For quite a while now, the news has been filled with terrible stories of seemingly endless strife and division. There seems to be no limit to the cruel and hateful acts attitudes and beliefs that humanity perpetrates upon itself and upon anyone who is seen as the other. The other is the one who is different, the one who is unfamiliar, the one who looks or acts or believes, or speaks or relates in a way that we do not recognize or understand and so we distrust them, move away from them, protect ourselves from them and so isolate them and ourselves, creating two camps rather than following Jesus example and embracing those that are different or unlike ourselves, and thereby learn more of the wondrous multiplicity that exists in creation. For while we may forget this, God did create us all.
God is with us all and God loves us all.
Yes God loves and needs all of us, the non-believers and the faithful, the whites and the blacks, the men and the women, the gay and the straight and the trans and the questioning, the children and the adults, the lovers and the haters, the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, the living and the dead.
All are part of the divine plan and all need to be welcomed to the table of fellowship, where generosity and compassion reign supreme and where we all are united as one beloved community, filled with differences and talents and unique ways of being, yet all are part of one creation, all are one with God.
There are racial and cultural and ethnic and religious and economic and gender and sexual divisions in our society. That we, as a people, as a society and as a nation have to try and heal and overcome these divides, acknowledge that they are challenges to our community and political discourse but not accept them as insurmountable. For we are made of better stuff, we have the ability to unite, in our differences, to be who we are and still be part of a whole, to each be a part of creation. That even though we are all from different backgrounds or beliefs or points of view, we each are brought to life by God and enlivened by a soul that is our divine self, the part of us that is beyond our history and our identity, the holy part of us that is stardust, that is golden, the part that is trying so hard to get back to the garden, the garden where we were all right, where we were whole and united with God. The place where our hearts and minds were at rest and held by God, a place of paradise and endless joy. Not a place where we live but a place we visit or that visits us, if we do not put up barriers and boundaries that prevent it. This is true in church just as much as anywhere else in life. Perhaps more so here, where we lift our lives up to something greater, when we ask for grace and forgiveness, for wisdom and justice and the presence of God and spirit in our lives.
Pastor Burke Owens
E A S T E R
Today we reflect on Jesus final hours. It is somber time yet a joyous one too, for Jesus will be going home and, as always, he is listening closely to God the Father and calling on the Holy Spirit. It is hard to make sense of the death and pain that Good Friday brings without remembering the grace and love that Jesus and the disciples shared the day before. That night, Maundy Thursday, Jesus invited his disciples’ to join him in worship at the table, but in a different way than he had previously. For along with prayer and gratitude for the blessings of food and fellowship, Jesus reminds them that the wine they drink is full of spirit and the bread they break and eat is like the body of God. He tells them to pay attention for as they eat and drink they are performing a sacred act whereby the divine spirit enters into them, healing them of their ignorance and greed and strengthening them to become clearer channels for God’s grace. This act of divine generosity is a wondrous miracle that changed them as it can still change us, so many, many generations later.
But after this, Jesus speaks of the further blessings they will receive when they listen and follow him into the Kingdom,
As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15: 9-12
Jesus instructed his followers, as he does us today, that love and truth are the best examples of God’s abiding grace and faith in us. He came to remind us of God’s eternal care and patience with us, in spite of all we do to ignore the spirit in our lives. This is the wonder; the sheer brilliance of how much God appreciates us, though we forget, though we behave foolishly, though we ignore the great gifts set in front of us daily. Even the horrors we visit upon those who act or think or look or believe differently than ourselves, even this and so terribly much more is not enough to stop God’s love and care for us. God’s heart breaks again and again at the pain and suffering that is in the world, but never will God leave us or reject us. People reject all the time but the spirit? It never does.
God is with us; this is the meaning of Jesus name God with us, always and forever no matter what. So do not let the terrors and rages of life take over, do not let them take you away from God.