Reflection for Sunday – May 28, 2017
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11A
Preacher: Ruth Marchetti
Recently in a gathering of friends, one woman shared that before she died she wanted to go to jail—a most unusual “bucket list” item. She had no desire to take on a life of reckless crime; rather, she wanted to be willing to risk hardship and shame for a cause that mattered to her. So Christ-like. Not surprising then that, like Jesus, the friend is a Jew.
Have you ever wondered how people find the courage to put themselves in harm’s way for others or for a cause they believe in? Or wondered how others justify violence in God’s name? I certainly have.
Today’s reading from Peter tells us we will find joy in persecution when God’s spirit rests in us, but never when we harm or bring evil to others. When people use religion to justify harming others in any way, whether through physical violence or the spiritual violence of judging and exclusion, they have clearly missed the point. Just as the disciples deserted Jesus in his time of need, there will be times in our lives when we are confused, troubled or afraid. But God assures us that God is always present to us. Prayer and faithfulness to love will always open our hearts to holy paths.
In today’s Gospel reading from John, Jesus prays for his disciples and asks God that they find eternal life right here on this earth. How? By coming to know God by following Jesus’ example of joyful, prayerful love of God and one another. The cross was still to come, for Jesus and for his disciples, but pain and sorrow aren’t the end of the story. In an age of consumption meant to shield us from discomfort and fill our lives with pleasure, disciples choose life—a life of prayerful engagement with family, neighbor and the world. Love inevitably brings the pain of loss, but the cross is never the end of the story.
Sometimes it’s hard to find God when we are confronted by senseless tragedy, as in this week’s brutal attack in Manchester, England, in our own deep losses, or in the pain carried by those we love. There is no denying that life on this earth can
be harsh. We can readily see that harshness in places where people live in the midst of conflict or in extreme poverty. But no matter how comfortable our lives might be, there is no avoiding suffering—loved ones still die too young and joblessness, addiction and mental illness trouble far too many. Jesus chose to embrace the world’s suffering by following the path to the cross. We can choose to join him on that path by walking with those in pain and holding onto our belief that the resurrection comes, that peace comes.
Twenty years ago my Aunt Rita walked across an invisible line at Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas where many Latin American military leaders learned skills that they used to brutalize and kill their own citizens, as well as American churchwomen. She knew that by crossing that line she would probably be separated from her husband, children and grandchildren for an extended period of time. Her sentence for trespassing was six months in federal prison. My Aunt Rita is the freest, most peaceful person I know. She goes where she believes God is taking her—not without struggle, but she goes.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?