#TheRemaining is the podcast for April 29, 2018. Are you thinking this is a thing, “the remaining”? Well, it isn’t. It is a way of living. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John #John15 #TripPreparation #Recovery #Renewal #AA #AlAnon #Presence #Message #Mission #Ascension
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/29/2018 The 5th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 15:1-8.
In preparation for a trip, we would often gather the kids together and say something like this, “OK, now make sure you have everything. We have packed food, snacks, and drinks. Make sure you have your books, headphones (ear buds had not been invented yet), pillow, blanket, backpack, and go to the restroom, now.” Then, we would have everyone take something out to the 8 passenger GMC Safari that we drove for 15 years and pack it up.
In the reading from the Gospel of John today, the scene is similar, but much more profound. The scene is that Jesus has come into Jerusalem. They have gathered in the upper room. He is giving them instructions before he is arrested and put to death. Just prior to this particular passage, Jesus promised to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to be with the apostles and disciples. Here, he is giving them instructions to prepare for the journey.
The journey about which we are speaking is his death and resurrection. We read this passage during Easter to remind us that on the 40th day after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. We are being prepared for the journey of life without the bodily presence of Christ, except in the Eucharist, until he comes again.
Two weeks ago, I mentioned that when two are gathered in his name, he is with us. I mentioned last week that being told ‘no’ by God is the best thing that can happen to us, we just don’t know it at the time. So, this week, we add to these ideas and it is this: remaining.
The journey on which Jesus sends us, the mission of God in this world, is a journey to our own death and resurrection. We put to death the practices of life that are harmful to us. Like an alcoholic who is in ‘recovery’, we Christians are in ‘renewal.’ An alcoholic has to stop drinking AND stop doing all the things that encouraged drinking. They have to stop hanging out with the people who facilitated their drinking. They may even have to break off a relationship with a spouse or a lover because that person will not learn to live without alcohol. They have to replace the bars they went to with other places filled with people who do not have to have a drink to have fun. They have to change their lives completely.
It is the same for those who are the children of alcoholics. They have to stop saying that an addict’s behavior is OK. They have to stop saying that the addict can come back without sobriety any time they want, as painful as that is. They have to stop giving the addict money, the keys to the car, and the code to the garage door opener keypad. They have to stop telling the addict that its OK. They have to stop taking the verbal abuse, the psychological games, and possibly the physical abuse.
The reason why this stuff makes sense to Christians is because the whole of 12 step programs is basically Christianity without mentioning Jesus. Giving up your life to the ‘Higher Power’ Jesus Christ means remaining in him, at all times, in all places, in all conversations, and for all purposes. To ‘remain in him’ means we are connected as a vine is to a branch. To ‘remain in him’ we do certain things to have his presence, his message, and his mission before us at all times.
To have his presence means that we gather together on Sundays to worship him, because renewal is a communal process. He is with us when two or more are gathered. We worship him together to know that we are not alone in this.
To have his presence means that we receive him in the word of God read in Scripture and preached. We get our context for life in the context of the stories of the people of God. We get our encouragement from the message that is forged from prayer and study by the priest [or pastor].
To have his presence means we receive him in the Eucharist. This is the greatest connection. He enters us and enlivens every part of us. The Lord of the Universe enters us as nourishment for the journey, nourishment for our bones. To have his presence is to come together and worship, hear the Word of God, and to receive him in the Eucharist.
To have his message is to pray. When I say ‘pray’, I mean a conversation with God, where we listen as much as we talk. We listen for him in the silent whisperings of our hearts, in the words from others, and in the ways which we are touched by what is said.
To have his message is to have our hearts changed so that we turn away from the things that lead us away from God. We may change places we go, the types of entertainment we enjoy, or the people with which we hang out.
To have his message means that we also change the ways in which we spend our money. Yes, we say, “Lord, you are Lord; even over my money.” This is no different than the crops or the offerings of animals our ancestors gave we read about in the Bible. The first crops, the first offspring, were no less valuable to them than the first offering from our paychecks. This first offering is called the ‘tithe’. To have his message means we change the way we spend our time and our money as expressions of giving our life as an offering to God.
To have his mission means that we reorient our goals to include reaching out to others with the message of God’s love for the world. We should do this through the spoken word, the everyday action, and our future plans.
To have his mission means we take these practices into our homes daily. We pray in a spot we have dedicated for prayer in our homes. We read the Bible daily. We open our home to others of the faith, to join us in prayer and Bible reading. We keep the message in our minds and on our tongues at all times. That is the mission.
To have his mission is like the people I have heard of who were retired, got an RV, and traveled to wherever there was a disaster every year so they could help. Or, the retired computer store owner who now repairs the computers of everyone in his Church that cannot afford repairs. Or, the people who have decided to use their musical gifts, their organizational gifts, their kind personality, or whatever gift they have to serve Christ. What is important is that they know they are serving Christ and make no bones about serving Christ.
To have his mission is to do things that he would do to renew the world. We know our personal mission within his mission because we hear it in his word, in prayer, in worship together, and in the Eucharist. To have his mission is to live out a life as Christ would live it in our context.
‘Remaining’ in him is to live a life with his presence, his message, and his mission before us at all times. We change our lives so that we can be in his presence, hear his message, and live his mission. When we do, we prune all the dead stuff from our lives and add all the life giving things to our lives. All of it keeps us remaining in him.
So, as we prepare to leave [this place] [our churches on Sundays] for the journey to be Christ in the world, we need to make sure that we have everything for the journey. If you are listening to this message, you probably do. It never hurts to ask or be reminded that we are on a journey, a way of life, and Jesus has given us everything we need to arrive at our destination. So, I invite us to go through his checklist to make sure. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian