May 18, 2021
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 68 which captures a solemn yet glorious theme running through today’s readings: in God’s time, things end and new things emerge.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;Psalm 68: 10-11
you restored the land when it languished;
Your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.
This eternal dynamism of life-death-life is wrapped in multi-colored spools around the emotions of our lives. We can hear Paul negotiating his ebbing joys and sorrows in our first reading.
In Acts, Paul is facing his physical diminishment and impending death. Like others throughout all of time, he is retelling his life story, motivations, and achievements so that their significance may be stamped on the hearts of those he will leave behind. In all things, Paul gives the glory to God:
Yet I consider life of no importance to me,Acts 20:24
if only I may finish my course
and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,
to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.
In our Gospel, Jesus is giving a similar summary and farewell. He prays aloud to the Father so that his disciples may be instructed by hearing his final prayer:
I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.John 17: 6-9
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
Both Paul and Jesus have brought the “abundant rain” of Psalm 68 to their ministries. But now it is time for others to carry on the work:
God is a saving God for us;Psalm 68:21
the LORD, my Lord, controls
the passageways of life and death.
As the tides of God’s eternity rise and ebb through our lives, we too at times must hand over and/or receive that eternal heritage of grace. May we exercise these rituals with the greatest of reverence and awareness.
Blessed be the Lord day by day,Psalm 68: 20-21
God, our salvation, who carries us.
Our God is a God who saves;
deliverance from death to life
belongs to God.
Like Jesus and Paul, may we open our stories in faith and love to the community that surrounds us. Especially as we mature both in years and experience, may we share our truth with grace and the gift of encouragement to others. And may those younger ministers take up new responsibilities with reverence, joy, and trust.
Poetry: When Someone Goes Away – Nikola Madzirov
In the embrace on the corner you will recognize
someone’s going away somewhere. It’s always so.
I live between two truths
like a neon light trembling in
an empty hall. My heart collects
more and more people, since they’re not here anymore.
It’s always so. One fourth of our waking hours
is spent in blinking. We forget
things even before we lose them –
the calligraphy notebook, for instance.
Nothing’s ever new. The bus
seat is always warm.
Last words are carried over
like oblique buckets to an ordinary summer fire.
The same will happen all over again tomorrow—
the face, before it vanishes from the photo,
will lose the wrinkles. When someone goes away
everything that’s been done comes back.
Music: Music by Giovanni Marradi – several hours of beautiful music. You may wish to listen for awhile.