Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
May 10, 2020
Lessons: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people cultivate resilience in community because they expect that change and inconvenience are part and parcel of following Jesus.
Key Scripture: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:10
There’s been a lot of chatter across the social media world about what constitutes privilege and inconvenience versus marginalization and suffering in this time of global pandemic. The dialogue has been fascinating, but the finger-pointing, blaming, shaming, and gaslighting, not so much. Is all this chatter helpful and uplifting, or are we more like a bunch of sorry hounds barking up the wrong tree? I’ll cast my vote for the latter because I don’t think we’re asking the right questions, and we’re wasting way too much time and energy on things that ultimately won’t even matter.
Instead of pining for what we loved and lost, turning inward to wallow in our own personal woe, or grasping greedily at any shred of control, why not turn to the one we follow for guidance and encouragement? What do Jesus and other biblical witnesses have to say to our current situation?
Yes, it’s difficult to put aside our own limited and comfortable lenses to see life through the eyes of our neighbors and our Lord. Difficult does not equal impossible, but we must invest fully and expect some inconvenience and pain in order to grow more fully into our God-breathed selves.
Expect inconvenience. Make space for pain and suffering. Encounter uncertainty. Persevere. Lean in, especially when it would be easier and more comfortable to walk away. Love lavishly. Live in the present, and pay attention. Be gentle, both with yourself and others. Breathe. Pray. Praise. Practice resurrection in beloved community.
I know. That last paragraph is more aspirational than current reality, but the way forward is pretty well spelled out therein. Oh, and such aspirational activity always works better in the context of the beloved community, God’s people, Christ’s church. Spirit-led and Jesus-fed, we can choose to march out of our COVID-19 sheltering as true resurrection people, the beloved community set loose in the world to do the work of Christ. The alternative is to fall backward into a reality that no longer exists, into despair and defeat. Spirit-led and Jesus-fed sounds like the better option, so let’s choose wisely and live boldly.
Will emerging into a new way of being inevitably shake things up? Oh, yes! Could I be more than merely inconvenienced? Well, yes, anything is possible. Remember the story of the stoning of Stephen? Martyrdom is a lot more than inconvenienced. Current estimates of the number of Christians who die because of their faith range from 7,000 – 90,000 annually. So yes, theoretically you could die for your faith, but your chances of dying from COVID-19 or cancer are significantly greater. Frankly, how inconvenienced you feel may have a direct correlation to how invested or “all-in” you are in your discipleship. Ponder that one for a little while.
Being all-in as a follower of Jesus is kind of like swimming across a lake without knowing how far it is to the other side. It takes faith, it takes trust and vulnerability, and it takes community. We need one another for more than just accountability. We are wired for relationship and community. After all we are created and loved by a relational, triune God. This is good and hopeful news as we navigate a way forward in uncharted social and economic waters.
No, it will not be easy. There is no recipe for how to fix what had already long been broken. Even so, Christians can be of good courage in the midst of this sea change. We are not alone; God is with us, and Jesus promises us that we will do great works in his name. Or, as the Apostle Peter reminds us in this week’s epistle lesson: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Thanks be to God!
How about inviting worshipers to share where they have experienced community this week. If you’re doing a Facebook Live or Zoom service, invite responses in the comments or chat options. If you are pre-recording your worship, invite some quick phone videos or audio clips where people share their experience of community in the midst of pandemic.
If you have a digital coffee hour, consider the topic of what it might look like when your congregation is able to begin some face-to-face gatherings. Invite people to share what they might want to see new or done differently. What fears or concerns do they have? What are they most looking forward to? What are they willing to suspend or give up in order to be as safe as possible? How can we be more creative? What lessons have we learned from our time apart together?
After checking in and discussing highs and lows invite some dialogue about some of these questions: What will be the cost of being a Christian post COVID-19? Will it make any difference? Can Christians be a part of moving the world in a more just and equitable direction? What’s the cost? Will I suffer? Ask the youth if they are familiar with any Christian organizations or communities that work for justice and peace. Choose a few to share and be open to the suggestions of your youth. Invite the youth to consider the growing protests of people wanting to reopen the country. What is a Christian response? How much inconvenience and/or suffering should a Christian have to endure?
This week’s focus verses are John 14:1 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
Sometimes when I jog or walk I pray a simple repetitive prayer. It helps to keep me focused, and it opens my heart and mind to listen for what God might want to say to me. This week’s focus verse offers some basic and important instructions Jesus gave to his disciples as he was preparing them to live without him. I think these words are good ones to use as a simple prayer, echoing what Jesus says to us. You can also use these two sentences to relax and meditate or listen for God. Breathe in saying, “Do not let your,” then breathe out saying, “hearts be troubled.” Breathe in, saying “Believe in God,” then out saying, “and also in me.” Start with a minute or two and work your way up to five minutes, or even ten minutes.
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Jesus tells us (Jesus tells us). Do not let your hearts be troubled (Do not let your hearts be troubled). Believe in God (Believe in God). Believe also in me (believe also in me). Help me to listen (Help me to listen) for your guiding word (for your guiding word). Keep us from fear (Keep us from fear). Keep us hopeful (Keep us hopeful). Make us helpful (Make us helpful). Give us peace (Give us peace). Amen (Amen).
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
When will this end? Most of us are wondering about or asking this question. Unfortunately, there’s not a really good answer at this time. We are learning to take life one day at a time, doing our best to love God and our neighbors, sharing, caring, and trusting. Thank you for your generosity, faith, and prayers. Together we are continuing important ministries that share Christ’s love with a hurting world.
Stewardship at Home
This week discuss with those in your home or immediate circle (digitally if necessary) what one difference each of you would like to see in the world once we all quit sheltering in place. What do you not want to see return as part of our “normal”? How can you help these things happen or not happen? Pray daily that God will work through you to accomplish good and helpful things in your community and world.
2017 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2017/05/once-upon-a-time-or-now/
Images: Becker1999, Wonderwoman0731, and North Charleston, Creative Commons usage license.Thanks!
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