Monthly faith reflections from the pastor.
In the early 1990s, when I was at peak coolness, the Christian rap and hop-hop group DC Talk dropped their hit song, “Luv Is A Verb.” I listened on cassette, so I speak with authority: love is a verb, not a feeling.
Hope is also a verb. So is abide.
As Susannah can tell you, verbs are action words. But abide may seem like one of the least verby verbs. For me, abide’s action has much to do with stillness, silence, and solitude. For the Gospel of John, abide has much to do with obedience—obeying Jesus, imitating Jesus.
There is a give and a take to abiding in Jesus. I know by experience that stillness, silence, and solitude with Jesus make it possible to obey and imitate Jesus. Apparently, this is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
“Words come easy but don't mean much,” sang DC Talk.
No matter when we get to worship in person again, every day we get to make abide mean everything. Abiding in God and God abiding in him made Jesus the Christ. Abiding in death, Christ brings life. Go and do likewise.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith
Abide. It’s the Gospel of John’s definition of Jesus and this Gospel’s definition of us. The abiding is mutual. Disciples abide too.
John says Jesus’ first disciples started following in this way: When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you abiding?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was abiding, and they abided with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon (John 1:38-39, stay and remain replaced with abide).
A row of small houseplants abide on a windowsill. Amos is most proud of the one in the yellow pot. When its plant died, Amos buried an acorn there. Now there’s a baby oak tree in the dining room, and it’s plain to see: it grows toward the sun.
Do houseplants have more sense than I do? Sometimes I think so. And other times, I’m surprised to discover I’ve grown right where Jesus is.
Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you,” and in the same breath, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
At the end of March, April, St. Paul’s Director of Music, told me about the ups and very real downs of those social isolation days. Then she said, “And it’s been a real reset, a time to reevaluate and reorient.”
The next day, St. Paul person, Kami, posted a similar sentiment on the church Facebook page. She’s hearing “a call just to retreat and listen to your heart and what it really needs” and get back to “what really matters.”
“I am the true vine,” Jesus said, as if to wake us up to all the pretenders and to draw us closer. For our own sake and for the sake of the pandemic-wracked world.
Friends of mine got sick in Spokane, another in Davenport. They were denied testing for coronavirus, because there weren’t enough tests.
Another friend is a doctor, delivering babies at Davenport’s Edgerton Women’s Health Center. She enlisted a squad to sew personal safety equipment, because there isn’t enough. Her husband—you know him, Pastor Rob Leveridge—described the serious spiritual discipline required for him to stay calm about this.
A colleague in Seattle said the high school nearest her has a football field. It’s now a temporary hospital. “All the nursing homes have COVID,” she said, holding back tears. “Including the one my parents live in.”
Over and over—34 times!—in the original Greek of the Gospel of John, there is this little word, μένο (meno). In English, it’s translated variously: stay, abide, continue, remain, dwell. Meno is this Gospel’s definition of what Jesus does, so much that it’d be better to say meno is who Jesus is.
Jesus stays with my sick friends, abides with my doctor-friend, and continues with her husband. Jesus remains on that Seattle high school football field and dwells with my friend’s parents and in all the nursing homes.
The cross is Jesus abiding. So is the resurrection.