Seventh Sunday of Easter by The Rev. Richard Toll


Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21
John 17:20-26


From the reading today, from the Revelation of John, we hear the words “I am the Alpha and the Omega” the Beginning and the End.

Love is the word that Jesus speaks to today from the Gospel of John.  He is telling us that the love of the father is known in the person of Jesus and is to be reflected in all that know him.  That is our task as Christians pure and simple, to show the love of God.  There is a song that we still sing, “and they will know we are Christians by our love”.

Have any of you tried to define time?  I know scientists go round and round with theories about time and space.  We believe that time is a part of the creative order and the mystery of God creating out of nothing is well beyond our imagination or knowledge.  We know time because we experience it.  I would offer also that we know God by experiencing the God of Creation.  We have learned to divide time into years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds.  Ancient people had their own definitions of time and their calendars.

I have always been fascinated by time since we are all creatures of time.  Saint Augustine, in the 4th century was asked by a student the question, “What was God doing before the creation?”  Augustine’s response was to say, “God was making Hell for people who asked such questions.”

But we do wonder about time and space.  We define ourselves by time.  How old are we?  We began life at a certain point in time.  We did not choose to be born but we do have choices of how we spend our time.  We find our freedom to choose one of the great gifts that God has given to humanity.  We can choose to be a reflection of God’s love or choose to bring hell on earth by our bad choices.

We lost a real prophet this past week.  Daniel Berrigan, a 94 year old Jesuit priest spent his entire life defining issues of justice, war and peace and got in trouble many times over the years.  Arrested many times, he leaves quite a legacy in the Catholic Church.  You could hate him or love him but he and his brother, Phillip, were not timid in confronting the powers that be whether it was the Church or governments.  He was honored on the front page of The New York Times on Wednesday and his life was full of meaning.  He used his time well with us and made a difference to the world whether you agreed or disagreed with him.  He will be remembered because of his simplicity of life style as a Jesuit priest and his prophetic message.

Yes, time is a part of creation and we experience it.  Next time you look in the mirror,

remind yourself that the reflection you see was at one time much younger.  And the hopes and dreams of the past are being lived out even now as the song goes, “time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.”

So here we are and what are we doing with our time?

First of all, we need to define who we are within community.  Whoever we are, we come together as a family of some type.  We grow up in relationship with mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, playmates, and slowly we learn to love, usually because we have experienced love from people who love us.  Today is Mother’s Day and we have our special memories to reflect on with our Mothers living or dead.  A life was born and we are here today out of that moment that brought us into the world.

And by extension of the love we have received, we learn to love and experience God as a reflection of that love.  We can even learn that God loves us so much that he loved us into existence.  He even loves us to the point of joining with our life and death struggles in the person of Jesus.  “So that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them”.

We are creatures intended to be in community.  We belong to many communities.

Our family.

Our neighborhood.

Our church.

Our town or city.

Our county.

Our state.

Our country.

Our world.

And now we feel a deeper knowledge and connection with the universe and the mysteries still unfolding as we probe more into space.

We are meant to be participants in community. To be members or leaders of groups, committees, make decisions, vote, give money, eat together, worship together, sing together.  My own commitment for the past 35 years is with the Palestinian Christian community and learning so much from them as to their commitment to faith and to justice.  It gives me life to learn from those who reflect the present of Jesus in their own lives.  Each of us needs to find how to give of ourselves to others and receive from them.  Many people today are isolated and do not relate to community.  Again, it is the task of Christians to break through isolation and help others find community.  Grace Memorial has a fine history of doing just that.

I believe we are meant to live out life together with our unique diversities and find ways to make sure all people are an important part of society.  We are testing that expectation in our political life even now.

Within the various communities of our lives, we live out our time on earth.  Hopefully making a difference for the good of humanity.

If God is love and we are to reflect that love, how do we go about life?

There are two primary parts of each of us.

(1)  We are takers. We take from others and some of this is very very good.  We learn from others, we are recipients of gifts from others.  We are people who need to be in relationship in order to take and receive what others offer.

We are takers in a harmful way also.  We use others for our own benefit that might be harmful to them.  We take advantage of trusting relationships and we gossip or tell lies or manipulate in a way that harms them.  We think of ourselves only and do what it takes to further our own needs.  We do not stop long enough to say thank you.  We just take what we want and forget about others.  The other can often be another person….the other is also God who gave us life.

(2)  We are givers.  We learn in life that it is important to give of ourselves.   We give of ourselves in various ways.  We learn that we have a gift of teaching, a gift of relationship, a gift of organizing, a gift of substance…money, a gift of knowledge, a gift of sharing, and on and on and on.  We learn to give away these various gifts or talents and make life easier for others.  That part of us that gives may never know how much our gifts have meant to the recipients.

I can remember this learning in my life.  I had a scoutmaster in high school.  He was a doctor.  He gave of his time to our scout unit.  Our scout unit hiked from the north rim to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  We took rubber rafts and floated the Rio Grande through the magnificent canyons of the Big Bend National Park in Texas, (when the Rio Grande had water).  We took a dozen horses for two weeks of camping in the Big Bend National Park and we would ride across into Mexico.  What a wonderful experience with his leadership.

In my senior year of college, I set down at my desk and wrote him a letter of “thank you”.  I expressed all that I had learned from him and let him know how grateful I was.  I was to experience his death and funeral the following year.

I had taken and received from him.  I was able to let him know how important he was in my growing up years.  If I have learned anything in life, it is to seek relationships with meaning and find how to take and give in each relationship.

And, so, love is the name of the game.  It is a word that includes so much of what we experience in our time with each other and with God.  Jesus gave of himself so that we might know life.

Lets find meaning in all that we do in the time ahead.  We call it the future.


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