The 4th Sunday of Easter
A little boy, was in church on Easter Sunday with his mother, when he started feeling sick.
“Mom,” he inquired, “can we leave now?”
“No,” his mother replied, “the service isn’t over yet.”
“Well, I think I’m about to throw up.” the boy announced.
“Then go out of the front door and around to the back of the church and throw up behind a bush,” said his mother.
After about 60 seconds, the boy returned to his pew, alongside his mother.
“Did you throw up?” she asked quietly.
“Yes,” the boy answered, embarrassed.
“How could you have gone all the way to the back of the church and returned so quickly?” Doris demanded.
“I didn’t have to go out of the church. They have a box next to the front door that says, For the Sick.”
As I read through the Acts passage this week – I couldn’t help but think of the juxtaposition that we are in – compared to the believers in the 2nd Chapter of Acts.
- I love this passage btw. Acts 2 used to be my favorite chapter in all of Scripture because of this portion of the chapter!
- I remembering reading it as a youth and just feeling this sense of Excitement about what it would have been like to be a part of this church!
- To have “all things in common” – love that! Speaks to the unity of the believers!
- Verse 1 in KJV says, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
- I love the phrase, “one accord”
- But the Juxtaposition I’m talking about refers to their gathering together:
- ~ 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple,
- ~ they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
- But currently we can’t be in each other’s homes
- Can we still have “all things in common”
- Yes, we can! We can be united in vision, purpose, hearts on fire…
Nicole is going to talk about our worshipping in a building and how we are not able to at this time
- And of course this makes me think of the situation that the RocktonUMC church family has been in – without the use of our Building
- We’re all without the use of a worship building at the moment, but we were worshipping in a building that was not our own prior to the Quarantine as well
But as it has become more real to the RocktonUMC family without the use of our worship building, and even more so now as we are all without the use of our building – we have all more and more realized that WE are the Church – the people! The building is just an empty shell really – very useful for gathering and creating an environment for worship…
- But the HOLY space is not the building – it is our Hearts!
- WE are the Temple of the Most High GOD!
And of course this has reminded me of what the Church went through in China with the Cultural Revolution!
- Missionaries started being expelled from China following the Communist Revolution in 1949
- They left with what was believed to be around 1 Million Christians in China and they expected the Church to wither and decline with the loss of Missionaries and Church buildings that were destroyed and Christianity outlawed.
- When China finally started opening up, Western Christians were surprised to find that the opposite had happened!
- Instead of declining and dying – The Church exploded to an estimated 100 million believers!
- Without buildings! In fact, precisely because they were forced to become not reliant or view their identity as that of a Church Building – was one of the contributing factors to the Church being able to multiply itself!
- Have we become too reliant on a building that we are stuck viewing our Faith within the Confines of 4 Walls?
- The Chinese were exiled from the use of their buildings for worship – and Worship started taking place in Homes instead
- Just as we are currently being exiled from our Buildings and worshipping in our Homes – could this be an opportunity to help us Live “In One Accord” with “All things in Common” beyond the confines of a Building?
This is a Holy Place now!
- And I don’t mean this exact Physical space surrounding me here in my Living Room – but this spiritual space that all of us participating in this service (even if you are watching this later) – this Spiritual Presence that we are participating in TOGETHER!
- Turn to the person next to you – okay, not physically, but spiritually.
- Think of another person from your congregation that you know or believe is participating in this Worship together today.
- Know that the same Spirit of the Living God, of our Risen Savior, that is in and with you, is also in and with them.
- Imagine and Believe in Faith that our Souls are together with the Spirit of the Most Holy, of the Risen Christ… together… in this moment!
- And we are UNITED with Christ and with each other in
- ~ Our worship
- ~ In our Love
- ~ In our suffering
- ~ In our Sacred wounds
- ~ And in our Victory
- ~ In our Hallelujahs!
The first church held everything in common, shared everything
I wonder if our current quarantined experience, forced to be church, do church, without actually being in the church building, has taught us anything about the value of that building? This structure that incurs substantial property taxes, utility expenses, repairs and renovations; this structure wherein, for some, life altering events have taken place (weddings, funerals, baptisms and conformations); a space, for others, a symbol of heartache and loss, abuse and shame.
A building. Where already before the pandemic fewer and still fewer gathered to worship on a Sunday. What will we do when we’re given the go-ahead to gather again within its walls? Because, whether we recognize it or not, we will not be the same. We are not the same as we were before COVID-19 blew in and upended our world.
I am not saying we ought to get rid of that building. With many of you, I am so looking forward to gathering again in our sanctuary together, hear all of our voices singing together, share in the sacrament of communion together! I am saying we don’t need that building in the way we thought we did.
And I wonder whether we might begin to think about how our building might become something different, something more. To be sure, our church building has been something beautiful already – the Stop&Swap, the Closet’s depot, Lenten Luncheons, etc.
But, in our ever-changing reality, it is becoming increasingly clear that we must reevaluate what it means to live into resurrection life!
The people of the first church gave up property – they shared everything – and they were adding to their numbers (people!) day by day. Is there a corollary there?
“People over Property:” Church in body and spirit.
Christ suffered – in body and spirit. Our bodies are the temple of God; Where the kin-dom of heaven is located. By wounds, there is healing. Through Christ’s suffering, reality is made right – righteous. By the One through whom all things were made, this One who lived an enfleshed reality, our reality is made right.
So when someone I know is suffering abuse at the hand or the mouth of another, I am there, in the flesh, to be a healing presence, an advocate for the abused, an agent of bringing about justice – in whatever form is available or appropriate. When someone in your community is suffering the agony of seeing his spouse forget who he is, you are there, in the flesh, to listen and grieve alongside, help make impossible decisions, be the sacred presence, a balm to the wounds of sorrow.
Christ is a shepherd, guide – in body and spirit. He speaks to us, sure, by the Spirit that was left behind when he went in resurrected body to be in that space where All-Things-Are-Right, kin-dom reality.
And, he speaks to us in body – your body, mine. When I am confused, wavering in faith, I recognize Jesus’ voice through my dear friend who reminds me of who God has already made me to be. (vs The one who tells me I’m unworthy – the thief trying to steal my soul, my very being.) When you despair, not able to be with your friends because of quarantine, you recognize Jesus’ voice in those same friends who call you on the phone, encourage you, and help you connect with unfamiliar technology to Zoom, face-to-pixelated face.
Living resurrection life is a practice. Practicing resurrection suggests there is first some sort of death – Jesus himself affirmed, ‘you will have much trouble in this world. But I have overcome.’ That truth, living like we believe Jesus has overcome, means we acknowledge the pain, name the wounds we suffer, recognize the grief we experience for what it is: painful – and then, then we listen for Jesus voice. We hear it, recognize it because we have always known Jesus is there.
How do we know this? Because of all the people who were with us in the beginning, those with us through our lives, those with us now and will be to the end. Because of all the people who are living temples of God, a dwelling space of the kin-dom of heaven, Love in the flesh. All of whom have suffered, sustained the spectrum of pain and grief, whose wounds – sacred, holy – were healed, are healing, because you were also the voice of Jesus to them.
That is church.
And here are just a few ways y’all have been church, healing other’s wounds out of your own holy wounds, bringing light and love to the world this week:
- Marilyn making masks, sharing them with anyone who has need of them!
- Marge, Sybil, and Jean have been making many masks. No time to rest. Cook in the morning, make masks, cook lunch, make masks, then dinner, then go to bed.
- No pics to show they go out faster than we can make them. In 2 days I had 45 done just for Medina. By this Monday we’ve given them over 100. Whew!!!
- Still I’m getting orders from people here at the lake.
- Betty: This is a goofy pic but my Sibs and I are celebrating sister Pat’s 80th Birthday thru her window at Medina
And we did a photo shoot (you’ve already seen some of our pics), wanting to share what we do here throughout the week, and to send light and love into the ether-sphere!
It’s not easy to be creative when we are grieving. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. And we all process and express our pain in different ways. One thing that always helps me is seeing the sun, stepping outside and feeling its warmth on my skin – now growing increasingly possible with May underway! Knowing that we all share the same Source of those rays.
But when it’s gloomy, or I am feeling the weight of my pain more acutely, it’s exceedingly easy to embrace the isolation and hide from everyone – even the Spirit of God. Except, when it isn’t. I love the 183-line poem by Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven. It describes his own struggle to hear the voice of Jesus, of Love, when it seemed easier to hear the thief – that comes to steal his attention from Love’s source – anything other than God – and still, God runs after him:
The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson (1859-1907)
‘Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me!’ 110 (not content in anything if not content in God)
Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee;
I am defenceless utterly… 114 (vulnerable, lain bare, but it must be cut away)
Now of that long pursuit 155
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
‘…Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me! 160
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart? 162
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited— 165
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me? 170
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: 175
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall: (ahh, he hears the footsteps of God)
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 180
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’Francis Thompson (1859-1907), The Hound of Heaven
That is, you drove love from yourself – you who drove it from me, when you drove love from Me.
The gloom we experience just might be the outstretched arm of God longing to caress us, heal the wounds. The love I cannot find I drove away because I looked for it anywhere but in God. But my wound, my pain, becomes sacred, holy, when I turn to God for healing – when I hear the voice of Jesus in encouraging words, and see the spark of God in the hands that crafted a prayer quilt for me, or a facemask in my favorite color; or in the voice of one willing to read scripture, record and figure out how to send it back.
You have made my wounds sacred, my pain holy. Namaste.