Watching my retirement savings dwindle and the grocery and gas bills soar is a little unsettling. All indications point to an economy with higher interest rates and prices, a bear market for investments, and a cool-off of the real estate market, and that is but the beginning. The result is fear.
“The human being is an animal who has received the vocation to become God.” – Basil the Great, 329-379 AD
What if God’s whole plan is to make us into divine partners in the work and wonder of creation? One of the greatest teachers of the Church taught exactly that. The vocation, the calling, of every Christian was to allow the Holy Spirit to so consume us that we become divine with God. How’s that working for all of us?
Though she had watched many years go by in her long journey of life, she possessed a gentle and joyous spirit. The wrinkles and creases of age in her face framed normally sparkling eyes and a quick laugh. She was one of the saints. She exhibited the “fruits of the Spirit” Paul talked about (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23) as naturally as anyone I knew. Yet, in this visit, she appeared troubled. When I asked why, she looked at me and asked, with great sincerity, “Pastor, am I saved? I mean, will God let me into heaven?” I answered, “Without a doubt. God loves you.”
This week we will celebrate the Festival of Pentecost, the culmination of the season of resurrection which began on Easter Sunday. Some think of Pentecost as the “birthday of the Church.” Luke the Evangelist, writer of the gospel that bears his name and of a sequel, the Book of Acts, certainly helps that along a bit. The prayers, expectations, and announcements of the first chapter of Luke and the first chapter of Acts set the scene for God to break into human history. First, in the birth of the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies of Jewish scripture. Then in the events of Pentecost which are the fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s vision.
Yesterday eighteen kids gathered up backpacks and books, they grabbed their favorite colorful lunchbox, and they headed to school. None of them ever made it home. Along with two adults, they are the latest fatalities of the gun-happy, violent society we have built. Tragically, I wrote about the deaths in Buffalo, NY last week. This is America.
This past week, a young man went to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and started shooting. The location chosen, after a prolonged period of planning by the shooter, was in a Black neighborhood. He shot victims for one reason and one reason alone: they were Black. The white shooter was convinced that a vast conspiracy was afoot to “replace” all the white people in his world, including himself, with people of color, immigrants, and Jews. He was driven by hate cultivated by paranoia, fear, and just plain old stupidity.
When I left college and started a career (the first one), life seemed full. I had my job. As I was back in my hometown, I had family. I had friends. I was still an active musician and often had a band to play with on a lot of weekends. Life was full. As life became more complicated, I found my way back to church. It seemed a worthwhile extracurricular activity, something to fit in the spaces - when there were spaces. I thought I would meet new friends, or maybe even a cute young woman (that happened later and is a story for another day).
In last Sunday’s gospel lesson, Jesus asks Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Simon Peter says, “Yes, I love you.” Then Jesus commands him to “feed my sheep” and “tend my sheep.” This lesson is often used at the ordination of a pastor to drive home the charge to tend or care for the flock – the congregation, the people of God.
This week we started an adult learning series on Christian mysticism. If you are like most of us, the first question might be either, “Why?” or, “What the heck is that?” When we use words like “mystic” or “mystical,” it generally makes us think of things “other-worldly” or mysterious. In a sense, this
would be true. “Mystery” shares its root with “mystic.” As people who think of ourselves as “real,” firmly planted in the “real world,” we may not think ourselves to be mystics by any means. Mysticism, we think, is the realm of monks, nuns, hermits, and those who have visions and weird dreams.
Pastor Pam Schroeder has officially ended her ministry at Holy Trinity. Easter Sunday was her last official act. On Passion Sunday we bid her farewell and released her from her service in worship. As I write, I think she is on her way to the Netherlands for a well-deserved vacation. Her office is empty, and her emails are flowing into my mailbox!