This Sunday we will hear the end of the Farewell Prayer or the High Priest Prayer that Jesus gives in anticipation of the development of a community of faithful followers. The prayer emphasizes the importance of unity among his followers. The unity that Jesus prays for is based on a “give-and-take” kind of love. I am reminded that this unity is like a dance. If you have ever watched “Dancing with the Stars” you have an idea of how much work it takes to dance with someone else, especially, someone you don’t know.
To develop a rhythm and unity with a partner takes effort and communication. In the same way it takes effort and communication to be united in a community. But, when we are open to bringing different perspectives, ideas, and expectations together we have potential to impact the world around us instead of stepping on each other’s toes.
Differences will always be a part of a community but the mark of a Christian is how we unite within our differences. May we be open to the dance of unity as we continue our life together in Christ. Amen.
Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. ~John 14:23-24
Jesus said these words after Easter and before Ascension. He said this to assure them that he will be with them. I was reminded last week by Pastor Cordell Strug that this past weekend marked the 400thanniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare has shaped and influenced the language that we speak. I have not read a lot of Shakespeare, but I am familiar with many of the phrases he created. Here’s part of a list posted by BBC America of phrases coined by Shakespeare:
It is surprising how many phrases we still use from Shakespeare. It is also interesting how the spirit of his words shape our values and the way in which we speak.
Jesus’ words shape and influence us through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we know not everyone is sitting in the pews of church or reading the Bible but we do see the words of Jesus carry on in different ways. We see children named after Jesus’ disciples: Peter, Andrew, John, James, Mary, Martha, etc. We also see children named after virtues: Faith, Grace, Hope, etc.
Jesus encouraged us to serve and care for others which motivated the building of schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, counseling centers, and more. It may seem at times that the presence of Christ is not with us but as we listen and observe we hear and see “God with us” in the words that carry on through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we journey in our lives, may we take time to carry on the words of Christ. Amen.
Peace and Blessings to you,
2016 Good Shepherd Sunday
This Sunday, April 17, is the fourth Sunday in the Easter season. We will join Lutheran congregations all over Illinois in observing Good Shepherd Sunday in recognition of our ministry together through Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI).
The image of the Good Shepherd recalls God’s sacrificial love for all people and God’s commitment to care for each lamb as well as the whole flock. God’s love is shown to be both strong and gentle. This understanding of God as caregiver and guide prompted the ELCA synods in Illinois to designate this as a special time to highlight and celebrate the social services through LSSI. (LINK HERE)
For 149 years, LSSI and is predecessors have developed creative response to human needs that were beyond the ability of any single congregation to address. Today, LSSI has a variety of programs in communities across the state, including foster care, intact family services, mental health counseling, addiction recovery programs, housing and homecare for seniors, and programs to keep incarcerated citizens connected with their families.
You may have heard new reports earlier this year about the effect of the state budget impasse on LSSI’s ministries. The short version of the story is that LSSI closed several of its programs, many of them dealing with senior services and mental health counseling, and laid off 758 staff members. Right now the state of Illinois owes LSSI millions of dollars for services already provided-this money that cannot be collected until there is a budget agreement. While those decisions were very painful, LSSI is still very much alive and its work continues across the state.
We hold everyone who has been affected by the budget cuts in our prayers, those who lost jobs and those who have lost services. We also pray that the Spirit moves us to support, invest, and engage in the services of LSSI.
Our first week on this transformative journey through Lent began with the question, “What are you looking for?” That week ended with Jesus’ question to the soldiers and police who had come to arrest him: “Whom are you looking for?”
Today Jesus asks that question again, but in very different circumstances. Mary Magdalene was at his tomb early on Sunday morning, weeping and wailing. She was devastated and broken-hearted. She was so upset that when Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?,” she believed he was the gardener, and asked where Jesus’ body had been taken.
But then something amazing happened. Jesus said to her, “Mary.” And she turned and recognized him. Jesus spoke her name, and she turned and came face-to-face with the living Lord, Savior, Messiah, Son of God. When Jesus spoke her name, she realized that he was standing right in front of her.
In this final week of our Lenten journey, turn and face Jesus, and hear him speak your name. He knows you and loves you and gave his life for you. He has kept you close throughout your life. No struggles, no problems, no sins, nothing in your past can separate you from his love.
Jesus is the one you’ve been looking for all along.
• Before Jesus spoke Mary’s name, she mistook him for the gardener. What do people mistake Jesus for today?
• When have you turned to face Jesus or heard him “speak your name”? How did this affect your life?
Holy Jesus, you know me and better than I know myself. Thank you for loving me and calling me your own. In your most holy name. Amen.