Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, May 22, 2010:
First Reading: Acts 7:55-60
Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Gospel: John 14:1-14
The Gospel for today has some troubling concepts in later verses, concepts that raise all sorts of questions that don't have easy answers. For example, when Jesus says, ". . . no one comes to the Father, but by me," does that mean that non-Christians are damned? And if that's the case, are we talking about Heaven and Hell (post-death?) or the Hell on Earth that comes from being alienated from Creation and the Creator?
At some point, I’ll read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, even though I’m fairly sure I already understand his thesis. I likely agree. I tend to believe a loving God won’t send any of us to Hell, at least not more than the Hell we create for ourselves on Earth. But this week, I’m not interested in playing Afterlife Scorecard.
The first verse of this Gospel speaks to me this week: "Let not your hearts be troubled." How often is my heart troubled!
I've often thought that my deepest spiritual failing comes in my tendency to fret and to worry and to give in to full-out panic--I go through this cycle weekly, if not daily. I've managed to tame many of my other spiritual shortcomings. Why is it so hard for me to let not my heart be troubled?
I’ve spent a lot of the week thinking about the Freedom Riders, who went with untroubled hearts into the heart of oppression. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what they accomplished with their enthusiasm and by their naive belief in the goodness of humanity, their belief that they would be allowed to eat lunch together in segregated spaces, that they would be allowed to ride on a bus together.
In many ways, they were like the earliest Christians, who shared meals together and studied together and plotted ways to bring an end to injustice. Today’s reading from Acts and the violence suffered by the Freedom Riders reminds us that the price may be great. Perhaps we worry that we are not up to the task.
This passage also has Jesus tell us about the house with many rooms, a passage often interpreted as being about Heaven, but looked at contextually, Jesus could also be talking about our ministries on Earth. Perhaps he tells us that the Christian life has room for all of us, even if we can’t be Freedom Riders or the first martyr Stephen. Think about your particular gifts--how can you make Christ visible in the world?
When I was younger, I thought we needed to change the world for the better on a grand, global scale (thus setting myself up for failure when I couldn't eradicate world hunger in the course of my lifetime). Now I know that the things we do for each other to help each other are just as important: staying late to help a student, listening to a friend (not solving problems, just listening), bringing fruit, cookies, and coffee for a memorial service.
We never know what we may unleash. When the Freedom Riders boarded the bus, they had no idea of the social changes that they were about to unfurl. They assumed they’d be taking a two week bus trip to New Orleans. When we behave as the light of the world, similarly, we may help usher in God’s larger plan for the redemption of creation.