5.21.2011

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
attempt
to respect all life
and all people.
Guide us as we
attempt
to use
discernment
and
judgment
to see
and
do
Your work
in this world.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org 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.

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