Embrace Geneva's Future: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and Making Disciples
Embrace Geneva's New Future: a Reflection on Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22 - 27 and 22:1-5, and John 5:1-9
In forty years of ordained ministry as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I never thought I would be preaching this sermon. But I am. Whatever emotions, thoughts, fears, and discouragement you bring to church this day, a new way of living is available to you. On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, Psalm 67:1 reads, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon the earth, your saving power among all nations.”
Societies around the world are in varying stages of conflict around immigration, violence, racial equity, homelessness, refugees, and gender equity. The message this morning is not about the polarized discussion around the conflicts I mentioned. No, the message this morning is about the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead conquered death in all its forms. Dr. John Cheng is more than a hero. He is a disciple of Jesus Christ who gave his life to save lives at the reception last Sunday that the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church was having to honor their former pastor, The Rev. Billy Chang.
Instead of living in fear when the next shooting happens; or a hate crime occurs; or equity falters, believe that Jesus is with us always. Jesus was with Dr. Cheng and the others gathered at the Reception. Jesus was with Pastor Ryan, a few elders, and a staff member who were present on our campus. Jesus was with our church family as we heard the news. Jesus was with the communities surrounding Geneva and all people around our state, country, internationally, and in Taiwan. Acts 16 teaches us that we are to fling open wide the doors of our homes and churches for all to feel welcome. Revelation 21 and 22 imagines a city that is beautiful, self-sustaining, and never shuts its gates. John 5 illustrates that Jesus initiated the conversation with the paralytic all the while knowing that the paralytic sat in the pool day after day, month after month, year after year, not expecting anyone to give him the time of day.
The need for comfort today is intense. What are the words of comfort that each of the texts from the Bible bring today? Acts 16:9-15 calls us to practice hospitality to one another and others. Welcome one another and others into your hospitable circles for comfort. Acts 16:14-15 reads, “A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us [Paul and those followers of Jesus traveling with him]; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful of the Lord, come and stay at my home.’” Psalm 67 urges us to remember that God is always with us in abundance and scarcity. We are to praise God in the good and bad times and be joyful. Psalm 67:4 reads, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations in equity.” Revelation 21:10, 22-27 and 22:1-5 offers us hope of abundant renewal in our experience of scarcity. Revelation 22:1-2, 5 reads, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations…And there will be no more night…for the Lord God will be their light….” John 5 depicts a relationship between God and human that is profound. God loves humanity. God never ignores or abandons us. God the Father created us. God the Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross not only to redeem us for eternal life, but to also redeem us today and every day from our sins and the sins of others that have consequences. And God the Holy Spirit lives with us, teaching and reminding us of the way of Jesus. John 5: 8 reads, “Jesus said to him [the paralytic], ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.”
Should we embrace the challenges of society and live confidently for the sake of Jesus Christ in conflict? Yes!
What do we do now? We receive comfort as Lydia did to give comfort to others. We receive comfort in the pain and questions of last week’s hate crime by remembering God is with us allowing us to be joyful. We receive comfort from God’s promised hope of abundant renewal in our experience of loss. We receive comfort from the truth that God loves humanity. God the Son, Jesus Christ, redeems us for eternal life and from our sins and the sins of others that have consequences. And God the Holy Spirit lives in us and sustains us. We receive comfort because Jesus meets us in our paralyzed minds and hearts and tells us to love God and to love others.
What do we do now? We do as Jesus did. We weep with those who weep, and we will be obedient to the Great Commandment. Love God. Love others. Continue the journey of knowing, understanding, and loving our Taiwanese siblings in Christ who share our campus to worship, learn, connect, give, and serve together. Find comfort in remembering, telling, and living the way of Jesus by being just, kind, and humble. Amen!