With God’s help we seek to build resilience in the midst of changing times, for ourselves but especially for others in need.
With God’s help we seek to build resistance to the powers at loose in the world that would undo the work of good.
And all of this, and all that is worthy, is build on the foundations of love and mercy and justice made possible through the power of the resurrection; through the power of Jesus Christ who is our dwelling place, our room within the mansion of God’s eternity.
There’s no time to get our bearings in our first lesson from Acts today. We are plunged right into the uncomfortable and jarring story of Stephen – one of the seven who were appointed to provide care to the widows and those in need so that the twelve apostles could continue their preaching and teaching – the story of Stephen being stoned to death. Whoa, and what? And how?
But this is the way of things in a world fraught with darkness, isn’t it? That just as things seem to get going for the good, the rug gets pulled out from under some or all of our collective feet and we’re left mourning those lost physically or otherwise along the way, even as we try to piece together what happened. What happened? How did we end up with such brokenness among leaders who are supposed to be working for the good of all and instead, out of their own fears and insecurities, their own possession by the darkness, rile up everyday folks, fanning them into that worst of creatures - a mob mentality – organizing them in Stephen’s time and today against what is good, sometimes even to the point of taking a precious life or lives?
Oh, our hearts should be troubled and afraid amidst the blatant working of darkness in the world.
Who is this Jesus, who in our gospel text today says, “do not be afraid and do not let your hearts be troubled?”
Oh, right, this is the Son of God. This is the crucified and risen Lord. This is the Savior of the nations come. Oh, right, this is the one who promises to go ahead of us and prepare “dwelling places.” “Dwelling places, which is monai in Greek, and linked grammatically to the Johannine concept of “abiding,” which is meno in Greek. (Jaime Clarke-Soles, Lindsey S. Jodron, Working Preacher, May 10th, 2020)
This is Jesus inviting us to dwell with our Savior, to abide with the risen Christ. Not ignore the world’s problems and our own; not ignore the grief caused by good people being trodden under foot by the powers of darkness as it seeks to tear asunder; to abide.
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For Christ, who is risen, abides with us. Seeking to build not false hope but resilience; not hating hearts but a thirst for justice and resistance against all that is wrong; and confidence born not of our own strength and understanding of the complexities that weave themselves about us in this shadowed world, but confidence born of Christ who goes ahead not only to prepare an eternal dwelling place, but who prepares a room of compassion right here and now in which our longing hearts and lives can land as they grieve. And then learn again to love and believe.