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Scripture Reading

Ephesians 1:3-8a

Show and Tell

Family Circus - Billy dotted lineHere’s an old Family Circus comic. It shows the path Billy took to go from the kitchen to the mailbox, only Billy’s path took him through every room in the house, sometimes twice. I think life can be like that. We often don’t know until much later why we went a certain direction or made a certain choice. But we can trust that God guides us more carefully than we can know. In this morning’s gospel story, Jesus talks about God’s guidance. Let’s listen together.

Scripture Reading

Luke 24:44-49

Meditation

It’s all gone according to plan. Jesus’ coming, life, death, and resurrection all played out as if that were the only way it could have happened. (Perhaps it was, in Niebuhr’s phrase, “inevitable but not necessary.”) What happened to and in Jesus appears to be an eternal plan, as revealed through scripture (by which Luke of course meant the Old Testament). Everything that is written seems to point to this, or rather this event makes everything else ring true.

The purpose of checking the biblical “map” is to reveal how the story has played out. We turn to the story to see how “real life” makes sense. Jesus lived in his disciples’ lives, and now they understand what that meant. This has all, from the wondrous beginning, to the tragic climax, to the shocking conclusion, been to the good. And, Jesus says, “You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus’ followers are to share with the world what they embody in themselves: This story is true.

Well, here’s what I’m a witness to. Here’s what I have experienced. My dad was here last week to baptize Ben. That’s not something I technically needed someone else to do; my ordination covers family baptisms, just like Communion is just as meaningful when I’m the one who said the prayer. But at this juncture in life, I needed someone else to be there. So not only he as the officiant, but the church as the community, were able to hold my story, to be present in this encounter with God for me.

That’s what this bunch of Jesus’ followers are gathered for, to be present in the world and know that God is there. That’s what Jesus commissions the church to be in this passage, witnesses to new life. And not just in general, but to be witnesses to God’s presence for people who otherwise may not be able to see it.

Here’s another time this happened: After Christmas, when my father-in-law was in the hospital, and I knew that my in-laws were being relatively private with the information, I found myself here. I was off that Sunday, but I brought the boys to the nursery. People asked how my Christmas had been, but I didn’t want to violate a confidence by telling them what it had really been like. I felt cut off from a very important bunch of people, because I wanted to share this news. You are my important people; you are my church family (in a particular and limited way, given my role here).

This is what we mean when we say that the church is a family. It’s a network of relationships we can turn to in need, a family for people who don’t have another kind of family in town. This set of relationships is something we can share with others and bear into the world.

Sometimes we lament what’s different about the world today, that people are less deeply related to each other. This happens because so many people are so mobile, that they often don’t live where they grew up. This is a big difference for places like here on the Range. We’ve even seen the extra step where we now see longtime residents move to be close to their kids, because the kids left years ago. The result is that our towns are becoming less and less familiar, more and more full of people we haven’t met. That’s a noticeable difference.

If we turn that perspective around, we notice that the people who are here didn’t appear out of thin air. They often came from somewhere else and left their family support there. Here and everywhere, fewer people have the kind of community we take for granted as the church.

So we get to be that community for them. We’re invited to reach out to people in need of that community. Here are a few ways we could do that:

  • Go find a young person and make sure they have your number in their phone, because they might need someone and be unable to call home, for whatever reason.
  • We could find ways to make real connections with some of the people who come to us for financial help, because they typically don’t have effective family and social support to care for them.
  • Reach out, tangibly, with our shared space and our great network of relationships. We could intentionally find people in the community who don’t have us (or someone like us) in their lives and make a connection.
  • We could turn up the day after the moving truck with casseroles or cookies (one of our new neighbors, not connected with this church, did exactly this on our first day in town). The key there is that we have to do this with no particular agenda other than to say, “Welcome.” And yes, “If you’re looking for a church community, we have one,” but let’s be careful to understand where people are; much better to simply say call if you need us, because we exist to serve the community.

This isn’t a program for some kind of earthshaking growth. None of these activities will have immediate effects on the ways we measure church life. But that’s never been the point. The point is now, and was then, about bearing witness to Christ, about demonstrating what God has done in our world. When we become witnesses, then we get to be part of the story. So may it be revealed in us.

Amen

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