First Congregational Church
May 16, 2021
First Sunday after the Ascension (5/13), 7th Sunday in Easter
“It’s Good to Know”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
It's good to know that the most religious pastry is the donut, because it's holiness cannot be denied. It's good to know that even if you don't know the best thing about Switzerland, their flag is a big plus. It's good to know that the reason the chicken went to the séance was to get to the other side.
The Scottish preacher John McNeill liked to tell about an eagle that had been captured when it was quite young. The farmer who snared the bird put a restraint on it so it couldn't fly, and then he turned it loose to roam in the barnyard. It wasn't long till the eagle began to act like the chickens, scratching and pecking at the ground. This bird that once soared high in the heavens seemed satisfied to live the barnyard life of the lowly hen.
One day the farmer was visited by a shepherd who came down from the mountains where the eagles lived. Seeing the eagle, the shepherd said to the farmer, "What a shame to keep that bird hobbled here in your barnyard! Why don't you let it go?" The farmer agreed, so they cut off the restraint.
But the eagle continued to wander around, scratching and pecking as before. The shepherd picked it up and set it on a high stone wall. For the first time in months, the eagle saw the grand expanse of blue sky and the glowing sun. Then it spread its wings and with a leap soared off into a tremendous spiral flight, up and up and up. At last it was acting like an eagle again.
This morning’s scripture passage is one that can set us back on the high stone wall of that which is secure and safe and good. It happens after Jesus’ last supper and before his arrest, most logically in the Garden of Gethsemane, before Judas returned with the other authorities who would arrest him.
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
At first glance, I confess that this passage didn’t seem too special. It’s Jesus praying, talking about relationships between God, himself, the Holy Spirit and us. But then I got to thinking -
that it’s good to know that when your sister fries maple flavored bacon, the odor can linger in your house at least five days, and counting, after the event. It’s good to know so you don’t plan fancy parties or to show a house if you plan to sell it.
And it’s good to know who left a box of cat food on your back porch so you can thank them. Or the fish skeleton yard ornament a few years back. Or the musical note ink stamp on your desk. I love a surprise like the next person, but I’d also love to be able to thank you.
It’s also good to know things like hereditary tendencies, like heart disease or particular cancers or other genetic issues, so that you can keep an eye out for them. And it’s really good to know when test results come back, especially if they are negative - in the positive sense.
It’s also good to know certain prayers, like the one that goes along the lines, Dear Lord, as your humble servant, let me prove to you that winning the lottery won’t change me. Or the prayer that goes Lord, as I go through my day, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.
Or Dear Lord, so far today, am I doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined, complained, cussed, or eaten any chocolate. I have charged nothing on my credit card. But I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think I will really need your help then.
I don’t know if anyone has been in that place, especially if there is nothing “wrong,” when someone prays for you. The fact that someone takes some of their valuable time to do that, is a big deal, since they could be doing other things. But what they say and the words they use in those transparent, holy and other worldly moments are really big deals, and actually, good to know.
At various times, rather than send a sympathy card or a get-well card, I have written a prayer and passed it along to an individual. The words I chose are carefully selected for that person, making it a multi-layered piece of communication and knowledge. And just so you know, you all are free to openly take that idea and run with it.
So when we get to this scripture passage, it comes with some of those same aspects of intentionality, thoughtfulness and transparency. It’s good to know that the savior of the world prayed for you then, and continues to intercede for you before God. It’s good to know that Christ recognizes those things that we do well, like when we believe in God’s word, know with certainty things of God, believe and embrace the fact that we belong to God. To “catch” Jesus praying for us is a tender moment, especially in that the prayers continue all these centuries later.
In verse 17, Jesus said “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Sanctify. It’s related to the word “sanctification,” which is one of those big words in Christian theology that we don’t hear so often these days. So I looked it up, since Christ prays us to have it. It means to set apart, to declare something or someone to be holy.
He could have spent more time pleading with God to “take his cup away,” to avoid the pain and agony that was to come. Instead, Christ spent part of the time left to him, asking God to make us holy, to consecrate us and set us apart with God’s truth.
Wife of famous evangelist Billy, Ruth Graham announced what she wanted engraved on her headstone, and for those who have visited her gravesite at the Billy Graham Library, they have noticed that what she planned for, was carried out to the letter. Long before she became bedridden, she was driving along a highway through a construction site.
Carefully following the detours and mile-by-mile cautionary signs, she came to the last one that said, “End of Construction. Thank you for your patience.” She arrived home, chuckling, telling the family about the posting. “When I die,” she said, “I want that engraved on my stone.” She was lighthearted but serious about her request. She even wrote it out so that we wouldn’t forget. While we may find the humor enlightening, we can appreciate the truth she conveyed through those few words.
Every one of us is under construction from conception to death. Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent. At the end of construction, we complete the process in our death.
I couldn’t find the author, but I found this. “As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians--and I am one of them."
I might argue with this person about the world being so bad and sinful. There are a many people who are good and do good work. Even so, it is good to be reminded that our path, as followers of Christ, is one that is noticeable and makes a difference. It is good to reiterate our goals and aspirations, so that we don’t get so used to looking down, scratching the earth, that we forget that we are intended to soar and fly on the wings of prayer and grace.
It’s good to know that the Savior of the world prays for you and that the prayers are intended to bolster us that we might have the full measure of God’s joy. Not just part, not just enough, but the full measure of it. That joy is not limited to just us here in this room, but for all God’s people.
A man once bought a home with a tree in the backyard. It was winter, and nothing marked this tree as different from any other tree. When spring came, the tree grew leaves and tiny pink buds. "How wonderful," thought the man. "A flower tree! I will enjoy its beauty all summer." But before he had time to enjoy the flowers, the wind began to blow and soon all the petals were strewn in the yard. "What a mess," he thought. "This tree isn't any use after all."
The summer passed, and one day the man noticed the tree was full of green fruit the size of large nuts. He picked one and took a bite. "Bleagh!" he cried and threw it to the ground. "What a horrible taste! This tree is worthless. Its flowers are so fragile the wind blows them away, and its fruit is terrible and bitter. When winter comes, I'm cutting it down.
But the tree took no notice of the man and continued to draw water from the ground and warmth from the sun and in late fall produced crisp red apples. Some of us see other individuals in early blossom stages of life and somehow we think they will be that way forever. Or we see bitterness in their lives, and we're sure they will never bear the better fruit of joy. Could it be that we forget some of the best fruit ripens late?
So let us pray. Holy, holy God, thank you for your reminders - that we are more than our earliest days or our forgetfulness or our own self-indulgences. It really is good to be reminded of your love and grace and mercy, even though we hear of those things each and every week, even though we can forget them so easily as we leave this place of your presence among us. Forgive us when we think we have the world by the tail or when we put so much emphasis on this world - in this moment. Help each of us to sit high on the walls of your intentions, that we are reminded of what you have always seen in us, that we may so inspire others to join the journey. And for all the moments of blessed reminders and memories of you and your love for us, all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
May 9, 2021
6th Sunday in Easter, Mothers Day
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Despite the fact that this morning’s message is not specifically about Mothers Day or mother anything, I have been waiting 363 days to impart to you knowledge that was imparted to me - some of which may and some of which may not be true.
My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done. “If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.” My mother taught me religion. “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.” My mother taught me magic. “Because I said so, that's why.” My mother taught me more logic. “If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me.”
My mother taught me irony. “Keep crying and I will give you something to cry about.” My mother taught me about contortionism. “Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck.” My mother taught me about stamina. “You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone.” (In my case, it may have been milk toast or cantaloupe. We didn’t grow up with spinach.) My mother taught me about fear. “You wait until your father comes home.” My mother taught me about free will. “Don't make me come up there.”
Phil Keith, the former police chief of Knoxville, Tennessee, tells of receiving a call from his mother while he was in the middle of a televised press conference. Keith knew his mother wouldn’t call him under those circumstances unless something was seriously wrong, so he excused himself from the press conference to answer the phone.
When he picked up the phone, she said, “Phil Keith, are you chewing gum?” He said, “Um, yes, ma’am.” She said, “Well, it looks awful. Spit it out.” So, Police Chief Phil Keith spit out his gum and returned to finish the press conference. (cue Barb)
As the writer of John times it, our scripture passage for this morning would have been some time after the Last Supper and before Christ’s arrest. After Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and tells them not to fear, because he is repairing rooms for them, and offers other words of comfort, he tells them about living in the vine, and being branches. And then we get these words. And yes, this person is my sister.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Thanks, Barb. For those who have done pew time in the past, no doubt, you’ve heard this passage a time or two. If you have been especially blessed, you may have been exposed to the love of this passage as being that of agape love - the Greek word for love that is more than affection, familiar, romantic, and playful love. It’s selfless love.
Agape love is more than that which comes from our mind, subconscious, memories, body, emotions, survival, soul, but love from our spirit to spirit. It’s that empathetic attitude of love for everyone and anyone, that is unconditional, no earning or deserving. I’m thinking that it is the love that we all need so dearly these days.
The love that God has for Christ, and Christ has for us, is the love we are to extend to all those around us. And I know! There are so many, “Yeah, but….”s. We could spend the rest of the day listing names like Hitler and Atilla the Hun and the little girl around the corner who beat up the little red-headed boy at the bus stop every day.
Christ’s command is not to like everyone, or to love only the lovely or pretty or nice people. This sort of love is not only for each of us to work on individually, but together , as in the body of Christ. Agape love is that which we are given so that we may give it away and is supposed to be part of what makes Christianity attractive to others. It is no secret that sometimes we don’t do so well in that department.
Professor of Theology at Lexington Theological University, Emily Askew, wrote one of the most plain and direct descriptions of this sort of agape love. “Love in this passage is not a psychological state, nor is it anywhere described as an internal quality. Love is an action—a really difficult action. The definition of love here is a radical willingness to die—not for your child or spouse, but for a fellow follower of Christ.”
Preaching professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Gennifer Benjamin Brooks, made this observation. “Certainly this meaning is nowhere in the minds of most, if not all, members of the congregation when they hear the words of Christ’s commandments that call Christians to love God and neighbor. And yet that is what this text, this message from Jesus, calls us to embody. How can we give up our lives for others? What can we do to show that depth of love for others within and outside the church?” That marvelous pastor over there at Frankfort Congregational Church asks the question, “How can people be inspired to such love? Why should they even bother to try and get out of their comfort zones?”
Maybe the most obvious answer is because Christ gave that sort of love for us - not only all of humanity, but for you - you, specifically, were part of his decision to lay down his life - even if that seems like the craziest statement ever uttered. As God loved Christ, so Christ loves us. I’d even be willing to guess that most people would agree that the love of Christ is a worthy reason to love others. And maybe we come close to doing so every once-in-awhile.
Former pastor here, Dick Stoddard used to tell couples he was marrying that love is a decision they would make each and every day of their married life - to love their spouse. Not just when they feel like it, not just when they have a mind to do so, but a decision. As Dr. Askew stated, to love with agape love is a decision, and I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes we have to stop where we are - maybe even in mid-sentence - and take a step back, apologizing if warranted, to take another step in determined love.
Stephen Olford wrote a book called The Grace of Giving. In it, he tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Rev. Peter Miller, who lived in Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. Also in the same town lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Rev. Miller traveled seventy miles - on foot - to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the man sentenced as a traitor.
"No, Rev.,” General Washington said. "I cannot grant you the life of your friend.” "My friend!" exclaimed the old preacher. "He's the bitterest enemy I have." “What? You've walked twenty seven miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I'll grant your pardon." And he did. Rev. Miller took Mr. Wittman back home--no longer an enemy but a friend.
I’m figuring that unless you are a long trek hiker, most of us aren’t so apt to walk 27 miles for a friend or family member, much less an enemy. And I’m also guessing that most of us are rather set with the friends and family we have in our lives. Why would we want or need to bring more into our realms, loving them with such big, selfless love?
As much as the introverts among us might wish it weren’t so, we are designed, engineered to be in community. When you need a ride to the airport or doctor, and your family isn’t available to take you, you appreciate more the relationships you’ve built over time. And let’s face it, present relationships sometimes need to be replaced - through death or moving away or whatever other reason.
When we take the risk to “love” outside our comfort zones, we may even discover interesting people, connections with people we may never thought of having - like meeting a stranger, across the country, and after a little yakking, you discover that the other individual not only knows where Frankfort or Benzie County are, but their grandparents or someone else they knew lived or vacationed here. Agape love, that selfless love that takes risks in reaching outside ourselves, has the potential to be far more rewarding than the bother of a little anxiety or mustering of energy.
Gennifer Benjamin Brooks’ question has been renting a little room in my brain this week. What does it take to set aside all that one believes about others, to set aside the prejudices that prevent or stifle friendship, in order to join others in being truly the Body of Christ? I’ve also been thinking about that time when we will be able to worship again without masks and social distancing.
I know this has the potential to raise the red flags of political wariness, but after all these years of hearing my heart, I’m asking for another hearing. Numbers of various sorts - percentage of people having first or second vaccinations, the number that constitutes a crowd, things like that - will be used to determine requirements of masking and distancing. But what if someone feels safer with a mask, while everyone else is unmasked? Agape love allows for such individuals to be a part of this church family, regardless of their reasons for masking or standing apart or refraining from touch.
Selfless love gives us the directive to accept people where they are, not because of where they have been, or what they have or have not done, and extend kindness and respect in polite and genuine welcome. Selfless love allows us the fact that sometimes others will make mistakes and when they ask for forgiveness, we can grant it to them.
Loving each other in ways that might be a bit uncomfortable are necessary because they complete the circle of God’s joy, extending into Christ’s joy, extending into our joy, which creates a circuit of pure joy. Laying down our druthers is really opening the door to life and love and wholeness that is not available with a membership card, credit card or any other card you can think of. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one needing this reminder message today.
Keeping Christ’s command to love one another is not just about something we do. It has much larger implications of self-sacrifice than setting aside a certain amount of money for the mission basket or having a beverage with an acquaintance. God’s agape to Christ, Christ’s agape to us, our agape to others is a sphere of love that is much greater than our here and now, and who doesn’t want to be a part of something that is that big and good, not to mention of that much joy? Which is exactly the right place to pray.
Agape God of joy and wholeness, loosen our hearts to stop being so surprised when you color outside our lines of expectation, when you bless those we might curse, when you embrace those we might exclude, those you empower whom we might even inadvertently put down. Help us to catch your wind of grandeur and glory, that putting aside our selfishness seems easy and even delightful. Enable us to allow your love to flow through us, not in fear or obligation, but in joy, complete joy, the joy that comes from you. Forgive us when we choose our will over your will, and may we become brighter and brighter lights of love that draw and save others to your love. And all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
May 2, 2021
Fifth Sunday in Easter
Acts 8:26-40, 1 John 4:16b-21
“This Is How We Know”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
After a very long and boring sermon the parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the preacher. Toward the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always commented on the sermons.
“Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!” The pastor was thrilled. “No-one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why.”
“Well,” the parishioner began, “it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passed all understanding and the Love of God because it endured forever!”
Jesus and Moses are golfing. Jesus says, “Watch this drive. It’ll be just like Tiger Woods.” He hits the ball and it lands in the lake.
Moses says, “I’ll get it.” He goes down to the lake, parts the water and retrieves the ball.
“Okay,” Jesus says, “This time, it WILL be just like Tiger Woods.” He hits the ball and again, it lands in the lake. Moses goes down, parts the lake and retrieves the ball again.
“Third time’s a charm,” Jesus says. “Watch, just like Tiger Woods.” And for the third time he hits the ball into the lake. Moses says, “This time, you can get it yourself!”
As Jesus is down walking on the water looking for the ball, a crowd forms. One guy says, “Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ?” “No,” Moses says. “He thinks he’s Tiger Woods.”
The first of this morning’s scripture passages comes from the book of Acts, about a third of the way into the book. Some have pressed for specifying that it should be called the Acts of the Apostles, while others push for the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
Most of us probably remember hearing about the beginning of Acts, describing the gathering of the disciples, the speaking in tongues and the flames of the Holy Spirit appearing on each one’s head. We are perhaps less familiar with the healing that Jesus’ disciples did, the persecutions some of them suffered, and how seven of them were chosen to overlook the distribution of food to the widows, because some of them weren’t receiving enough. These seven, known as deacons, were chosen so that the others were able to devote their time to prayer and preaching.
After that, almost two chapters in Acts is given to Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, known to have performed great wonders and signs among the people. And naturally, such a man, regardless of era, is one who would make some folks uncomfortable, and sure enough, he ended up by being stoned to death. Acts continues with a description of the church in Jerusalem splitting and a young man named Saul who began to persecute the remaining Christians. Then Philip comes on the scene, preaching and teaching in Samaria. When God tells Philip to go from Jerusalem to Gaza, it’s a 46 mile trip, just so you know.
The second passage this morning comes from the same little book of 1 John that was part of last week’s worship, the one written to address leadership issues within the church, the one that mentions the word love so many times. For those interested in such things, while there is no documented author, it it generally attributed to the same John that wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelations.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”  [c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
1 John 4:16b-21
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Thank you, Molly and Judy. It would be an interesting endeavor, to read these two passages again, and perhaps even a third time in one worship service. However, I don’t know if it would be a good thing, to be known for “the peace and love of God enduring forever” - from the introduction to this message.
Seriously, there is such richness in both passages - from “hearing” the voice of God and doing as asked, to the simple complexity of “God is love.” It was verse 13 of the 1 John passage that caught my brain for today’s sermon title. “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
I wonder how many people struggle with God living in us. We certainly have a history of human beings trying to get a corner on that market of belonging to God - keep these Ten Commandments and you are good. Say these particular words and you are good. Be baptized and you are good. Not that those things aren’t good, but they have been used too often as notches on the bedpost of working one’s way into God’s good graces.
How easy it is to forget that we have been born in God’s image - through no work of our own. The writer of 1 John tells us that in this world we are like Jesus and God lives in us and we live in God - to the point that sometimes those “hunches” or gut feelings we get are really moments of that the Holy Spirit knocking on the door of our hearts - with a message or a mission.
That’s part of what happened when Philip got his simple message and mission from God: The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” It doesn’t tell us if there was a rumbling of the earth or if it was accompanied with a special breeze or set of clouds. It just happened and he knew it. And Philip went. Sometimes we think that following Christ is so hard or such a holy venture that surely God means someone other that little ol’ me.
Robert R. Kopp, over there at ministrymatters.com, pointed out surprises in the Acts passage. It’s rather quick action that dazzles and functions as a reminder that in God’s new community - the church - old boundaries are not only smudged, they are erased.
Ministering to the Ethiopian, God’s Word has reached the marginalized, the foreigners, beyond the reaches of the African desert. The meeting happened in the middle of the day, as when Jesus met the Samaritan woman, and who would be out and about in temperatures that could be over 130 degrees Fahrenheit? Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit continues to minister not to the popular and pretty, but the neglected and non-persons - so to speak.
Mr. Kopp said, “God, of course, created all people and created them to be in fellowship with one another. Sometimes, though, humans put limits on who is welcome and who is not in particular communities.” And yet, God sent God’s “one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” And “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Sometimes “it’s not that easy being green”, as famous Muppet, Kermit D. Frog sings. “Having to spend each day the color of leaves when I think it could be nicer being’ red or yellow or gold or something much more colorful like that.” Somedays, it might seem less taxing, less frustrating to just be who we are meant to be - followers of Christ - loving those who seem to relish making themselves difficult to love. “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
“It’s not easy being Christian, having to spend each day loving and forgiving and welcoming and including, when I think it would be nicer bein’ closed off, grudge-feeding or selfish or something much more indulging like that.” And yet, if “God lives in us and God’s love is made complete in us, not living out of that reality is like trying to keep the cork in the champagne bottle. Besides, a bottle of champagne may be expensive and rare, but it’s not really anything until it’s opened and taken in. So shall we pray?
Great and loving God, how we really miss the mark sometimes, when we miss the mark. We really snub your work in and with this world when we fail to live as you would have us - fully loving and fully living that way. We know that you have given us of your Spirit, and you know that we sometimes run from that knowledge. So forgive us when we shirk such fullness, and continue to inspire us to live bigger than any of us imagine on any given day. May those who see our joie de viv be inspired to live so fully, too. Thank you, for your self, your son and your Spirit and the joy and largesse that can come from living fully in all aspects of life. Thank you, too, that you don’t leave us in doubt or unknowing, but that you give us ways to know that we are truly your people. And all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.