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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, November 1, 2009:

First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9

First Reading (Alt.): Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Psalm: Psalm 24

Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-6a

Gospel: John 11:32-44

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints', traditionally a time when we remember our dead loved ones and all the saints triumphant. This past year has been such a time of loss for so many of us, so even if we've never lost a loved one, the readings are likely to have meaning for us. Even those of us who haven't experienced bad fortune personally may feel a bit shaken by all the events of the past year, as we've watched various industries implode and seen bad headlines for seasons at a time.

Some commenters wonder if we're all being a bit too passive. In a column in yesterday's The New York Times, Bob Herbert says, "Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable (I think frightening) degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent millions of lives into tailspins. Where people once might have deluged their elected representatives with complaints, joined unions, resisted mass firings, confronted their employers with serious demands, marched for social justice and created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them."

Herbert worries that we've become too passive: "Being an American has become a spectator sport. Most Americans watch the news the way you’d watch a ballgame, or a long-running television series, believing that they have no more control over important real-life events than a viewer would have over a coach’s strategy or a script for 'Law & Order.'" Herbert would call us to social reform in the model of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Certainly Jesus calls us to social reform as well.

Yet Jesus calls us to more than just social reform. Jesus calls us to a new life.

Jesus constantly reminds us that the glory of God is all around us, if only we had eyes to see. Jesus invites us to a Resurrection Culture. Sometimes, it's a forceful invitation: the cancer that is caught in time, the loss of a relationship or job that leaves us open to something more nourishing, the addiction that loosens its hold, the return of the prodigal loved ones. Other times, we catch sight of God's Kingdom as a fleeting glimpse: the dance of butterflies, the bad mood that lifts, the perfect bottle of wine that we share with friends.

Still we must cope with the ultimate sorrow. As thinking creatures, we go through life aware that if we live long enough, we will lose all that we love. How do we square the Resurrection Culture of Jesus with this knowledge?

Jesus promises us that death is not the final answer. We may not fully understand how Jesus will fulfill that promise. Some will argue that we go directly to Heaven, and some will tell us that we'll wait in a safe place until the final coming of Christ. And in the meantime, Jesus invites us to participate in the creation of the Kingdom, right here, right now. We don't have to wait until we're dead.

Jesus stands at the door of our tombs and calls to us. How will we answer? Will we say, "Go away! I'm comfortable here in my coffin. Leave me alone." Or will we emerge, blinking, into the sunshine of new life? Will we let Jesus unwrap us from our death cloths?

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