And yet, how can our compassionate hearts not meet these people in the complex layer that lies behind, or beneath, or alongside our rationality in these situations? How do our hearts not break for Hagar, cast out into the wilderness to watch her child die? How could I not have enfolded in my arms that young mother who was allowing a family to be born for others, but not for her. How can we pretend there are children in our societies who go unprotected due to the enslaved condition of their mothers? We can’t and we shouldn’t. We can’t and we shouldn’t dismiss the grief of anyone, whether there were actions or circumstances that should have foretold the impending despair.
Laughter can mask all sorts of hard emotions: shame or embarrassment, and also injury. Maybe the words of the visitor stung her deep inside, broke her heart once again, his words awakening in her the passionate yearning she had for her own baby, and it seemed like the visitor’s words were mocking her, for she was 90 years old and knew that she could no longer bear children. How often do we hear God’s call and almost wish we didn’t, for once awakened, we know we must respond, and sometimes that just doesn’t seem possible? We almost wish the yearning had not been placed in our heart, when we don’t think we can give It birth.
I’ll end by returning to where we started—talking about the church year. I like how this Season after Pentecost roughly corresponds to the growing season in our northern hemisphere. And being in this rural community, it’s easy to witness just how difficult it is to grow things. Several years I’ve noticed that farmers have had difficulty getting crops in because of too much rain in the early part of the season, only to be faced with the loss of that same crop later because of drought late in the season. I’ve thought also of the force, drive, and energy it takes for a tiny seed to shoot up a tiny tendril that manages to plow through several inches of dirt just to make it to the surface, let alone survive gnawing critters in order to reach maturity. And that’s what this Season after Pentecost is about: the struggle, hope, and faith it takes to grow. Let’s continue to grow together this season, encouraging each other to be Christ to and see Christ in each other and in our neighbors—that’s all we need to do to make disciples because being Christ and seeing Christ is one way that Jesus is with us “always, to the end of the age”. Amen.
Pentecost is a time of celebrating God’s surprises in our lives. Often, it’s fun and exhilarating to run and catch up with the Spirit who is leading us into new life, new ways of being, new callings to answer, new ways of being church. And sometimes, it’s hard, and we feel out of breath, and we want things to slow down, or return to what was. I think this is a very natural reaction because surprises are unexpected and we can be thrown off by the lack of our control, or by the direction the Spirit is moving us toward, one that we may not have chosen ourselves.
The Holy Spirit is a wild and crazy thing and yet it always empowers us to join with the first disciples in witnessing to the truth of the risen Christ. I think this is one of most helpful things for me to remember when I’m feeling exhausted by the changes the Holy Spirit is demanding of me – it’s for a good purpose. It’s so I can be a more faithful witness to what lights up my life, to what offers me joy, to what gives my life purpose, what inspires me to become the best I can be – the presence of Jesus in my life.
I used to think that when we feel the absence of life as it had been, or when the world we know comes tumbling down, or when we were enveloped by a cloud of disorientation or disbelief, God then showed up and responded by ushering us into a new life, by meeting us in that place of deconstruction, of chaos and disorder, in order to reconstruct or re-order our lives into something more whole and true. I still do believe God meets us in the place of letting go of what we knew before, but I have come to understand that God is also the force that pulls at the seam of the reality we have constructed in order to keep us on that ever-moving path of renewed life, which is one way to witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus made an audacious living promise to the disciples. It still sparks hope, leaves us breathless and wondering – could this be true? In these few words of John’s gospel is the pearl of promise pointing to how we can claim a full life in the face of the fear, terror, panic, isolation, loss, and grief that comes to us. The strain and struggle that comes to us simply from living, that comes simply from the very nature of our being alive in this world.
For the piece we know about God from our passage today is that God has chosen not to be God without us.
God’s promise, through this statement in the gospel of John, is that God has promised to love us, to make room for us, to know and be known by us, and that promise never ends, and, with that certainty, there is no reason for our hearts be troubled.
When we look within, through the doorways that lead into our hearts and souls, may we find the place of God, the place we have set aside for God, so that our lives may be touched with a peace that passes all understanding, for it is only God who can offer us that comfort. And the challenge to us is to match God’s preparation for us with our preparation for God.
And Peter exhorts them not to give into fear. He suggests rather, in the midst of trials and persecutions for “doing good”, for living as Christ did, to prove themselves faithful to the essence of Christ, with the deep belief that people will recognize that, and lives will be changed. His model for evangelism was, in my summary, “live a good life, by a quiet and steadfast witness to what you believe to be true, and people will want it too and people around you will be changed.”
The disciples took with them their broken hearts, their sense of foolishness for believing in something good, perhaps some hurt pride, because they thought they were right and it turned out they weren’t, or at least at this point in the story. They took all of this brokenness and betrayal and walked away. But Jesus comes alongside them, and they invite him to stay with them, perhaps just as a common gesture of the day, or perhaps because they had a sense that something wanted to be broken open within them. And it was. Jesus broke open the bread and broke through as the Risen Christ. The two travelers broke open their blindness to see another way. The now-disciples gave it all away, by their action of running back to Jerusalem, full of confidence, giving their story and their lives for others, so that bread could be broken for everyone, and all can be fed.
There are an infinite number of meanings for it. Faith is the foundation for which everything is built upon. I am sure if I were to go around the church today and asked everyone here what your definition was I would get a different answer from everyone and that’s ok. The question I pose…..does your faith continue to grow…….are you open to other views and definitions of what faith means to others and do you respect them? To me faith means being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is knowing that I am loved unconditionally beyond my ability to grasp and comprehend it. Let me explain BEING SURE OF WHAT WE HOPE FOR……. I trust our Father to provide everything I will ever need, I remind myself from time to time that God knows me best and what I need. It has been my experience over the years that when God gives me a gift or answers my prayer it is always far greater than I ever could have imagined.