MAY 11, 2020 MONDAYGreater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13
Dear Church Family,
Yesterday’s Gospel from John for me is a many faceted diamond. If you look at one under a microscope, closely, you see so many sides you won’t otherwise see. I hold John 14 under the microscope of my life facets, and each time, see something new. Often it is, as I have said, with a family, at the time of death.
Last evening I again watched the documentary on death, “Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death.” Nine people interviewed, nine stories on the impact of troubling mortality. The documentary is being re-shown now when death from the Coronavirus is so much on our minds, as Helen Whitney, the writer and creator of the documentary states. I watched Phyllis Tickle, retell her story again. I have never had a Near Death Experience as Phyllis did. Other have told me their NDE stories. For years I have been fascinated and read extensively in this field. Faith and NDE’s help shape my understanding of death a “troubling” time. Jesus’ words to his disciples in John sparkle like the fire of a diamond in my me — “Let not your hearts be troubled.” How to help other’s find a way to peace, without resignation — yet in a different way than the common meaning people hear in the Dylan Thomas poem quoted, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
“Trouble” in Latin means “disturb, cloudy, stir up.” Sometimes you hear a person say, “Now don’t go stirring up trouble.” Clearly, these chapters in John focus on troubles the disciples will face, and Jesus’ words to “prepare them” are confusing and metaphorical. When I was in my late teens, and worked as a parti-time “Top 40” disc jockey, one of my favorite songs was Paul Simon’s, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” I have read he borrowed that phrase from a gospel song. Those years were a troubling time with many facets, for many people in. The words struck a deep chord.
Jesus fulfills this role for his disciples, for us. His voice is clear and powerful to me these days. Jesus’ words had clearer meaning in the stories of several who were interviewed for “In the Night,”and in those who’ve shared their NDE’s with me. As Phyllis says, there are good scientific explanations for the phenomenon she experienced, as her husband Sam, the physician, told her. Yet she experienced a knowing beyond science. The pastor in the next story, his wife, losing two sons to sickle-cell anemia, losing his faith, having a dream-vision he tells, brought him into a new facet of life, where he knew beyond proof, “All is well.”
Stories – John tells a story of Jesus once saying, no greater love is to lay down one’s life for friends. He does just that for his friends — friends even who don’t yet know he means them, too. Death does not disrupt relationship. He is the bridge that leads you into God, and God into you. In baptism, as Paul says, we have been “reclothed” in Christ. I used to say to Bible study groups, when death came up — “you have already died, and been raised to walk in newness of life? Baptism. So live — live fully.”
In these days of Easter’s afterglow, when we are tried and tested by this pandemic — people lose jobs, we see more clearly the underside of suffering for certain groups and classes of our sisters and brothers, when we see the heroic service of others and the signs of love and hope rising up so creatively among us — I see Jesus at work, like a bridge over our troubled waters. Some find bridges that lead them elsewhere — into deeper fear, despair, hate and self-concern only.
May our lives point the way — to Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life — beyond any exclusive “religious” claims. He is the Word in Creation, the embodiment of the Father, whose love is so far greater than our small minds can imagine. When times of trouble come, now and later, Jesus is with you. You choose to receive and reciprocate his love. That’s how God has made you — and so loves you. How are you finding your “way” these days?Blessings and God holding you this day in the many facets of His love, Fr. Steve
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