We “gather” again, in our new way, during this time of pandemic, longing to see each other face to face, yet knowing that for now, this is best to keep us all safe. We “gather” to reflect together on being “community” in the best sense of the word. We are challenged anew this week with the gentle, yet insistent call of our brother Jesus, “to do greater things than he,” skeptical at times as to if that is even possible as we many times feel our inadequacies for the task. Yet, he trusts us and lets us know that he will be with us always. So, with that my friends, stay safe and well–call, 507-429-3616 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of service to you.
Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
Sing to our God, a new song, for God has done marvelous deeds! Our loving God has revealed to the nations saving power, Alleluia!
Let Us Pray
Opening Prayer–Good and gentle God, look upon us with love. You have revealed to the nations your saving power and filled all ages with the words of a new song. Hear the echo of this hymn, sung in love and praise to you in this season of joy. We ask this of you, and with the Spirit, in Jesus’ wonderful name—Amen.
- Acts 6: 1-7
- 1 Peter 2: 4-9
- John 14: 1-12
My friends, it is fitting today at the beginning of this homily, to recall that 12 years ago, on this very day, Sunday, May 10, 2008; we celebrated our first Mass within the Lutheran Campus Center space on Huff Street in Winona, Minnesota! I can still remember the words of my sister priest, Alice Iaquinta, recommending that I not wait for this first until my Mass of Thanksgiving, which is customary for a new priest, but begin celebrating Mass immediately, the first Sunday after my ordination on May 4th. Those of you that have been part of the parish from the beginning know that is what we did and as they say, “The rest is history!”
And on this Sunday, as our Scriptures tell the continuing story of the early church of the 1st Century learning what being “community” was all about, following in the footsteps of their brother, leader and pastor, Jesus of Nazareth, it is appropriate here to remember our humble beginnings. We have been a wonderful work in progress as we try to keep our eyes on Jesus, checking and rechecking to hopefully, get it right. The mere fact that we have not been accepted by the local powers-that-be is a sign that we are probably on the right road, as Jesus experienced the same in his time.
Our Scriptures today lift up a few key thoughts for us to ponder as we, in our time, consider what it means, “to be church,”—to ultimately be, community.
In the first reading from Acts, Luke tells the people that Jesus’ message was always meant to be heard on a grand scale, not just for a select group of Israelites in 1st Century Palestine. The people that the apostles were encountering as the message of Jesus spread, were Jews, yes, but Greeks too, as well as many other groups and nationalities and the needs of all had to be considered as is demonstrated in the simple example of the “sharing of the bread,” physical bread that is, in the reading today. There could be no favorites and the community called the apostles to task on this very issue.
A couple of things are important to address in this reading from Luke. First is the goodness and wonder, really, of problems arising within the community, “The People of the Way” as these early followers of Jesus were known, referring back to Jesus saying that he is, “the way, the truth and the life,” in John’s gospel selection today, and the community having input as to the solutions. Would that the same could be true in today’s official Church!
The second issue that we must address is the notion of the apostles apparently seeing themselves above “waiting on tables.” They are distinguishing “speaking/spreading” the word of God” from “acting” on the word—“serving at tables.” Apparently they all missed Jesus’ wonderful example at the Last Supper of, washing their feet!
So, clearly, the twelve probably did need help in, “spreading the word” and were right to appoint additional helpers “for the harvest,” but not because “serving or waiting at tables,” was beneath them or separate from, “spreading the word!” Hopefully, some of these first followers of Jesus came to understand this key idea as they grew and fine-tuned what it truly meant to be Jesus’ followers. In our humanity, over time, it seems that ministers in the Church—priests, bishops, cardinals, popes would need to be reminded as Francis has done throughout his papacy, that he and they are to be “servants,” not “princes” of the Church.
In the 2nd reading from Peter, he speaks of Jesus as “the stone that was rejected.” Again, we in our parish can reflect on this notion as we continue to witness to our call to be a Vatican II parish in this community, even though not accepted nor recognized by the local bishop. But beyond that recognition; we remain an alternative place for the faithful to find God in Winona—a place that accepts all to pray with us—all that want to be with us, no matter faith background, who you happen to love, or any other perceived roadblock to unity. Within this community people also find that God’s call to women as to men is recognized—a call to serve at the altar, to lead and conduct liturgy.
An interesting aside with regard to Jesus as, “the stone rejected” is a point that Pastor Dick Dahl inferred with his weekly bible study group when he said that, “rock or stone was as plentiful in 1st Century Israel as trees and woods were in early America.” We always think of Jesus’ earthly trade as that of a carpenter and then come to the conclusion that his building material was wood. In all actuality, Joseph and his earthy son, Jesus, were probably stone masons—carpenters yes, but with the medium of stone. In this sense, Jesus being “the stone that was rejected” is all the more meaningful.
My friends, in our own “fine-nuancing”—a life-time task, of what it is, to live as Jesus did, his words in John’s gospel today are most uplifting: “Do not let your hearts be troubled!” Basically, I am with you and will show you the way. And many times, we get stuck, I think, in small things like Thomas does in the reading today when Jesus assures him and the other apostles, and us, ultimately, that he will guide us because having been with them for three years already—“they know the way.” Not the way to a place, but “the way” to a life!
And finally, Jesus addresses an issue that is key to being his follower. He tells the apostles [and us] that this experience of his time with them on earth has been all about them being able to understand how much they are loved by God. Because of how Jesus loves them and in their seeing and experiencing that love, they truly have seen God! This, my friends, is something that we too must get—we need to be able to see God in our sisters and brothers on earth and if we can’t, then we very likely won’t ever be able to see God anywhere else, either.
In my neighborhood of rural Winona this past week, we all lost a wonderful woman, neighbor and friend in the person of Sandy Kammerer Stiever—a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and friend to those who knew her. I was privileged to walk with her in her final year and in her words, “help her to come to peace,” over the cancer that would eventually take her life. Sandy was someone who continually reached out to others, giving her best to make life better for others, as a nurse at our local hospital, as wife to Roger, mom to Jill and Jana, gramma to 8 kiddos and friend to so many. I always saw Jesus in the ways she gave to others, and thus, saw God too.
I would like to conclude with a story from Sister Joan Chittster as she speaks well to what our life as Jesus’ followers must be about:
“An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when night had ended and the day had begun. ‘Could it be,’ asked one of the students, ‘when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it’s a sheep or a dog?’ ‘No,’ answered the rabbi. Another asked, ‘Is it when you look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s a fig tree or a peach tree?’ ‘No’ answered the rabbi. ‘It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your sister or brother. Because, if you cannot see this, it is still night.’ ”
Friends, we must always see life on a larger scope than the students in the story did—Jesus, the Christ who came to be one of us, we remember as, “the Light of the World” –if we are to truly follow him, we must too, bring light and not darkness.
Joan ends her reflection of the old rabbi by saying, “Pay attention to the new nativism,” [that seems to be spreading from Washington and the followers of the present administration, because] as Joan continues, “if you don’t, we may never know when the night has ended and the day has begun.” Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
3. Jesus, you who said that we will do greater things than you, we ask that you would always remain close to us guiding our lives in the ways of love, especially now, during this time of pandemic, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you living our lives in truth, justice and love, we pray—
Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, be with those in leadership positions both in Church and State—let your Spirit guide them all for the good of all, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, during this month of May, help us to look to Mary, your mother that she might be a guide for us toward compassion, strength and care for our world, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, help us to see you every day in the faces of all we meet—help us to see your face in all the ordinary events of our life , we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, and help us now to remain a community, during this time of separation due to the pandemic, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
9. Jesus, send your Spirit into the lives of all your followers to enable them to do all within their power to renew your church so in need of that renewal, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Risen Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially those who died due to Covid 19—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—(pause) we pray, then response
Let Us Pray– Good and gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom. We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—the energy to always seek after peace through the gifts of lovingkindness and mercy. Help us to remember that our real task in this world as followers of Jesus, our brother, is to love your people and this world. Help us always to look for inspiration from your mother Mary, who we especially remember during May, as a pillar of strength, faith, gentleness and courage. We ask that we might have the strength for these great tasks. All this we ask of you, Creator God, Jesus, our Brother and your Spirit, one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, AMEN.
Let Us Pray—Remembering that the “bread” in this time of pandemic will come in different ways—and the reminder that we must, each, be that “bread” for each other—in the ways that we can.
Prayer after Communion–Jesus, be with us each and every day. We believe as you told us that we will do great things in your name—give us the grace to follow your lead—we ask all of this in your loving name, Amen.