The Seventh Sunday of Easter: June 2, 2019
Have you ever had a moment when you had made plans for something, thought you were going in one direction, and then everything around you changed and you ended up in a place you never expected? It can happen in a day when the list you made that morning never gets attended to, or it can happen in one’s entire life-picture when circumstances around us take us in directions we never thought we would go, positive or negative. I recall a movie some years ago, although the title escapes me, where the main character is shown how her life unfolds when she chooses to go through one door on a subway train, and then how her life would have been radically different if she had chosen a different door that morning.
All of life is a constant transition, a time of in-between, that is, leaving what we think we know and moving toward something new or different and yet to be. We see this scene played out in the Book of Acts as it describes a moment in the life of a Roman jailer in Philippi. I am guessing that when he went to work that day he did not expect anything different from his usual duties guarding prisoners, in this case Paul and Silas. But an earthquake occurs, not only shaking up the jail and popping open the doors, but shifting the ground of his entire life. The jailer ends up becoming a follower of Jesus, he and his family are baptized, and his life is never the same again as a whole new unexpected future unfolds.
We are in the midst of the season of graduations and although it is a time of great excitement for many, including the parents, there is an element of the unknown of what life will bring that must be faced. Varying levels of anxiety arise. We experience this in our personal relationships and in our jobs. We certainly experience this in the life of our Diocese as we wait for decisions to be made over which we have no control. Rectors come and go. Bishops retire. In ultimate times of transition, loved ones die. Yet, in the midst of all those life-changes, we hear the great promise in the Gospel today as we listen in on Jesus’ prayer to God as he prepares the disciples for their big transition in the face of his impending execution: “The glory you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one…so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” That’s you and me and Maya, being baptized today! The promise is that he is with us always, sealed forever in his love.
Yet, even with that great promise of presence, we know that parts of life can be excruciatingly difficult. We see the horrifying scenes of destruction from the floods and tornadoes moving across our country. A cursory reading of today’s news events, locally and just yesterday in Virginia Beach, will hand us glaring pictures of death, literal and metaphorical. Just as the disciples and Jesus did, we discover betrayal, broken relationships, violence, language of hatred, bigotry and the drawing of lines in the sand, war, degradation of the beauty of mother earth, and the list goes on. We also know, however, that it is right in the midst of what we find most threatening and fearful that we promise in our baptismal vows to work against everything that corrupts and destroys God’s people and God’s earth – all that conspires against God’s love for the entire creation.
So it is that on this same earth we also discover life and goodness: the beauty of a mountain vista or a piece of art, re-creation in communities restored, possibility, hope, healing, forgiveness and love is renewed. It’s why we like that last good story on the evening news. We may be part of restoring a polluted stream, challenging the systems that keep people in poverty, or assuring interfaith dialogue that deepens relationships and opens the possibility for God’s justice to take root despite the fear mongering in our political environment. It is the ongoing presence of God who promises to restore the earth and establish his reign of love, but it only happens through us. We commit again today to be such followers of Jesus.
We have work to do. Prayer and action go hand in hand. In case we have forgotten, we have been baptized into Jesus’ death in order to be raised with him even now, in this life. Big transitions – it is what we are about, moving from death to life, with Jesus, and trusting the God who promises presence with us no matter what it may be with which we are wrestling. We become the answer to Jesus’ prayer on this earth.
As the Body of Jesus, we go into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, sometimes misunderstood, misjudged, yet vindicated and celebrating. Sealed by the Spirit through your baptism, you go bearing in your body the dying of Jesus to all that opposes God’s love and justice, so that the life of Jesus may be evident in your life in transforming you and the whole creation. We have the joy of co-creating with God the future God desires for us. We get to do that with you, Maya!
This day reminds us as we hear Jesus’ prayer for unity and love, that our lives are caught up in something far more grand than we can imagine. “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Even as Jesus is no longer among us as a man, he now dwells in each of us. We are now Jesus, the ongoing presence of Christ in the world. It is that for which the Church exists. It is what defines us – Christ’s Body now.
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Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.