Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year C
Christian Family Sunday - May 13, 2007
Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year C
Christian Family Sunday - May 13, 2007
Let us pray: O God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you and may they be to your glory. Amen.
††† ďCurrents of Godís Spirit carry us in directions we may not have chosen and to margins where we may not have gone.Ē That is a direct quote from the background material provided in the worship planning resource I use each week, and which is part of the curriculum material that is also used in our church school. It sums up nicely the message of this weekís lections.
††† Water figures prominently in all the passages. The Mediterranean sea and a river in the passage from Acts, a symbolic depiction of the river of life in the reading from Revelations and a healing pool in the passage from Johnís gospel.
††† Those watery images and the fact that today is variously called Motherís Day and Christian Family Sunday directed me on two different reveries. My summertime growing up was in large part done beside and in a river. We had a summer cottage right on the Gull River at the north end of the Kawartha Lakes and the south end of the Muskoka Lakes in Central Ontario. Many happy memories were forged in the Gull River. Thatís where I learned to swim - a not so easy accomplishment given the swift current in our section of the river. Itís also where I learned an aversion to cold water - it seemed that our river never warmed up - in part due to the churning of the water right beside our cottage as it tumbled over a so-called natural dam. Any warm water that might have developed on a hot summer day was quickly sent to the bottom of the channel as it fell over the blasted out ledge of rock - in a beautiful but threatening rapids visible through the large living room windows of our cottage. Summers were good at our cottage on the Gull River as we swam, rowed, paddled and putt-putted (we never had an outboard motor with enough horsepower to satisfy a teenagerís desire) on itís pleasant and pretty waters. It was a bit of summer heaven that Iíve come to appreciate more as Iíve grown older.
††† The second reverie was my attendance at some event most of which I cannot remember, except for the way that everyone identified themselves during the introductions around the circle in which we were gathered. There were many different aboriginal people in attendance at this event, and the first person to say his name and identify from where he came did so by giving the river valley in which he resided. It was an amazing and novel approach to the usual recitation of name and community that occurs during such introduction times. It served to cause everyone to think of the importance of rivers as an important part of the history of the people whoíve lived here much longer than my ancestors, but also the importance of rivers and other bodies of water in the choice of where we human beings live. In these times of trains, planes and automobiles we sometimes need to be reminded that bodies of water in times past were often the major transportation routes. Perhaps thatís easier here in the north where settlement is largely still influenced by the rivers and lakes even though it is often a river, lake or muskeg that prevents modern day travel rather than allows it. We only need to see the recent concern that the airport might have run out of aviation fuel even as I speak to emphasise the point.
††† Well, these reveries do have something to do with the themes for this week. Christian Family Sunday - a seemingly apple pie kind of designation for this day, even if some might regard it suspiciously as a way to demote the importance of Motherís Day as another apple pie type of designation. Thatís one theme, but I want to consider it alongside another theme - namely the stirred waters referred to in the story we heard from Johnís gospel this morning. I think they impinge on each other these two themes. My summer memories have a great deal to do with how my image of family was forged - good times spent together in recreation and pleasurable interaction. But that almost casual reference to stirred waters in the passage from Johnís gospel also have something to say about the way God is calling us to respond in new and challenging ways.
††† Metaphorically, stirred waters are usually an indication that someone is trying to effect some change. The calm serenity of a placid pool or lake is disturbed by the winds of desired change. Notwithstanding the image of God who leads us beside still waters - as recalled by Psalm 23 - a psalm which was part of our readings a couple of weeks ago, I believe that God is calling us to stir the waters of acceptance of the status quo, accepted ways of doing things and notions that the tried and true is the best way. In fact, the gospel call is for transformation - not only within ourselves, but for the society around us - a transformation which is known by radical acceptance, radical justice, radical re-ordering of the ways in which resources are shared and used.
††† Sometimes that transformation has already happened, but the ability to grasp it escapes us. I have to admit there is a certain hesitation for me when it comes to naming this day as Christian Family Sunday because of the way the term family can be so narrowly defined, and because of the way that the word ďfamilyĒ can exclude people more than include. For those who find the designation suspect because it detracts from honouring mothers, I need to remind you that ďMotherís DayĒ was originally devised by mothers themselves who longed to have a day to promote peace - especially in recognition of those mothers who had sent their sons off to war. Oh that we could recapture that original purpose in this day when daughters and sons are still going off to fight in wars that have people wondering. As I said, sometimes the transformation has already happened, but the ability to grasp it escapes us.
††† The reading from Acts this morning tells another story of the growing of the early church. Paul is called by a dream to a change of plans. Macedonia is the place where he needs to go. The circle of followers of the Way is getting larger, it cannot, it should not be limited. And so off he goes, across the waters of the Mediterranean to take the story of Jesus to people in a new place. It is a big vision - to grow the church by making these epic journeys to new places, but as we learn, the big vision is lived out by transformation, person by person. Lydia listens intently to the story, is inspired by it and becomes a part of, dare I say it - the family.
††† We all know thatís how it works - the community grows person by person - thatís how it worked in the beginning - thatís how it still works. We also know that God is calling us to stir the waters - by reaching out beyond our comfort zone to offer the invitation and to live the welcome in action as well as in word.
††† We are called to it because we believe in the transformation that is Godís promise to us and our promise to God - transformation in our relationship with creation and the creator - transformation that holds within it the hope of the world and the people who dwell in it. Amen.