Reflection for Sunday – May 29, 2022
Readings: Acts 7:55-60; Revelations 22: 12-14, 16-17,20; John 17: 20-26
Preacher: Susan Howard
Participating in Divine Oneness, the Glory of God, is the ultimate gift. It’s not a commodity that you can touch or feel, not something we earn. It is a pure thing, a spiritual reality. It can come in a split second of spiritual conversion or over time and prayerful reflection. It is the realization that we are all one in God, all of us on earth; the humans, the land, the sea, the rocks and all created things—One.
The English language and our religious language often sells this spiritual concept short which often makes God too small and restrained. In Native Mohawk language (Kanien’ke’:ha pronounced gonion (like onion)-gay-ha with the emphasis on gay) they use the word “orenda.” This word refers to how each person has a purpose and place in creation. One person is not above another in this place and each has their own song to sing, where we are all necessary and all are infused with the Divine Spirit.
The Gospel of John reminds us that Jesus came so that we might come to know of our place in this divine creation. This is the big, cosmic God, who welcomes everyone with no judgment or partiality. This is what Jesus was trying to teach us when he prayed the words in today’s Gospel, “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us… and I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in you and you in me…”
We may not know how to describe it with our language but we do know when that divine harmony is broken. When our hearts break beyond belief, when a hole opens up in our very core, and a deep sadness weighs us down. That is how I feel when I hear the testimony from the Native leaders about the abuse and deaths that occurred in the Indian boarding schools. That is how I feel when I hear about the innocent people who suffer from the effects of war and hunger. It is the voices that cry out from the margins because they are ignored, marginalized and disrespected. That is how I feel after the shootings that occurred in Buffalo two weeks ago. If you feel that hole as well, that rip in the fabric of humanity, you are not alone.
Today we pray for the souls of the people gunned down in the Tops Supermarket on Saturday May 14th: Aaron Salter, Ruth Whitfield, Pearl Young, Katherine Massey, Roberta Drury, Hayward Patterson, Celestine Chaney, Margus Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Geraldine Talley and the surviving victims: Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington, Christopher Braden. We pray for their families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors, and all those left with heavy hearts with pain too brutal to comprehend. We pray for those who now live in fear for their lives because of their color, afraid to go to work, to go to the store, not just in Buffalo but all over the country.
The stoning of the disciple Stephen is a poignant example of how people react to a challenge that threatens their way of life and their way of thinking. Sometimes that they are willing to kill to preserve it. Stephen was preaching a new way of living based on the teachings of Jesus. The Jews at that time were reluctant to hear of anything that might challenge their status quo. Was this the motivation that led to the 10 deaths in Buffalo?
Stephen had witnessed and believed in the divinity of Jesus. He was willing to lay down his life and even forgive his murderers. It may be too soon for that forgiveness to come from the victims’ families in Buffalo, but we await some prophetic words from Buffalo’s Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth. She was there at the Tops that day consoling people and listening to their stories. She is no stranger to pain and suffering but she had never felt anything like this before. She wonders ,“Where do we put this pain?” Pain too much to bear. She hopes one day soon be able to get that pain into words.
As we await the strength and the grace to make the changes necessary to mend the tears in our human condition, we can be assured of the desire of God to restore all of creation. We await the healing of Pentecost and the great fire that will unite us all in the Glory of God.