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You Are Part of the Family
The readings this morning have a thing or two to say about family. Who do we consider to be family? Who do we turn to when we need help? In ancient times family had a different meaning than it does today. Many of us see our families consisting of ourselves, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, special aunts and uncles or cousins. In biblical times families consisted of many, many people that also included great aunts and uncles, all first cousins and second cousins were all considered a central part of the family. Family get togethers could almost be seen as an encampment as there were so many people gathered together in one place.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus looks around him, he takes in everyone seated and says, “Right here right in front of you - my mother and my brothers.” This idea of family greatly impacted the beginning of the church because it was inclusive of all people. All are part of God’s family.
Experience the Mystery
This week we hear a reading from the gospel of John about a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was one of Israel’s teachers and leaders. People respected and admired him. In our reading we find him going to see Jesus under the cover of darkness.
But Nicodemus had no idea whom he was dealing with. Nicodemus may have come to Jesus intending to push him on his theology, but he found himself being pushed instead. Jesus told Nicodemus that, given his status as a teacher of Israel, he really should be able to handle Jesus’ statements better than he did. But to be fair, they were (and are) difficult statements. We kid ourselves if we claim to understand them fully.
The Gifts of the Spirit
This week get ready for an adventure! Put on your helmet, strap on your seat belt and get ready for mighty wind or a persistent calling! This is the day that we celebrate the lively Spirit of God, blowing freely and wherever God wills. This is a gentle and sometimes wild presence that transforms lives and communities, breaks down barriers and gives life to weary and uncertain persons and communities.
This week we celebrate Pentecost, the third great festival of the Christian year. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and so much more. Scripture tells us that 3000 people came to believe in God's Spirit on that first day. It was the beginning of a movement of a new way calling us to be open to the possibility that God is calling us to do something specific and wonderful things for the sake of the Kingdom of God right now.
The Ascension of Jesus
This week we hear about the Ascension of Jesus. Can you imagine what a spectacular sight it was? Exactly as promised, Jesus ascended into heaven. The scriptures were fulfilled.
In Luke’s account of the Ascension, Jesus chooses to leave from Bethany. It would have been a beloved place of memory for Jesus. It was here that he found hospitality in the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was also here he raised Lazarus from the dead and where here he received the gift of a woman’s anointing shortly before his death. Bethany had been a place of blessing for Jesus. And so, from this place of blessing, Jesus leaves, offering a blessing as he goes. While he was blessing them, Luke tells us, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
As Jan Richardson, author of the Painted Prayerbook puts it, “Joyful, sorrowful, bittersweet; planned or unexpected; welcomed or resisted or grieved: no matter how a leave-taking happens, it always brings an invitation, and it makes a space for the Spirit to come.”
As we each navigate the leave-takings in our own lives, how do we keep our eyes open for the invitations they hold? What blessings could they offer us, and what blessings might they invite?
Love One Another
This week’s reading comes from the Gospel of John. A reading that if you take the time to count the word love or loved you will find it nine times in these verses. The love, friendship and joy of these verses is what we all hope lies at the heart of our experience of Christian community. Our love for one another inspires faithful action and generous giving. The joy that we participate in and experience through various outreach projects doesn’t lead us away from suffering and struggle but towards it. When we choose to look pain in the eye, in the stories of drought, shortage and yes this year long pandemic, there we find possibilities for overcoming and transformation. Jesus goes on to explain to the disciples that even pain will turn to joy and that joy is one which no one can remove.
Last week we reflected on the image of Jesus as the good shepherd and us as the wandering, stubborn sheep. This week the image used draws us even closer to Jesus with the image of the vine. We are extended from the vine as the branches. We are rooted in and draw strength and life from Jesus. We are intimately connected to Jesus. If we were cut off from Jesus, we would perish like a branch chopped off from Jesus, we would perish like a branch chopped off from its vine. How might we extend to others this life-giving, loving connection with Jesus?
(paraphrased from Gathering, Lent/Easter 2021, page 23.)