a sword and not peace. Now, we know that Jesus advocated non-violence, so what does this mean? Well, following Jesus, having hard conversations around loving ourselves and our neighbors, making tough choices to be with folks like Jesus was, including them, can bring division. I mean, let’s face it, sometimes we have those proverbial tough conversations around different issues at the family dinner table, or extended family meals like Thanksgiving. Or even Facebook! They can be divisive when you follow the practices of Jesus.
But, then there’s this piece about loving God more than your mother, father, brother, sister? What’s that all about? And why is that in the lectionary on Father’s day!? I want my kids to love me, especially today! Here’s a thought: I don’t think Jesus is saying not to love your family members, but to remember that our family and tribal identities, as important as they can be in formation, do not define who we are becoming. God’s love for us and our love for God is transformative, it moves us into a deeper identity of being connected to all things and all people in a way that makes us think in different ways and practice friendship in different ways.
Then there’s this last bit, which is the hardest for me at times throughout my life. Losing my life in order to gain it.
In thinking of stories, and that’s been a theme in our church for the past year or so, I thought of a couple of stories as I was reading this week’s lectionary text and what it means to lose life in order to gain something, and how when we hold on to something to long, we miss an opportunity for growth.
When I was in high school, a freshman, there was this amazing girl who was so sweet and simply good. (Of course, this was a long time before I met Debbie). I really wanted to ask her out. I remember one conversation in the hallway, I was about to ask her. But, I didn’t. Being in the south, I was afraid of what my friends and family would say. She was black. I did not want to die to an image that day, therefore I missed an opportunity for growth. I knew my thinking was wrong, even then. I felt horrible, but not enough to open up to a new friendship.
Years later, I was driving back from a revival meeting (I was Southern Baptist growing up, remember). I was a bit more mature at this moment, a bit more aware. I was a leader in my youth group, president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Good News Club at my school, and had started a ministry called Campus Life at my high school. I was immersed in a wold with a specific worldview, not all bad, but part of it was pretty narrow. So, here I was giving a friend of mine a ride home. During the car ride, the conversation got deep, he took a risk, and told me that he was gay. My first thought was to stop the car, I did not know what to do. But, I didn’t. I stayed in the conversation. Even though my cousin was gay, she was much older, I had never had a good friend, a peer, identify as gay to me. I stayed curious, and learned something that night. One, in a moment of humor, he said that he wasn’t attracted to me because I was too skinny. Our friendship grew as I listened. I had to lose conceptions, and in its place, new life emerged.
Losing old ways of being, thinking, and attitudes, some of our understandings of life can be hard. It does seem like we are losing. Yet, we know we have to lose some things in order to live, grow, and find new ways of being.
If we want new chapters to read or be written, we have to close or move beyond the chapters we just read.
Last story, in our weekly council check in during the pandemic this past week, we were talking about how fun it would be to have worship services outside this summer, we could have something like the old time tent revivals! We have some great tents here at the church that we bring out on rally day!
It reminded me of the revivals that I grew up going to in our church. We had altar calls at every single one of them. I’ve said this before, but I think I came forward every time!
Altar calls are a recent phenomenon in history. They started in the early 1800’s. Charles Finney, the great Presbyterian revivalist preacher started them.
But, it wasn’t simply to come forward to give your life to Christ. Charles was an abolitionist. He would become the president of Oberlin College here in Ohio and made it the first college in America to accept woman and blacks as students. He started the altar call as a call to lose your life based on the notion that the status quo of slavery was ok. He was calling folks to stand and move forward to the front of the congregation to pledge their lives to end slavery. It was effective, and it helped to bring about one the greatest revivals in world history.
Individuals were coming to pivotal moments in their lives with the backdrop of a pivotal moment in history that led to the resurgence of the church and the ending of slavery.
It meant losing in order to gain life.
Friends, we are all in a similar moment in our history, our lives, and our stories. I’m not going to have an altar call. But, our culture is asking great questions, so are we. We don’t have anything to fear, other than letting go of ways of thinking that probably are not working as well for us.
So, what do you say to this? Let’s lose, together, with God, in order to have life, life to the full!
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38, TNIV)
Welcome friends! It’s good to be back in the sanctuary with you, and it’s good to be with you the rest of you either in your cars in the parking lot, or online through Zoom or Facebook Live. I know it’s different, as we’ve said all along, every day in this season is an adaptation. Thank you for your patience and grace. Our safety team and council have done a great job of discernment and making sure that our church and community are safe, and that our mission as a church continues to grow.
The sermon title today is “occupy”. It’s an interesting word, here’s a definition:
verb (used with object)
1. to take or fill up
2. to engage or employ the mind, energy, or attention of
3. to be a resident or tenant of; dwell in
As we occupy this space today, it is different, isn’t it? We have to wear masks, stay 6’ to 10’ feet apart, every other pew, sing differently, not shake hands, not pass out things, and it will be a much shorter service as we don’t want to have to keep you in a closed in environment for too long. It’s uncomfortable and not the same as it once was.
Maybe during this time of Covid-19, and even the social and civic unrest of the past few weeks, we can look at the word “occupy” in a new way. We have “occupied” church, just not in this building, or on a Sunday morning. But, we have found ways to creatively meet and serve. We have found that our community is alive and real, even with having to suspend so many traditions during this time. We may get back to some of those in new ways, but we have seen our connections grow, our engagement with the community expand, and we have been an empowered community of faith. We have fallen even more deeply in love with “church” the body of Christ. And, we have seen Christ in and around us.
And, as we’ve discussed the pandemic of racism that has gone on for hundreds of years, we are finding out things about us as a church and people and listening, really listening.
When we look at Jesus, we see that Jesus modeled that listening as well. And, we, the Church, humanity even, is the body of Christ…we are Christ’s body.
As we read this mornings passage, we see Christ going from town to villages, proclaiming the good news. He was occupying the space that was before him. Having agency and living out a message of good news to the people that he met. Folks in bondage, feeling helpless, overwhelmed, lost, and not able to get ahead in a system that was stacked against them by those in the dominant Roman empire and those that were complicit with that empire.
Yet, Jesus built relationships with them, and even reached out to those in power with a message of inclusion and love, and bringing God’s healing to their lives. When Jesus saw the crowds of people yearning for something more, yearning for a better life, he had deep compassion on them.
The word for compassion in this text has deep connotations of being moved emotionally and even physically. Jesus had compassion on the crowds as he saw that they were harassed and helpless and in need of a shepherd.
Friends, as the body of Christ, we are to follow Christ’s lead, to live in Christ and to listen and to love as Christ does.
Check out these works from scripture and from theologian Miroslav Volf:
1 Thessalonians 2:8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
Love well. Receive love well.
– Miroslav Volf
What does that love mean to us? Well, we not only share good news, but we share our lives together. Now, the good news is that we have to speak truth to power, we have to call for release from bondage to those in prison, good news to the poor, that their lack of economic access should not define them, and that whatever systems that we live in that exclude folks need to be held into account.
And, we have to be with folks, like Jesus was, like the disciples were. We have to look at the crowds and have compassion. Not condemnation, not hurt feelings, not with fear, and listen and not interpret them in ways that others like the media or politicians on either side tell us.
We have the crowds around us, some are protesting stay at home orders, some are protesting racism, some are simply wondering what to think or believe. But, literally, we see them in our city and in cities and towns across the globe right now. People are hurting. We can have our opinions, but we cannot condemn, we have to look deeper within ourselves and ask some questions of ourselves.
As as pastor, someone who loves this church and community, loves you all, I have struggled these past few weeks even as I’ve moved and have been doing so much. I often don’t have the right words, but I know that God is doing something in my life and in our lives together. And, during this time, I’ve felt a great sense of unity.
We live in a country called the United States. I love my country, but, it’s not so united these days. And, maybe, it never has been, at least not for all peoples.
But, we have been united, even in our diversity of thought…and, we have an opportunity now to address the issues of our day, Covid-19, and the pandemic of systematic racism that has plagued our country and world. We cannot demonize the protestors, police, or any peoples. Please, let your frustration be aimed at a system that keeps people from living abundantly as it did Jesus. Jesus loved the people. Allow yourself to be Christ’s body and feel what Christ felt and feels. As I’ve said before, Jesus was an outsider and an insider. And, he worked from both ends to bring change and show love. He occupied the spaces that he found himself in and was present to the moment.
We must do the same. Jesus calls us out to be workers in the harvest field. And, in a season of Covid-19, working outside is a bit more safer! Seriously, we are being called to find creative ways to listen, to learn, and to love. This world is crying out for us.
We may not have certainty of what’s going to happen next, and, I don’t want to jinx us by saying that, but we can stay together in unity as a church, even as we process the events before us, and we can pray.
In this passage, the word pray literally translates as “plead”. Jesus is pleading for workers to be sent in to the fields, cultivating understanding, listening to others, being present, and growing in love.
Friends, it’s so good to be here with you, may we know that God is pleading for us to occupy church in a way that says that we are much more than bricks and mortar, much more than the sermons we preach, or the songs we sing, or the liturgy we work out…all of those are great, but we are more, and we are growing in our love for one another and the world around us. We are the body of Christ, the image bearers of God, humans connected to one another and to God.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What is a disciple?
Miriam Webster defines disciple as this:
– one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as Christianity : one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts
That’s always an interesting question isn’t it. What is a disciple? We have these definitions, but I think there is much to say about what it means to be a disciple in the lectionary passage this morning. Especially as we come to this time in the readings after Easter, and for us in this time pandemic and so much social upheaval.
Remember, the disciples, Jesus’ followers are in a state of transition. A laminal or threshold time where they have been following Jesus, listening to him, seeing his example of listening, loving, and including others. Hearing him talk about community and being in union with God, which brings everyone into restored communion with God. Into deep friendship. Remember the words that Paul shares, “become friends with God, God is already of friend of yours”. So, Jesus followers had been attracted to this message both spoken and lived out by Jesus.
Then we come to the farewell discourses in John where Jesus is preparing the disciples for a time of violence being inflicted upon Jesus and for them to remember his words and actions and to stay unified and in friendship.
Then there’s Jesus’ death, the disciples flee and hide in rooms with barricaded doors. Jesus appears to them, resurrected. These appearances are wondrous, but the disciples, the followers, still are consumed with doubt. They want to go back to “normal”, but know that they cannot, and that “normal” was not working anyway for them.
But, they stuck together, even though they were hiding.
Then, we come to this passage where Jesus is physically taken up to be with God. In essence, saying that he is with the disciples always through his spirit which will empower them to have agency and encouragement.
When we read this passage, we see that the disciples to the mountain where Jesus tells them to congregate for this occasion. When they saw Jesus, they worshipped him, but some still doubted. In other words, as Richard Rohr says, they were a mess! Like us. So many times, we give God lip service, but, inside, if you are like me and most humans, and honest, they still had some doubts, some fears, some concerns. Yet, they stood there. Watching. There’s something in that, I would encourage you to look at that messiness in the disciples and our lives, and know that it’s a sign of being spiritual. Heck, even Jesus struggled. Yet, there is a power in sticking with it, and even when you can’t stick with it, staying put on the mountain and waiting.
Jesus then reminds them that he has authority, he has agency, and that this agency also resides in us. GO! Don’t be immobilized forever, move! Go is an imperative, a command. If you want to grow, get off the couch, get out of the pew, and get into relationship with those around you. One thing that this pandemic has taught us is that as great as our building is, as much as we love Sunday mornings, our faith is much more than those things…we have an active faith that compels us to connect with others.
And, when we do connect, what does Jesus say? Don’t try to win arguments, don’t try to make converts, but make disciples! In other words, show others how to live through word and actions of loving and listening. The best teachers I’ve ever had are ones that won me over if you will by how well they listened to me and showed concern.
I never will forget when Peter Block told me he wasn’t interested in being my mentor, but he’d be my friend. And, what does Jesus say to his disciples before this moment, in the upper room? I no longer call you disciples, but friends! In that moment, it is is a discipling moment, a teaching moment. Because, in friendship, in making disciples, we experience growth and presence…especially when we enter those friendships with an open heart.
Finally, Jesus says to us, stick it out. You need each other, you can’t do this life thing on your own. And, that he is with us through the power of Christ living inside of us…the presence of Christ through God’s connective tissue, nature, spirit is with us…teaching us each moment if we are paying attention, on how to love and live. Now, and to the end of the age.
So, friends, disciples, Jesus followers: we have been with Jesus, we have been given instructions, we were more prepared for this pandemic that we are still living in than we could have ever imagined. And, now, we are living in two pandemics, a pandemic of racism that has been with us for over 400 years. We can’t go back to “normal”, because “normal” wasn’t working well for all peoples…certainly not for our black and brown brothers and sisters. We can have all sorts of opinions of the unrest, but we know that we have to listen, have to love, and in so doing, know that we are making disciples, being discipled, and that we in this together.
2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
I wrote this sermon early last week, after the events of the past few days. I have so many other thoughts. When I read verses 17-20, I cannot help to think that these are prophetic words for us today. We are living in apocalyptic times. Things are ending and new things are emerging. We are seeing literal images of things burning, of blood flowing, and of new dreams and visions out of the struggle that we are facing as a community and as a nation.
The tragic and senseless death of George Floyd has been yet another trigger point in our nation’s ugly history of racism. We are having to confront 400+ years of slavery and economic growth built on the backs of our fellow humans.
We are learning to listen and speak in new languages metaphorically. We are changing and the change has to start with us.
We may be scared, we may be angry, we may be fearing for our very lives and livelihoods, but God has given us God’s Spirit to bring us comfort and courage to face these times.
And, we have been in a process of being prepared for such a time as this.
These past few weeks, we’ve been talking about Jesus’ words in John chapters 14-17, the farewell discourse. Jesus has been preparing his disciples for what was about to come. Now, Jesus did not know all that was about to happen. He did not have any certainty. He didn’t know the outcome of the next day or the next season. Sound familiar?
Jesus is simply encouraging the disciples, letting them know that even when things get bad, seemingly out of control, that they won’t be alone. They have an identity, they are not going to be orphaned. Which, is an interesting word, in effect, Jesus is saying that they not only have an identity, but that they are still in relationship with a God who is all around them and even in them.
If we have ever lost someone, we know that even after they are gone, that it often feels like they are still with us. Maybe even more so. Same, but even more with Jesus. We’ve never met Jesus, yet it seems that Jesus is even more present within my body, within my friendships, and within the space between us. Teilhard calls this the cosmic Christ, that Christ not only lived and walked the earth, but is with us, everywhere with everyone and everything, right now.
There is a Presence, a sense of God’s love all around us and I pray for awareness of God’s Presence. I believe that the greatest gift and struggle that we have as Jesus followers, as humans, is the work of becoming of self, others, and God aware…of being connected to ourselves, others, with the divine flow of God pushing us deeper. The disciples, like us, were in a liminal space, a threshhold out of their control and they were being pushed deeper into Presence.
During this pandemic, we have been listening and receiving God’s love through others, and deep within ourselves, long before the pandemic hit. As we have gone through this season, many of us have commented on how our faith has come more alive even as we have struggled, we’ve taken some risks relationally, we’ve connected with ourselves and others as we’ve had our lives disrupted. Much like the disciples, we’ve even been afraid to leave our houses for health reasons! And, it’s interesting isn’t it, we have not been able to meet over food (and this church loves food), Sunday mornings in our sanctuary, use our church building, do our weekly events as planned, whatever we have “normally” done…yet, we still feel connected and present in many ways.
And, we recognize that the master gardener, God’s action, is cultivating a deeper growth within us and around us.
I strongly believe that, we, and all of humanity is being shaped and formed by God’s movement, that God is with all of us in the most intimate way. God is closer than the air we breathe. Yet, we don’t often recognize God, or sometimes we even deny that God could even exist. The idea of a loving God can scare us. Love transforms, it changes us.
Relationships happen, love is the fuel for those relationships to flourish. The juice if you will that burns within us and draws us out towards accepting others and ourselves in community.
This concept of being “in” relationship with God and with others starts with an understanding that God’s very nature is communal relationship. You can go through all sorts of head knowledge of God, but if we go deep within ourselves, whether we are extroverts or introverts, we are wired for relationship. Science affirms this concept, at the very root of how we are formed, with atoms, protons, neutrons, quarks, etc., there is an understanding that energy is created for atoms to form through attraction, through relationship.
Our understanding of God as three in one, as Trinity, gives witness to relationships. God as parent, son, holy spirit are so close that they are one. The outcome of their energy together is creating, saving, and sustaining relationship based on love. It is not static, it is dynamic.
That dynamic energy of three in one God, demonstrated by the outpouring of God’s energy, God’s Spirit on the disciples, gave them courage to face the unknown of going outside of their comfort and into a world that they literally did not understand. They walked into a Jerusalem filled with folks from all over that had different customs, different ethnicities, and different languages.
Yet, they went. They knew that they were connected to God, one another, and wanted to share that connection with the world. And, in so doing, they gave birth to a new movement, a new understanding, a new “realization” if you will, that we are all one humanity, God’s children. That our diversity is beautiful, keeps us curious, AND, we can be united and connected in that diversity. Fire was used to describe the Holy Spirit…and that flame, once kindled, proliferated wildly.
Could this season of pandemic be another time of revelation, or realization, that releases the power of God’s love in new and creative ways?
As we allow God’s love to pour into us and through us to others, we begin to understand that we are connected to an expansive and wild God. We begin to see faith as not about certainty or having things figured out, but understanding that living in mystery and curiosity, living in a willingness to let go of our control, our vision, and letting God expand our horizons. We are locally rooted in community, and globally connected in Chist…as we let that reality seep in, we begin to experience a deepening of ourselves, a joy in things unseen but lived out.
God’s Spirit, our advocate, is moving us out of our comfort zones…we are being moved out of ourselves and finding creative ways that God’s Spirit has been at work in and around us during this season, and we are adapting, embracing this new reality, not certain of where it will lead, but trusting that God’s Spirit will energize us, that God’s Son will be our friend, and that God’s relational flow will continue to give birth to new possibilities.
As we continue to gather online, in parking lots, in parks, or wherever…as we serve our neighbors, read, journal, and contemplate on God’s movement in our lives, may we see God is in us, and we find our being in God. This being will move us in ways we don’t always expect. Look at the early disciples that are described in Acts. They experience the Spirit, it’s like a flame that’s burning, uncontrollable, yet warms them and moves them to change the world. May it be so for us.