Scripture closes with the same invitation (Rev 22.17) “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
But the invitation doesn’t stop there.
How do we respond to this his invitation?
I want to share a story. It’s one I have told before, but one worthy of a second telling and hearing.
It’s told by a friend who has now checked into the heavenly Jerusalem as he would say (Brennan Manning, author, preacher and teacher.)
As he shares – He was giving last rites to a woman named Yolanda in LA. She had been abandoned by her family and was dying alone, severely disfigured from the ravages of leprosy. As Brennan turned from her bedside to put away the communion kit, a bright light came into the room. He said it was like light just falling in through the window.
As he turned, she said, “Oh Father, my Abba just spoke to me.” And he said, “Oh? What did he say to you Yolanda?”
He said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”
As he was leaving, the nurse asked how she was doing. And he said, “Well, she was quoting scripture, Songs 2.10-13, so I’m not sure.” The nurse said, “She’s illiterate! She’s never read a word of the Bible!”
When they returned to Yolanda’s room, her Abba had indeed come in and scooped her up. Come my beloved!
Can you imagine just how beautiful Yolanda became in that instant? I’m sure you could have compared her to the most breathtaking sunset you ever saw your Abba paint.
Responding to his invitation is virtually transformative, life and soul changing! We need to respond, any and every way possible.
And we respond in many ways, e.g. our obedience to his word (listen to the epistle from James), our reaching out to others in serving (listen and look to those being honored today), and as the gospel makes clear, with our hearts!
“These people honor me with their lips,But their hearts are far from me.”
Where is your heart in terms of this invitation? How will you draw near? Come my beloved!
Sunday, I plan to share how I responded a couple weeks ago.
The work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent.
Then they ask for a sign and tell of a sign given in the past to their ancestors; manna. What sign will you give?
So, shortly after he has multiplied bread and fish for their hungry bellies, Jesus introduces them to the bread of life, himself.
At first they seem to be right with him, “always give us this bread.”
Oh, how I remember the first time I heard the words of Jesus and believed. Water for my thirsty soul!
I just could not get enough. I seemed to be right with him.
But then we come to this week’s readings and they are ringing in my ears:
After many battles and wavering commitments, there is a need to renew a Covenant. The tribes of Israel are gathered and asked to choose whom they will serve.
And in Ephesians we read about the very real struggle with spiritual forces of evil, rulers and powers and the need for the armor of God .
Finally, in John, “many of his disciples said, This is a hard teaching”
I remember very distinctly the day I considered turning back. It had been so much harder than I could have imagined. I had so much I needed to learn.
But did I still believe?
When God asked me if I would still serve him, my answer was not a roaring yes. Yet, as impossible as it seemed to go on, it was even more impossible to turn away from the very one who gave me life. He met me right where I was, and a Covenant was renewed and here I am.
And all I can think is that we have the very words of life for a world around us that is hungering and thirsting after God, and they don’t even know it. They haven’t even had the chance to begin this journey yet.
It won’t be easy.
But he has given us all that we need.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.”
This quote from The Guardian newspaper recognizes the power of music to shape the experience of a movie. You can easily see it in this 3 minute clip that matches a common scene with a handful of musical moods. https://youtu.be/rn9V0cN4NWs The music actively shifts your focus, attention, and even your comprehension of what you’re seeing. Even when you are seeing the same scene again and again.
St. Paul makes a similar point in Ephesians 5, where he exhorts the readers (including us on Sunday) to let the fullness of the Spirit within us match the music we sing to the story we’re a part of.
This opportunity to sync our heads, hearts, and lives is the front-end of the “worthy walk” that Paul encourages us to pursue. This walk, characterized by true wisdom, actually accomplishes what Solomon so wisely requests in 1 Kings. (Sunday’s OT lesson)
Along the way, we will see how a Navy Seal, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a wayward researcher conspire to shift our focus towards walking with our heads held high.
In the meantime, what is your favorite soundtrack (or background music) for chores at home, studying, riding in the car, or a slow Sunday afternoon? Text me at 407-462-8885 and I’ll share some of your answers on Sunday.
grace and certain hope,
Bishop Masimango, Bishop William & Me
Saturday evening we were assigned parishes to preach in. I concluded my sermon last Sunday, in Remera, Rwanda, to about 700 English-speaking Rwandans on this note, “It’s good to be home.”
(That is Fr. Antoine, the rector, sending off the children and introducing me).
I shared with them that many years earlier, after preaching at the cathedral in Kigali, I sat on hill and called our senior warden, Craig Reilly, (Kigali is 6 hours ahead of Florida) before the early service, and asked him to thank our home parish family for supporting me on this trip. It was very special indeed.
You see, after our son AJ was killed in an auto accident, Archbishop Kolini called and shared how he had recently lost a son recently and invited Barbara and me to come and spend time with him in Rwanda. We became fast friends, and so over the years, when I return, Rwanda has become a home where it is also good to be. It’s good to be home.
So once again, not from a hill in Rwanda, but a computer in Winter Springs, FL I thank you all for supporting my visit, for your love and prayers, and for being here! It is good to be home.
PS I intend to share in greater detail about the this journey – in the sermon – and especially about a truly transformative event that happened while there, and how I leaned into the spiritual disciplines I shared in the parish letter to guide me through it.