May — Peace beyond understanding
May 1, John 14:23-29
At this time in our history, peace seems a distant dream for many in our world. Yet on the night before his death, the last thing Jesus offers the disciples is peace. Up until this point in the gospel of John, it has not mentioned peace of any kind. Jesus describes the peace he offers here as “my peace”, and specifies that it is given in a way that is “not as the world gives”. Post-resurrection, he will offer it many times to the disciples.
Throughout the events of The Passion, Jesus will embody this peace. This peace is nothing less than the shalom of God, and it brings us into a place where hearts are not troubled. It is the sort of peace that walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. It is a peace that begins inside of us and a peace that is lived out between us. But it is also a peace that comes from outside of us; part of the relationship we have with God.
May 8, John 17:20-26
A good way to read this passage is to consider the wonder of a God who seeks such an intimate relationship with human beings, and to ponder what our role in this relationship might be. At the very least, God calls us to share this divine love with one another, and in doing so, be mindful to also extend to others the invitation of a life lived in the glory of God.
We should be consciously removing obstacles that prevent people from participating in the love and grace of God. Through our lives, we should show them God’s grace is accessible to all.
May 15, Pentecost, Acts 2:1-21
The day of Pentecost is often celebrated in our churches as the day the Holy Spirit came to be present in the world. We think of it solely as a Christian festival, not realising that Pentecost (or Shavu’ot) is also Jewish, and known as the Feast of the Law. We also have a tendency to forget that the Holy Spirit is an important part of the story of Israel, and that it guided leaders of Israel such as Moses, Joshua, and David; and inspired various prophets (from Isaiah and Ezekiel to Micah. The Spirit was also present at the creation of the world (Gen 1:1-2) and, in the Psalms, we learn that the Spirit will play a role at the end of time, when the kingdom comes (Ps 104:30).
Luke’s story in Acts reflects many of the elements that are found in the giving of the law at Mt Sinai, and symbolically reverses the babble of tongues that came when the people built a tower at Babel into the heavens, trying to reach God. This is to demonstrate that the message of Jesus was going to spread to many nations.
Pentecost should remind us that God’s Spirit always has been, and still is, active in all of God’s creation. Like the time of the giving of the law on Sinai, Pentecost should herald a change in the way we see and do things, particularly in terms of our law, politics, economics and environmental policies. For if God’s Spirit is in all things — and we recognise this — then surely we are called upon to treat each other and the environment with greater care and respect.
May 22, Trinity, Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Wisdom is a mystical, feminine aspect of the divine.
Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (Towards a Feminist Wisdom Spirituality of Justice and Well-Being, 2009) writes that Wisdom is a cosmic figure delighting in the dance of creation, as a master crafts woman, and a teacher of justice. She is a leader of her people and accompanies them on their way through history. In a most unlady-like way, she “raises her voice in public places and calls everyone who would hear her. She transgresses boundaries, celebrates life, and nourishes those who will become her friends. Her cosmic house is without walls and her table is set for all.”
Biblical Wisdom represents a spirituality of roads and journeys, of public places and open borders, of nourishment and celebration – rather than a spirituality of categories, doctrines, systems and boxes. It is a spirituality that seems very timely, as we search for the former and struggle with the latter.
May 29, Luke 7:1-10
In this story, we hear of an extraordinary encounter: a commander of Roman troops seeks a supernatural favour from Jesus. And we find that Jesus is prepared to interact with this Gentile, which is a significant statement about the inclusivity of the kingdom of God. Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith; he holds it up to the crowds as an amazing model of real faith. By doing so, Jesus is surely calling us to be people who welcome those who are outside of our churches, or our race, and who may be our enemies.
By defining ourselves as people who welcome and heal, rather than focussing inwardly on ourselves and those just like us, our humanity and our faith become larger and richer.
These reflections were prepared by Rev. Elizabeth Raine, Wauchope Uniting Church and Southern Zone Minister for Mid North Coast Presbytery.