I had a hard time focusing on today’s readings.  I suspect that I might have that problem a lot as this season progresses.  As I said in my newsletter article, this long season after Easter and before Advent, is where we tend to focus on discipleship.  That’s hard because that means that there are things that are expected of us.  We know there is much work that needs to be done to bring the kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven; Jesus began that work, and he continues it in us through the Holy Spirit.  The bad news there is that we have to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s nudging or perhaps shoving us in the direction of kingdom work.  It’s not easy and it’s not usually pleasant.  I can hear the Holy Spirit sometimes talking to me like my dad did when he was frustrated with a loud, “Sa matta, you deaf”?  That always meant trouble and it still does.

As I kept reading the lessons, the thing that surfaced for me was God’s never failing presence.  I suppose if I were to put that up in a word, I would say grace.

Even in our reading from Genesis, I can see God’s love and grace being shown toward Adam and Eve.  When I first read it, I thought, uh oh… here’s where Adam gets in big trouble, and Eve gets framed.  Really what we have though are two people who are refusing to take accountability for what they have done.  God of course, gets to the bottom of the issue and curses the serpent; he also punishes the man and the woman; and what we know happens next is that God continues to desire relationship with humanity, giving us the means for that relationship to flourish.  We also know that we haven’t been the best at keeping our part of the relationship going.  Most days we still don’t, but God continues to love and guide us anyway in spite of ourselves.  

Our psalm in particular speaks to me of God’s free and never ending grace… the psalmist cries out to God and knows that there is forgiveness, mercy as he waits for God.  It speaks to me of a life that is soaked in God’s mercy and God’s love; it tells of a person who knows that they don’t always get this God thing right, and that even so, God is forgiving and showing mercy perhaps before the person even asks.  The psalmist knows God’s very essence is to be merciful, loving, and forgiving.  Forgiving is sometimes hard for us to do and even harder I think to hear for ourselves.  So many times we get caught in a spiritual spiral where the guilt of our sins weighs us down; it can be so much easier to forgive another than to know that we are forgiven.  Every Sunday we hear those words of absolution, and they are powerful, and they are necessary.  We all need to know that we can be and are forgiven by God, who desires for us to be free.

Paul tells us this morning that even though we might be wasting away, that our life in God is eternal.  I did a short graveside burial yesterday and that incredible message that is central to our burial rite is what I and others need to hear; that God’s love and mercy and grace extend beyond this life that we live here.  What we live here is temporary and we can only guess at what awaits us, but we know that one day we will all know the fullest extent of God’s love for us.  

In our gospel, Jesus comes alongside us to say that while we may get stuck thinking that our life as disciples only matters once we die, we need to remember that kingdom work belongs to us.  Through his Holy Spirit, we have to continue the work that he started. When we act like him, when we love the world so much that we give of ourselves for its well being.  When we say yes to discipleship, we say yes to emptying ourselves as he did so that we might be filled with his Spirit.  It is his Spirit within us that compels us to the ministries he has given us.  And when we love the world as he does, we become partners with him, brothers and sisters who continue to show forth God’s love, mercy, and grace.  Our lives are to be living examples of what it means to live into God’s grace.  We are loved, we are healed, we are forgiven.  Grace, freely given, helps us to know that we are free from the sin and guilt that we carry with us.  Receiving that grace, especially when we come together to receive communion, is the fuel that keeps us going, keeps us doing the work we have been sent out to do.  So beloved, remember that we are his brothers, sisters, and mother, when we do his will.  Our lives here matter to him; they should matter to us.  What we do here is important.  Discipleship asks us to forgive, to show mercy, and to bring the message of God’s free and holy grace to the world he loved enough to die for it.  And we bring the message not so much with what we say, but by what we do.  May we feel his love and grace surround us as we go forth from this place; may we feel the Holy Spirit’s nudge, or in some cases, shove, to do the work he has given us to do; we are to Love God, love our neighbor, love ourselves.