Twenty-Fourth Day of Easter   11 comments

Above:  Icon of Jesus

Grace and Congregational Life

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Acts 11:19-26 (Revised English Bible):

Meanwhile those who had been scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen made their way to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, bringing the message to Jews only and to no others.  But there were some natives of Cyprus and Cyrene among them, and these, when they arrived at Antioch, began to speak to Gentiles as well, telling them the good news of the Lord Jesus.  The power of the Lord was with them, and a great many became believers and turned to the Lord.

The news reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem; and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw the divine grace at work, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to hold fast to the Lord with resolute hearts, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And large numbers were won over to the Lord.

He went off to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  For a whole year the two of them lived in fellowship with the church there, and gave instruction to large numbers.  It was in Antioch that the disciples first got the name of Christians.

Psalm 87 (Revised English Bible):

The city of the LORD founded stands on the holy hills.

He loves the gates of Zion

more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are spoken about you, city of God.

I shall count Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me;

of Philistines, Tyrians, and Nubians it will be said,

Such as a one born there.

Of Zion it will be said,

This one and that one were born there.

The Most High himself establishes her.

The LORD will record in the register of the peoples:

this one was born there.

Singers and dancers alike say,

The source of all good is in you.

John 10:22-30 (Anchor Bible):

It was winter, and the time came for the feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.  Jesus was walking in the temple precincts, in Solomon’s Portico, when [some of] the Jews gathered around him and demanded,

How long are you going to keep us in suspense?  If you really are the Messiah, tell us so in plain words.

Jesus answered,

I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The works that I am doing in my Father’s name give testimony for me, but you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one will snatch them from my hand.  My Father, as to what he has given me, is greater than all, and from the Father’s hand no one can snatch away.  The Father and I are one.

The Collect:

Grant, Almighty God, that the commemoration of our Lord’s death and resurrection may continually transform our lives and be manifested in our deeds; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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I grew up in a series of rural United Methodist congregations in southern Georgia.  This formative experience had both positive and negative consequences.  On one hand, I received a helpful theological education almost by osmosis.  On the other hand, I witnessed the dark underbelly of small, rural church life.  No matter how long one belongs to a congregation which consists of interlocking extended families, one is not really a part of said congregation unless one is related closely by genetics or marriage.  And too many times I witnessed one person or a small cadre of people driving away another is a series of pastors as other church members said that they had to live with him, her, or them, so “sorry,” but not really.  I have become somewhat jaded about congregational life, a fact which helps explain why I have remained a lay person.  As churchy as I am, I might seem a natural choice for an order of the clergy (probably the Diaconate), but do not feel attracted or called to it at this time.

So I respond strongly to the description of congregational life in Acts.  And I think about certain troubled people who caused trouble in some of the churches my father pastored and think that they did not act as Jesus’ sheep.  Yet I recall something my father told me:  “Troubled people cause trouble.”  Also, I remember that I need to be slow to judge these matters and people involved in them.  Perhaps these individuals did the best they could, as they understood it.  Maybe they believed they were acting properly.

Nevertheless, my faith survived my youthful church experiences.  That faith is in God, not any human beings or institutions.  And my faith tells me to act as Barnabas, Saul (Paul), and many Christians at Antioch:  engaging in fellowship, rejoicing in the wondrous acts of God, and instructing.  My faith compels me to help create and to nourish positivity and to reject negativity.  It commands me not to give up on organized religion just because I have crossed paths with some severely troubled people with imbalanced egos and destructive (to the congregation) agendas.  They are not my concern, and they and I stand in dire need of grace.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/grace-and-congregational-life/

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Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2018, April, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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