6th Sunday of Easter/May 21, 2017/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Christ is risen… and we don’t get to remain the same old people. Easter is an empty tomb and angels speaking to women of a risen Christ and telling them to go, tell others. Jesus comes through locked doors breathing Peace and Forgiveness to disciples and calls them to go out and share it. On the Emmaus road a stranger opens scriptures to the disciples. And when he broke bread, they saw the risen Christ and ran with burning hearts to tell others. In John 14 Jesus is speaking with his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion, preparing them for his departure. He is about to leave them and they are distressed. Last week Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. I go to prepare a place for you…” Today Jesus continues, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.” As long as Jesus stayed with the disciples, they would be content to let Him serve them, they would never learn to walk or serve. Do you get it? But Jesus promises that he will send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate
One of life’s essential tasks is for each and every one of us to grow up, respond to God or life’s higher callings. Today we honor youth who will graduate. May is a month of graduation and commencements are times of ending and new beginnings. It reminds me of the day when our daughter Kristin was on her way to Pre-School. She was so excited, nervous and then she started clinging to us and crying that first morning. And Debra, usually smarter than I at these things, took her by the shoulders looked into her eyes, held back her own tears and said, “Kristin you will love school and make new friends. Daddy and I love you and to help you remember, I am giving you this little stone to put in your pocket and whenever you feel afraid, you touch that stone and remember we love you. Your teachers and new friends will help you too.”
Well it’s not just Pre-Schoolers who experience loss, change and must grow up. The disciples would experience separation from Jesus and we do it a thousand times over a lifetime. So we need Touchstones, like the one Kristin had in her pocket. Our touchstones are the Word and Sacraments. We have Jesus’ Words of life in Scripture as we come to hear Good News every Sunday. When we walk by that Baptismal font to dip or get into the shower in the morning and make the sign of the cross we remember through all our dyings and risings, whose we are. Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphans. Baptism reminds us we are God’s beloved children no matter what may come to pass in our lives. Kristin had her touchstone and remembered our words. With the help of teachers and new friends, people walking beside her, the Spirit of God helped her to grow. In this community of Word and Sacrament, we have God’s Spirit as we walk and talk with each other, encourage each other in the Spirit to not be afraid.
When I got back from my father’s funeral one of our dear members, I forget who it was, came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “Pastor Joe, I am sorry. Now you are an orphan as I am.” It hit me kind of hard but it was beautiful and true. Those words and that hug reminded me that I was not alone. The Holy Spirit the Advocate, the Spirit of Jesus came along side to comfort me. My sister and I are called to grow up to love each other not through our parents, but as a brother a sister loving and staying connected. Each and every one of us carry some sadness and loss, a yearning for home, the past or a loved one who is gone. How can we help each other? This past week one of our members emailed to express sadness that we did not name or touch the grief on Mother’s Day, last Sunday, of those whose Mothers were no longer living. We referred to mothers in the prayers but could we have said more? Did we miss an opportunity to name that pain and give thanks for them? We had a great conversation on the phone and talked about doing it better. How can we name our sorrow and pain and love each other as a family of God?
When we listen to Scripture and receive Holy Communion Jesus is with us. When we listen to each other and share our lives, our losses, hopes and dreams in this Body of Christ, the Spirit of Jesus is present through us. This is why it is good to show up every Sunday or to find a small group at church. I love the way our small groups and Bible studies, music ministry shares Jesus’ love. How can we walk together? Jesus says, “We know the Spirit of Truth because He abides with us and is with us.” Can we show each other and the world how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection changes us? It is Easter and Christ raises us up so we don’t get to remain the same old people. When we remember Jesus, God’s Spirit is with us. We have the touchstones of our faith to remind us Jesus loves and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. God send your Spirit, help us to listen and love each other and the world you came to save. Amen