07 May “Before I Go” (Read)
Rev. John Brink
May 6, 2018
Will you pray with me…..
I must admit this scripture from John is one of my favorites and has deep meaning for me. Taken from Jesus’ time…maybe 2000 years before our time, Jesus is the caring Brother, Father, and Mother, for the disciples and for us. He is trying to prepare them for the time ahead when He will not be with them in a physical form. He assures them and us that he will stay with us in Joy and spirit….he says, “I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Sounds promising, right? But it’s a little scary, and I’m sure the disciples had days, just like we do, when it would have been good to have the real Jesus on hand.
I often wonder how Jesus prepared His own heart and emotions for this blessing? I often wonder what Jesus was thinking about what leaving the disciples in human form would mean to Him and them. How did he….How do we, prepare ourselves for such an emotional and loving departure?
I have mentioned my father’s short life journey before. Here, I will add a poignant reference to my father that I have always felt embraced our scripture for today.
My father, for whom I am named, died of kidney failure in 1948 when I was 18 months old, years before dialysis became available. He was 36 yrs. old, and in a promising career as a General Surgeon. He was also a professional musician, and much to my grandfather’s chagrin, took a break from medical school to play with Paul Whiteman and Hoagie Carmichael and some other swing bands of that era. He completed his Dr of Medicine degree in 1942. He and my mother were married for 12 years before he died.
As a doctor and surgeon, my father knew he would not survive his health challenge, and he helped my mother prepare for his departure as best he could. From what I understand, he embodied the peaceful assurance my mother needed to see the way forward and care for my two slightly older sisters and me.
My mother told me that just days before he died…he was ready to go. He gave my mother, Mimi, a long, deep hug, kissed her gently and lovingly, and walked across the street to Mercy Hospital where he was a surgeon. He stopped on the curb, turned and waved and blew her a kiss. He died just days after this remarkable image I have of him and his tenderness.
My mother said, she went back into their house and slowly began to fold up the dreams they had as high school sweethearts. She tucked them away in her heart and realized she was prepared to carry on. Like the disciples, my mother took in the Blessed Assurance and confidence my father gave to her. She leaned on the Jesus she knew from her Catholic upbringing as best she could.
When I was troubled in my life, feeling like the only kid who didn’t have a father for life, sports, and school…my mother would have me get my missal and we would read this very scripture from John, softly and gently….over and over again, across the years of my sad and often frustrated youth. I can assure you; I learned to trust in Jesus in my life and spirit. I learned to know my dad as best I could, from my mother and from reading this lesson….often through my tears. It took time, but it became something I relied on in my life.
On special occasions, I wear his dress watch from his Med School graduation in 1942. I like to say, “he keeps watch on me……”
Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned. In a little while, the world will no longer see me…but you will.” I can imagine the disciples asking, “so just how will you live in us Lord?”…a fair question. It takes time and trust to learn how to live in faith. It has to be real, in your time…not dictated and memorized. Kate Epperly said, “Faith is not taught, faith is best when fully caught, and taken in by each of us in our own times and ways.” I try to keep this in mind with our confirmation class, hoping and praying that they’ll catch faith when they need it most.
Soon many of us will be sending our beloved kids off to the next phase of their lives – college, service, training, jobs, and a host of other ventures and life journeys. We all have similar concerns about the time and distance that will separate us from our kids.
We are likely to say, once or twice..…”before you go….and our kids might say, once or twice…Before I go…”We’re both trying to do the same thing; trying to offer what is in our hearts….just as Jesus did, probably just as the disciples did.
I remember helping my daughter Amy get settled at the Univ of Colorado in 1995. She had a computer issue and became very upset. She said to me, “See, this is what’s going to happen….you’re leaving, and I won’t be able to handle anything.” Sound familiar? At that moment, I knew that I needed to go – and more importantly – she needed me to go. She needed to learn to trust, in herself, in her new community. Amy needed the kind of community we find here at Pilgrim Church. Fortunately, she has a community of friends who are there for each other……one day at a time.
So how do we assure those we love that our love and presence is alive? That when they are away, our spiritual, loving Holy Spirit, keeps us together in love and energy? This is the gift Jesus gave us. I will miss you, as much as you will miss me…our words and emotions say. Leaning on faith, we have some sense of certainty that all will be well, as time away can be handled with phone calls, quick trips, visits, and such. Even so, there are times when we don’t feel reasonable certainty all will be well.
I have been spent special, gentle time with folks from our church family. I see the wonder in their family as their loved one lives with irreversible conditions. They are ready to go to a place far beyond his surroundings here. They know their time is limited, not unlike my dad.
These kind and gentle folks have been amazing in their truthful acceptance of the certainty they will not get better. Still, they are ready. They are at ease and helping their family to be at ease. They might be alarmed with my saying this, but they could not be more Christ-like in their loving care for their family right now….and theirs for them. Their courage and certainty is amazing. Their love for their family is alive in them and in them all. It will be there for them all forever. This is the gift of Jesus, from our lesson, and in our live.
Our Creator God, in the gifts of Jesus and the advocate Holy Spirit, has given us gifts and resources to be connected in the peace of Christ. Our Blessing God has not seen fit to give the church a great deal of power, as the world judges power. We are not the richest or most influential organization in our town. We are given one gift that the world finds elusive. We are given one thing to demonstrate to the world why Jesus Christ makes possible a family that the world cannot produce by the world’s means.
This Thursday is celebrated as Ascension Thursday….40 days after the Resurrection of Jesus. This day, celebrated in Christian Churches, is the day Jesus left His earthly existence, from the Mount of Olives, assuring us He is with us in the Holy Spirit and the very presence of Jesus in our spiritual and personal lives.
Jesus clearly promises his presence and the presence of the Spirit to those who keep his commandments to love and serve one another. The love Jesus commands is not just a feeling—not even a feeling of certainty about union with Him. The love Jesus commands is about a master washing the feet of his disciples, and a king dying the death of a criminal. We have those images around the loving picture of Jesus, a gentle watercolor that can define the Spirit of truth as it appears in our own lives and our own actions.
What if we were to understand Jesus’ words this way? What if we were to recognize that Jesus Christ is truly present among us when we keep his commandments to love and serve one another? Look around you—here in our church community as well as the greater community in which you live work and serve—and see where you can see and feel that Jesus is on the move.
See, we’re here together at Pilgrim Church, in the familiar life of this group of disciples of Jesus, where we can feel and know the presence of the Spirit of truth. When we don’t feel the presence of Jesus, when what we say doesn’t exactly reflect what we feel…we have this community…this family, to be with, to lean on, and with whom we can be at peace. We’ll get there, friends. You know what to do…hit redirect on your GPS….God’s Positioning Sytem….to get back in touch. A Young man from Kenya first said this to me.
I am thankful my mother lived this truth for my sisters and me. I am thankful my father trusted his faith to pass his strength to my mother. As Jesus said, we will never be truly orphaned. I feel certain Jesus and my father and mother have kept good watch (hold up watch) on me and my sisters. The baton of trust and assurance is passed to me and all of us.
To us is given love in Jesus Christ, and an advocate, the Holy Spirit, that prods and pushes us forward in love, in all our communities and with those yet to join us. For these gifts and strengths, for those we know and love who share truth with us…….
Thanks be to God. AMEN