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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

We all have commitments in our lives.

Some of them are easier to keep than others, but all commitments take some effort and work...that is an important difference between an interest and a commitment.

You have commitments. Commitments to your self, your family, your relationships, your work, your neighborhood, your spiritual life, etc.

And each of these commitments in our lives have a spectrum of being easy to keep and being difficult to keep. Some days we are happy to exercise and eat well, and some days we are not.

An important difference in what makes it hard or easy to keep our commitments is whether or not we are going it alone or if we have someone encouraging us toward our commitment.

Every once in a while we have commitments in which we have some which we have an encourager...where we have a cheerleader.

This week's scriptures give us some examples of encouragement being offered to those making and keeping commitments to their faith in God.

We see the Psalmist offering his experience as encouragement to others whose belief in God might be challenged by the tests and difficulties they run in to as they face life.

In John we see (for Christians) one of the more encouraging encouragements from the mouth of Jesus himself. He promises that if we love him and keep his commandments, we will not be left alone. He assures us God will send The Spirit of Truth to be with us to support and protect us.

In Acts we see Paul offering encouragement to folks as they are pondering becoming followers of Jesus. From their place of believing religiously in something, he is encouraging them to consider the power of believing in ONE thing, a single God of creation of whom they are offspring, in relationships with Jesus Christ.

And in the letter shared with the early church under the name of Peter, we see some loving and gentle instruction as to how they might behave in the world in light of their new commitment to Jesus.

Commitment is so much harder when we go it alone - when we rely upon our own selves, our own strength, our own story.  But we can be encouraged and can be encouragers.  Perhaps this is the most important role of community in our lives.  In what ways are you inviting your community into your commitments?

God of Creation, of Sustenance, of Presence,
I want to be committed to things that matter.
Help me to not be alone in my commitments.
Help me to hear the encouragement
of the world around me
and lean into the arms of those
who will help me stay committed
to things that matter.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

Acts 7:55-60 • 
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 • 
1 Peter 2:2-10 • 
John 14:1-14 

Some say that on May 21st (today!), the world as we know it will be altered. The Rapture, long expected by some followers of Jesus, will occur, and in the process, those "saved" will be swept from the earth and those not saved will find themselves "left behind" to live through the trials of end times. Response to these predictions is far-reaching, with some giving away their worldly possessions and contracting with avowed atheists for long-term care of pets who will be left behind. Others mock the faith of those who have adopted this prediction. 

Weeks ago, Rob Bell released a book entitled "Love Wins." It presents an alternate view of heaven and hell and how we are or are not "saved." The book up-ends some of the more traditional evangelical views of how we as humans interact with a judging God. Bell believes that God is eager for us to turn to God and is willing to wait and love us through the process. He doesn't come out and say there is no hell. He suggests hell is of our own making and right here among us. By many, he's been labeled a heretic for putting his understanding of truth out for the world to see. 

The scriptures this week invite us to consider how we react to people and assertions that don't necessarily fit our understanding of God or salvation or righteousness. What a time-worn reality, from those who witnessed Jesus's miracles with disbelief, to disciples who lived with him day in and out and still did not understand what it meant for him to be the son of man, to the early church leaders who argued and died over their understanding of what happened in the communion or how the trinity was understood. How we hear belief different than ours and how we respond really does matter to the balance of creation. 

From Acts of the Apostles, we read briefly about the stoning of Steven. As he asserts his belief, the author describes the crowds reaction..."But they coverd their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him." It's a sad story. And it also calls to mind the image of a child who doesn't want to hear what another is saying, covering their ears and mindlessly babbling, "I can't hear you," in a desperate effort to shut out a truth that might threaten when they think they know well. 

From the Psalmist we read a plea for God's divine protection in times of hardship. God is a rock, a fortress. The line, "Into your hand I commend my spirit," is familiar as words spoken by Jesus as he breathes his last breath on the cross. It was his faithful response as he faced the will of others who believed just as firmly in a different reality. 

In the letter 1 Peter describes the response of those who believe and those who don't. And it suggests some strong differences between those two groups. Is it possible that disbelief makes us fall? Whose disbelief? In what? Are their ways that people abuse our belief or disbelief? Pervert it somehow? 

And in the selection from John's gospel, Jesus is engaging with the disciples as they struggle to understand and believe what he has presented. And there is a lot here... "In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." "Believe me..., but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves." Clearly here is Jesus really addressing this group's struggle to share his understanding and assertion of how things work - specifically how God works. He engages their disbelief...but does it make a difference at that point in the story?

So...if by the end of today The Rapture has begun, we hope it worked out well for you. If it turns out this Saturday has simply been another Saturday in which for you to appreciate The Creation, we hope you have had a chance to do that.
Either way, we pray you are able to pay attention and hear, see, and feel the presence of God in your life.
God, thank you for the variety of life.
Thank you for the variety of people.
Thank you for discernment.
Thank you for judgment.
Guide us as we
to respect all life
and all people.
Guide us as we
to use
to see
Your work
in this world.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.


Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

The idea of Putting All Your Eggs In One Basket is a helpful image.

If you have ever been around chickens especially, it is easy to understand.

The warning often goes, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." And the intention behind the warning is if you put all of your eggs in one basket and something happens to that basket, then you might lose all of your eggs (eggs being a valuable commodity in this scenario).

This saying is really about Trust.

IF you are going to put all of your eggs in one basket, you sure as hell better know that basket is strong and true and safe.

HOWEVER, we all know it is often too risky to put ALL of our eggs in one basket. There are too many dangers. Too many things could go wrong. Foxes, faulty baskets, clumsy basket couriers...there are lots of ways you could lose all of your eggs at once. 

SO, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Disperse them. Don't trust just one method of getting your eggs home or to market. Put some in your pocket. Maybe try a few different baskets. Trusting one mode is not smart. Even if it is a basket you have had for a long time and you trust completely, it may turn out to not serve you well. 

This is a message we often get from the world around us: do not put your trust in Just One Thing. It makes sense. We don't want to have one accident or misstep cause us to lose all that we have. It is why we both pay rent and insurance.

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket.

But when we read scripture, we are essentially told There Is Only One Basket, Trust It.

"All who believed were together and had all things in common."

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

"For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls."

"I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture."

How do we reconcile our natural tendency to minimize our losses with the example from Acts of the first Christians selling all of their stuff and living communally?

How do we balance our inherent inability to not Trust with the message from Psalm 23 to give ourselves over to God?

How do we accommodate our visceral need to avoid pain with the admonition in 1st Peter that intentionally and willingly suffering in the name of Jesus returns us to the care of our Shepherd and the Guardian of Our Souls?

How do we subvert our tendency to keep our options open when we read Jesus's instruction that all others are thieves and bandits and that it is only through him that people will be saved and have life abundantly?

These are sometimes tough messages to hold together in our own hearts and minds.

For us this is another version of the classic question: How do we live in the world and not be of the world?

Being a called and loved Child of God is not easy some days.

God of mystery, of three but of one,
In a world that asks me daily
to multitask
to diversify
to hedge my bets
help me ease into knowing you...
You as the One Thing
the One Way
the Big Tent
where the world melts
and I am fully

© matt & laura norvell 2011 we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.


Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

This week's lectionary selections offer us examples of what we all dream of: a chance at rebirth, a chance to be re-created, a chance to realize a new beginning.

That is what we all want, isn't it? 

So much of what we do each day pushes in this direction.

In some way, most of us feel that some part of our life or some part of the world has gotten so far from its original intention and purpose that the only thing to do is to start over.

And today we try to accomplish this ourselves in a variety of ways. We knock down old buildings because we can no longer care for them, we buy the next size up of clothing because we cannot care for our bodies in the same way, we kill people to stop their intention and remove their opinion. many, maybe most cases, there is always a chance of redemption. Hardly ever is the path to rebirth and re-creation the easy one, but there is always an option to take that path.

What responsibility do we have to be reborn?

This week's psalmist shows us that we have some responsibility in our own salvation. He recognizes he is in great distress and suffering, and he has faith that God will save him, AND he recommits himself to God as God's servant. As he calls to God to be redeemed and re-created, he seems to know that he has some responsibility in faithfully walking in the direction of God.

In the passage we have from Luke we see Jesus (incognito) meeting up with some disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples were walking with their heads hung low because they had hoped Jesus would be the one to bring salvation and re-creation to the Jews, and at that point they had not seen any evidence of it. They were still looking toward some sort of military victory and political power surge. They expected salvation to come from outside of them. In their discussion Jesus chronicles all of the efforts of both God and humans throughout history. And when Jesus reveals himself to them, we can almost hear the collective hand hitting the forehead as the disciples said, "how did we not see who that was?!" It was not until they were given 'new vision' that they were able to really understand what was being shared with them. 

In the portion of Acts we see this week Peter is explaining (to those who would listen) that Jesus is the Messiah. AND that forgiveness and rebirth and re-creation are available to all when they choose to repent from their corrupt ways.

In the passage from 1 Peter the writer explains to them that because of the work of God in and through Jesus, this community had come to trust in God themselves.  What they do with that trust can change the world. 

What is your dream of rebirth? starting over? growing anew? What helps that to happen?  What keeps it from happening?   
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.

Help me to step out in faith
to believe that rebirth can happen
and to pursue the self you created
me to be

© matt & laura norvell 2011 we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.