Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ
Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
You call us by name
To be with you
To follow you
By your Spirit open my eyes
To see you, to hear your voice
Warm my heart to know
Your Way and design
In life, through death, and
In your Father’s house. Amen
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Easter: Fifth Sunday
Our lectionary guide invites us to stop and linger in two places this week. The first is in an upstairs room in Jerusalem where Jesus is in intimate conversation with his disciples (John 14), the second place is outside the city of Jerusalem – as Stephen is dying (Acts 7:55-60). In both places death is in the forefront, but no longer holds the conversation or the event captive; Jesus makes a way through and past this fatal enemy, and brings us safely home to his Father’s house.
The disciples have been deeply troubled by any mention Jesus made about his being arrested and put to death. He knows how they have resisted, denied, and fought hard to hold on to their own understanding of who they think he is and what he as Messiah is supposed to do. And he has been waiting patiently for a time when they will be more receptive to a new and greater understanding, one which will lead through suffering, but to into life and the New Thing that God is about to do in them and in the world.
So as we stop and linger in this room, we hear Jesus say (to his followers, and to us):
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe . . . trust . . . in God;
Believe . . . trust . . . also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for
you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come
again and will take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.
As we continue to listen in, the disciples do not try to avoid or change the subject now. Now they begin to bring their fears and unknowns to Jesus, and ask for his help, guidance, and reassurance. Linger in the upper room and listen. Bring your own questions, fears, and needs to Jesus.
In the Psalm this week–a prayer calling out to God for refuge and rescue in the face of life-threatening oppression – we find ourselves present as the person praying surrenders himself/herself into the hands of God:
. . . you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit . . . (Psalm 31:4,5)
Jesus is helping his followers know that any committal and surrender they make to him, while it will bring them into opposition and alienation with the world (I Peter 2:2-10), always brings them into the safe holding and provision of God: here and in the life beyond. This prayer we hear Jesus praying from the cross (Luke 23:46), and then again by Stephen, as our lectionary guide takes us now outside the city of Jerusalem to be present as this faithful follower of Jesus is being stoned to death (Acts 7: 58-60).
As we stand and watch, wait and listen, Stephen helps us know that death is no longer the Great Enemy we are to avoid at all and every cost, an Enemy which robs us of peace, and can catapult us into frenzied avoidance and anxiety. Jesus has walked through death and is the way to the other side:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
Stephen helps us realize that as a follower of Jesus, he knows this Way; he sees Jesus, the One into whose hands he commends and surrenders his spirit.
You may be drawn to linger in one place more than another as you indwell the scripture readings this week. As a follower of Jesus be aware of the alienation you feel within the world’s system, and know that along with the apostle Peter and many other faithful disciples who were/are exiles and scattered, we are members of God’s family and birthed into a living hope (I Peter 1:1-5)
Season of Easter: Fifth Sunday
5/16 Monday: John 14:1-6
5/17 Tuesday: John 14:7-14
5/18 Wednesday: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
5/19 Thursday: Acts 7:55-60
5/20 Friday: 1 Peter 2:2-10
5/21 Saturday: John 14:1-6
5/22 Sunday: John 14:7-14