A. Romans 5:1-5 is a well-spring of Paul’s theology, but the echo in the well is the word, ‘produces.’ James Dunn, in his New Testament Theology, says salvation was never conceived as a single event or pronouncement that required nothing further for its effect. Salvation was always conceived as a process. Connect the dots like stones down the river: justification, peace, and love. Turn the corner and suffering produces character and character produces hope. God is in process. The universe is in process, and thank God, we can be patient—we are also in process. The church as an agent of the reign of God is in process. In some ways salvation is a pilgrimage. We journey with God and with each other stopping at holy places like justification and peace and hope—and suffering—but all of us together in God. If we are on a pilgrimage on the way to salvation, wholeness, and healing, there is no rush. We can walk and not run. We can rest when we are tired, and we can point out to each other what we have seen, and how hope does not disappoint us. In these past days, what have you seen on your way to salvation, wholeness, or healing? Have there been high places or low places? The scripture promises there will be peace for suffering ahead, have you seen a sign of this on the journey?
A. Let’s read Romans 8:14-17. In verse 15 Paul writes, ‘you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.’ Long before salvation became a doctrine or topic in a book of theology, it was an experience needing a name. In this series on the New Testament letters, we see Paul wrote on three major themes: Christ, the church, and morality. Romans, written in the mid 50’s, sets forward words for our experience and practice. Our experience and practice of the law leads, for Paul, to sin and shame. Our experience of God—the experience needing a name—is that we have received a gift of adoption and freedom from shame. Just like a legal adoption, we may have a day of adoption, but God’s adoption happens every day. God has received hostile humankind in divine communion, and will do it again tomorrow. Wesley’s sermon on this text says, ‘when this bondage ends, we are no more under the law, but under grace.’ If you were writing a letter to the church, how might you call us to live under grace? How have you been reminded you are living under grace? When, recently, have you chosen in some circumstance, not to live under fear or bondage or law, but under grace?
A. : Let’s read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. This parting section concludes the letter with blessings and warnings—and a cry and call for Jesus to come. Verse 17b says, ‘let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.’ People on the island of Patmos today survive only by having potable water brought in. Water is a scarcity and too precious to waste. This is an abundant invitation for any and all people to draw from the water of life—as a gift! In The Monkey and the Fish, by Dave Gibbons, he talks about liquid leadership using Bruce Lee’s philosophy. Lee said, ‘you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. It doesn’t crash. It adapts’…Water does what it needs in the new place. You put the water of life into grief, and it becomes the grief, into the homelessness in Waukesha, and the water of life fills it. Water enters everything gently, but with power enough to change, even move great buildings. We used to talk about Jesus as the incarnation. Perhaps the people of Jesus need to learn how to adapt and be taken into where we are needed. Water doesn’t circulate petitions or bully. Water restores and washes clean. How does FUMC bring the water of life? How has the water of life been poured into your life and changed the vessel? When have you seen the water of life move in and change something?
A. Let’s read Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5. This is the concluding vision of Revelation, and a curious one. All the fiery thrones and waters of poison and the turbulence of the ages is healed. Salvation, you will remember, is at its root, healing. When God’s work is done, the description is not a roll call of individual souls, but a healing that brings heaven to earth, that heals the water, that bears fruit, that needs no locks, and that makes the temple obsolete. God will be their light, we are told. I know, when my dad was sick, night was the worst. It was harder to breathe. We waited for help. Often, we just wanted to get through the night. This text takes us to a creation that has gotten through the night and needs no more lamp or sun. God will be their light. How does FUMC, get people through the darkness? When has God gotten you through to a healing you could not imagine?
A. Let’s read Revelation 21.1-6. This is another vision offered the faithful for their perseverance and grace as they endure difficult times. We are offered the assurance God’s home is and will more fully be with us, that death and sorrow will be no more. Verse 5 anchors the how God is at work in the ordeal of the days of Revelation, and in our sorrow. The One on the throne whispers, “I am making all things new.” When we suffer loss or illness, we want God to do it over, make it like it was, but the work of God and our prayer is to seek and trust how God will make our circumstances and our world new. We are all in process. The universe is in process. Justice is in process. The beyond among us is in process, so we are free to let go what is past and gone. We are comforted that the future is open and we are sent into the adventure of God ‘making all things new.’ How have you recently seen God making something new or surprising you with a work of grace?
Pull off the road here for a moment and catch a breeze. Worship is source and summit for the community of faith. Worship is response to God but also the hungry cries from the nest of the faith community. Sunday is the view from the mountain before you go down. Its an investor's meeting. It holds the last commitments before we break the huddle and head to our places on the offensive line. Worship is the threshold to beauty and also proof the Lord can do just about anything, despite the people who speak for God. Its where we bring our prayers to the heart of God and our relationships into the old pews and leave them in steady hands. Rabbi Heschel said, 'the Sabbath is a cathedral in time.'
If you want to prepare for worship, read the suggested scripture for the week. You could read it on Sunday evening for the week ahead and let the passage whisper to you at work or in the line at the grocery store. Or read it Sunday morning before you head off to church.
If you would like to respond with a comment or question, go ahead. Maybe the scripture prompts reflection on a film or media. Maybe it prompts a question you would post here for the community of faith. Perhaps it reminds you of a piece of music. Let's offer the language that best expresses the respect and care we share.
Maybe worship is the reflection on the practice of our faith in the world. Perhaps it lasts all week. I hope this space becomes one more place for the community of faith.