4.02.2008

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116: 1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35

It is interesting how relationships are born. With all of the different people in the world and all of the different variables present from person to person, sometimes it is amazing any of us ever are able to be in relationship with one another at all. There is really no way to predict who will meet up with whom when or how or where.

A great example of this is the way we came to be associated with KC. Last spring, coming from a wide variety of background circumstances, we were both looking for a church / faith / worship community. One of us was planning to take a worship class in seminary that had a requirement to visit several different churches to observe different styles of worship. The other of us had been driving around Columbia and had seen this old barn that had a church sign on it. And so, last year, on Pentecost Sunday, we made our first visit to Kittamaqundi Community Church. Certainly, it took us three or four more months to commit to being around KC on a regular basis, but that is how our relationship with KC started--a need for community, a class requirement, and a wrong turn looking for a grocery store.

Every relationship between any two people (or groups of people) is unique to the particular context and the particular people involved.

We think the way we relate to God is not much different. This week's scriptures show at least three (maybe four) fairly distinct ways of being in relationship with God.

In the passage from Acts we see Peter speaking to a group of Jews and explaining what they were to do to be in relationship with God through Jesus. In a sense, Peter is defining for these folks what he understands his connection to God to look like and what he believes their relationship should look like. He explains who he knows Jesus to be and what he believes their response (everyone's response) should be to this news / information. This is Peter, a Jew who had been in fairly close, fairly intimate personal contact with Jesus for a couple of years . This is the same Peter who had to figure out through experience whether or not he could walk on water. And the same Peter who denied Jesus three times. His path wasn't always the straightest. And he is speaking to a group of Jews that are obviously interested in what he has to say...and he's saying things with great conviction and certainty. Sound familiar?

In Psalm 116 we see a writer that "came to know the Lord" in what appears to be a desperate situation. "The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish...then I called on the name of the Lord." This writer was at the bottom of whatever barrel she was currently in and came to trust God in the midst of a dire circumstance. Sound familiar?

In the first letter of Peter we see the writer (probably an early church leader who was influenced by Peter) writing to followers of Jesus in Rome. The basic purpose of the letter is to encourage those followers in the face of persecution in the big city. These folks had chosen to follow Christ in a situation / context where it was not an easy situation. Having that particular "connection" with God at that point in history was difficult and dangerous, and yet they still chose to know God through Christ. The society that surrounded them was making it difficult to be a Christian. Sound familiar?

And then we see the scene of two young men that meet up with Jesus on the third day after Jesus's death. They spend the whole day walking and talking with him . They told him stories and he told them stories. The text sort of implies the two folks on the road were people who were already followers of Jesus.folks who had already been in some relationship with him in some way. Whether they knew him before or not, we see that these two folks came to know him by being in conversation with him on the road. Sound familiar?

Like the early Christians, we have entered a relationship with God in our own way, a way that is shaped by our context, by the things we have read, by other people in our life, by pressures from the people around us. Some of us wait for others to develop and continue the relationship for us and some of us have probably resisted efforts on the part of others to impose their relationship with God on us.

Maybe that is where the tension around the idea of "evangelism" comes from-because of our own stories, it makes some of us uncomfortable and some of us completely at peace. Sound familiar?

Jesus set many examples of being in relationship with the people he met.sitting at the table.talking beside the well.healing and teaching. He met people where they were. And when he asked Peter to "feed my sheep," he didn't really tell him how.

We are called or drawn or pushed or pulled in to some form or another of a "relationship" or connection with God. Some of us are completely certain our way of connecting to God is completely right, and some of us are not at all sure what it might mean to be "in relationship" with God (if it is possible at all); and the rest of us fill the space in between these two extremes. It seems like the challenge might be discovering how it is we each relate to God and then walking along with others to help them discover their own way.

+How often do we expect everyone to be in relationship with God in "our" (and, thus, the 'correct') way?

+How far does this go? Is the shape and path and depth and geography of everyone's vertical relationship individualized and personal?....from the initial connection to the deepest understanding? If this is true (and it may not be), what impact does this have on worship and education and evangelism?

+What does all of this mean when we think about 100 folks attempting to move toward 100 images of Christian community and Christian growth along 100 different paths?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.

- St. Francis of Assisi

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