Saturday, March 21, 2020 Devotion
Scripture: Read John 15.1-17
Over the years, I have signed up to receive all kinds of emails regarding scripture, devotions, news, exercise tips, leadership quotes. I have experienced many types of communication aimed at just putting a thought in my head and to shape my behavior. They generally have a short ‘inbox’ life span. No longer have I subscribed to an email that I find myself unsubscribing. There is one email subscription that has lasted longer than any other that I still look forward to reading each week. It is Maria Shriver’s “The Sunday Paper.” I enjoy her thoughts and the thoughts of others she has collected.
This past week Shriver talked about collective moments, like the one we are in right now. She went on to speak about what this moment might be and how we are called to find a way to pay attention so that persons who are on the frontlines can better do their jobs. Generally, I am not one prone to panic so it has taken me a little longer to realize the seriousness of what is before us and the significant changes being asked of us.
There have been other collective moments in my life, as there have been in yours. I have lived through Y2K2, 9/11, Gulf War, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the civil rights movement, Cold War, Vietnam War. Some of you have moments that you would add to the list and some of you may need to take some away. What is true for each and everyone of of us is that there have been times in this country and even world of ours that have caused us to pause and feel connected to the people around us.
I remember 9/11. I was serving Asbury UMC in Kansas City at the time. Our Director of Christian Education was from the East Coast. Her ex-husband, many family members and friends worked in the World Trade Center. She immediately drove back ‘home’ on the day the news came of the planes flying into the buildings not knowing what else to do. We offered a worship service for the community that evening, as did many congregations. The sanctuary was filled as it was for several weeks after. Hungry to be able to “do something,” we invited people to place lighted candles in the windows of their homes and apartments to remind them and to witness to the world that God’s light is greater than any darkness that might come our way.
The gospel of John is my favorite gospel. It is very different from Matthew, Mark and Luke. One of the uniquenesses of John’s gospel is that it is a story of identity. It was written around 100 CE when the early Christ followers faith was fading. The realities of the day were overtaking the message of Jesus and his return. John’s gospel is a renewing of the souls of the early Jesus followers. Its story and message gives identity to a particular group of people who wanted to live differently and without fear in the world.
I simply chose one of the “I am” statements of Jesus from the gospel for our reading to today. Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches.” He says these words as he is preparing for his death. He wants us to know that we will always be connected to him and to others who are connected to him. There isn’t anything in this life, or in his pending death, or yet to be experienced resurrection that can ever separate us from him. In this connection he calls us his friends and reminds us that the world will know us by the love we have for one another.
What are the ways, in these days, you are staying connected to the vine - the Source of life? How are you being strengthened and encouraged by his love, life, and light? How are you finding peace in the love he and others have for you and you for Jesus and others?
The fears, uncertainty and unsettledness are part of our collective moment. Today, I simply want to remind you of a greater collective moment - one that Jesus shares with all of his followers. May this collective faith moment help to ease the feelings we have and live, not isolated, but connected by God’s vine and branches.
Dear God, help us to not dismiss our fears and anxiety but to live with them in relationship to you and your love. Remind us of your everlasting connection to us. And, in the ways that we live, may be continue to be a witness of your love to others. Amen.