Sunday, May 22, 2011

Last Days' Discount

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In the name of God, source of all being: the Life;
Eternal Word: the Truth;
and Holy Spirit: the Way.

When I worked for publishers I would sometimes represent them at conferences and trade exhibits. Once I was sent to a meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature joint annual meeting, in Chicago, with the reminder that on the last day of the show there would be a flood of people coming to the booth who would want a "Last Day's Discount". However I was given the authority to set discounts for the show, and announce them as they chose. So I set a fairly (by industry standards) generous discount at the beginning of the show, and (to the publisher's delight) when people would ask me what my "Last Day's Discount" would be, I'd reply, "These are The Last Days. This is the Last Days' Discount."

All is indeed moving toward completion, perfection, fulfillment, since the Resurrection.

Stephen bore witness to this – he was able because he had set aside malice and embraced the kingdom of God.

The crowd was still stuck in anger and deceit, slander and envy— all the tools of false security, the weapons for victory over perceived enemies—

At peace, Stephen was able to pray with confidence, drawing on a deep well of freedom, truth and faith. He knew he was in God’s hands.

Standing before the crowd in Jerusalem, Stephen testified to what he was seeing: the glory of God – and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.

Stephen saw beyond the skies what the crowd could not see – the faithful presence of God even in this eventuality.

Stephen witnessed to a new way of being in the world – not as victim or as hero – but as witness to the truth.

And so even in his death he pointed to Christ – commending his spirit to God, asking forgiveness for his killers – becoming a living stone set deep into the foundation of the spiritual house which is the Church.

With faith in Christ, and without regard to the consequences to his own body, Stephen proclaimed Jesus the way, the truth, the life – and came home to the Father rejoicing in the Spirit through that same Jesus Christ.

Just so we witness and pray, as we too cast aside the false armor of self-protection (the cheating tricks of soul’s cowardice). Confident in God’s care and love, we proclaim his kingdom and act to live into it.

Peter exhorts new Christians to grow in faith, to understand that Baptism is just the beginning of the path of salvation – that we should seek God’s word to nurture us, from our earliest days – receiving with humility as if infant children the sustenance of the Word. He adjures us to put away sin and evil of all sorts, so that we may offer ourselves to be built together into a Temple – a living temple – to the praise and glory of God.

What does this look like? Instead of envy, slander, malice, and deceit (v. 1), practice love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness and forbearance.

How can this be? Through the Spirit.

We are called to testify to what we have seen and heard, and what we have experienced, in our lives, of Jesus’ work. We are witness to how God provides, guides, and reshapes our lives.

We are called in faith to take a stand, to bear witness, and to express belief in action.

This call may be subtle; it may be loud. It may be joyous; it may be painful. Responding to it may lose us friends.

Living into the forgiveness and mercy of God is a new way of Being.

Like Stephen we know that forgiveness is not an act of individual heroism – it is an act of God at work in the world through his people.

Forgiveness in itself is a vision of the peaceable kingdom, the reconciliation of all things in Christ, which is the true consummation of time, the real victory.

So these are the last days – for Christ is already at work in the world – reconciling all things to himself. God is faithfully present to us as we are called to join in this work.

Lord, as you have called us to walk in your way, make us the people that you would have us be, that we may reveal your truth, and lead others to the fullness of life; that we may be a chosen people, a royal priesthood; that we may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Lord, lead us in the ways of peace. Guide us in the path of life.

--David Adam, Clouds and Glory (SPCK, 2000) 68.

Come my way – Spirit; my truth – Word; my life – Creator.

Source of all being: you call us into life, you sustain us, and you provide for all our needs. Eternal word: your truth is a light to our path and we come to the Father only through you. Holy Spirit: you illumine us, guiding us as we seek to follow Jesus.

You are peace, Lord: you are the way. You are love: you are the life. You are justice: you reveal the truth in your righteous mercy.

What we face in our lives as Christians, your faithful people, we do not face alone. You are with us – through the Spirit we experience your presence and your power. Your gift of love, your sustenance of faith, and your light of hope: [these] accompany us through all our days.

Help us now to realize your triumph over death and sin, the ultimate adversary. Move us to proclaim and embody that victory in the world.

Empower us – fill us with hope – embolden us with faith – so that we your people may be as your own hands and feet and voice, advocating the love of your creation that fulfills your word.

May love’s redeeming work be evident (manifest) in all we do and in all you accomplish, in us and through us, for the glory of God.

Lord, guide us that we may walk in your Way, rejoice in your Truth, and be kept for ever in the Life which you give, which is eternal; through him who lived and died and rose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, live in our hearts – forever!

The Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14



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