Reflection for Sunday – May 7, 2023
Readings: Acts 6: 1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14: 1-12
Preacher: Nancy DeRycke
Many Scripture scholars now believe that Jesus was an Apocalyptic preacher, assuming that the end was coming soon. God would come and S/he would gather all people together to call the just. Perhaps if that Jesus were physically around now, he would presume, with all the violence and wars, fears and hatred, senseless harm to nature and humans in today’s world, that the end was coming soon too.
We have a lot of “groupies” in today’s world. Followers of movie stars, certain music groups, or even some obvious politicians, who show up to cheer unabashedly for their idols or favorites, without having to change much in their own lives. Do we think Jesus had “groupies” too?
But Jesus seems to be reassuring them that he doesn’t just want “groupies”—people to easily follow him in the good times, when things were clear and easy and miracles were happening. He wants people who are so convinced of the truth of Jesus and of a God who loves them, that they will continue to grow the work that Jesus started—noticing and addressing the needs of the poor and lifting people up in their own time.
Jesus doesn’t want believers who follow after him without thinking things through; he wants committed people acting out the good news, and discovering what it is to be disciples in our own time (addressing whatever we can of violence and wars, fears and hatred, misunderstandings and senseless harm we do to each other and nature).
When Jesus’ followers came to realize that the end wasn’t coming as soon as some presumed, they saw needs that Jesus hadn’t given them a clear outline of how to handle. Very quickly, the disciples realized they had to do something more than come together to remember Jesus and pray and break bread. They had to come up with ways they could deal with what was happening then and there.
In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we see the disciples developing new plans to address new situations for the time and circumstances. They began by calling Stephen and men and women. (* Romans 16:1 in the NIV reads, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchrea.”). These who were called we have come to know as deacons to serve anyone who was being neglected/overlooked by society.
And through the ages, the church has developed new plans to address new situations. Some of the plans are good (feeding those neglected, so creating Catholic Relief Services); some are not so good (Inquisition, Galileo). The church is not static; the church is dynamic, always growing and changing to meet new situations. There is no static deposit of faith; the only thing the church has always taught and believed is that Jesus is present in the breaking of the bread. The development of theology has not stopped in the 1100s or 1800s or whenever—God is still connecting with us in new and different ways. We are still called to be open to new ways that God is speaking and calling us to live our faith. We cannot just shut down and “wait for the Lord” or yearn to go back to the ways we were comfortable with in our youth or 10 years ago. We are called, like those disciples, to address the needs of our times now with the dynamic spirit of Jesus, to discuss with each other how we can better be church in today’s world and who we should call to do what. (Sounds very much like synodality.)
The disciples (and we) have to come to understand better Jesus’ answer from today’s Scripture when they were upset about their world crumbling (as our world seems out of control, too!): “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid…Where I am going, you know the way…”
“The way” is to build on the efforts of Jesus, to take the lead and move forward, not just professing faith with our lips, but also creating new ways of building the Kin-dom in our own day in our own ways—responding to the needs of our time.
We now are not the followers/groupies of Jesus—we are called to be believers who go before him into our world. Whenever we lift people up or think outside “the way we’ve always done it” and step forward to do the loving and just things, we are signs of the risen Christ. We are the Stephens and Phoebes of our own day making Jesus real in the world.
May we dare to continue to hear Jesus’ words that remind us not to be troubled or afraid, and that together we “know the way” to move forward with the heart of Jesus in our world today.