Each time I sat down to sort pix or write a piece on my trip, I was pulled into the pictures and memories of what I experienced. Therefore, I was pleased to be asked to prepare a message that centered on some stories and
pictures of my trip to Haiti for church this morning. This task would provide impetus for spending deliberate energy to organize. Simple enough…or so I thought. It takes time to sort over 1000 pictures, and to choose from dozens of stories, numerous videos, and a seemingly endless array of thoughts and perceptions of my experiences in Haiti. Add in a limited amount of time to encapsulate it all into what I hoped would turn out to be an informative, inspiring Sunday morning message - being pleased quickly turned to anxiety. Anxiety or not, a type A personality [me, most of the time] gets it done. The presentation was well received. What follows is a bit of what I spoke about before presenting the ppt.
Reading the lectionary for today, connectedness emerged as one of the themes. This is in keeping with the stories from the past three weeks. In them we heard: Jesus is the Good Shepherd [we are the sheep, even those outside the flock]. We also heard: Jesus is the Vine [we are the branches]. Connectedness is prevalent in these stories – it’s almost an obsession.
In today’s gospel lesson: we hear a portion of what is often called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, a prayer offered by Jesus before he was arrested. I’d like to talk a bit about this prayer, a prayer for Jesus’ beloved disciples, and by extension, for the whole church to come – including you and I - thereby connecting us directly with God.
Jesus makes specific requests in this prayer, among them:
1. A plea for God to provide safety/protection for his followers [you and I] from the world, from its temptations, from haters, from evil in all its forms. This is echoed in the words of the Lord’s Prayer,“lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil…”
2. A plea for God to sanctify his followers [you and I], to make us holy by using truth/the word.
3. A plea for unity/connectedness for those who believe in the message the disciples brought into the world – a unity as the one that existed between Jesus and the Father.
The lessons today seem to invite us to think of holiness as a sharing of the life of Christ in unity, in community, rather than as a separation. Using this perspective, moving towards holiness is sharing life with others, connecting to others, which in turn leads us towards seeking the best for all people. Living in God’s truth/the word causes us to recognize our connectedness to each other and to all life, moving us to address the causes of inequality and poverty, moving us to a greater awareness of our need to care for creation.
What strikes me in the reading are the words: “not out of the world.” The language is powerful, significant. Jesus doesn’t ask for us to be removed from the world – in fact, it’s the complete opposite. Jesus gave the disciples God’s truth/the word and sends them into the world, carrying God’s truth/the word INTO the world; but we don’t belong to the world, its systems, its ways of thinking.
To this end, we will find ourselves reaching out to one another across lines of ideology, religion, race, nationality, education, and economic status. Seeking to strengthen our connectedness, rather than separate ourselves from other people, from religions, from particular ideas, and preserve what divides us, is holy work indeed.
A little further into the prayer than what the lectionary provided today, we hear that Jesus connects us to God. These are powerful words. Jesus connects us to God. Jesus connects God with us through his disciples and all those who come after – including you and I – not only connecting them…unifying them. This alludes to a direct connection to God, the Creator.
Jesus was a connector, bringing people of vastly different ideological, religious, theological, political, and economic backgrounds together. The call this week is to connect ourselves to others. It is this connectedness
that sanctifies us; it is through this connectedness that we cease to be ‘of’ the world. Yes, we live in the world, but we are focused towards God’s unifying love, rather than the divisiveness characteristic of those who ignore God’s gift of eternal life.
It is through connectedness that I received an invitation to visit Children in Need Haitian Project in Haiti. After a time of discernment, I felt called to make the trip. The connections I made while in Haiti have changed my world view, have challenged my thinking, have grounded my faith, and the connections continue to unfold -- making new connections here, closer to home, due to the connections I made while in Haiti. The journey continues...
Until next time, be well.