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Daily Bible Readings and Reflections for the Week of May 31, 2020

Saturday, June 6, 2020
Galatians 3:23 – 4:11

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted.

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Paul’s using imagery here that would have been familiar in his own context, but might seem strange to us. In Roman society of the day, it was common to have an older slave to look after the children, as a sort of minder and tutor. That’s what Paul’s getting at when he writes of a “disciplinarian.” These disciplinarians may have been helpful — perhaps quite liked — but also had a strict authority over the kids (who were apparently looked upon quite lowly by wider society, along with slaves). So the disciplinarian had a role of teaching, guiding, and protecting — ensuring the kids didn’t run out into the street and get flattened by a passing cart — but it was far from an ideal situation. Paul sees the “putting on” of Christ as opening up a new stage, creating a new relationship between humanity and God. Now in this age of faith, we can experience a new sort of freedom. Rather than being like little children that need to be constantly minded, we are more akin to grown up heirs of an estate, fully trusted in the household and its affairs.

This sounds great, but I would also think that this entails new and sometimes difficult responsibilities. Situations when theoretical scenarios give way to the shades of grey of real life. And Paul ends this section with a reference to “special days, months, etc.” To this day you’ll find some conservative Christian groups that insist that observing religious holidays/holy days is an affront to the gospel. But what Paul is talking about is that religion in the life of the Christ follower is about freedom (though again, with responsibility), not about living in fear, appeasing gods, divining moons, or appeasing gods that are vengeful more often than happy. Note how Paul even reverses the ordering of words: “you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God;” our faith isn’t about being good enough to climb a ladder up to God, but about God condescending to us.

Have you ever had a job or task that was so open-ended that you didn’t know where to start or what to do? Ever opened the door for an indoor animal, who didn’t dare enter into the freedom of the wide-open yard? Freedom can sometimes seem tougher than restriction. Things are much simpler with lots of easy answers and top-down rules.

For centuries (well, millennia) the Church has been engaged in experiments, dialogue, backsliding, evolution and revolution, trial and error, and all sorts of activities that spring out of the experience of grace that Paul wrote about with such passion. With freedom comes responsibility, and in this freedom sometimes comes the anxiety and other fear responses of a cat that has left the safety of the house for the first time.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” What a revolutionary concept; one that we’re still learning. Our human barriers are nothing compared to the unity that we have in Jesus. When the first women were ordained priests in the Episcopal Church of the USA that quote was displayed behind the altar. We are bound to have some disagreements and moments of fear when we step out in faith. But as Christians we can also commit to loving one another as we struggle with the discerning of responsibility and freedom. Those first women priests faced death threats. That should give us pause, and prompt us to examine our hearts, especially at times when the Church gathers to discuss and decide upon its life and its future.

[Matthew Kieswetter]

Friday, June 5, 2020
Matthew 14:22-36

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

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Many of us make personal commitments to daily prayer, asking Jesus to come into our lives, to build us up, but is our faith just as strong when we go to Him? Today’s scripture is a marvellous illustration of how faith colours our encounters with Jesus.

The opening of Matthew 14 (vv1-21) provides an important context for our examination. Jesus, upon hearing the distressing news of the death of his cousin, John (the Baptist), seeks seclusion, but is instead besieged by a large crowd looking for Him. After a long day of healing and blessings, Christ provides the famous loaves and fishes meal for five thousand.

Our scripture then picks up the story: Jesus first dispatches the disciples – his faithful followers — across the Sea of Galilee, then sends the satisfied crowds away, and finally retreats to a mountain for prayer. Meanwhile the disciples, far from shore, are enduring stormy seas and perverse winds. They are panicking, and despite Jesus hearing their cries and immediately coming to them, they see his walking across the waves more the mark of a spook than a saviour.

This not the time for Sermon on the Mount philosophies to generic crowds. These are the boys in the band, and our Lord is blunt: have courage, don’t be fearful, I’m with you. For any true follower, that statement should suffice – “I’m there, where you are.” But Peter pushes for more: if it IS you, order me to walk to you.

Jesus obliges with one authoritative word: “Come!” Peter leaps over the side, strides towards Jesus, gets scared, and sinks. Amid a maelstrom, Jesus is coming to his disciples, uttering words of encouragement. And his faithful followers? They want proof of his identity, that he is the Jesus in their lives.

Nevertheless, he saves Peter, rebukes him for his lack of faith, but instead of shouting “Your turn” to another disciple, he joins his flock in their boat. The winds immediately calm, and this external sign becomes the cause for worship – He is with us, He controls the winds, He MUST be God!

Like verses 1-21, the three verses (vv34-36) that conclude Chapter 14 solidify the context of faith. A large crowd again seeks Jesus where He was, knowing He would heal them. These people were not in our Lord’s inner circle, they did not reside in His presence. But their faith was so strong, they believed that when they made the effort to go to Him, their lives would be better.

So in your prayers, yes, always pray for Jesus to come into your life, but also pray for guidance of where we might seek Him – calling a lonely person, delivering food to a neighbour, marching for racial equality. We may well believe in the Christ who abides in us, but it would be so pleasing to Him and such a demonstration of faith if we also sought out those opportunities to meet our Lord out in our communities.

[Jack Nahrgang and Katherine MacLean]

Thursday, June 4, 2020
Psalm 8

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

+ + +

Right now, I’m working on a video show for the long term care and retirement homes in the region. Our drama group usually performs live once a year in about sixteen or twenty such places, but with the Covid-19 shutdown, this is impossible. So, we are adapting.

The songs are often from the 30’s, 40’s and on up to the 70’s. Our audiences recognize the Frank
Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald tunes and the Broadway show tunes we offer. And usually, they are love songs, songs of lost love or songs celebrating all kinds of human needs and emotions.

Because we are a secular, community group, we do not usually include songs of praise to God.
But the Psalms are a collection of nothing but songs, sung to God.

Psalm 8 is one of the great Praise Psalms.

The Church and our Jewish brothers and sisters fill their worship with these songs. At times in the history of the Church, they were so familiar that you only had to quote the first line and everyone knew the rest of the song, and what it meant. They were that popular and widespread.

Psalm 8 begins with the name of God. It is Majestic. His Glory fills the heavens. With an opening full of that much power, I would expect imagery of military strength to follow. But the singer names the praise of children and infants as the real power that silences the enemies of the Lord. I am caught off guard. I realize that in a community where children and babies are taught to sing praises to the Lord, there is no room for evil forces to take hold. The real strength of the Lord is his community.

In Psalm 8, God is depicted at a Creator who puts the stars and moon in place. Not with a word but with the action of God’s actual fingers. The image of the active artist-creator is more powerful to me than the commander-creator. I can see fingers placing the heavens in order.

Compared to the Creator of the universe, humans must seem to be such a small, insignificant part of the Creation, yet the singer asks what are we that God is mindful of us? We are created a little lower than the angels. I grew up in a household with four teenagers, two brothers and a cousin. When my mother, God rest her soul, mentioned that we were a little lower than the angels, I know she meant that we were A LOT lower than angels. But she saw the good in us, even in those years.
As a teenager, I did not feel crowned with glory and honour. I don’t even feel that way as a human being most days now. It’s a far distant goal I’m still struggling to live up to. The psalmist says humans were put here to rule over the works of God’s hands. Apparently, according to the singer, everything is under our feet. And to cement the point, the singer lists everything from flocks in the fields to the creatures in the oceans.

This is a description of a vertical Creation with God at the top, angels lower, humans lower still and all the other creatures under the rule of humans. The word “dominion” appears elsewhere. Hmmm. I have native friends who had a profoundly different view of Creation. In it, humans are “stewards” of all creatures and living things. No human “owns” or “rules” another living thing. All Creation is to be shared.

What does “rule” mean? What does “dominion” mean? In the last two thousand years, various
civilizations have leaned towards the more vertical idea that all life “below” human life is to be used by humans for food or sport at the whim of human desire. Somehow, in Western cultures, women, children and people who are not white somehow slipped below the line and have been treated as “lesser.”

I do not think this is the intention of Psalm 8, although I can see where the psalm could be used to justify such horrible behaviour and misuse of God’s creation. If, as the singer says. How majestic is thy name in all the earth, then the majesty of Creation needs to be honoured and celebrated by all, not used and abused to justify dominating other people and living things.

In the parable of the Talents, the misuse of what has been given leads to the gift being taken away. My prayer is that our place, a little lower than the angels, will very soon be achieved as we work hard together as a community to restore the majesty to all of God’s creation.

[Peter Mansell]

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Galatians 2:11-21

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

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Diarmaid MacCulloch, in the Introduction to his very large book “A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” writes, “The first generations of Christians were Jews who lived in a world shaped by Greek elite culture. They had to try to fit together these two irreconcilable visions of God, and the results have never been and can never be a stable answer to an unending question.” [p.2] MacCulloch never states explicitly what that unending question is, but from context I would argue that, simplistically, it is some form of, “Who, or what, is God; how does Jesus fit into that; and what must one do to find favour with that God/Jesus?” He then takes another 1000+ pages of text, and roughly 100 pages of end-notes, to show that Christianity, in all its many-splendoured forms, has never agreed on anything approaching universality on the answers.

The Letter of Paul to the Galatians is one of the earliest texts showing disagreements within the very young Church. There is unanimous agreement among biblical scholars that Galatians is genuinely from Paul. Unlike some of the other Pauline Letters, Galatians is complete; nothing has been lost from it, nor has anything not part of the original text been merged in (either from other Pauline correspondence, or a source that is not Paul). Galatians might be called the “gold standard” of Pauline letters; it is used as the measure for judging the likelihood that other texts attributed to Paul are actually from him.

Paul wrote Galatians in the period 53-55 C.E., approximately 20 years after his conversion (34-35 C.E.), and the Resurrection of Jesus (33 C.E. most likely; 30 C.E. somewhat less likely). In those two decades Paul had visited Jerusalem at least twice; once about 3 years after his conversion, and again a year or two before he wrote Galatians. The second of these was the so-called Jerusalem Conference (the first of the long series of ecumenical Councils), at which Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles and founder of churches in Asia Minor, and Peter and James, the leaders of the church in Palestine and Apostles to Jews, agreed that Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to become Jews before becoming Christians, very specifically, male converts did not have to be circumcised, nor did Jewish dietary laws apply to these Christians.

Galatians is written because it is apparent to Paul that the agreements made in Jerusalem are not being kept. A “circumcision faction”, within the Galatian churches, Jews who had accepted Christ, were insisting that Gentiles wanting to become Christians had to become Jews, and accept the Jewish law, including dietary restrictions and circumcision. Worse Cephas (Peter) had come to Antioch, in Galatia, and while initially having table fellowship with Gentile Christians there, which under Jewish dietary laws was forbidden, had ceased to do so after “certain people” (the term is not flattering) had arrived from James, seemingly correcting Peter’s practice. Even Barnabas, Paul’s faithful Jewish-Christian companion engaged in this “hypocrisy”, a term as condemning then as it is now.

Paul’s argument against this behaviour, which is essentially requiring following Jewish law from Christians is that it negates the very essence of the Gospel, that Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has justified (made right before God) all humanity, Jews and Gentiles. Jewish Christians could live by the Jewish law, if they so wished, but that was only a matter of choice, not a way to be saved. And Gentile Christians could continue their cultural practices. The only thing that mattered to one’s standing with God, one’s salvation, was the faith that Jesus Christ, by dying and rising again had justified/saved everyone. The clinching argument for Paul is that if we humans, Jews of Gentiles, could do anything to justify ourselves before God, like following dietary laws or circumcision, then there was no need for Jesus to have died.

Incidentally, in the course of his argument, Paul answers two of the three parts of my paraphrase of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s “unending question”. Who is Jesus, in relation to God? He is not only Christ (anointed) which could describe a prophet or anyone chosen by God, he is the Son of God. And, what must one do to find favour with God/Jesus? Nothing! If push came to shove, I could see Paul coming around to agreeing that those of the “circumcising faction” were as justified before God as he himself was, because, after all, they preached what they were preaching out of a love of God, and wanting to please God!

And there’s a message in all of that for me, and for us. I am an Anglican by choice; I love our Anglican way of being the church. I love our worship, our hymns, our governance! I especially love that being an Anglican gives me a way of being a Christian that does not require me to check my brain, my intellect, at the door. And I look at other churches, and for some I would say that their way of doing things would not be very satisfying for me, I would not be a good fit. And others yet, I would say I can never be a part of something like that. But Paul, in Galatians, reminds me that what we “do” in and through our churches has nothing to do with our status before God. At their root, Anglicans and all those other churches live “… by faith in the Son of God, who loved[us] and gave himself for [us].” And that is enough! In my wilder (and maybe more charitable) moments I’ve been known to mutter that just maybe God put all these different churches here on earth so that each one of us can find a group of like-minded people, and worship and show our love of God, and love of Jesus, in ways that fits with who we are!

[Gerry Mueller]

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Matthew 13:53-58

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.’ And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

+ + +

There’s a distinct irony to this story. All through his life, from the time of his visit as a young boy to the Temple to his last appearances as the risen Lord, people have been trying to figure out who Jesus is. Where did he get these ideas, these powers? What’s on his mind? What’s his plan; what’s he trying to do here? In short: who is he? Even Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” and then asks them (and us) directly, “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a deceptively simple yet very big question and much hinges on the answers we give.

Now if anyone had an edge on really knowing who Jesus is – well, maybe an intuition at least, a hint, a wondering thought of some kind – you’d think it would be his family, friends and neighbours back home. Nazareth was a small, tightly-knit, village community and everybody would have known everybody else’s business, and then some. Pretty hard to keep anything secret in a place like that. Moreover, these folks had lived with Jesus and his family in their midst for some thirty years, before Jesus had left home to embark on his public preaching career.

But no – Jesus’ neighbours and friends are completely taken aback when he shows up and begins teaching them in their synagogue. After all, they’re quite certain they know who this is: “the carpenter’s son” (i.e. an ordinary, common labourer), one of several siblings living there in the village, people no different and no better than anybody else. Yet he was, playing the rabbi, presuming to teach them about the scriptures and life and God. Who on earth did he think he was?

So the villagers “took offense at him”. In the story, even Jesus’ own family remains silent. Maybe at that point Jesus was like the rather embarrassing relative that nobody knew how to explain. In any event, all the neighbours completely shut down around him. They shut him out, so much so that we’re told Jesus could only do a few deeds of power while he was there with them.

Now that’s extraordinary when you think about it. Jesus has all the power of God and yet that power is blocked by closed minds, minds that are absolutely certain they know the truth already, whether it’s about Jesus or something else. Jesus himself seems saddened but philosophical about it, quoting the well-known proverb that “prophets are not without honour except in their own country and their own home”. In other words, people can be so convinced from their own experience that they know the truth of something or someone that they become closed to any other possibility, to anything new.

That’s a challenge for all of us, not to live closed off or shut down, but to live open to the wonderful surprise of grace and beauty in others and in ourselves. It calls for the grace of humility on our part (that we don’t know everything already) and the grace of courage, to dare and to risk ourselves with others rather than simply label and dismiss them. It’s all part of walking the way of love, the way of Jesus, that leads us into the fullness of life, life in abundance.

[John Maine]

Monday, June 1, 2020 (The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth)
Hebrews 3:1-6

Brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also ‘was faithful in all God’s house.’ Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.

+ + +

As I mentioned in my pastoral letter that was emailed out to the parish list yesterday, I was ordained a deacon on the feast of the Visit of Mary to Elizabeth, 2016. One of the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) is that an important part of the ordained life, whether when leading worship, preaching, or in conversation with people, is to have the wisdom to keep out of God’s way; to open up and point to the sacred space where God is (answer: in our midst), rather than think I need to conjure God up, explain everything, etc. Even if those things were desirable, I have the wisdom to know I couldn’t do it!

Today’s reading speaks of our “heavenly calling,” “God’s house,” and our message, our confession of “hope.” A monk I know would often refer to our Christian faith as always carrying an icon of Christ, holding it up, high above our heads. We’re called to point beyond ourselves, to Jesus. How different this is to the hyper-individualistic, status-seeking, “look at me! look at me” age we live in today!

Someone we can look to for guidance as we struggle to bear Christ in our lives is St. Mary. Mary, in her song that we call the Magnificat, spoke of God having looked upon her lowliness, but through this, all generations will call her blessed. Mary’s song is preceded by another canticle, that one uttered by her relative Elizabeth, in which she affirms “blessed are you among women.” But the Mary we celebrate today isn’t just an idol, a meek and mild maiden, or a fourth part of the Trinity. No, Mary is an integral part of God’s plan of salvation, and a model of discipleship.

I will now get out of the way, and point to a portion of an Anglican-Roman Catholic jointly-written document called “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ.”

“When Mary was first acknowledged as mother of the Lord by Elizabeth, she responded by praising God and proclaiming his justice for the poor in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). In Mary’s response we can see an attitude of poverty towards God that reflects the divine commitment and preference for the poor. In her powerlessness she is exalted by God’s favour. Although the witness of her obedience and acceptance of God’s will has sometimes been used to encourage passivity and impose servitude on women, it is rightly seen as a radical commitment to God who has mercy on his servant, lifts up the lowly and brings down the mighty. Issues of justice for women and the empowerment of the oppressed have arisen from daily reflection on Mary’s remarkable song. Inspired by her words, communities of women and men in various cultures have committed themselves to work with the poor and the excluded. Only when joy is joined with justice and peace do we rightly share in the economy of hope and grace which Mary proclaims and embodies.”

May we be faithful to the One who has called us, and learn to sing Mary’s song in our own day. May we experience justice that rolls down like waters, and celebrate God’s salvation with the confidence and hope of Mary and Elizabeth.

[Matthew Kieswetter]

Sunday, May 31, 2020 (Pentecost)
John 4:19-26

The woman said to Jesus, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

+ + +

Recently, I heard a story about a man whose sister lived in a L’Arche community where those with and without intellectual disabilities come together to create home. When his sister was dying, the man came to say his goodbyes. He later said it was the best week of his life.

His sister died almost ten years ago. I was living in that L’Arche community at the time, but I only heard yesterday about the effect on her brother. Since I don’t know him, I can only guess at his transformation based on the impact her life and death had on me. Maybe it was something about the way we joined her family to stand vigil by her bedside, sometimes in peaceful silence, sometimes anxious when she had occasional bouts of pain and laboured breathing, sometimes singing her favourite songs and sharing stories which we had heard over and over or for the first time.

Maybe it was something about the vibrancy of her life. Maybe it was remembering all the years I had known her, watching her dance and sing during community events, cracking jokes around the dinner table and laughing louder than everyone else, or sitting quietly in her easy chair knitting a dish cloth, only to pick out the stitches and start all over again.

Maybe it was something about her funeral Mass, equal parts sad and celebratory, but above all personal as dozens of her friends and family packed the small chapel. The priest had known her well for years, and spoke about her tenderly during his homily. After the Mass, a dear friend shared words of remembrance that were true because they perfectly represented the gifts and the challenges of her life, sending us into alternating cycles of tears and laughter.

I can see why her brother was so deeply moved. He was seeing the spirit of his sister’s life in a way he had never seen it before. He was changed.

When I read today’s Scripture, I think of this sister and brother, one whose full life and even fuller death, deepened the life of the other. I can’t help but imagine that maybe worshiping God in spirit and truth has something to with this kind of personal encounter. Where we bring all that we are and let it meet all that God is. Where we allow ourselves to really perceive the Spirit that animates everything and everyone around us. Where we allow ourselves to be faced with the truth that we are loved.

[David Shumaker]