It's a season when we are supposed to be learning, through a whole host of stories, how to be faithful people who live faithful lives. And each year as it draws to a close, I wonder how we've done - as a community, and how I've done as a disciple. Now we still have two weeks to go - so don't get your hopes up! But as the seasons start to change, and the world starts looking toward the holidays (and making an absolute racket about Christmas far too early), it's worth beginning to think about how we've done on this year's quest through Pentecost.
In this season, we've heard Jesus deny his family, teaching us instead that family isn't just about blood - but about the Kingdom of God. We've heard about disciples who wake Jesus in the midst of a storm because of their fear; we've heard about miracles, about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and about the many, many people along the way, including the folks from Jesus' own hometown, who didn't believe in him. Finally, this past week, we heard the familiar story of the "Widow's mite". We've been asked to change our understanding of the world, to see it the way Jesus does, to trust in God, to help the oppressed and the marginalized, and to be in solidarity with the poor. We've been warned that faith is not about outward appearances and that God judges our hearts.
To change our lives so that we reflect all we've heard and learned in the season of Pentecost would be a truly great task - a task that is the goal of a faithfully lived life - the work, indeed (for most of us), of a whole life. But as the years pile up, we can pause in this moment, before Advent comes, to consider what progress we've made this year. These questions, these goals apply to us both as individuals and as a community of faith.
Are we better and more generous stewards of the gifts that God has given to us?
When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, do we give ourselves over to God? Or to fear?
Have we made meaningful changes in the last year that have positive effects for our neighbors who are hungry, lonely, sick, and treated unjustly?
Have we made enough room in our lives and in our hearts so that we can experience the presence and the joy of Christ more fully?
Do we find an increase in the joy we experience when we are with God and with each other?
There may be many more questions you want to ask yourself - I offer these only as a starting place. Allow yourself some time in the next few weeks, before Advent comes and the new church year begins, to reflect on the year that is nearly past, the steps you've taken toward God, and the steps you've failed to take.
Today on the feast day of Leo the Great, remember that God's love for us is so great that God came to earth to be with us, to share our human life - to love us and show us this love. This God wants to be with us, this God has prepared good things for us - if only we'll choose to honor this relationship above all others, to make space and time for the Spirit, and to honor the call of Christ's love in our lives.
Peace be with you.