|The branches of the bitternut hickory look different from this vantage point, lit by the eastern sun. I love the giant tree that defines my backyard, but I have hardly ever examined it from my bedroom window. Too busy. Always moving. Up and at ‘em from one place to the next.|
Our rhythms have changed. Again. Many find ourselves at home. Some of us alone. Our own island. The season ahead looks long. Not yet winter. Hard-to-imagine holidays.
I, John, your brother who shares with you in the hardship, kingdom, and endurance that we have in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos…. Revelation 1:9a (CEB)
Do we feel the connection of brotherhood, sharing together in this journey? I wouldn’t ordinarily look to Revelation for encouragement, but I go where the daily readings lead me. And I find the word endurance. Repeated. Calling out to me.
But he put his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, but look! Now I’m alive forever and always. I have the keys of Death and the Grave. Rev. 1:17b-18a (CEB)
I pause to consider my own fears. What are yours? Dare we stop to notice and name them? I tried an online guided meditation the other day, and found it surprisingly soothing. I read the words of Pastora Sandra Van Opstal inviting me to sabbath rest. I breathed in the truth that God knows every part of me, and exhaled that I am in His hands. And slept.
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance. I also know that you don’t put up with those who are evil. You have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars. You have shown endurance and put up with a lot for my name’s sake, and you haven’t gotten tired. Rev. 2:2-3a (CEB)
Well, perhaps I have gotten tired. At times. But then I am revived, often by my brothers and sisters- the church. Because, of course, these messages are for churches, not individuals. Together we work, labor, endure. I was surprised to be excited about the Sunday morning social zoom call- hearing about babies and pets. I loved processing the teaching together after online worship, as if we were all in the same room, across state lines.
I know your works, your love and faithfulness, your service and endurance. I also know that the works you have done most recently are even greater than those you did at first. Rev 2:19 (CEB)
Reading on, we are reminded of the message of love. That it all goes back to love. Return to our first love. John was all about love. How do we love each other during this time? How do we open ourselves to God’s love? How do we feel the deep, deep love of Jesus? And then reflect that back, reflect that outward.
Today, we are invited not just to endure, but to love. To receive and then to give. To be filled to overflowing. May you experience this love today.
Anticipating Advent article in the News-Gazette about Grace Lutheran, First Mennonite, Bethel AME, and New Covenant Fellowship plans for upcoming remote celebrations.