Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter - 4/27

“God Love’s You For Christ’s Sake and Will Not Let You Go”

Easter VI
April 27, 2008
John 14:15-21
Bethany Lutheran Church

Transitions can be a lot of hard work. We either celebrate them or grieve over them. There seem to be a lot of transitions happening within our community right now. Teenagers are graduating from junior high and high schools, eagerly looking forward to the next chapter in their lives. Some of you are saying goodbye to a close family member who is about to move away. Some of you, I know, are preparing to welcome family members who are moving back home to the UP, which will most likely require slight modifications to your daily routines. Some of us have had to deal with one of the most painful transitions, that is, the death of a family member. And all of us will have to face a transition at the end of August when I depart and you welcome a new intern – a transition for which some of you may be counting down the days to celebrate my absence.

In our gospel text today, we find Jesus preparing for a transition. Scripturally, Jesus may be alluding in this passage to the death that he will soon die. He is journeying toward the cross and ultimately the tomb and not one of his followers will be able to go there with him. He is to descend to the dead alone. Jesus is also preparing for another transition which is especially marked on this Sunday, for this coming Thursday we will celebrate and remember his ascension into heaven where he will be seated on the throne at the right hand of God. It is Jesus who is preparing to depart from us and yet it is us whom Jesus is preparing.

He begins with the simple word “you,” emphasizing his personal relationship with us, a relationship formed out of love. Then, he reminds us of the commandments. I must have a guilty conscience because while preparing for this text my mind immediately went to the old law (honor your father and mother, do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, etc.). But those are not the commandments which Jesus regularly spoke of. Rather, Jesus had previously told the disciples that the greatest commandment is that “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Commandments not about what we should and should not do, but commandments of love.

Jesus is preparing to depart from us but “will not leave [us] orphaned.” Jesus has asked the Father and the Father has given us the Spirit. We could pause here and have a discussion on the Holy Trinity attempting to figure out precisely how they are inter-related to one another. I will, however, save that discussion for you to have with Pastor Geier. For our purposes here today, it is enough to understand God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a single piece of fabric, knit together with woven threads. It is not as crucial for us to understand the complexities of how the Trinity works. Instead, may this text be for us a source of deep comfort in which we may know that we are loved by the fullness of God.

The world is rapidly and continually changing around us. Each of us constantly find ourselves in various stages of transition. In the hymnal, our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, refers to these transitions as “life passages.” They can include any and all aspects of a person’s changing life. Their suggestion is for us to mark these passages with intercessory prayer and the rite of affirmation of baptism since “any rite of passage, any change of the direction of one’s life, is marked by a return to the passage with Christ through the waters of baptism.” For it is in the waters of baptism that we most clearly understand our relationship as one of God’s children. We will not be left orphaned, but rather we will be loved by the fullness of God.

We have fallen out of the practice of honoring rites of passage. In many Native American tribes, for example, the passage of a boy into a man was very clear and deeply spiritual. Each young boy would be sent out into the woods for three days and nights without food or water in search of his personal spiritual guide. The spiritual guide would come to the boy, revealed in his dream. After a period of isolation and after the boy had his dream, the vision quest would be concluded. The boy would return and rejoin the tribe where a feast would be celebrated for two or three days. It was a feast to celebrate that boy who had become a man.

I know of a woman who only months ago was separated from her husband, changed jobs, and had to move. It was rather quite a dramatic change of life, one for which she had not entirely planned upon. She could have easily moped around for weeks and weeks, depressed from all the changes of her life. Instead, she did a very interesting thing. She spoke to her pastor and invited him and several of her friends to her new home one evening. Together, they went through each room of the house, praying and blessing each room, praying that each space might best serve the activities and the people that would eventually gather there. After they had gone from room to room throughout the entire house, the returned to the living room where they celebrated Holy Communion. It was accompanied by singing and followed with a larger dinner meal, wine, and champagne. This woman was experiencing a great number of transitions, all of which were marked when a small group of people came together as a representation of the greater Christian community. It was a gathering at which God was clearly present among them, full of abounding love.

T.S. Eliot puts it this way: “To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”  The transitions that we go through may be difficult and sad to bear, but there is always hope in what is to come. For wherever we go, wherever we find ourselves, no matter how alone we may feel, the love of God is forever surrounding us. The mantra of my dear university mentor, David Truemper, echoes loudly through the transitions I have gone through and it has echoed for many of my peers. Even on his own death bed at the end of a long battle with cancer, David would remind us that “God loves you for Christ’s sake and will not let you go.”

God loves each and every one of us, those here present and even those who do not know him. God loves all of his children and embraces us in the arms of Christ who endured the pains of death and the cross. Transitions, life passages, can be scary if we fear the unknown of what is to come. But God’s love is forever with us as the Spirit accompanies us on our way. Perhaps a haiku on this gospel text might summarize it best:
 
The Spirit with us,
God intertwined, braided love,
through seasons of change.

Vicar Luke Smetters

 

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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