CONNECTIONS

One of my all-time favorite passages is where Jesus talks about the importance of staying connected to Him, in John 15, with only a few of those powerful verses here: 

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers… “

Though it is one of my favorites, it’s a really difficult one these days, when our physically connecting with one another is so important to our “abiding” in Him– seeing Christ in each others’ eyes, feeling His presence in a holy touch.  Yet now we can’t.  So how can we abide in Him under these circumstances?

Through much of the history of the church, we have the model of the spiritual powerhouses who were hermits—living often for many years in all but complete isolation.  On such monastery we saw while in the Holy Land was literally on the side of a mountain, where people outside the monastery provided for the few hermits’ need there with baskets on a rope.  At least we’re not in as isolated a situation as that!  Yet many of those were mystics whose spiritual insights still move us many centuries later.

Their idea was to try to remove distractions in order to focus on and abide in Christ.  Yet even in our isolation with this virus, we would tend to prefer to fill our lives with distractions instead.  No wonder it can be difficult to abide in Jesus, when it’s too easy to abide in the TV or other distractions. 

Perhaps these coming weeks can be an opportunity to re-discover quiet times with God, a bit of time in the morning or evening to read and meditate on scripture or other spiritual tools, or to re-learn the art of writing—either in a spiritual journal, or as a way to reach out to others in safe ways.  So as some of us are working on being creative in how to cultivate worship from a distance, I would encourage all of us to also be creative in how we find ways to abide in Jesus, even in this pseudo-hermit phase of life.

Keep being a blessing—Pastor Jim

Death and Taxes?

They say the only things you can really count on are “death and taxes.” 

Events of the past week, even the past day, seem to amply testify to that claim.  Not much stability these days.  Borrowing words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”– that most of life is safe, stable and dependable, right?  Not this week.

We proclaim God is all-loving, all-powerful, willing and working toward our good.  But how can we boldly proclaim with St. Paul, we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called to His purpose, when the world is reeling with this virus crisis that seems to be shaking our very foundations?  

What, then, shall we say to all this?  This memorable passage in Romans 8: 28 is followed almost immediately by even more powerful words, starting at verse 35:

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Perhaps Jesus’ words in the Gospels, saying whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all applies here as well.  A child does not have to understand to accept.  Kids are eager to wrapped in the mama’s love, though they can never understand it, just as they are eager to play with digital doodads without any understanding of how they work.  But we, with our adult “maturity,” instead bring an arrogance that says “If I don’t understand how God’s love/grace/healing/care can work in this circumstance, then it must not be true.”

It is a very good thing that the effectiveness of the computer and internet I’m using aren’t dependent upon my understanding how they work!  So why do I insist that I have to understand the mysteries of God for me to rest in the assurance of God’s grace?

It is times like this that, though I am quite the lover of words, I find my words are woefully inadequate. Yet still I trust.  Perhaps a prayer from one of the most powerful services in our Methodist tradition, summing up many of the truths we followers of Jesus hold dear, can serve:

God of us all, your love never ends.  When all else fails, you still are God.  We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, anywhere, who (struggle) with us this day.  To those who doubt, give light; to those who are weak, strength; to all who have sinned, mercy; to all who sorrow, your peace.  Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another.  In all our ways we trust you…

Keep being a blessing—

Pastor Jim