Opening Prayer: May the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we hold in our hearts and minds and bodies as we reflect on your holy word for us this day, may all of it be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
We, in the church, have been worrying for some time now whether our children will have faith. Recently, however, I was taken aback on reading an online blog by a colleague turning the question Will Our Children Have Faith? on its proverbial ear with a new one which was: Will Our Faith Have Children?
Living as we do in what is often called a postmodern, post Christendom world; a world where we are as likely to encounter followers of Bahai, Allah, or Buddha as we are to encounter followers of Jesus, we are ever so slowly beginning to recognize and accept two things:
1. Not only are there many different paths to experiencing God’s abiding and loving presence
2. Christianity as we have lived and understood it, is on the decline
This brings me back to my colleague’s somewhat playful question:
Will our faith have children?
All of this I offer as a backdrop to our reflection on God’s word for us this morning based on our two readings from scripture.
The first reading, taken from the book of Acts brings a story about the perils and challenges of Christian witness for those first followers in the Way; the second taken from the 17th chapter of John’s gospel brings us into close contact with Jesus’ heartfelt prayer to a parental God for unity amongst his followers and for us who have chosen to follow in their path down through the ages.
Let us begin then with the last first- that is, Jesus' intimate prayer to a parental God on behalf of his disciples and all those following in his way since then.
Up to this point in John’s gospel, Jesus has offered a ministry of prophecy, teaching, and healing.
Here, by contrast, we like the disciples, find ourselves within earshot of Jesus' poignantly intimate prayer on behalf of those entrusted with the ongoing building of God’s vision of shalom where the last shall be first and the first last.
Also known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, here Jesus also models for us the importance of a prayerfully intimate relationship with God in all situations and circumstances.
All week I have been trying to find an artistic rendering undergirding the relationship I see between Jesus and God in this passage from John’s gospel.
And, to no avail.
Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I found myself gazing at the picture of a family of ducklings gracing the cover of our bulletin this morning.
Here we have a picture of a tirelessly nurturing, grounding, and courageous love biologically programmed to self perpetuate.
At a first glance, it might seem hard to separate out where the mother duck and her fledgling babies begin and end. On closer inspection, however, the boundaries become a little clearer as we can see the shadow of baby ducks' webbed feet and three quite different ducklings' bodies emerging.
While we know the mother duck’s primary purpose is to prepare the fledging ones to venture forth beyond the shelter of her maternal wing in search of their own cycles of purposeful living, dying, and being reborn as creatures of God’s good creation, we hope that won’t happen before time.
Thinking back on Jesus’ high priestly prayer, we might well wonder, what if he too had lingered a little longer with those fledgling first disciples, would they have been any the more ready to be launched into their own ministries?
Still, it was what it was, it is what it is, and we inherit all that has gone before.
Like the ducklings on our bulletin cover and like those first hapless disciples, we, too, are commissioned to venture forth from the shelter of the church’s wing so as to share God’s mission of justice and peace and to further clarify just exactly what it is that God would have us be about as faithful followers in a new and different context than we have heretofore experienced.
Ready or not, we are called and commissioned to be about these ministries and like the disciples we, too, will sometimes have to learn by trial and error.
Still, that should not deter us from praying without ceasing, nor should it deter us from bearing witness to the risen Christ in our own lives and in our shared life as a faith community participating in the building up of God’s vision of justice and peace in our current post Christendom era.
While the changes in our post Christendom era might feel as earth shattering as was the earthquake in this morning’s story from the Acts of the Apostles, I am reminded too of how new ways of being relationship can and do emerge out of dramatic change.
While it remains to be seen whether our faith will have children, we do know this:
With our stories from scripture offering us a model of prayerful relationship with a nurturing and sustaining God, with the spirit of Jesus as our companion and friend, with stories from our faith ancestors like Paul and Silas bearing witness to the risen Christ, and with a growing awareness that there are, indeed, many paths to God, the good news for today?
We are most certainly not alone and for all this and more on this last Sunday in the season Easter we can say in faithful confidence and in hope:
Alleluia and amen!