Northfield

United Methodist Parish

Sunday, May 10, 2020 Abiding Places

Sunday, May 10, 2020 Abiding Places

Please read the lectionary for today.

Hymn for the day: Gather Us In, verses 1, 2, 4, The Faith We Sing #2236, Marty Haugen

Gather us in! Out of darkness into marvelous light… Wouldn’t that be marvelous – to gather again! This hymn is one of my favorites, and on the mornings when we are gathered in the sanctuary just as the sunlight comes through the windows, my spirit gets an extra boost!

In addition to this being a favorite hymn, it fits with some themes in today’s lectionary readings. In them we find a theme of metaphorical structures: God as a rock or fortress of refuge, God’s people as a spiritual household made of living stones, and Jesus’ home in God house with many dwelling places.

The reading from Acts 7 tells of the death of the early martyr Stephen who had just given a long sermon that infuriated a crowd so much they took up stones to kill him. In his story we see an example of a living stone in the household of God who even in death found refuge and an abiding place where he was both secure and compassionate. This was a dwelling place that transcended time and place.

In this season of Easter (yes, we are still celebrating Easter!) and pandemic, time and place have become blurred for me. I have been waiting for an all-clear that probably will not sound any time soon. I have been waiting for spring. It seemed to take so long to arrive and yet, when I was searching through photos on my iPhone from last May, my daffodils were in full bloom at this same time last year! (Although they weren’t under several inches of snow as they are as I finish writing this.)

I’ve been waiting for that Easter joy to take hold. I’ve been waiting for the new light to stream in and the darkness to vanish away. And yet, as the last verse of today’s hymn tells us, new light is shining, now is the day, and not in the confines of dark buildings and “not in some heaven, light-years away, but here in this place.” If not in the confines of a building, what space is Haugen talking about? Where is the “here in this place” where new light is shining? How do we get there?

Haugen touches on a deep yearning when he continues with the prayer, “gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in and make us your own.” We long to be gathered in and held and made God’s own, yet the words in 1 Peter tell us that we are God’s own, that we have already been called into marvelous light. How is it that we so often feel so far away from it?

What space are we to gather in and be held forever? How do we find it?

The disciples listening to what we call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in John’s gospel, were not feeling any ‘warm fuzzies.’ Jesus had told them that one of them would betray him, that another would deny him, and that he (Jesus) would be leaving them. As had so often been the case, they were again baffled by what he was telling them and they were agitated. In his attempt to comfort them, he talked about dwelling places and that they already knew the way there, but their confusion continued. “We do not know the way – how do we get there?”

I understand their questions. I still need reminding that I know the way, that I know The Way.

“Abide” is the root word that was translated as “dwelling,” so dwelling place, or room in some translations, can also be translated as abiding place. Jesus told the disciples, do not be agitated about my leaving, where I will be there is a place for you also to abide with me. You can abide in me as I abide in God.

Abiding in Christ knows no human time frame and knows no life or death as we know them. This dwelling place is ready for us now — not just when we die or in some heaven light-years away.

Can you envision one huge embrace called Love where all are gathered and held together? It is a place of marvelous light. How do we get there?

We are there, in the here-and-now. If you’ve forgotten, take some time and open your heart to the heart of Jesus. Perhaps looking in the rooms he has prepared will help you. Visit the dwelling place now:

In this house
there is room
  for sorrowing hearts to put their cares,
  for those who mourn to find comfort,
  for those with heavy burdens to find rest,
  for those who are ill to be restored;
there is room
  where forgiveness and mercy and grace clear away all fear and sin and doubt,
  where the lost find home,
  where the hopeless find hope and the despairing find peace,
  where the broken-hearted find healing,
  where the oppressed find compassion,
  where those bound by injustice find freedom,
  where those lacking nerve find courage;
there is room for refuge from troubles, and strength when we need help;
there is room where goodness that seems overcome by evil and love that seems buried in death,
  rise again to eternal life.

There is room because it has been prepared with love through Jesus Christ – there is room because it is Love, everlasting never-failing Love.

Do you see the marvelous light streaming?

~ Evie Doyon for May 10, 2020