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Trail Notes: 06/04/2017

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Power Switch

Pentecost is the day God showers the Holy Spirit on the Church.  What does that mean to us?  The scriptures tell us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you….”  That means God’s Holy Spirit is about power.  It’s a little like switching on the power on our electronic devices.  Then we can go to work.

Once we know we’ve got power, we can do a lot – communicate, make plans, think and write, teach and learn, reach out to help a neighbor or start a movement. Power is the beginning of all work and change.  But are we using the power we’ve been given for God’s work?  Are we using God’s power actively to help our neighbors who are poor and desperate?  To examine society’s unjust structures and work to change them? 

Furthermore, are we using God’s power to shape our own lives…to make our lives more Jesus-like?  That might mean simplifying our material lives, rebalancing the work-play-refreshment balance in our days.  Richard Rohr writes:

E. F. Schumacher said years ago, “Small is beautiful,” and many other wise people have come to know that less stuff invariably leaves room for more soul. In fact, possessions and soul seem to operate in inverse proportion to one another. Only through simplicity can we find deep contentment instead of perpetually striving and living unsatisfied. Simple living is the foundational social justice teaching of Jesus, Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Pope Francis, and all hermits, mystics, prophets, and seers since time immemorial. 

It takes power to live contrary to society’s teaching that “more is better,” or that “I’m important and others aren’t.”    But Pentecost tells us we’ve been given the power.  All we have to do now is use it.  The Holy Spirit is already here among us, and within each of us.  As some say, there’s a spark of God in each of us.  We only need to turn on the power switch.  JBM  



Trail Notes: 05/28/2017

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Ascension Day may not mean much to you.  It may seem to be one of those arcane theological observances that only a seminarian could love.  It is the Thursday, 40 days after Easter, when Jesus appeared to his disciples bodily for the last time, and “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  It sounds very ephemeral and fantastical really. 

But it is really about transformation, as St. Paul makes clear.  Jesus’ earthly body is withdrawn, so that we can become the Body of Christ, and individually, members of it.  This transformation will be completed on Pentecost (Sunday, June 4), when the Holy Spirit fills the crowd with passion and power to be God’s people.  The Body of Christ goes from being one person to being many – all of us who seek to follow Jesus. 

Paul saw the Christian endeavor as a communal effort, not a bunch of individual free agents.  Richard Rohr writes,

Paul had a concrete missionary strategy of building living communities able to produce a visible and believable message. Yet for centuries we’ve interpreted his message as if he is speaking about individuals being privately “saved.” This has made Paul seem more like a mere moralist than the mystic he is. Mystics tend to see things in wholes rather than getting preoccupied with the parts.

So, Ascension Day is the beginning of transformation: from an individual Messiah to the Body of Christ, from an individualized understanding of salvation to a communal sense of “we’re all in this together.”  This transformation is completed at Pentecost, and then the Church is set loose on the world – to turn it upside down!  JBM  



Trail Notes: 5/7/2017

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Shepherd, Gate and Gatekeeper

Traditionally the 4th Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. This image is made clear in the collect for this day.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Each year on this Sunday, we hear a different section of the 10th chapter of John’s gospel. This year is the first 10 verses and in those we hear three different descriptions of Jesus - shepherd, gatekeeper and gate. Each of these words bring so many images to mind, both positive and negative. Clearly some of those negative connotations have been used to warrant exclusion and the understanding that some are inside and others are not allowed. For me this is a narrow reading of the text and doesn’t take in the wholeness of the parable.

Seeing Jesus in all of these descriptions opens a deeper meaning to the parable. It also allows me to see others in those images. Who has been Jesus in my life as gate, gatekeeper and shepherd? Who has been Jesus in your life as gate, gatekeeper and shepherd?

L. Sue von Rautenkranz

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