1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
Let us pray: Gracious and Loving God, quicken our hearts again, that we may receive Your Word afresh and anew. May your Spirit's voice be heard, and in hearing may we respond in service and in witness to Your Name through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Easter Season officially ends today, Pentecost Sunday----a day when the Christian Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit into our midst.
In the Christian Church calendar, there are three days that are usually considered to be the most important. They are, quite obviously, Christmas, Easter, and this day, Pentecost. We recount today the coming of the Holy Spirit which, in many ways, marks the birthday of the Church.
Today we hear the reading from Acts of the Apostles recounting Luke’s rendition of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the early church. And then in John’s Gospel where Jesus breathes upon the disciples telling them to “receive the Holy Spirit,” and giving them and the church, the charge over forgiveness of sins.
As a child, I was often bullied by my grade school classmates, so one of my favorite comic strips was Popeye the Sailorman. Popeye was regularly bullied by Brutus. Brutus would often seek to cause mayhem in the life of Popeye in all kinds of ways. He would try to steal Olive Oil. I never quite understood why, but that was part of his program. He was always beating up Popeye until Popeye just couldn't take it anymore. And after he had taken all he could stand he would reach for that can of spinach. After he had done everything he could to get that can of spinach and swallow it, things changed. Brutus was now the victim and no longer the victor. Brutus was now subject to this new infusion of power that Popeye possessed, and for a while at least Popeye was on top. But you could bank on this one thing: by the time that comic strip ended, and another Popeye strip came, he was losing again. So, he needed another can of spinach. I was always wondering if there was something besides spinach I could eat that would give me the strength of Popeye.
I am here to declare that we serve a risen Christ that has given us peace and a power by breathing on his disciples that is not subject to how much spinach we consume, but is a power that can transform our trials into triumphs.
In reflecting on this day, and the readings, there are several things to say about the importance and power of this day.
One quality of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is disruptive. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are fruits and gifts that bring us together; but the Holy Spirit is, by the nature and grace of the Holy Spirit, quite disruptive.
In John’s Gospel, in a conversation with Nicodemus Jesus said: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit lives and moves among us, but often moves in directions we don’t always like or appreciate.
A lot of people of have faith believe that God calms things down, that God makes everything go according to plan. It’s usually not the case.
We tend to think of the Holy Spirit as a “Comforter,” “Advocate” or “Counselor” and nice soothing things but in our first reading from Acts we heard of the disruptive power of the Holy Spirit. Violent wind, tongues of fire, speaking in other languages. The neighbors claiming they were drunk.
So the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, tends to be disruptive, especially about such issues like faith and religion. Little things.
And we who live and breathe in organized religion should take note of this. Jesus was known, on occasion, to be disruptive in his interaction with the religious community.
In Matthew, Mark, and John’s Gospel Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem in great triumph, goes to the Temple, and overturns the tables of the money changers and, generally makes a scene. He was totally disruptive.
And that’s what the Holy Spirit is all about. Being disruptive—moving us out of our comfort zones. The Holy Spirit comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. This day, Pentecost, is a day when we are challenged to be moved from that which is comfortable. To be around God, to be open to the Holy Spirit, is not necessarily to just be comfortable.
Secondly, John teaches us that Jesus taught the apostles they had the power to forgive sins or bind people to those sins. In the Gospel of Matthew, in Peter’s declaration of faith, Jesus gives to Peter, and the Church, the power to “bind and loose.”
Over the centuries the Christian Church, and Christians have been good with the “binding” part and have struggled with the loosing part. We’ve been, historically; better, at rendering judgment on people than we have at forgiving them. In the Middle Ages the Bible was reprinted, by hand, in monasteries spread out over Europe. There was a debate amongst some of the monasteries about the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman--the story that culminates with the line, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Some of the monks struggled with this story. Some felt it seemed to be condoning the sin of the woman, condoning adultery. But the bigger problem was that Jesus forgave the woman, in the minds of the monks, way too easily. The issue, of course, was resolved because the story was in the Bible and the monks believed that they had no right changing the story--or Jesus’ intention.
But it’s actually a story that does impact us. The cry for salvation is not a simple problem with a simple solution; it is a deep, cry for deliverance. It is a cry that the quick and easy formula of: “Say these six words and the rest of your life will turn out OK” can’t fix. It is a cry that a date on a calendar or a memorial of what happened a long time ago can’t soothe. No, this cry can only be answered with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit – a Pentecost right here in our midst!
But that’s impossible, right? Rushing winds and howling storms and spontaneously learning to speak different languages – the whole bit – that just doesn’t happen anymore, right?
Well perhaps it doesn’t happen anymore in a dramatic and spectacular way such as 2000 years ago. But that’s not the question Pentecost dares to ask. Do you believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life bringing you comfort and peace when you invite and ask?
I don’t use wooden pencils very much anymore, but I remember, when I was in school growing up, using pencils and wearing out the erasers. I made a lot of mistakes and I used my eraser a lot.
Pencils had different kinds of erasers. Some of the erasers were really soft, and pink, and they worked great.
But some of the pencils had erasers that dried out and lost their softness and were really, really hard. Whenever I’d try to erase with them, they’d smudge the lead on the paper and, all too often, tore the paper.
I sometimes wrestle with being either type of eraser. When I am kind, loving, and forgiving, I tend to do good things and I interact with my family, with friends, and with everyone a lot better. But when I’m like that hard eraser, angry, mean-spirited, and unforgiving, I just make a mess and tear into people and things. It’s pretty ugly, actually.
In this time of health and social and faith challenge, we need the reassurance of God’s healing grace. We need the memory of Pentecost to inspire confidence in God’s welcome for all people. We need an enlarged understanding of the Body of Christ. We need to believe that God is good enough, big enough, generous enough, to make a place for each and every person in the Kingdom of God.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Update from Bishop Matt Gunter
"We will begin a phased resumption of gathering for worship in our buildings, possibly as early as the middle of June. But that will largely be determined by the rate of infection and other public health factors. Directions for the first phase of regathering in our church buildings will be published next week. "
read his complete post here Bishop Update
Split Screen Unity
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Let us pray: Gracious and compassionate God, we thank you for inviting all your children into your kingdom. Prepare our hearts to be about the work of being one people, the body of Christ, and ministers of his unconditional love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Jesus said: “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
In every musical show – and in many movies – there seems to be a moment when two or more main characters, are separated, but both still on stage or screen. In a musical, they may sing a song together. In a movie, the screen is likely split between them, showing what each is doing. It’s typically not a happy moment. It often happens after a separation of some kind between the characters. It often signifies an emotional rift as well as a physical one. In these scenes, the characters are together but separate, in what John Mayer termed in his 2003 song of the same title, “Split Screen Sadness.”
2020 has given us all our very own “split screen sadness” moments — too many to count. COVID-19 has forced us all to maintain physical distance, canceling our services, keeping us apart, away from our churches and away from the Eucharist. What, then, does Jesus’ prayer for us all to be one mean here, for us, in our times? How can we “be one” when we have to settle for online services, phone calls, and Zoom meetings rather than the hugs, sacraments, and in-person love to which we are so accustomed?
The church throughout history has had its share of split screen sadness. The 1918 flu pandemic forced churches closed in many of the same ways that we have had to close in 2020. The HIV-AIDS pandemic gave people a healthy fear of disease and of one another, too, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Long before that, plagues would occasionally rip through the population, forcing separations and leaving sickness and death in their wake. In turbulent times, it is helpful to remember that we are not the first to walk the road before us. We are not the first church people to experience the “split screen sadness” caused by disease.
In this Gospel passage, Jesus is preparing to die. He has spent a long time talking to the disciples and attempting to prepare them, as he shared dinner with them and laid aside his robe like a servant, the night before he would lay down his life for his friends. Now, it seems, he is preparing both himself and his disciples for his death, as he prays for them.
Some of us understand what it is like to be with a person as they prepare to die. We know that truths are spoken then. We know how to say goodbye. This farewell discourse of Jesus is more relatable in its Holy Week context than it perhaps is here, in the Easter lectionary, right after the Ascension.
Perhaps one thing this pandemic has done for us is to point out that we don’t often know how to be separate but still united. Now, as we read this passage in light of the Ascension, we realize that that is exactly what Jesus is preparing them for — to remain united with him, and with each other, even when he is not physically present.
Later in this chapter of John, Jesus will say, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Crisis teaches us truths. This is true of the disciples at the time of Jesus’ death, and it is true of us here in 2020. In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself is the Word made flesh, the truth made flesh. In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the disciples learn that the worst thing is never the last thing, but that in Christ, all things are made new. In our own time, perhaps, we are learning similar things.
When Christ ascended, the disciples looked around at each other, and the sky, such that the angels standing by asked them, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” It is okay not to know what to do next. It is okay to be still. It is okay to put one foot in front of the other and muddle through. And it is okay to be taken aback by physical separation from those we love and whose presence comforts us and lifts us up.
We are learning, or have learned, to be with one another, united in Christ, even when we are not physically present. During our time of “split screen sadness,” we have united around the Word and our mutual love for Christ and for one another. We have done nothing perfectly, but we have allowed the crisis to teach us. We have been sanctified by the truth and held together in love by Christ.
I love the lines from our second reading from 1st Peter: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” What else do we need to know? Jesus prays for our protection and unity – and we are under the mighty hand of God, because he cares for us.
Perhaps, then, this pandemic can teach us more than how to better wash our hands. Perhaps it can do more than be a moment of split screen sadness for all of us. Perhaps it can truly teach us to be one in Christ with people with whom we may never be physically present in this life. Perhaps it can serve as a reminder that regardless, we are all one in Christ, and Christ is with us, now and always. In Christ, neither death, nor life, nor pandemics, nor wars can ever separate us. Thanks be to God.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Peter 3:13-22
Let us pray: Father in heaven, for Jesus’ sake, stir up in all of us the gift of your Holy Spirit; confirm our faith, guide our lives, empower us in our serving, give us patience in suffering, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
In the Gospel reading this morning Jesus sits with the disciples in the Upper Room. The candles of the Passover meal have burnt down and it is time to go. One disciple has already fled their gathering, his betrayal a shock to all. Another disciple’s denial is predicted and the pain of the cross awaits them all. In the midst of this uncertain gathering, Jesus reaches out to them in love. Listen again to what he says:
“I will not leave you orphaned—I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live…And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
I will not leave you alone, Jesus tells us. I will not abandon you as orphans. I will send you an Advocate, a Counselor, a Comforter and Friend... who will care for you, who will offer hope when there is none to be found, help when you are helpless, comfort when you can find none and life in the face of death. The Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us in our Baptism. The Holy Spirit, God’s presence in life. The Holy Spirit, Christ’s gift to us and the promise to all the faithful.
At a Vestry meeting a number of years ago our opening prayers used the word “Paraclete.” When we were finished with the prayers someone asked what’s a Paraclete?” Before I could respond a discussed developed: “A Paraclete is a little green bird that people keep in a cage.” And another: “A Paracletes is what football players wear to keep from slipping.” And so it went. (A Vestry in action.)
Well, I finally did get a chance to explain that Paraclete is another word for the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for advocate is “parakletos” which means, literally, to “call beside,” or “to call alongside to help” and is used in some translations. This word is variously translated in different versions of the Bible as, “advocate, or comforter, or counselor, or helper.” However, as with many translations none of these can really capture what the word means. It is the same word used in a court of law to describe the role of a person who is called to stand beside a defendant and plead his or her cause. Interestingly, in French the word for lawyer is “avocat.” It can mean anyone who is called upon to give practical assistance to someone in time of need. And it was used in military circles to refer to an officer called in to boost the morale of a dispirited company of soldiers. 2
This Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, is Someone who comes to our side, helps us cope with the things of life, encourages and energizes, strengthens and empowers for living.
Joyce Rupp, the Catholic spiritual writer says, in her book, Pieces of Light, “I am always assured by the stories from Scripture of all those women and men who had tough times, because God continually gives two messages over and over to those in darkness: ‘Do not fear’ and ‘I am with you’. I find great comfort in these assurances and clutch them to my empty heart when times are tough.”
The Bible is certainly filled with tough times and empty hearts. We have Joseph sitting alone in a prison cell; the children of Israel wandering, wondering if they will ever arrive at the land of promise; Elijah fleeing for his life and feeling totally alone; and the disciples, hiding for fear that the same fate that came to their beloved teacher and leader will come to them. Our own lives have their share of empty hearts and tough times; times of fear and “not knowing.” Yet as we look into those same stories from scripture, stories which resonate in some ways with our own experiences, we find more than someone who “knows” what we are going through.
The phrase “Do not be afraid” appears 71 times in the New Revised Standard Version. It seems that fear was a common response to either an encounter with the holy or a new and understandably frightening situation. The Word of God came to those folks and before the message was even proclaimed the people were told, “Fear not. Fear not, I am with you.” The angel brought that message to the shepherds in the fields, “Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy,” and we know the rest of that story.
Now it is many years later and Jesus is preparing to finish his earthly ministry. As he is preparing to leave his disciples behind, Jesus’ message is almost identical to that of the angel, “Do not be afraid.”
The promise is not exactly, “I will always be with you; I will never leave you”, but it is: “I will send an advocate. I will send another who WILL be with you.”
There is a story told of a rookie ballplayer, just up from the minor league that was sent in to bat against the great Hall of Fame pitcher from the St. Louis Cardinals, Bob Gibson in his prime. Just off the bench and as nervous as a kid on his first date, the rookie stepped up to the plate and took a couple tentative practice swings as the great right-hander Gibson glared down at him from the mound. And then, with a great windup and pitch, Gibson blew two consecutive fastballs right down the center of the plate, so fast that the rookie didn’t even have time to swing the bat. With that the rookie turned on his heels and started to walk back to the dugout. “What are you doing?” the manager hollered. “Get back in there. You’ve still another strike coming.” “Let him have it,” the rookie sighed. “I’ve seen enough already.” 3
Have you ever felt that way? Outmatched by life? Up against what seems to be impossible odds? Depressed? Downhearted? Hopeless and helpless, overpowered by life? What do we do when life bullies us into a corner? Where do we turn when trouble traps us alone? Where do we turn when it seems there’s no help in sight? Well, this morning the Resurrected Christ, the One who has triumphed over the cross and the grave, the One who stands eternal before the throne of our Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ says to us (as he did to the disciples) “I will not leave you alone.” “I will not leave you orphaned.” Or as another translation says, “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”
I will not leave you alone, Jesus tells us. I will not abandon you as orphans. I will send you a Counselor, an Advocate, a Comforter and Friend... who will care for you, who will offer hope when there is none to be found, help when you are helpless, comfort when you can find none and life in the face of death. The Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us in our Baptism. The Holy Spirit, God’s presence in life. The Holy Spirit, Christ’s gift to us and the promise to all the faithful.
I think it's interesting that Jesus begins by saying, "If you love me." We forget sometimes that it's not enough to just say, "I love Jesus." Or "Jesus is Lord and Savior of my life."
The important part is living that love. The important part is the manifestation of the love of Jesus in all that we do and say. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Or as The Message by Eugene Peterson puts it: "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you."
Why did Jesus promise this Advocate, this Paraclete to us? Just for our comfort when times are tough and seemingly hopeless? I believe it is for more. To come beside us and help us keep his commandment to “Love one another.” As His advocate to give practical assistance to someone in time of need.
The Holy Spirit, sends us forth then as messengers of God’s love to the poor, the unemployed, the young and the elderly, the sick and the rejected, the unhappy, the sorrowful, the lonely and the dying. Who is there to say to them, “I will not leave you as orphans...” Sometimes, God willing, it can be us. For we are the ones whom God entrusts with the Good News. We are the ones sent forth with his love.
Let us pray: O God, your Holy Spirit is alive in all the earth. Help us to see signs of your goodness in each moment. Let us be uplifted by your promise. You have not left us as orphans. let us not be fearful. So, we may walk boldly forth, knowing that you are at our side. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
1 Peter 2:2-10
Let us pray: Lord, keep us always as searchers for the Way, the Truth and the Life. In your presence may we feel your tender love, hear your words of guidance, and be changed by your truth. In your light may we see life clearly, and in your service may we find purpose for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
It’s kind of strange as a preacher to put together Mother’s Day with a Sunday when the lectionary features the brutal murder of the first Christian martyr. St. Stephen is the featured central character of our first lectionary reading from Acts, and we get to see him meet his end at the hands of an angry mob who kill him by attacking him with rocks. It’s not exactly a sweet Hallmark card Mother’s Day sentiment. Granted, there are probably a lot of mothers who have been—or who at least see themselves—as martyrs, and who willingly pass the sentiment along to their children in never-ending recitations of their parental drudgery and their offspring’s ingratitude.
If you think about it, the lectionary fits pretty neatly into the theme of our secular holiday. Why is that, you ask? Because in Greek the word “martyr” actually means “witness.” It didn’t start out meaning someone who died for their faith (although getting killed for what you believe in is, you must admit, a pretty darn strong testimony!); rather, it simply referred to someone who was willing to speak of what they knew to be true. If I were to ask many of you to name the person who most influenced you in your Christian faith, I think many would answer, “My mom.”
Moms are powerful “martyrs” in this respect. My own mom was a hard-working farm wife. She was also prone to being hyper-neat and very concerned about her appearance, a borderline obsessive compulsive, and a world-class cigarette smoker which I believe accounted for her early death. But her short-comings notwithstanding, my mother was determined to raise her children in the Christian faith – specifically as Lutherans. She and I may not have always agreed on politics or popular culture, but she taught me very early about prayer and gave me the gift of my faith beliefs and for that I will always be grateful.
When we take a look at the First Lesson in the Lectionary for Easter 5, I think it’s important that we read back a chapter and see that the most important witness we get from this guy Stephen is not how he died but how he lived. The Bible says Stephen was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” as well as being “full of grace and power.” I’m guessing this means Stephen was a strong believer in Christ, had a good relationship with God, was open-minded, thankful, and pretty competent in his work. He was also well-versed in Jewish history and literature, astonishingly courageous in the face of death, and openly forgiving as we see in chapter 7. All of these traits are witnesses to his faith in Christ and to the Spirit which dwelt within him.
The Gospel Lesson this Sunday is one which I preach on more than any other. John 14:1-6 is a recommended text for funerals and memorial services, probably because of the promise that we will one day be with Christ.
The disciples were still in the upper room. Jesus had washed their feet. They had shared a meal. Judas had gone out to betray Jesus. And Jesus had just told Peter that Peter was going to deny him. The room was filled with apprehension, unease, distress! It is a liminal space, a space in which life seems to be on a knife’s edge. Things were out of control as the disciples leaned in and listened to Jesus. It is into this moment of uncertainty and fear that Jesus speaks.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
Facing his own death. Aware of the disciple’s confusion, their fear and the impending desertion Jesus offers to them hope.
Jesus always offers to them and to us hope.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
In the face of uncertainty, confusion, doubt and fear:
“Believe in God, believe also in me.”
Although we may seek to live a good life, a life of discipleship, a life responding to God, the reality is that we miss the mark, we get it wrong. When we listen to each other’s life stories we discover that this truth that all of us miss the mark and fall short of the glory of God, and this has consequence for us and for those whom we travel with in community. Sometimes we realize that we have missed the mark and sometimes it takes another person to reveal this to us.
I am also reminded of this truth on days like today which is Mother’s Day. My mom was not perfect, and I was not the perfect son. Each of us missed the mark in our relationship. I am thankful that we were able to work through this and to continue to love one another. Not all mothers and children are able to achieve this so for some, Mothers’ Day comes with a mix of emotions for a range of reasons.
What I like about the story is that Jesus is certain that his disciples “know the way.” Poor Thomas is a little confused, thinking that Jesus is referring to some geographic location, but Jesus sets him straight. To be in relationship with Jesus is to be in relationship with the way of God and the peace which flows from that path of living. The disciples “know the way” because they know Jesus.
So, what is this “way?” Certainly, it has a lot to do with love, sacrifice, gratitude, willingness to suffer, and faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. I’m willing to bet that if you learned this “way,” it might well have been because of the witness of your mother. She was the “martyr” who spoke the language of Christ to you.
We are all called to “martyrdom.” That is, we are all called to be witnesses. It’s good to reflect, on how we see Christ in others, but we are also called to be Christ to others. Pope Benedict XVI had a cool way of expressing this:
“Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves; it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with Him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with Him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live.”
All of us, personally and communally, are people who miss the mark. All of us, personally and communally, are therefore people to whom Jesus words of grace apply. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God believe also in me.
As we sit in the middle of all this uncertainty, I am reminded that most of us have been here before. As we enter limited spaces in life, spaces of doubt, and even fear, I am constantly reminded that in my own life I miss the mark, but I am also constantly reminded that despite this, Jesus is the way the truth and the life and it is he who guides us home.
As you consider this moment in your own existence, personally and as a community, hear the good news and be strong in faith, for on the night those disciples gathered full of fear and apprehension Jesus words came to them as good news of hope for them and for all people: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
A Happy Mother’s Day to you all.
1 Peter 2:19-25
or see link to the right
Let us pray: Lord, you are our shepherd. We thank you that you give us everything we need. You offer us rest and refreshment through your Word. You keep us on the straight and narrow when we are prone to stray. We thank you that those times when we are afraid, we can trust that you watch out for us. Amen.
This Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. In all three lectionary years we read the Good Shepherd monologue from the tenth chapter of John. It is a complicated passage, in that Jesus identifies himself as being the Good Shepherd, the Gatekeeper, and even the Gate to the sheepfold.
We also read the 23rd Psalm today and heard the words: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want…Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , I shall fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Another that is frequently used in perilous times is “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in times of trouble” (Ps 46:1). There are many more such verses, all expressing longing for and trust in God as a place for us to feel safe and protected, even from the worst of situations.
During this epidemic, it’s easy to question where the refuge is, and whether or not God will actually act to save God’s people. We have doctors, nurses, first responders, firefighters, police, janitors, clerks, laboratory technicians – hundreds of thousands of people doing their utmost to keep as many people safe and healthy as possible, even at the risk of contracting it themselves. Can’t we see God in them, working through and with them to create a refuge under God’s wings? What about grocery clerks and stockers who put themselves in positions of vulnerability so that those looking for food and supplies might find them? It might seem funny to think of God as a janitor or cleaning person, but God loves the meek and lowly, especially those putting themselves in danger so that others might stay well.
Because of this virus, people are being ordered, to remain at home, work from home if at all possible, and stay put until it’s okay to resume some activities. That’s what is making me so itchy (besides needing a haircut); it isn’t my choice to stay home, it’s someone else’s, and I honestly don’t like being told what I can do and when I can leave my own house.
So as we shelter in place, seeking refuge from illness and harm, let’s take time to remember those who may not see their jobs as a ministry, especially one sent from God, but nonetheless a ministry of love and hope, one that will help restore the earth and the health of all of God’s creations, human and otherwise.
Also, as we stay quarantined in our homes, may we pray for those who are in danger, who have been inflicted, and who seek to be cured of their illness. Let us find ways to praise God and thank God for the homes in which we shelter, rather than the shelter we might be seeking under a bridge or a homeless shelter. We have much to be grateful for in this time of trial, so let’s spend some time considering those things rather than our shortages or greed.
It’s easy to trust God when the sky is blue, and everything is going well. But when the skies turn dark and the winds stir, we get anxious. Life is filled with dangers and uncertainty. We can try to be in control, but we live in a world that is filled with the unexpected. We can take all kinds of preventative measures to make our lives secure but ultimately, we have to trust that God, the great shepherd, is watching over us.
The Good Shepherd never leaves the flock. The Good Shepherd goes with us, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
This Good Shepherd knows our name. He knows us personally. He loves us despite our sins, faults, and failings. He has promised to provide us with the most important thing we need - an intimate relationship with him. He knows us and reveals himself to us that we might know him as our Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior. We find comfort, peace and meaning in life in our relationship with this Good Shepherd for with him we each know that "goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives; and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, bring healing and comfort for people around the world suffering from COVID-19. Speed their recovery and slow the spread of the virus. We thank you for the efforts of all those involved in treating, testing and caring for patients, and ask your protection over them as they go about their work. Give wisdom to governments around the world as they manage this outbreak. We ask for your peace when we are tempted to panic or become anxious about this disease. Help us to place our trust in you, knowing that our life is safely hidden in you and that you are the Lord of all creation. Enable us to show your love to others, sharing the hope we have in you, in the name of Christ. Amen.
Fr. Jim is providing his sermons online during the Corona virus pandemic. Enjoy!