Faithful Conversations #11
Note to readers: Take the time to read through the four readings in full so you can see the connections — sometimes they are clear, other times not. I include the text of one of the readings, or perhaps parts of several here, for easy reference while reading the reflection. This week, I am focusing primarily on the reading from Acts and utilizing the 23rd Psalm as a prayer.
Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Easter:
Acts 2: 42-47
1 Peter 2: 19-25
John 10: 1-10
The First Reading: Acts 2: 42-47: Life Among the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Today’s Reflection (focusing on the reading from Acts)
As Christians, how do we balance the three time dimensions — past, present, and future — in a healthy way? This question has been on my mind this week. Let me explain.
For more than 40 years, I have been engaged in teaching history — I spend much time journeying into the past. That said, history can be perilous, particularly if we get stuck there. For example, wallowing in the dark chapters of yesteryear, individually or collectively, often prevents us from moving forward with our lives. Instead of a liberating source of knowledge providing context for our present reality, history becomes a crushing burden. In addition, looking back often prompts feelings of nostalgia, a painful homesickness for a “better time” when life seemed simpler (you may want to look up the derivation of that word — nostalgia). While some nostalgia is fun, it can be debilitating. In either case, it seems to me, history may prevent us from meeting life head on in our present circumstances. The converse is also true, of course. How many times do we experience fears and anxiety about the future? Fear of what is lurking around the corner, especially in light of the challenges humanity is facing in 2023, can produce a sense of cynicism and, if unchecked, despair.
As I read (and reread) the passage from Acts this week, the line day by day (which appears twice) jumped out at me. Among other things, it took me back to high school days (1973) and the movie, “Godspell.” Perhaps you remember it. It was a contemporary take on the story of the first Christians, wrapped in the vibe of the early 70s counter-culture movement. (“Godspell,” by the way is where we get the term “gospel,” and it means “good news” or “good story”). The third song in the movie, and most memorable to me, is “Day by Day” (linked below). The lyric clearly references this week’s passage from Acts and, so I learned, also the “Prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester” (1197-1253), the patron saint of the sick, lepers, and travelers (note the picture on the right). The relevant portion of Saint Richard’s prayer is this:
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
(Take a few moments and listen to the song from 1971 by clicking here!)
The earliest Christians, our spiritual ancestors, possessed a living memory of the resurrection of Jesus. Can you imagine how electric that atmosphere must have been? They experienced “wonders and signs” (verse 43) and lived in the moment — day by day (verses 46-47). They shared their possessions, they were united in a grand adventure, a cause bigger than themselves. Thousands of people joined the movement and were saved (verse 47). One can sense the joy they felt in their work, day by day. And, herein lies the answer to our sometimes unhealthy fixation on the past or the future. Focus on today. It is the only day we have. Stay the course. We cannot change the past, nor can we control the future. Indeed, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118)
Prayer (Psalm 23: The Divine Shepherd)
Note: It may not surprise you to learn that Psalm 23 is the most popular for people of faith, as evidenced by being the “most searched on Google” (the next four in order are 91, 139, 27, and 121, in case you’re interested in such things). For this week’s prayer, I encourage you to pray the Psalm aloud — let the language settle in your heart. David was an excellent poet.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria.
And, a bit of history for you today regarding the worship space at ELC:
The chapel off the sanctuary, I have learned, was originally called the “Pioneer Chapel,” a nod to the original Norwegian settlers in Jackson County that established the parish (originally, Little Norway). The statue and altar are from the original church structure, built in 1876, that was located east of the Courthouse on Third Street, at least that is the best information I have on it now. In 1953, ELC moved up the hill to its present location.
4 thoughts on “30 April 2023: Fourth Sunday of Easter”
I so enjoyed the video of the beautiful voices singing “Day By Day!”
Also, enjoyed the history of the “Pioneer Chapel.” Next time I am at church I am going to pay more attention to the statue of Jesus and that area of the church.
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Yes, that was a more recent group doing the music. Also, I am interested in the date of the statue — does it actually go back to 1876? Have to do some digging on that. It is unique.
So many thoughts to think about-my word that popped out in Acts was “together.” In last week’s reading of Acts many were coming together to be baptized. In this reading of Acts many are coming together to listen to the teachings of the Apostles and to join in the fellowship.Something we do as active Christian people– and also with things in “common”. They were in “awe”and I would have been too!
Sometimes in my world I ask for hope and look for God’s” awe “to help in my darkest valleys. Within our togetherness we live “Day by Day”…in our most healthy way.
This brings to mind the groups -self-help,recovery or rehab that have basic principles of living life’s past, present and future. It is their success like ours to life in the present-24 hours! Sometimes My God and I have to go to bed early just because of the challenges of the present!
As I have read and heard Psalm 23 often and one of my favorites;” trust “comes to mind. Something I work on continuously. Walking the right path, fearing no evil and knowing He is with me! I’m brought back to the phrases–knowing more clearly, loving more dearly and following more nearly –day by day.
Life is my gift,
Thank you Paul for initiating the Conversation.
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I love reading the comments! I looked up the song “Day by Day” and I do remember it now & it is so appropriate. For us to day by day seek His Presence likens to how the Jews day by day harvested manna in the wilderness. They couldn’t “stock up” on the manna but had to gather it fresh every day and so do we!
Today, upon reading out loud Psalm 23, the part that resonates with me (it’s different every time) is “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. Yes, His goodness and mercy FOLLOWS us!! God has “Hitched His Wagon” onto each and every one of us for the advancement of His Loving Kingdom. Wow!
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