Two days ago I turned sixty-four. When I was twelve, my
father died suddenly just weeks short of his sixty-fourth
birthday. I am a break-the-cycle sort of guy. I have now outlived
my father. As part of my birthday celebration, a friend
and I planned a hiking trip to Cloudland Canyon State Park in
Georgia, to majestic Cherokee Falls. This trail happened to be a
challenging trip! We are not avid hikers, and we did not know
the way as first timers on the trail.
The hike to the falls was long and arduous and even more
so on the return, with the day growing longer. We began to
question our physical abilities and our mental faculties. Were we
still on the same trail? We were second-guessing everything. But
the yellow markers along the trail reminded us we were indeed
on the right path.
Jesus is preparing his closest friends for his departure. We
can only imagine how emotional the time is for all gathered. He
tells them, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus assures them and us that we already know the way,
and it is he. We can break the cycle of our desert wandering and
become those who live in the world but not of it. He marks the
path for us by calling us God’s people. Before we know it, along
the way we begin to see glimpses of heaven, our Father’s house.
We have stopped running away. Jesus assures the disciples of
an ongoing existence in fellowship with him.
God offers many “dwelling places.” God’s grace abounds in
falling water. Shimmering, sparkling crystalline facets of abundant
love make up the many rooms of God’s house.
Who are these guys? They are Jesus’ closest followers, to
whom he promised eternal communion with him. May we hear
and believe that promise.
Yahweh, when we wander away from your will, help us find our way back to your precious Son again and again. Amen.
Since the beginning, Israel’s faith has turned to God in situations of extreme trouble. In such turning, Israel has found God utterly reliable and able to rescue. Today’s psalm reading sounds those ancient cadences of reliability. The sermon in Acts 7 takes up those ancient cadences and places them on the lips and in the mouth of Stephen. Stephen’s preaching evokes hostility in his listeners. In the end, however, it is Stephen who knows the joy and well- being of life as a gift from God. Both the Gospel and epistle readings turn the faith of the psalm and drama of Stephen’s ending toward the concrete reality of the church. They tilt toward the need of a domesticated church to reengage its peculiar identity and its unusual mode of being. The language of “place” serves the practice of risky obedience.
• Read Acts 7:55-60. When have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s nudge telling you, “This is wrong”? What did you do?
• Read 1 Peter 2:2-10. How will we continue to drink of pure spiritual milk so we can repeatedly be called out of darkness into God’s light?
• Read Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16. What would it mean for you to
say to God, “My times are in your hand”?
• Read John 14:1-14. What tough faith questions have you asked Jesus? What was his response?
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