404 Stewards of the Promise (Part Three)

Stewards of the Promise (Part Three)

Lectionary Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter Year A

May 25, 2014

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. John 14:21

(This is the third of a three-part Easter season stewardship reflection series that examines God’s promises revealed in the gospel portion of the Lectionary readings for the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Sundays of Easter. Simply stated, the first is Jesus’ promise of abundant life. The second promises that we will see God revealed in Jesus and that our bold prayers will be answered. The final promise is that God loves us and desires relationship. These three promises help to anchor and inform what it means to be a steward of all of life, of all the goodness and grace of God.)

Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 14:21 gets right to the heart of the gospel–love. This is, of course, not just any kind of love. God’s love is sacrificial, unmerited, limitless, and beyond explanation, revealed in the person of the Son. Jesus speaks of a love that is circular, without beginning or end, a love that always has been and always will be because it is the nature of God to love.

Rennett Stowe, CCPart of Jesus’ final discourse, Jesus prepares his disciples for life without his physical presence among them. “I will not leave you orphaned,” he says to them, and to us. We are not alone. Jesus continues to meet us in the Sacraments, when the Word is proclaimed, and whenever two or more gather in his name. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, in baptism.

Stewardship of these promises and the gifts by which they are manifested is our task, and one we dare not take lightly. Jesus tells us that we are to keep his commandments, that we are to love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves. These are simple words and tall orders. There’s not a word about money, yet keeping these commandments involves our careful stewarding of all of our resources, money included. Living as stewards of the promises of God demands a total commitment and full relationship. Only when we are fully engaged as followers, as “little Christs” (i.e. Christians), can we begin to understand and live into these promises.

The God of the cosmos desires relationship, wills to love and to be loved fully and completely. What amazing good news! These promises run directly counter to all that our culture promises. Instead of never being able to be satisfied, of always being less than and of never having enough, God says to each one of us an emphatic and loving “YES” in Jesus. There is enough and then some, and we can ask in the name of God for whatever we need as children of the promise to help usher Charles Clegg, CCin God’s reign in this present age. Most of all, we are loved because we are. It’s that simple. And God desires our meager, imperfect, humble love in return.

We are, to be sure, imperfect stewards of these amazing promises. Yet somehow, we are assured that this is enough, and in our striving to love and know God we find our lives overflowing with divine goodness and abundance. We will never outgive God; it’s just not possible. However, once you ever experience the joy of living in these promises you will want to treasure them and share them. “Because I live, you also will live,” Jesus says. Hold fast to these words and share them prodigally as you are sent into the world. Be emboldened to give of yourself, your time, and your resources radically; you will not be disappointed for God is with you in the giving and in the sharing and most of all in the loving.

In Worship

Chain of Love

The good news this week is that God desires relationship, and Jesus says “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will not longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” It’s an endless chain of love and relationship! How can you visually illustrate this idea of connection and love in the Body of Christ? Consider giving everyone a paper clip as they enter worship (or attach one to each bulletin before folks enter for worship).  Perhaps people will remember making paper clip chains as children; these little pieces of metal just beg to be linked together. Singly, these are tiny objects, but linked together they can make an impressive display. What if you went beyond a paper clip for every worshiper and asked people to bring in a paper clip for each person they love, or for members of congregation who have died, or for people they hope will come to know Christ’s love? How big of a chain could you make?

For more paper clip inspiration, check out the 2004 documentary film Paper Clips, about a middle school in Whitwell, Tennessee, where students studying the Holocaust decided to try and collect six million paper clips for a visual image of those who were killed during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

With Youth

Consider a study of this week’s lectionary reading from Acts (17:22-31). This passage recounts how Paul used a community’s culture and their altar to an unknown god to share the good news. How can we use current culture as a way to share good news? We may not have altars dedicated to unknown gods in every city or town, but we do have cultural icons that can be useful to make connections to what really matters. Invite youth to brainstorm and come up with some visual representations to share. Send youth into the neighborhood or shopping mall with their camera phones to take pictures, or create your own picture scavenger hunt to reinforce this lesson.

With Children

In the gospel lesson for today (John 14:15-21), Jesus tells his disciples that he will not leave them orphaned. This is good news for us today, too! Children fear being left alone or abandoned. If you have a story about being lost and then being found, or having temporarily misplaced one of your children or another family member, share it. You could also share a story about being lost while driving or hiking and how a compass or GPS system got you back on track.

Emphasize the joy of finding that person, of having been found yourself, or of having been assisted with getting back on the right path. Jesus promises that we will never be left alone; we have the gift of the Holy Spirit (what one might call GPS–God’s Positioning System–a navigation tool infinitely better than SIRI) to keep us from stumbling too far afield.

We don’t have to worry. Jesus has already found us, named us, and claimed us as his own. Even when we feel lost and all alone, he is there through the Holy Spirit, guiding and nudging us to find the path, to reconnect, and to focus on him once more. End with a simple prayer.

(Photos: Marcelino Repayla, Jr., Rennett Stowe, and Charles Clegg, Creative Commons.)

 

 

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