Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, May 24, 2009:

First Reading: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Psalm: Psalm 1

Second Reading: 1 John 5:9-13

Gospel: John 17:6-19

Parts of the Christian world will celebrate Ascension Day this Sunday, the one before Pentecost. The reading for today comes before the Crucifixion story in John, but it still makes a good Ascension Day text.

Here is the paradox of our Gospel Good News. The Kingdom of God is both here, now, already, but it is also not yet fulfilled. Those two conditions seem impossible to reconcile, impossible to live with both conditions in our head--and yet, it is what we are called to do.

But how?

The words of Jesus point the way. We are to be in the world, yet not of the world (the Gospel of John is quite mystical in places--the reading for this Sunday is one of those places). That seems complicated as well, another paradox, impossible to be both things.

In some ways, it is. But in this passage, Jesus reminds us that we are sanctified consecrated, and sent out into the world. The not yet message of the Gospel reminds us that we have work to do (the ELCA motto also speaks to this: God's Work, Our Hands). And this Gospel passage reminds us of the stakes: Jesus prays that we will be protected from the evil one.

In many ways, our most basic task is to confront evil. Everything we do, everything we create, needs to be a challenge to evil. We are not to go through the world with our business as usual selves. We are not to have a self that we bring out on Sundays, in church, and our week day self, and our Saturday self. Our task is to live an integrated life, a life that lets the light of the Good News shine through us and our actions.

So, it's all still a bit abstract? That's the beauty of our religion. We worship a God who came to model life's potential for us. Whenever we're confused, we might ask ourselves how Jesus would handle things.

You say you have a boss who is driving you crazy, making you redo work 5 times, only to arrive back at the place you started? You could growl and grumble. But you'd use your time far more wisely by praying for your boss. Maybe you've got neighbors who are at loggerheads--how can you be a peacemaker? Your grandma is lonely and far away? Write a letter once a week or send a card. You've got a friend who has hit a rough patch? Invite them over for dinner and share a bottle of wine. You know that people are hurting in the local tough economy? Donate some food to the food bank.

We are to care for everyone. We can start by praying for them. The beauty of prayer is that you can do it anywhere. In your car, on your way to work, pray for yourself, your boss, and your co-worker. When you take a break during the day, remember to pray. In your car, on the way home, pray for your family. As you watch the news and read the newspaper, pray for all those victims of various traumas.

As you move through the day, be on the lookout for ways to be the yeast in the bread, the salt that flavors the soup. Look for ways to show Christ's love. You can do it quietly--in fact, there are plenty of Gospel passages that say you must do it quietly. You don't want to be that pious Christian that makes people feel squirmy; you don't want people to accuse you of being a typical hypocritical Christian on the days when your light flickers and dims. Radiate love, as often as you can, and you will be a far stronger advocate for God, and a person who is far better equipped to fight evil.

Each day, pray the prayer that Jesus prayed so long ago, that his joy may be fulfilled in you (verse 13). May that joy spill over onto others, as joy invariably does. Each day, ask God to guide you as you seek to be God's love incarnate in the world.

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