calendar May 3, 2020 in Bishop, Bishop messages, Public Health

Bishop’s Reflection: Beloved Community

Two thoughts as I read this text. First, yes, this is the beloved community that I talk about in Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. This is what we reflect as the people of God. I continue to pray for that even stronger now in this time of COVID-19.

This is the fellowship that I am blessed to experience with my family as we gather for our bi-monthly ‘I love you’ dinners at the request of my 85-year young mother. It allows her to see her nine children, grands, and great-grands from Scranton to Delaware. Around the table we share prayer, scripture, hopes, dreams, needs and resources, so no one suffers scarcity.

Yes, and then there’s the food. My daughter-in-law is Italian, so we have gravy, I say spaghetti sauce with stuffed ravioli. My brother-in-law is Hispanic, so we have great beans and rice and a royal con pollo in addition to our soul food, ham, mac and cheese, green beans.

You can tell I miss our gatherings. All of this conjured up by this wonderful gathering at the first house church in Acts. Will you pray with me?

Good and gracious God, your children come humbly before your throne of grace simply to ask that you would open our ears that we might hear your voice, open our eyes that we might see you more clearly, touch our mind so that through these words of scripture, we might know your will and your way. Speak, Lord, that our hearts are drawn into a deeper relationship with you that leads to a deeper relationship with others. Here I am your servant, Lord. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our collective hearts be acceptable in thy sight. Oh Lord, you are our rock and our redeemer. And the people of God said, virtually, amen. 

Easter 4 Reflection from Southeastern PA Synod, ELCA on Vimeo.

In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have abundantly.” These words of Jesus are familiar to us, a life reminiscent of what we see in today’s texts. Day by day as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people, abundance found in community.

The Bible says, “All who believed were together “and had all things in common.” This type of fellowship we call koinonia, a community of faith during a Pentecost disruption in the midst of chaos. These 3,000 believers make a conscious choice to worship, serve, and invite, welcoming all who came, different language, gender, social status, food preference, yet a shared Jewish faith in the same space based on the apostles’ teaching all at the same table. A common sacrifice to share a common meal based on the teachings of a common love found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus who used the ordinary to do extraordinary things like speaking a word, peace to calm the sea in the midst of the storm, peace to calm the hearts of disciples hiding in fear. The words come out to Lazarus from the dead and unbind him, that we all might be free from the things that hold us back in life. Jesus taking simple spit and dirt, making mud to open the eyes of the blind man. Jesus who took two fish and five loaves, blessed them to feed 5,000. Jesus, who tells stories like the parable of the good Samaritan to reveal our responsibility as disciples to care for our neighbor.

The apostles taught of Jesus who ate with sinners and prostitutes, Jesus who uses ordinary things and ordinary people for God’s extraordinary purposes. Beloved, we have things in common as disciples. As we are sheltered in place, the question becomes, are we able to share what we have with those not only in the house, but with those who show up at our doors virtually? Are we willing to do a lifesaving measure of showing up via safely volunteering at food banks or sending a note, a text, an email? Are we blessed, blessed enough to be able to pay someone who was unemployed, pay their cell phone bill or their rent? Can we set up the family Zoom check-in so elders can see their children and their grandchildren?

Koinonia — loving, serving, sharing, caring and inviting. That’s what we do as disciples of Christ. Telling others, showing others what we have in common. We have a common need for God’s grace and mercy, for God’s protection and provision, to worship God and serve those in need and invite others to participate based on their experience of the apostles and their teaching. So we too have had powerful messages given to us by our rostered ministers and lay leaders.

We are in our homes now taking in all of those messages. And we are sharing meals and caring for others and by our witness and the words that we have heard, others are coming to faith in Jesus Christ as we express to them in small ways and in great.

Hallelujah, only a God like ours can hold true to the word, the words found in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in clay jars to show that its extraordinary powers come from God and not from us.”

When we make the sign of the cross, I am reminded of our relationship with God that leads to our relationship with others. We say we are marked with the cross of Christ. We are claimed, gathered and set for the sake of the world. That’s our mantra. But also our mantra is ‘God’s work, our hands’. And so we see that in our scripture today. I pray that we are able to be the beloved community that we’ve heard described in our texts. Stay safe, stay sheltered in place, state in fellowship. Amen, God bless you all.