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  • Writer's pictureDJ V

Weekly Liturgy : April 22-28

Eastern Orthodox Icon, 16th Century
Eastern Orthodox Icon, 16th Century
John 15:1-8

The Message


1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.


4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.


5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.


 

REFLECTION:

Thoughts from DJ, Pastor and Director


The text this week from John 15 brings both comfort and concern. I spent last week walking the Alabama civil rights trail from Montgomery to Birmingham, and finally to the bridge in Selma. How can those who created the horror of slavery, segregation, lynching and mass incarceration be abiding in the same “vine” as those who liberated people from those evils?


The place I want to focus the reflection this week is on how those connected to the vine will be growing and expanding the table of love and acceptance.  Those who find themselves working to limit and constrict the table have likely been disconnected from the vine by fear. Who are those restricted from the table in our City today?  People of Color, unsheltered, people who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community....who do you see?


Jesus says, “Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6). The crucial element to reading this verse is to imagine who gathers up the withered branches and throws them on the fire. The Christian-religion-in-need-of-redeeming sees God as perpetrator of such a sacred fire; God gathers up the wicked and throws them into the fires of hell. Mimetic Theory, on the other hand, imagines God as a vine which gives life, while seeing human keepers of the sacrificial fires as the ones who gather up those withered branches cut-off from the vine.


In the case of the eunuch of Acts 8, the cultural religion of sacred violence is reflected in the texts of the Torah that make transgender people outsiders to the cult (e.g., Deut 23:1). But this eunuch has discovered the prophetic texts of the later Isaiah tradition which turn the suffering of such scapegoated peoples into the promise of flourishing. Philip has come upon the eunuch reading the Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 53. The eunuch was undoubtedly also well aware of the text a few verses later:


Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people’; and do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’ For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. (Isa 56:3-5)


From the Suffering Servant to the flourishing of our usual scapegoats: that’s the promise of those who become connected to the life of Jesus the Messiah.


Jesus was sent into the world to reveal the Way of flourishing and bearing fruit, through being connected to the source of life and unity. Who are the eunuchs and Philips of our day to help lead us into the Way of abundant life?



 

PRACTICE:

Outward Mindset Application

This week, find as many reasons to thank your co-workers as you can!


Non-Violent Communication Question of the Week:

Consider moments when someone has asked you to do something. Are you more willing when the other person makes a demand? Or a request?


Pathways toward Centeredness

Asceticism (Loving God by abstaining from comforts):

Do you find comfort in “retail therapy?” This week, try to spend as few dollars as possible.


Questions for Reflection

What are the moments in which you feel most connected to something larger than yourself? How can you increase the frequency of those moments?


 

“Liturgy” refers to the habits and practices humans use to form community around shared values and meaning. At Church at the Park, we desire to be a community of practice, becoming people who see the world through the eyes of the marginalized, making meaning through the lens of pain and suffering, and committing ourselves to non-violence in a wounded world. This weekly email is intended to provide pathways of practice for becoming the type of people who embody these values.


Many of our reflections on each week's text come from other sources. If you're interested in reading more of what inspires us, here our our two favorite reflections.


Copyright (C) 2023 Church at the Park. All rights reserved.



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