In the gospel lesson for this week, Jesus tells his disciples (and so us), “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:16-17)
The season of Easter continues, but the excitement fades as we tuck Jesus safely into the future, anticipating his return, (but not too quickly, or he’ll spoil the fun). For many of us, the step after resurrection is the ascension which separates us from God’s Messiah and makes us settle into a very long wait.
This year we mark Earth Day as an observance that spans three days – April 20-22. So, it is more appropriately “Earth Days.” Given that a day is measured as one rotation of the earth, there are really 365 “Earth Days” each year. Perhaps if we thought about it that way, if we took time each day to note our dependence upon this spinning sphere that holds life as we know it, the earth would be in less trouble.
At a recent staff meeting we were discussing the progression of vaccination across the country. A number of staff members shared conversations with people who had said, in effect, “I’m not getting the vaccine. Jesus will protect me.” I was reminded of an old story.
Well, I’m not sure any of us would say that we expected – or even welcome – the passing of a one-year anniversary for the pandemic. And yet… On the other hand… Looking at it from another angle… There is call for thanking God for the last twelve months. Despite the upheaval, the change, the challenge, the constantly moving reality that has been pandemic-patterned lives, we have been the Church for all 365 days of the last year. In frustration, I’ve heard folks say, “But we’re not doing anything,” probably referring to gathering for worship. Nothing could be less true. Here is a brief look at what I give thanks for this day (sorry, the list is long).
The paradox of religious faith today is that the church has, on the one hand, never been as irrelevant as it is today. On the other hand, the faith of the church has never been more essential. In a world that becomes ever more secularized and so, less religious, the role that faith played in the world has been abandoned. To me, it means that love has become scarce just when it is most needed.
There’s been a news story circulating about a poll that shows Americans have become fearful of one another. It seems like right now, here in America, we have a real problem with relating to people who are different to us.
A few weeks into the new year and we find that the trials and sufferings of 2020 have not magically disappeared. And yet, I do not know why they would. We hope that as 2021 continues the challenges will be tamed. But how does that happen? I think this reading from John gives us some further insight.
Cancer is just a word until it comes close. Until a doctor says the biopsy was positive and you know it has invaded part of your body, it is just a word. Until you hold the hand of your beloved feeling helpless, trying to imagine the road ahead, cancer is a distant tragedy suffered by others. Until you bear the title “survivor,” and cancer is an indelible word tattooed in your very being, cancer can be rather abstract. Cancer is a terrifying word that nurtures fears of pain, suffering and death.
There’s a tradition at Christmastime that seems as though it’s been around forever, and it actually does go back centuries (I don’t know how many). It’s the tradition of telling the story of Christmas through actors. It’s called the Christmas play! This year, that tradition won’t be as wide-spread as normal. If it does happen, it will not be in a normal sense. Regardless of the changes happening this year, a Christmas play is a tradition that nearly all Christians have come to know.