Saturday, April 24, 2021

Earth Day 2021

Earth Day 2021 collage
Prayer: Psalm 23

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I'm not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

The Message (MSG) Copyright 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

Romans 8:18-22

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the children of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of the One who subjected it in hope; 21because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. NKJV

Earth Day #51

Easter is 50 Days, a week of weeks. We're close to the halfway mark on this Fourth Sunday and 22nd Day of Easter. Though we still can greet everyone with "Christ is Risen – Happy Easter!" the church's year of grace begins to ease toward the Day of Pentecost that initiates the half-year long, sometimes surprising Season of Pentecost, Time of the Church. With April being Earth Month, this being Earth Week and Earth Day only last Thursday, how better to celebrate the New Creation of Easter than with Earth Sunday? What better juxtaposition than Psalm 23 with its natural – not exclusively rural at all – word pictures and reassurance of God as our shepherd who knows us, who always has our back, who goes before us everywhere and waits for our arrival?

I've designed for Earth Day every year for a long time. Results have ranged from a First Place Blue Ribbon at the County Fair to fair to middling. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors—we borrow it from our children was the theme on one of my four pieces for Earth Day 2010 and it seemed exactly right for 2021. The header image for this blog post is one of several variations of this year's design.

Our Divine Image
Genesis 1:26-27

God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself … and every animal that moves on the face of Earth."
God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God's nature. …

Genesis 2:15-17

God took the Human and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order.
God commanded the Human, "You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don't eat from it. …

Scriptures from The Message

Humanity's Image of God or Imago Dei we read about in Genesis is an often-discussed theological concept. It has been described as our relationships, with the inter-relatedness of the Trinity as ideal. In addition, a person who bears God's image would posses divine attributes of love, mercy, and justice as Jesus demonstrated. Stewardship of creation we find in both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2? Of course! And more! United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon recently claimed speech is a huge aspect our divine image. Scripture reveals the word of God as both speech and action. God's word creates. It restores and heals. God speaks words of challenge, of resurrection, of new life, of new creation. We refer to the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant as Ten Words because scripture tells us "God spoke these words" to guide us in our common life where those words become actions. We've discussed signs and symbols that point toward something other than themselves; we're familiar with logos in branding for products and organizations. The gospel of John tells us Jesus is the Logos or Word of God; although John's theology tells us Jesus pre-existed with God the Father, Jesus is the result of God speaking. (It gets very complicated and I don't want to summon the heresy brigade…)

We humans speak with far more than languages like English, German, and Spanglish. Physical postures and gestures talk "body language." Whether from our own choices or defaults resulting from actions of others, our homes, professions, clothing, and food send messages. Etc.


Restore Our Earth

"Restore Our Earth" is this year's official Earth Day theme. In Romans 8:19, "…creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the children of God," the apostle Paul assures us when we claim the fullness of our divine nature and image (love, justice, engaging speech that's active in love), especially in this Earth Month – Week – Day, we'll help restore, revitalize, and resurrect aspects of creation that are less than fully alive.

God's Word is both speech and action. Especially people outside the church sometimes inspect our lives to determine whether or not we walk the talk. When we claim our divine image, our speech and action reflect each other and we do walk the talk. We'll help Restore Our Earth because We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors—we borrow is from our children.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Easter 3B

Prayer

God,
We are surrounded by violence,
learning geography through tragedy:
Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Brooklyn Center, Chicago.
No place is safe.

We pray for all whose breath has been taken.
Receive them into your loving embrace.
We pray for all who grieve.
Carry them gently through the darkness.
Be their strength and ever-present help in this terrible time of trouble.

Bring your light into our darkness.
Bring your peace into our chaos.
Bring your love into our broken communities.

We ask because we know you can—because of the cross.
You held all power and yet refused to strike back.
No threat could tempt you to violence.
Through your restraint the world was reborn.

Oh God of resurrection hope, give us the strength and courage to do what you would have us do.
Mold us into who you are calling us to be.
And meet us in our inadequacy to make all things new. Amen.

Prayer by Pastor Jen Brothers, Roanoke, Virginia

Luke 24:13-16; 27-49

13Now on that same day [Easter] two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. … 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

32They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, jesus said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Easter is Fifty Days

• Easter is 50 days—a week of weeks (7 x 7). The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter—May 23rd this year.

• As the day after the Sabbath, the Day of Resurrection is both the eighth day of the old week and the first day of a new week. As the first day of a new week, Easter is the beginning of a new creation.

• The new creation contains evidence of old, deadly pasts. Last week's two-part reading from John showed us Jesus' scars. Today on Resurrection Sunday evening Jesus proves his humanity by displaying his hands and feet. On this side of Easter we often find ourselves in the "Yes, already!" of resurrection and the "No, not yet!" of Holy Saturday, that apparently motionless time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.


The Third Sunday of Easter

Though we've been in the lectionary year of Mark's gospel since Advent, on most Sundays of all three years during the fifty days of Easter we hear a passage from John, and this week we're considering a pair of post-resurrection encounters with Jesus from the evangelist Luke.

Luke's Gospel (Volume 1) and his Acts of the Apostles (Volume 2) emphasize: history with an almost constant "on the road" trajectory; women and other marginalized persons; prayer; neighborology—the word about our neighbors; the Holy Spirit; table fellowship. This week's reading includes most of those themes.


Post-Resurrection

Jesus told them and showed them about the Reign of Heaven throughout his earthly ministry, yet he needed to teach and tell his followers more, because during those three years of public ministry he hadn't yet been killed by imperial forces and raised from the dead. The forty days between Jesus' resurrection and his ascension are particularly important because Jesus calls us – and in the power of the Holy Spirit enables us – to be his crucified and risen presence in the world, so we need to learn how. Last week we read John's account of Jesus bestowing the Holy Spirit on his disciples; every year on the Day of Pentecost we hear Luke's multilingual fire and wind from his book of Acts. Jesus doesn't ask us to do anything he hasn't already done.

Though we often refer to Jesus post-resurrection appearances, he wasn't a ghost, an apparition, a stained glass likeness, or a digital rendering. Just as when he lived on land from infancy through childhood into adulthood and onto his death and burial, after being raised to new life Jesus had a substantial body. People who met Jesus after the resurrection touched flesh and blood and bone; in the Creed we confess, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." In today's two-part reading Jesus enjoys real meals of real food. However, a resurrected body has an additional dimension. Jesus enters places without going through a door. In today's story he disappears without leaving through a door. We can't do that yet!


To Emmaus and Back to Jerusalem

Luke's story of Jesus emphasizes inclusive table fellowship. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Little Town of House of Bread. Throughout his ministry we meet Jesus eating with friends, strangers, and outcasts; his first act of public ministry in John's gospel is turning plain water into finest wine at a wedding party. In the upper room of Maundy Thursday Jesus says the cup is his life blood, the bread is his body.

Jesus' twice identifying Moses, prophets, and psalms with his own life recalls the Exodus story of the God who sees the suffering of enslaved people and calls Moses to liberate them, along with later prophets who called people back to faithful obedience.

As many have observed, the meal in Emmaus definitely is about the presence of the risen Lord in word and sacrament; it sometimes is considered the first Eucharist because unlike the Lord's Supper Founding Meal of Maundy Thursday, Eucharist is a meal with the Risen Christ in the midst of a fully redeemed creation.

This also is about Christ with us whenever we welcome strangers to our table as Jesus did. Welcoming others often opens our eyes so we recognize Jesus—sometimes in retrospect, like the travelers on the Emmaus Road. As happened in the meal in Emmaus, at times we will find ourselves hosted and made comfortable by people we imagined were our guests.


Where We Live: COVID-19

We've all celebrated the Day of Resurrection countless times, but the world still experiences hatred, poverty, violence, and injustice. Illness and death continue. Every one of us knew we had to trust the year 2021 would be a lot better than 2020 had been, and then it began with an insurrection on Capitol Hill and COVID-19 surges, continued with I've lost count of how many mass shootings. Yet our theology tells us Easter, the event of Jesus Christ's resurrection, that eighth day that's also the first day of the new creation, marked the end of decay and death, concluded endless cycles of poverty, violence, illness, injustice, and sorrow.

Theology of the cross emphasizes Saturday with its winter-like quiet, yet God calls us to live as people of the cross who are fully alive, resurrected, and redeemed. Filled with the Spirit of the Day of Pentecost that's the fiftieth day of Easter, we become agents of God's justice, inclusion and freedom for all.


Where We Live: Into the Future

So… Jesus again shares a meal with friends, in a culturally congruent way, of course:

"While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, Jesus said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence." Luke 24:41-43

Jesus' first followers fished for a living! Fish was a more abundant and therefore less expensive protein source than sheep or goats. They may not have had stationary BBQ pits as we do on beaches and other places, but I love to imagine there were dedicated areas in their meeting spaces where people cooked food they brought to share.

The Christ of God and Christianity always are incarnate (embodied, enfleshed) and contextualized into Right Here and Right Now. With the current plethora of spoken languages, cultures, and cuisines (these days isn't almost everything almost everywhere some kind of culinary fusion?), contextualizing our service to others into this Right Here and this Right Now is a challenge we meet head on as we resume old ministries and create new ones post-COVID.

• In Luke-Acts life in Christ is a journey along The Way of the cross and the empty tomb. How would you describe your journey to the Day of Resurrection 2021?
• What difference does the presence of the risen Christ make in your journey during these Great Fifty Days and into the upcoming Green and Growing Season of Pentecost that's often called the Season of the Church?
• How have you experienced the risen Christ by providing or receiving hospitality?
• How will you recognize the risen Christ when you meet him?
• Like the Emmaus Road travelers, do you sometimes only realize you encountered Christ when you look back?
• Will we make a place at the table for everyone?
• Or is that unrealistic?
• Will the world recognize us as the body of Christ when we welcome strangers and make the surrounding world a post-resurrection reality?

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Easter 2B

Prayer on Easter II

God of resurrection hope,
The gloriously surprising season of Easter hope again weaves through an almost endless season of global pandemic that surprised all of us. More than an entire calendar year? We never would have imagined!

God of resurrection joy!
Thank you again for first responders, healthcare, and other essential workers who make it possible for others to stay safe, stay home. Thank you for providing virtual ways to connect socially in spite of necessary physical distancing and remote relating. Thank you for working through scientists and medical personnel during these long months. And thank you for the gift of vaccines! Thank you for the amazement of how so many of us have been cooperating together.

God of our future,
You have gone before us into the frontlines, and into the hidden places of this ongoing worldwide uncertainty. Sometimes we imagine we have chosen you, but we know you first sought us out and chose us. Please continue to create in us a single heart and mind, as you show us the path of life is the way of the cross and the empty tomb, that our lives will testify to the risen Christ.

In the name of Jesus, crucified, risen, and with us always.
Amen.

cf: Psalm 133; Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1—2:2; John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." 28Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"

29Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Easter Day and Bright Week

• Easter is 50 days—a week of weeks (7 x 7); 7 is the number of perfection in Hebrew numerology. The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter! This year Pentecost will be on May 23rd. Where will we be then?
• The day of resurrection is the day after the Sabbath; it's both the eighth day of the old week and the first day of a new week. As the first day of a new week, the day of resurrection is the beginning of a new creation.
• Many baptismal fonts are octagonal with eight sides to help demonstrate our baptism as a new creation Into Jesus' death and resurrection.
• Orthodox churches in particular celebrate the seven days from Easter Sunday through Easter Saturday as Bright Week, and consider the entire week a single day—the eighth day of creation or the first day of the new creation.

The order of the new creation subverts the order of the old:
• God names Adam – Genesis 2:7
• Jesus names Mary – John 20:16

• The new creation is not pristine, but carries evidence of old, deadly pasts. Today's reading from John shows us Jesus' scars. On this side of Easter we often find ourselves in the "Yes, already!" of resurrection and the "No, not yet!" of Holy Saturday, that time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.


The Second Sunday of Easter, Part I

Although the gospel according to John doesn't get its own lectionary year, on most Sundays of all three years during the fifty days of Easter we hear a passage from John. Every year the gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter is this 2-part narrative of Jesus coming to his followers twice through closed doors.

Verse 21 Jesus bestows the gift of peace that's not simple absence of conflict; this peace is shalom: expansive well-being, harmony, integrity, when individual and community both function as part of the other. However, (ironically) we get our English irenic from the Greek word the gospel uses. After filling them in his redemptive shalom, Jesus sends the disciples out into the world.

Verse 22 Jesus breathed on them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." The only other place the Greek bible uses that word for breath is Genesis 2:7 – "God formed Adam out of dust and breathed into him the breath of life." In the power of the Holy Spirit of life, Jesus then trusts them with the office of the keys or forgiveness that creates radical, from-the-ground-up new life.

And then… that famous incident about Thomas.

Verse 25 "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." The New Creation carries scars from the death of the old. Resurrection doesn't erase crucifixion; resurrection transforms death into life. As we've learned throughout our earthly existence, past negatives frequently intrude on the newness of now.


The Second Sunday of Easter, Part II

The first story happens on the evening of the day of Jesus' resurrection; the second a week later.

Thomas sometimes gets called "doubting," but unbelieving or not-believing is closer to the perspective of the fourth gospel. Thomas' disbelief? in the scandal of crucifixion! Not disbelief in resurrection from the dead. Gnostic trends that denied the physical reality of the body were making rounds at the time of this gospel. If physical bodies weren't actually real, they couldn't actually die. Thomas doesn't question resurrection, but cannot imagine the outrage of crucifixion, death, and burial. In John's gospel, believing and trusting means abiding (resting, reposing) in Jesus.

Verse 27: Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Jesus draws attention to the scars of crucifixion and invites Thomas to physically experience the reality of his death with his own senses.


Where We Live: COVID-19

Closed door, locked doors: Greek word is the same and means it's hard to get in. Fear again! "Fear of the Jews" probably refers to those who conspired to kill Jesus, because after all, Jesus' disciples were Jewish. For more than a year many of us have spent a whole lot of time behind closed doors (and behind masks when we venture out) for "fear of COVID-19." Government and health officials have instructed us to protect ourselves and others from exposure to a deadly virus, and most people realize COVID is an extremely serious threat, fear a more than reasonable reaction.

As Easter People, we talk and we walk Eighth Day Theology of a New Creation, while on this side of Easter we often find ourselves in the "Yes, already!" of resurrection and the "No, not yet!" of Holy Saturday, that time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So… after over a year of planetary COVID-19 devastation, over a century of environmental destruction, months (years, and decades) of other big and little disappointments wondering, "how can this still be happening in our lives and communities," today's scripture shows us we need to examine not completely healed wounds and other revelations of deaths.

The new creation is not unspoiled and untarnished, but bears marks of death; today's reading from John shows us Jesus' scars. Jesus draws attention to the scars of crucifixion and invites Thomas to physically touch and feel the reality of his death. In John's gospel, believing and trusting means abiding in Jesus; it's relationship and repose with Jesus, and also with one another. As Jesus grants us his shalom-filled peace, we go from being solitary isolated individuals to belonging within the body of Christ, with individuals and community functioning as parts of the other.

Most of us sometimes wonder if Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension already has redeemed all creation, why is so much of the world so thoroughly messed up? We often skip from Good Friday to Easter because we're literally afraid to acknowledge everything is not yet okay, we fear acknowledging (and inspecting) the remnants of death that remain and continue to intrude upon new life. We don't want other Christians (or even ourselves) to think we don't trust resurrection, that maybe we doubt like Thomas because we'd rather not believe in the reality of death.

Besides COVID-19 with its fallout, the past twelve plus months have revealed racial and ethnic brokenness, economic inequalities, histories in the USA and elsewhere we'd rather bury. Notice "know" in the word acknowledge.


Today's Questions

• As churches return to campus to resume previous ministries and create new, much-needed ones, can churches become the places with the people that acknowledge wounds, touch scars, and find ways to redeem them into a future?

• What wounds need to be touched and attended to in your country? City? Neighborhood? Family? Church? Are some more urgent than others?

• What does "shalom/peace be with you" mean in the uncertainties and ongoing realistically high anxieties of this pandemic? We thought we had a few vaccines—in fact, the world has a dozen effective vaccines, then we hear about serious side effects, production slowdowns, and even breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people. Help?!

• Do we know (acknowledge) God's presence in the cruelty of COVID-19, in human hatred and violence toward other humans, in the degradation of everyone's home of planet earth? Can we find (see, touch, hear, feel) God within and God surrounding those situations?

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Maundy Thursday 2021

Maundy Thursday Psalm 116 What Shall I render to the Lord
Psalm 116:12-13; 17-19

What shall I render to the Lord
For all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all his people.
In the courts of the Lord's house;
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.


Passover / Easter

This week the synagogue has been celebrating Passover; in a few days the church celebrates Easter. These great festivals of freedom and liberation carry a similar focus of remembering God's acts of deliverance from death. Seder participants recount the Exodus narrative of Israel's wayfaring from slavery into the gift of the promised land with symbolic fresh food that no longer depends upon empire—they sometimes call it "eating history." After Lent ends, Christians retell and re-enact their experience of death and resurrection with the Triduum or Three Days: One Liturgy in Three Acts.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Maundy Thursday

The one liturgy in three acts of the Triduum – "Three Days" – begins on Maundy (mandate or command) Thursday with Jesus' example of servanthood when he washes his disciples' feet, and then another demonstration and command as he takes, blesses, breaks, and distributes bread, followed by taking, blessing, sharing a cup filled with fruit of the vine. The second act happens on Good Friday. Act three? Easter: Vigil – Sunrise – Day. Saturday has been described as "the day nothing happens, yet the day everything happens."

The Lord's Supper founding meal we find in Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church and in three of the gospels evokes familiar images and rings with unforgettable phrases. The central picture is Jesus sharing a meal with his friends; whether it's Leonardo's Renaissance Italy or twenty-first century Mercy Street Church Downtown, it's the same reality. While Jesus breaks bread and blesses wine, he tells us to do what he does—"in remembrance." Do this religious ritual? Jesus' world already had plenty of religious rituals. Our world has enough of those, too.

According to Mark, Luke, and Matthew, the original setting was a Passover meal, maybe a seder, possibly not. In any case, Jesus' words and actions continue the Jewish practice of remembering by re-enacting God's people's Passover from slavery and death into life and liberty. There where any observant Jew would have been on that day, Jesus tells his friends to "do this." Repeat this blessing and breaking of bread, this pouring-out of wine? "Do this" blood of the new covenant announcement?


Remember

Re-membering means re-collecting the pieces and putting them back together to restore a broken whole. When an individual or a community re-members, they weave together past and present. Scripture abounds with instances of God's command to remember, with instances of community remembrances, with stories of God remembering how quickly humans forget. Our scriptures are written-down accounts of countless communities remembering by telling stories that later got recorded on parchment, still later printed on paper. Even later accessible on-screen!

God told Israel to remember their passage from slavery into freedom; when the church obeys Jesus by breaking bread and pouring out wine in his memory (the Apostle Paul explains doing this proclaims Jesus' death!), part of the liturgical action includes retelling the story of God's people from creation through redemption in order to make it part of our own history. So it's not only about Jesus for each of us, for everyone gathered in a virtual or in-person local assembly—remembering becomes about all of us throughout the history of the cosmos. We recollect how God has led us, how even those hard days didn't last forever…as COVID surges, recedes, and threatens to overwhelm us again, we re-call the small deaths and the huge losses; we again trust God whose final answer always is resurrection from death. For the apostle Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.

"Do this" religious ritual? There are plenty of those. "In memory?" We keep celebrating this sacrament, this holy communion, this freedom feast of the Lord's Supper with each other. And we're not likely to keep on performing an action unless it has meaning, unless it says something to us and about us.

Do we need bread and wine to remember Jesus? Aren't there other ways? Well, throughout the records of Jesus' life we find Jesus feeding other people and feasting with his friends; Jesus repeatedly talks about those who will banquet in the Kingdom…and about giving his body for the life of the world. The Reign of God, this Welcome Table, and the Calvary Cross are tightly bound together.


Breakout People

As Christians gradually return to their church campuses, resuming some pre-COVID ministries and initiating new ministries in response to new needs, all of us trust God into the future because God has gone ahead of us and waits for us there. Similar to ways a Passover Seder and the Lord's Supper re-member liberation and resurrection with all five senses, we serve our neighbors' whole lives as we attend to their needs and even to some of their wants. When Jesus breaks bread and blesses wine, he tells us to do what he does—"in remembrance." Do this religious ritual?

Wherever we go we become a living and a life-giving memory of Jesus. In us, Jesus again becomes alive in the world and we become a living connection to the heaven of God's reign on earth. Where will people find us as the world opens up? Will people recognize us as the body of Jesus Christ when we share our substance and pour out our lives?

Today is Thursday, tomorrow's Friday—Sunday's coming!