Good morning

A few weeks before heading off on vacation, Pastor reached out about me possibly sharing a reflection. The initial thought was, that I had no idea what this would entail and if I would be able to do it. I agreed, and here I am today.

In line with our gospel lesson this week, I would like to share my faith reflection as it relates to welcome.

Specifically, what my life journey has been where I've felt welcome. Like most of you, we all have those instances where we've not felt welcomed.

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Greetings and peace to you! Thank you in advance for patiently enduring my thoughts and reflections on today’s gospel and other ramblings. Allow me to start with a little personal story:

In September, 1982, I was a 15 year old kid just starting high school. My brother Jonathan and I did not get along particularly well during this period of adolescence. I remember well his stern warning that if I acted in school the same way I acted at home I was going to get my butt kicked. Clearly, the warning was designed to instill fear in me because to me the big high school was the great unknown and what 15 year old entering high school isn’t afraid of the stories of being stuffed in a locker by bullies looking for a laugh at the expense of some random freshman. I made peace with my fear by praying to God for protection and making a vow to just be pleasant and kind to everyone because who would harass someone who is always being kind? I made a prayer that was my mantra throughout my young adulthood when I faced a challenging situation like an athletic competition or a tryout or a play performance: I prayed that God help me just do the best that I could because that’s all anyone could ask, right? It gave me tremendous comfort knowing that God would accept me no matter what as long as I was trying my best. After all, who else would I need to worry about disappointing?

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I graduated from Seminary in 1985. As a gift my husband arranged a group tour to the Holy Land. There I purchased this olive wood carving of the Samaritan woman at the well. I had to have it because in my studies I learned a new interpretation of this well known story. I learned it from Dr. Raymond Brown, a world renown Jesuit priest and scholar on the gospel of John. He also alone argued on the papal commission for the ordination of women in the catholic church.

One of the things he taught was the fact that this is the longest recorded conversation that Jesus has with any person in his ministry. So the story is worth exploring.

"It’s not to Peter as we’ve always been taught or to any other disciple that Jesus reveals HE is the Messiah."

Jesus is returning to Galilee. Did he have to go through Samaria? If he wanted to save time, yes. So he purposely ignored Jewish law that branded Samaritans as unclean, unfaithful Jews who intermarried with their conquerers. That’s the first rebellious act of Jesus in this story.

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Have you ever found that it was only in looking back at a conversation that you began to see the true gifts that were present there for you?

You know, I wonder if the disciples found themselves looking back to Jesus’ words - from that last night that Jesus was with them - there at the Last Supper and that night on which Jesus was betrayed; I wonder if the disciples found themselves looking back after Jesus was crucified and was resurrected, realizing that there was more importance to what was being said than they even realized when Jesus was first saying it?

In the portion of our gospel text that we heard today, what is referred to by theologians as the Farewell Discourse, Jesus talks about how he will be leaving, but that the disciples should 1) hold fast to loving God and 2) trust that a peace more than the world can provide will be given to them and 3) that God will send the Holy Spirit to guide them in all things – and she will be awesome.

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A retired Methodist pastor in Elkhart, Indiana, takes scraps of metal discarded by local companies creating band instruments, and assembles works of art from them. One, titled, “Doxology,” is a beautiful cross that hangs in the narthex of a local church there. What a gorgeous image, that of a cross – the most potent symbol of God’s redeeming love – represented through discarded scraps assembled into a new creation. Maybe this is the real work of love, to participate in God’s re-assembling of the scraps of humanity and the world around us into a new work of art.

Did you know that the part of our brain called the hypothalamus, which together with the amygdala brings about a fight or flight safety response – “danger, danger, warning, get out, run, or strike out, lash out with words or body” – this same hypothalamus is also involved in the feeling of love? This might make more sense if you think of the nervous excitement or anxiety one can feel when “falling for” another person – “danger, danger, this feels really special, this person makes me feel really wonderful, what do I do about these feelings?”

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