Easter 7C Musings

Texts:

This text draws from Jesus’s final prayer before he is betrayed by his friend and crucified on the cross. It follows the Farewell Discourse, which we read last week, which emphasized peace and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  This week, the text emphasizes unitylove and God’s presence with us.

I have been pondering this week: What does unity look like?   Below are some of my thoughts on this question.

Unity is about intimacy with God.  Prior to the prayer and the Farewell Discourse, it tells us that the beloved disciple is reclining on Jesus.  The thought is that the disciple is reclining on Jesus’ chest, close enough for the disciple to hear the heart beat of God.  We are never told that the disciple moves, so it is possible that, even in this prayer, the disciple is still there, reclining against Jesus’ chest. This image teaches us about the meaning of unity.  As disciples, we are called to dwell close enough to the Holy that we can hear God’s own heartbeat.

Unity is about kinship.  Directly following this passage, Jesus is put on trial and crucified.  During his crucifixion, Jesus says to his mother, “Here is your son” and to the beloved disciple, “Here is your mother.”  If we are to truly be united and love one another, we must see each others not as strangers but as kin who are all part of the family of God.life-is-hard

  • Example:  When Glennon Melton’s youngest daughter, Amma, got sick, it reminded her of the ways other mothers struggled to care for their chronic sick children.  It broke her heart and so she wrote a Facebook post about it.  People started naming their sick children, so that they might be remembered.  Glennon wrote down each name, observing: “Spending a day writing all those names made me BECOME something different. It made me a sister to all of those mothers. A mother to all those babies. It made them kin to me. And the Kingdom of God is that realm in which we live like every last one of us is our family.”
    • She made a poster with all the names of the sick children and wrote, “Life is hard but they are brave”
    • People asked if others could remember their children who had passed away, so Glennon made another poster with all of their names that says: “We ache.”
    • Glennon reads their names and prays for the families regularly.
  • Jesus invites us not only to ask the question “Who is my neighbor?”, but also: Who  is my kin? Who is my mother? Who is my brother?
    • In light of the impending “Mother’s Day”, Glennon has written a Facebook post that we are all connected.  Glennon writes,

Together, we are leaving our mark on the world and our mark is radical, relentless, dangerous love that reaches beyond ourselves and beyond our neighborhoods and races and religions and rules and borders and differences and fear. Our love insists that there is no such thing as other people’s children – that there is no peace for a parent until all children have peace- and that there is no rest for a child of God until all children of God can rest.”

    • Glennon argues that Mother’s Day is not about joining a celebration but joining a movement that works toward a vision of wholeness and well-being for all of our children

Unity is about peace.  As an American Baptist, I come from a theological and racially diverse tradition.  What unites us? Our relationship with Christ and, like the early disciples, our focus on God’s vision of compassion, healing and peace for all creation.

  • In “Standing as Witnesses to the Gospel”, Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert points out that, in the beginning of the Jesus movement, there were no creeds or detailed theological statements; there was not doctrine or denominational polity; instead, “apostles simply asked folks to believe in this new vision of the kin-dom initiated by Jesus, empowered by the Spirit and made real through small house churches.”
  • Peace, or the Hebrew word Shalom, can be defined as “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight … We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr. in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be)
    • Perhaps this is the peace to which Jesus refers when he says, “My peace I leave with you.”
  • Julia Ward Howe original wrote her original Mother’s Day declaration as vision of peace for all the world, so that no more mothers would have to lose their children to senseless violence.  In the wake of the Civil War, Ward Howe writes:
    • Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Let us meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let us then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, [human] as the [kin] of [human], each bearing after [their] own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God!”
    • Ward Howe’s words remind us, as Steinwert puts it, that “mothering is not an individual act but a collective commitment, nurturing the whole world through radical justice, open hearts and minds … and love that challenges places of violence in our world.”

Unity is about diversity. In the Acts story, Paul encounters Lydia outside the city walls of Philippi.  Lydia is an independent business owner whose heart is changed by God’s vision of Shalom and is immediately baptized, followed by her household.  Lydia then offers the disciples a place to stay.  Lydia shares God’s love through her hospitality to the disciples and we can imagine that her hospitality later extended, as her church community continued to grow, to new people from all different classes and ethnicity.

  • Philippi was a diverse city. The church likely had 75-100 members who mirrored the general population.
    • Philippi was composed of: elite (3%), landowning farmers and pensioned colonist (25%), skilled workers, merchants and service providers (45%) and the poor (27%). (Source: Feasting on the Word).
    • How did they create space for unity in the midst of their diversity?
    • How do we?
  • Questions to ponder
    • Why was Lydia outside the city walls?
      • How do we minister to those who find themselves outside the city walls?
    • How did the early church create space for the diverse people that they encountered – Jew, Gentile, slave, free, vegetarian, non-vegetarian, rich, poor, etc.?
      • Were there ways that the early church failed in their attempt to create space?
      • What were the ways that God’s vision of Shalom (of flourishing and well-being for all) called them back to the Way when they had forgotten?
    • How are we being called to create unity in the midst of our diversity?
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