Jonathan Shively

Weekly Reflection: Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Contributed by Jonathan Shively

Texts: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Theme: Experience and Response

Message:

In the passage from Acts, Paul addresses the Athenians about their worship of an unknown god. Paul is revealing the living God of all creation.  Paul’s description of God (the theological statement made by Paul) is compelling and important. He describes a God who is present with the very people created in God’s own image. It is this God who gives meaning to humans, “for in him we live and move and have our being.”

The Psalm text picks up the description of God.  God allows, even provides, trials in life, but through those trials remains present and serves as rescuer to the people of Israel.  God listens to prayer and remains steadfast in love for humanity.  It is this same God that in John’s Gospel Jesus calls Father and declares that an Advocate will be given by God forever.

These texts tell of rich encounters with God.  They invite us to an understanding of who God is and how God acts in history.  But there is another dimension to these texts.  These texts also illuminate how we might respond to our own encounters with God, to the knowledge that we ascertain about God, and to the very personal love of God.

In Acts, the response to God calls for an exchange of idols to an unnamed God in favor of a relationship with the creator God. That new relationship is dynamic, requiring repentance from humans and reserving righteous judgment for God. What are the idols we maintain today?  What would it mean for us to give up those idols in favor of a relationship with the living God?

The Psalmist clearly recognizes the activity of God among his people, and after retelling the story in part, moves on to describe how God’s activity affects his present life.   The affect is at least two-fold: the Psalmist worships God and the Psalmist tells what God has done for him.  How is your worship focused on the living God?  What story can you tell of God’s activity in your life?

Jesus’ instruction in the Gospel of John provides a deep theological description of how God is present with disciples, while simultaneously instructing those disciples in an appropriate response to God: love God and keep God’s commandments. What is the condition of your love for God?  How do you respond to God’s love for you by loving others?

Today’s lectionary texts demonstrate two movements for those alive in Christ.  The first is the movement of an active, present God.  The second movement is our response.  This interplay is the heart of evangelism.  We are loved by God; thus, we have a story to tell, and a life to live.

Quotes:

“It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.”  Corey Ten Boom

“To become a disciple means a decisive and irrevocable turning to both God and neighbor. What follows from there is a journey which…never ends in this life, a journey of continually discovering new dimensions of loving God and neighbor.”  David J. Bosch

Illustration:

Read the story “Neighbors” by Linda Lawrence at http://www.storiesaboutgod.org/index.php/stories/story_page/neighbors

Music:

“Because I have been given much” by Grace Noll Crowell

“En medio de la vida” by Mortimer Arias

“Love like crazy” by Chris Rice

Prayer:

Grant, O Lord, that your Spirit may permeate every sphere of human thought and activity. Let those who believe in you take with them into their daily work the values of your kingdom, the insights of the gospel and the love of their fellow humans.  Hasten the time when justice and brotherhood/sisterhood will be established and when all people will be brought into the unity of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.   (adapted from George Appleton in the Oxford Book of Prayer)

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