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The Open Arms of Jesus

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Preparing for worship this weekend, the prescribed texts seem especially relevant regarding the gun violence in Las Vegas this past weekend. The Isaiah text especially deals with a community that has turned away from God. God has showered humanity with gifts and blessings, but humanity continues to abuse those gifts. We have been entrusted with a creation to care for, and in our shortsightedness we abuse and pollute the earth, even bringing about the extinction of entire species. We abuse the gift of our bodies when we overindulge in food or alcohol or drugs. We have been given the ability to create so many wonderful things, and even this gift we abuse as we gather and keep as much as we can for ourselves.


This is nothing new. Even in the days of Isaiah it was clear the people turned away from God’s gifts. God expected righteousness and justice. Instead the people responded with bloodshed and suffering, turning away from God.


Even if you can think of all the ways you have not turned from God and all the ways you have been faithful, it does no good. As Paul reminds us in the reading from Philippians, “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ” (Phil. 3:7). Even all of Paul’s good and faithful acts add up to nothing. For Paul, and for us, all that matters is Jesus.


As Christ himself reminds us, he is our rock, our cornerstone. Jesus is the foundation for our faith and the foundation for our lives. Even as we turn from Jesus, even as we reject Jesus, he returns to us with love and forgiveness. This is the grace of God, the love of God coming into our world and into our lives. To our joy we discover the open arms of Jesus on the cross, bringing life into this world even where there is death; bringing hope where there is despair; and bringing resurrection to all creation.


Here is a prayer I wrote for this week: Good and faithful God, restore what is broken in our world. Quell the rush to violence between peoples and nations. We pray for those directly impacted by the massacre in Las Vegas. May those injured by gun violence receive healing. May those who have lost a loved one to gun violence be comforted. May all people be moved to actions guided by a deeper commitment to the safety and security of all people. Amen.