Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering…
~1 Peter 5:7-9
Anxiety can be understood as the state of being alert to all the wrong things—a constant state of concern on what might happen…around the next corner, over the next week, in the next generation. Not everything is a lion.
The wonder of these scriptures is how, even as they were written in another time with different circumstances, they continue to capture the human experience, and the hope we have as we look to the skies and the stars. Or maybe we don’t even have to look that far.
The Celtic Christians of Ireland believed the distance between heaven and earth was thin. It started “one foot above your head.” To help them remember, they built large stone crosses right in the middle of fields where they worked. What helps us to be steadfast, to attend to what deserves our attention and our concern, not just what demands it?
Enter into worship.
Readings: Acts 1:6-14 † Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 † 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11 † John 17:1-11
About the Art: Whelan, Brian, 1957-. In the Beginning, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57418 [retrieved May 9, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iin_the_beginning_34x28_by_Brian_Whelan.jpg - photographed by Wendy Roseberry with permission from Brian Whelan.
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way...”
Paul is paying attention. He’s gone carefully through the city, eyes open, observant, curious, full of respect. He takes his hearers seriously—their ways of being, their religious symbols, their commitments—as he shares with them in their way his own understanding of how earth tangles with heaven.
We all have a story, after all, a set of experiences and influences, elders who have shaped and inspired us, stories and traditions that help us find meaning and purpose. We come to the Bible and to our faith with our personal histories, our unique understanding of love and the astonishing human experience. You have a story. I have a story. Our neighbor across the street and that beautiful, nonverbal soul that visits us on a Bridge Ministry Sunday has a story that helps to complete our own story, to fill out what is missing within us, to correct, to name what is false of the gods we construct, to fill in what is unknown of the Holy we seek.
“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus tells his disciples in John, on the eve of his death. Indeed, we are not orphaned, we are no longer strangers, we are filled with faith; we are surrounded by a company of care.
Enter into worship.
Readings: Acts 17:22-31 † Psalm 66 † 1 Peter 3:13-22 † John 14:15-21
About the Art:: Hands, all together, from a youth fellowship day sponsored by Avondale Pattillo United Methodist Church, Decatur, GA, 2007. From Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55247 [retrieved May 8, 2023]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/apmethodist/1678695596/.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my [Abba’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, there you may be also.”
Trouble and togetherness. Belief and belonging. We are never promised that things will go easy for us. Indeed, if things are too easy, we may need to check our privilege, to scrutinize what we may have done to ensure our safety and security at the expense of others.
But in the context of a troubled time, John’s gospel reaches out again and again to remind not only those early disciples, but us as well that we are in this together, and God is with us in the midst. Even locked doors and hearts cannot keep our Abba at bay!
This Sunday is one that so easily invites us to remember and re-member this truth. Our siblings with Bridge Ministry join us Sunday as we gather around food and fellowship, wonder and worship—a perfect elixir for any troubled heart.
In order to accommodate our Bridge Ministry community siblings, this Sunday only, worship begins at 11:00am. Join us. There is a place for you here.
Enter into worship.
Readings: Acts 7:55-60 † Psalm 31 † 1 Peter 2:2-10 † John 14:1-14
About the Art: Andō, Tadao, 1941-. Interior of the Church of the Light, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55848 [retrieved May 2, 2023]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Church_of_Light.JPG.
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