19 Aug A friendly conversation
The Rev. John C. Brink
Aug. 19, 2018
Luke 17: 6-19
Opening prayer: We are here to be in conversation with you, creator God, and Jesus, our savior. We may speak aloud and from our hearts. Hear our prayers, hear our words with Jesus, as we follow His call to us in the world. Amen
How was your week and the start of your weekend before we gathered for worship this morning? Were you busy? Did you have many or few conversations over the week? Were they connected and effective? Did you listen more than you spoke?
Did anyone tell you something you really didn’t want to hear? Did you wonder, ”what in God’s name are we talking about?” Curiously — it is often the post conversation, silent awareness, that brings fuller understanding.
Did you re-think a conversation and the content later and maybe wish you were able to pick up the chat and address the questions you have now?
Just this week, I spent some time with a church friends who is failing, and is ready to go. She has no fear, it appears. She asked about Jesus and the ascension, she wondered if her journey to heaven would be like his and she wondered about her family members who have gone before her. It was a lovely, gentle, friendly, spiritual conversation. I was moved to tears. Given our conversation, I decided to focus this sermon on Jesus and all our lives of gentle preparation for our ascension Journey to heaven.
Think now, of the week that Jesus had in the movement to that Thursday, when we in the Christian faith celebrate the ascension of Jesus. The 40th day of Easter. Jesus told us before that he would go to the Father and that we would be held in His love in the presence of the Holy Spirit. He commissioned us to carry on the building of the church as he taught us.
But like the disciples, we might think that sounds a bit daunting. That might be one of those things we’d prefer not to hear. Can you imagine when the disciples left their conversation with Jesus, the difficulty they must have had in absorbing and interpreting what he was saying?
In today’s gospel lesson from John 17: 6-19, Jesus prays for the disciples, and for us, that “we may be as one as are the Father and the son,” and He thanks God for His time and mission in the world. He blesses the disciples and us, that we all may be sanctified in the truth.
In his prayers to God the father and creator, Jesus is gentle, thoughtful and descriptive in the disciples’ connection to the new world before them. He sets out a way for us to hold our discipleship, even in this time and place. His words are also for us. Jesus holds us as the disciples of today. The outcome of the conversation is ours to remember and embrace – or not.
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus is preparing the disciples to be one in his name. They have passed this on to us. He knew what was ahead for him and for us. He knew He was going to the father. My own father’s last days were lovingly similar.
My mother told me in her gentle loving way, that she and my father, a surgeon and musician, had a beautiful, emotional discussion, holding hands, tears flowing easily, just before my father’s death at age 36. Kidney failure — no dialysis — there was nothing more to do. It was a matter of days.
He assured her, he was faithfully ready to die. He was not afraid. He assured her, that her strong faith in Jesus Christ as her lord and savior, was the greatest strength she had and she would rely upon it until her last day in this life. As it turned out, she lived 58 years after he died.
It was in this painful yet beautiful conversation that they read John 14: 1-4, 18-20, and verse 27.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Every time I was frustrated over the loss of my dad, who I essentially never knew, yet heard people rave about him, Mimi would have me get my missal and we would read this part of John 14. I still do this when I am in pain and sadness. I sometimes offer this message in Memorial Services. I think It says a lot about the pain of loss and offers us some assurance when we need it most.
My dear mother Mimi said when my dad knew he was at his sickest, when it was time to go, he got up and went out the front door, crossing the street to his hospital, Mercy Hospital, were he would die, not long after this day. She said she watched him stop at the curb, smile and blow her a kiss. Mimi stayed home with my sisters and me.
In the midst of her pain, she went to their room, to begin to fold up their dreams of a long life together. These dreams were no longer. She began her life as the broken-hearted mother of three kids: 15 months, three years and five. Because of her faith and strength, my sisters and I, and Mimi made our way. Mimi died at 93, ready to be with my dad again, although she felt quite close to him along the way. Mimi had the power and strength to embrace God’s grace and hold my dad close. I believe she passed some of that power and strength along to my sisters and me.
I offer you this part of my life, because I feel the disciples felt much the same way with Jesus as he prepared them for his final time with them. I think my experience with my parents is why I am so honored to be with folks in their last days and hours as your minister. I want to be as close and honorable, and spiritually intimate with you as Jesus was with the disciples and my mother and father in his last days. Let nothing stand in our way to the truth and light of our life with Jesus Christ.
So what do you imagine the disciples were thinking in the moment and then in the days after the ascension? Don’t you think they had questions for Jesus — points to clarify? Do you think Jesus sounds anxious to go? Do you think Jesus sounds regretful? He speaks as a person who knows the truth and is comfortable with His prayer. Just imagine all of these concerns and fears, and much more.
As our savior, in His last days with us, he offers himself to us as he did on the cross. I don’t feel Jesus at a distance, physically or spiritually, from the disciples.
In some ways, Jesus sounds like a parent, preparing his children for the next chapter of their lives. Have any of you dropped your kids off at preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, or college and felt much like Jesus felt? Holding strong in love, while some fears take over our thoughts. We know what has to happen…we must pass the baton to those we love and let them make their way to full life and personal discovery.
We’ve all been there in some way, haven’t we? And we are all here today, because Jesus Christ prepared us for the journey of our life. We have the love and word of Jesus to sustain us along the way, until we all meet with him again.
And yes, we believe that those we know and love who have gone before us will be there to welcome to us to a place of peace for us to share forever.