Abide With Me

Scriptures: John 10:11-18, Acts 4:5-12

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you our Rock and our Redeemer. In the Spirit of God, let us rest for a moment, abide in the Holy, and let God’s merciful grace cover us like a warm quilted blanket. (Pause for a moment of silence) Amen.

When I was a little child, I had a baby quilt made for me by a friend of my parents. While it wasn’t my favorite at the time, I have kept it with my things and somehow it has made it all the way into my adult life. When I think of a quilt-even if it is just a favorite lap quilt, what I think of is nearness, warmth and comfort.

“The Bible tells us God is always with us. We are never alone, never abandoned. And no matter what we do – no matter what choices we make or what happens to us – God is always reaching out to us in love. Our calling as God’s people is to be about the same work of reaching out to others in love.”[1]

What does God’s love through us look like? Does it mean wrapping others in quilt-like warmth? Does it mean we lay down our life for others as Christ does for his sheep? Does it mean calling out to others by name and welcoming them? Does it mean standing before judges and rulers of our day and confessing the power and majesty of Him to whom we belong? Does it mean giving what we have to give for the good of others-their betterment, their healing? Is this not love? As Christ first loved us, so we in turn love others. The first letter of John chapter 3 tells us,

16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

An old poem used by the YMCA Raggers Program as the “Raggers’ Creed” goes like this:

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;

I would be pure for there are those who care;

I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;

I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend to all – the foe, the friendless;

I would be giving, and forget the gift;

I would be humble, for I know my weakness;

I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.[2]

 

I am convinced Peter is a wonderful example of us all of how encountering the risen Jesus can be life changing. Dramatic even, if you think about it. If you would indulge me just a little, I’d like to offer a musical character sketch of Peter to help illustrate how this can come to be.

Peter’s Story – guitar, voice, bass?, violin?

Scripturally, Peter changed from an impulsive follower witnessing many miraculous things but not quite getting it; who, none-the-less, was first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, being told he was given the keys to the kingdom of God, only to turn around, protest Christ’s impending doom and be rebuked for thinking of the things of man – not of God. Peter, who confessed he would never leave Jesus, only to dramatically deny three times he knew Jesus at all.

Peter, who called down curses upon himself in that process only to have the prophecy of the rooster come true as Christ looked at him as he was led away. Peter, who watched him go, broke down and wept. After three days Peter, summoned by a distraught Mary, was first to go bodily into the tomb to see with his own eyes the mystery of the missing Messiah. Peter, who went home right afterwards- perhaps uncertain of what the empty tomb meant. Peter, perhaps confused, who later must have joined the other disciples in that upper room in fear only to have Jesus appear among them behind closed doors. This is only a small taste of all that Peter witnessed in his three short years with Jesus. Peter, now a prisoner with the others, is summoned for trial. They are asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” The book of Acts, chapter 4 tells us,

8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.”

This is a very different Peter – Peter who is free from all his past, Peter who is convicted of a powerful truth that can set all people free. Being free is a dangerous power. Think about it. Notice again the question put to Peter and the other prisoners: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Commentator Tom Long observes,

Notice how the issue has shifted. Originally the issue was healing, resurrection, and the mercy of God; now the issue was power. The inquisitors did not ask, “What is the meaning of these things?” or “How did they happen?” They asked, “Where do you get the power to do this? Who authorized you to do and say these things?”

Long goes on to say,

“There are two main reasons why power was suddenly introduced into the equation. The first of these is control. The author of Acts presents the religious authorities as jealously protective of their franchise on religion. They wanted people to be prayerful and faithful, but to do so under the exclusive banner of the temple and its protocols. The early Christian movement, however, was an outbreak of the Holy Spirit, spreading like wildfire. It could not be contained in the normal channels or regulated by rules and structures.”[3]

I submit to you Peter now knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that God abides with him. The Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus, having filled him and made him a new man, assures him of the power of God in Jesus Christ. He is no longer the running away disciple, the impulsive and sometimes cowering follower. Here, Peter stands before the highest court of his people and boldly proclaims that Jesus is raised, that Jesus is the Messiah.

I wonder, what is the equivalent of that today? Moreover, I wonder if where we stand in the story…are we Peter before the Holy Spirit has filled him with assurance, or are we bold witnesses to the resurrection? What do we proclaim as Trout Lake Presbyterian Church? As individuals? As members of a the larger connectional Church which is the body of Christ – hands and feet in the world? I wonder, are you filled or waiting to be filled by the Holy Spirit? Come, Holy Spirit, fill us that we might be true servants of the Servant! Peter finally got it! Can we do any less?

Peter’s act of love by calling on Christ to heal the cripple is just the beginning of what is possible!

United Church of Christ Pastor Caela Simmons Wood reminds us that,

“God’s heart is bigger than ours. Stronger. More loving. More caring. More open. More forgiving. God can know everything about us… and still love us.

We are called to live boldly before God. We can rest assured that God is ready to love us, no matter what. And as we live into God’s big heart, our own heart grows, too. We are freed and challenged to love others the same way God loves us.”[4]

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Wood, Rev. Caela Simmons. Pastor and contributor to d365 Online Daily Devotional. http://d365.org/devotions/love-lived-out-april-25-2015/?playit=yup.

[2] “Raggers Creed” is comprised of the first two stanzas of “I Would Be True” by Howard Arnold Walter – 1906. Memorized when a YMCA camper accepts the first challenge of self-improvement. The third stanza is: I would be faithful through each passing moment; I would be constantly in touch with God; I would be strong to follow where He leads me; I would have faith to keep the path Christ trod.

[3] Long, Thomas. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.

[4] Wood, Rev. Caela Simmons. Pastor and contributor to d365 Online Daily Devotional. http://d365.org/devotions/love-lived-out-april-25-2015/?playit=yup.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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