(Posted May 3, 2019)
“life is too short for fake butter or fake people.” ― Karen Salmansohn, author
As most of us have experienced, there are times in our lives – hard times – when it’s really, really hard to find Jesus in the middle of it all. Ever since Easter I’ve been struck by how, in many ways, our looking for the goodness of God is a continuation of a hunt for Easter eggs. Our faith tells us that God’s there, hiding under some daffodil (or even under a skunk cabbage). But we’re the ones who have to put in the effort to find that goodness.
Recently, and even a few times in these same few weeks, we people who believe in goodness have been brought up short emotionally by the kind of sorrow and tragedy that oozes out of the festering wound of blind hatred and violence. Sri Lanka. The Chabad of Poway, California. The University of North Carolina. And literally hundreds and hundreds of acts of daily violence and bullying that don’t make the news. How do we even deal with these acts? Is there anything we can do with the information?
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The truth is, we Jesus believers were going through the exact same thing in the weeks and years right after the first Easter, when the zealots of the time, unable to tolerate difference of belief, sought to snuff out the early followers of Christ. There was no one more intent to kill off Jesus believers than the man called Saul – a Benjaminite and Zealot who rounded up and led them to be killed. But, as Karen Salmansohn, who I quoted at the beginning of this meditation, also says, “I'd rather have an enemy who admits that they hate me, than a friend who secretly puts me down.” Saul was just such an enemy, someone who God was about to flip from foe to friend of Christians. Then God stepped in and knocked Saul off his high horse, blinded him, and left him exposed to the love Jesus taught as he was tended to over a few days, until he could really see. Saul the killer became Paul the best friend of the Savior. His conversion led him to become, with out a doubt, the man who created the Christian Church. He became known for writing extraordinary letters to troubled churches when they were being persecuted by others, or even by their own deep flaws.
The thing is, amidst the carnage and confusion, the pain and persecution that is at the root of most terrorism and bullying, we need to look for the hidden Jesus, the Easter egg of possibility that such awful moments present to us. We CAN find ways to enhance understanding of one another when blind rage comes to call. We CAN find a resurrection moment whenever people stand up to evil and say, “No more. I will do whatever I can to comfort others, and to let them know that only love triumphs in the end.”
We need a post-Easter uprising, a moment to sift through the wreckage of human failure, and find the places that Jesus has hidden himself, waiting to be found by us, where we become the instruments of God’s peace, the healers who restore the sight of those who cannot yet see our common brotherhood. Join me on Sunday when we tackle the hard questions of what we do with our own sense of betrayal and how we heal ourselves and the world. - Pastor Pat Kriss
(Posted May 3, 2019)
“Saul got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” - Acts 9:20
“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Feed my sheep….’” - John 21:17
In an act of compassionate faith, the followers of the risen Christ share a meal with Saul, their former persecutor. Sharing food is a ritual long associated with peace-making. More than simple nutrients, food is imbued with the legacy of local soil, the people’s covenant with the land, and the just or unjust practices of the community. Each morsel is laden with the culture, identity, and values of the communal body and the spirit of those who have gathered, grown, prepared and offered it. When Christians share food, we share the blessing and power of the body of Christ.
This has been true for Rev. Randy Mayer, pastor of Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Arizona, who welcomed an asylum-seeking family escaping domestic and gang violence in Honduras into his home in 2018. This was at the time the Department of Justice began changing the rules indicating that domestic and gang violence may not qualify families for asylum. "Having an Asylum Family sitting at your dinner table and on your couch watching TV in your living room is quite the experience as you are listening to the evening news," Mayer said. "Maybe that is the best way to get through an experience like this —- having the stranger sitting right in front of you, loving her family and proving right before your eyes that the ugly rhetoric and hate filled comments have nothing to do with the truth."
As you walk in faith this week, consider taking the following acts to welcome others into the circle of God’s grace:
Mission Moments tells stories of how United Chruch of Christ congregations are connected to the wider church. It is published by the United Church of Christ.
(Posted May 10, 2019)
It’s fitting -- although entirely accidental -- that this Sunday’s New Testament Acts of the Apostles text revolves around a woman named Tabitha in Aramaic, but Dorcas in Greek. After all it is Mother’s Day. What makes Tabitha unique is that she is the ONLY woman that the New Testament names from the beginning as a disciple. As you can imagine, it must have taken a special kind of woman to be valued by society in those days of inconsequential femininity to be recognized as such. And she was.
Tabitha, a widow, didn’t stop caring for people when her husband and children were gone. Not in the slightest. Instead, in this post-Easter world, Tabitha began to “mother” all those in her community who needed someone to care for them: the needy, the grieving, the lonely widows like herself.
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And then, in an instant, Tabitha was gone. Tabitha, whose name refers to the graceful gazelle. Tabitha, full of grace for raising other people up, now needs someone to raise her up. Tabitha needs someone like Jesus, who raised from death Jairus’s daughter, by calling out a name one letter off from hers: “Talitha, arise,” Jesus said.
And so it was that Peter, now the head of the Jesus believers, answered the grieving followers’ call to come to Joppa. He found her surrounded by other widows and women who had prepared her and dressed her -- tenderly like mothers. Peter recalled that he and the other disciples had been told by Jesus that they had been given his powers-- the power to forgive, to heal, to raise others up just as Jesus did. So it is with the assurance of that power that Peter stepped forward, said “Tabitha, arise,” and watched as she did. We can easily assume that Tabitha used her renewed life on earth to continue to be a shining example, not just of womanhood and maternal caring, but of being Christ’s disciple.
In the moment of that full-fledged miracle we learn that Peter and the other disciples carry on the great work of Jesus. And we, too, are bidden in this post-modern era of hate mongering and senseless acts of violence to extend our transformative discipleship far beyond the often hollow “thoughts and prayers” that people toss out at the moment of the next school shooting or racist act. The world needs “a mother’s touch” that is all action, not all talk, a touch that heals and moves forward by doing, enfolding, and not just talking.
This Sunday, we’ll be thinking back to mothers of all kinds. Not all of our mothers were living saints like Tabitha. But some of our mothers were. However all mothers have left their mark on us, and taught us that, as much as we were forgiven for not being perfect, we need to forgive others, including Moms, for being human, but always trying to grow. - Pastor Pat Kriss
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