May 3, 2020

“Blessed Connections”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Acts 2.42-47

John 10.1-10

May 3, 2020

As I have been finishing up the community organizing certification I have been doing, I have come across some interesting readings. Our most recent text really brought to mind today’s scripture passages. In one of those readings, activist Naima Penniman wrote: “When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, almost everything lost its footing. Houses were detached from their foundations, trees and shrubbery were uprooted, sign posts and vehicles floated down the rivers that became of the streets. But amidst the whipping winds and surging water, the oak tree held its ground. How? Instead of digging its roots deep and solitary into the earth, the oak tree grows its roots wide and interlocks with other oak trees in the surrounding area. And you can’t bring down a hundred oak trees bound beneath the soil! How do we survive the unnatural disasters of climate change, environmental injustice, over-policing, mass-imprisonment, militarization, economic equality, corporate globalization, and displacement? We must connect in the underground, my people! In this way, we shall survive.”[1] Connection, especially in the midst of chaos and turmoil, is important. Life is interconnected – we are part of each other and the earth, and we must recognize that and care for one another.

This connected nature was reality of the people in the Acts passage. This was a new way of life for them. The people were gathering as an early church – though they didn’t call it church – to teach, have fellowship, break bread, and pray. I imagine that if they were having this church in the times of the COVId-19 pandemic, they would be sheltering in place with multiple families, sharing with one another, not being quite as isolated. They read scripture, they shared communal meals, and they prayed together – all marks of what we do as a faith community now. During our self-quarantines we have learned to do this in a new way – to have scripture via Zoom calls. We pray over the phone and through email. We share food, either by Zooming during a meal or dropping off some food at someone’s door. We have not lost these marks, but explored new ways of being church.

They shared what they had as a response to these four other parts.[2] shared because it was something scripture taught them. They shared because they built relationships. They shared because they recognized their connections. Sharing is a concept taught in early elementary education, but it seems to be diluted out of us slowly as we grow up. The way our society teaches us how to succeed and be prosperous is to be independent, competitive, being individual.[3] So, to share in a world that is focused on the self, can be more challenging.

Just like those oak trees, we have to be connected. From author and community organizer Adrienne maree brown: “Do you understand that your quality of life and your survival are tied to how authentic and generous the connections are between you and the people and place you live with and in?”[4] We aren’t talking about just having a relationship with someone, but talking about the genuineness of it, and the authenticity of it.

We connect because that is part of an abundant life. Everyone needs connection. Jesus talks about the abundant life in the Gospel of John reading today. This Gospel is known for Jesus’ “I am” sayings, which not only reflect to God’s “I AM” statements in the Hebrew scriptures, but also are metaphorical descriptions to help the disciples, and us, understand who Jesus was and what he was capable of. Frequently the shepherd metaphor appears in the Bible, but here he isn’t the shepherd, he’s the gatekeeper. The shepherds are leaders in the world – could be ministers, could also be political leaders, people who represent people. Jesus warns against those who are not leading the sheep, or people, in a positive direction. When it feels like a leader is supposed to be compassionate and full of common sense and have our best interests at heart, we can struggle and be led astray.[5] We can become infuriated when we recognize what a leader lacks, especially in times of chaos. Yet, we can also see those shepherds that are guiding the flock, taking things seriously, and who are stepping up when other leaders are not. We can give thanks to those who try not to skip around to a hole in the gate, but face the gatekeeper and boldly take next steps.

The shepherd recognizes the interconnectedness of people – that even though a leader might seek to fulfill one’s own needs, we are all connected, and if one person hurts, the entire group of sheep hurt. During this time of the pandemic I have seen beautiful stories of how people have reached out. Those who have thought of others in this time, giving and calling and reaching out.

This week, I encourage you to think of ways you stay interconnected with people – not just the technology you use, but what you talk about, what it is that brings you together. And, thank someone this week for the ways they have stayed connected. May we be enriched by God’s Word to us through our blessed connections. Amen.

 

 

[1] Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy, (AK Press, 2017)84-85.

[2] Gary Neal Hansen, “Acts 2.42-47” in Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol. 2. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 426.

[3] Brown, 87.-

[4] Ibid., 91.

[5] Rene Kieffer, “John” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, eds. John Barton and John Muddiman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 979.