Dear Friends, we continue on in the Easter Season and “Alleluia” truly is our song! The readings for this week are about the challenge, in love, to not just speak about it, but to do the loving thing. We hear of our loving God’s desire to be one with us, in Jesus, in the beautiful story of the vine and the branches and the invitation to be “one with God, living in God as God does, indeed, live in us.” Pastor Dick Dahl has given us some wonderfully engaging, challenging and comforting thoughts for this Sunday. Thank you Dick!
Please know that I am here for you if need be, to help, to listen, even to chat–I am a bit behind on my regular calls with some commitments to our new Honduran family in town. For those of you in the Winona area who might wish to help with an evening meal and if you didn’t receive the newest signup tool, let me know and I will send it out. My contact information is: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 507-429-3616. Peace and love to all, 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
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 9: 26-31
- 1 John 3: 18-24
- John 15: 1-8
Homily from Pastor Dick Dahl
Recently Father Richard Rohr had a week of meditations on “Friendship and Grace.” I’m taking the following statement out of context from one of them, but it is still accurate: “… free and gratuitous love is the only love that validates, transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. It is what we all desire and what we were created for. Once we allow it for ourselves, we will almost naturally become a conduit of the same for others. In fact, nothing else will attract us anymore or even make much sense.”
In today’s Gospel-reading Jesus expresses his desire for this kind relationship with us. He says that just as branches share the life of a vine, so it is with him and his followers. How amazing is it that we can not only imagine but can actually share such a life-sharing intimacy with him! He desires it…with you and me. “Remain in me” he says eight different times.
This living bond with him is not experienced in isolation. We may experience it most often through our relationships with other people, and even other creatures such as cherished pets or the beauty of birds or trees and the awesome reflection of his presence in all of creation.
He says we remain in him when we let his word, his example, guide us. He seemed to always reach out to those whom others rejected or feared—the sick, the disabled, tax collectors, prostitutes, Roman soldiers, foreigners, and the list goes on. Our previous President told people to fear strangers and immigrants. He described them as rapists and murderers. Strangers and outcasts, however, are people whom Jesus welcomed and loved. Or to put it another way, as Matthew’s Gospel does, at the Last Judgment Jesus himself will say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Several in our community, including many of you, very recently welcomed a family who had fled terror in their homeland. In them we met, as it were, other branches of the vine who is Jesus. What we have in common is not the same language or nationality, but the dignity we share as human beings. They are enriching us by the example of their courage, their warm gratitude, and the humility they show in accepting the love and support offered them by those of us who are at first strangers but almost immediately become friends.
Today’s first reading from the acts of the Apostles describes how the first Christians learned to become open and welcoming to the man they greatly feared. They knew of him as one who sought to capture and imprison them. Saul the fervent Pharisee must have seemed to them the way an undocumented immigrant family would feel if they heard a person from ICE or the Border Patrol knocking on their door. Saul, however, was transformed into Paul by an intense encounter with the resurrected Jesus. With the help of Barnabas as intermediary, the early Christians opened themselves to accept and welcome Paul into their community. And what a difference he was to make!
Jesus used the metaphor of the vine and its branches to reveal not only how we live vitally connected with him and others. He used it also to teach us that just as pruning is necessary for branches on a vine to grow back with greater vitality to produce more fruit, so it is for us. He used it to teach us about those aspects of life that none of us like to face or think about. Jesus does not hide us from the painful part of life anymore that he hid from it. Suffering takes many forms. It can be anxiety and soul-crushing depression or the slow crucifixion of addiction. It can be physical illness, pain, or mental and emotional confusion and loss. It may shake us to our core from disappointments, failure, betrayal, deaths of those we love most dearly making us question whether we can or even want to go on.
We likely do not feel blessed when we have such experiences. We don’t want them any more than Jesus did. However, even if we feel alone and abandoned, the Spirit never leaves us. The Holy Spirit is the life force that makes us one with Jesus, just as a vine nourishes its branches. The love that binds us to Jesus is powerful; it is the Holy Spirit…promised and given to us.
This is what it means to be connected to the vine and to remain in him. Pruning is never fun, but, like branches on a vine, it can free us and transform us in ways we would never have expected.
This is the paradox of sharing in his passion, his death and resurrection.
In today’s second reading John writes: If at times your sense of unworthiness leads you to question God’s love for you, John assures us that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Our faith in the Lord and love for others are the sure signs of God’s gratuitous love that transforms and validates our lives.
So, in summary, today’s readings proclaim the here and now personal relationship that Jesus wants and has with each of us. He repeats to us, “Remain in me.” His Spirit enables us to do this by living his word, through openness to others, especially those in need, those who seem different and at first “other.” But just as the early Christians overcame their fears of their former persecutor Saul, we can challenge ourselves to seek beyond the differences that divide us to find what we have in common with others.
And finally, Jesus prepared us for the pruning that our lives may experience. He called blessed those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; those who hunger and thirst for justice (righteousness), for they shall be satisfied; those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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.”
- Jesus, you who said you are the vine and we are the branches, we ask that you would always remain close to us guiding our lives in the ways of love, 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, give hope to those who continue to suffer now due to job loss and for those who live daily with the threat of losing their jobs—show them all the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- Jesus, 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—especially now as we celebrate 13 years of existence on May 10, 2021—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, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear us.”
- 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, from COVID and all other causes—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 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, 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—Again, we can’t be together in person, but do always remember, that Jesus lives on in and with and through us!
Prayer of Communion
Jesus, be with us each and every day. We believe as you told us that you are the vine and we are the branches and that if we live in you, you will live in us and bear much fruit. Give us the grace to follow your lead—we ask all of this in your loving name, Amen.