sermon: making plans.

9 May

It has been a fair bit of time since I have posted a sermon and I’m not certain that you even enjoy reading what I’ve preached. If you do, here it is; if not, feel free to skip ahead.

Text: John 14:23-29

Jesus is making plans for when he leaves. He tells his disciples that he is telling them these things while he is still with them. Our reading today is only a fragment of this conversation. In these verses and the ones previous, Jesus is giving his farewell, his goodbye. He knows that his time on earth is coming to an end and he is saying goodbye and giving instructions to his disciples before he leaves to go to the Father.

We try and have the best laid plans for when we leave too. When a teacher knows they are going to be absent from school, they leave detailed lesson plans for the substitute teacher to follow. When we are going on vacation and leaving our pets behind with a dog or cat sitter, we leave the best plans we can, along with extra food, just in case. Or, when we or someone we love is reaching the end of his/her life, plans are made. Plans for the type of care given as life ends, plans for the funeral, plans for what should be done with the material items that remain. This may be the result of old age or an unexpected event. These plans cause anxiety, sadness. They’re not fun plans to make but plans nonetheless.

As we think about mothers today and thank God for our mothers, I think about the things that my mom has told me, how she has prepared me, how she planned for the days as I grew up and planned for the time when I would leave home. I’m certain we all may have stories of the words of wisdom, the advice, the way in which our mothers prepared us for adulthood. Maybe something like – don’t wear white shoes after labor day. My mom always used to tell me when I was pouting that if I kept my bottom lip stuck out like that, a bird would come along and poop on it. Or maybe we remember how our mom passed on a family recipe. We may have our mothers’ sense of humor. Mothers, all in their own way, raise us to be the people we are and though they may not want to think of the day when their child leaves home, moms plan and prepare their children to grow and become independent.

I left my parents’ home at age 18. If you had asked any of my high school classmates or family at this time, they would be the first to tell you that I was a home-body. That I would probably live at home and commute to college. In fact, for the senior awards of my graduating class at Edgerton High School, I was voted “most likely never to leave Edgerton.”

Three months after graduating from high school, I moved three hours away from home. My mom and dad and I drove the station wagon with all of my things to Decorah, Iowa. I remember moving my things into my dorm room on the second floor of the west wing of Brandt Hall, meeting my first roommate of two, and then going to the Center for Faith and Life with my parents for a welcome orientation. Sitting between my parents, I cried. After the program for the freshmen was over, the parents were supposed to leave. I remember gathering with other freshmen on the library lawn and wiping away tears as my mom and dad left.

The tears eventually stopped. I got through that first day, the first month, four years at Luther. My parents had prepared me to be an independent young woman. I successfully lived on my own, beginning with those years in Iowa. But I remember, before my mom left on that fall day, she helped me in one more way to be an independent young adult without her constantly around. She continued to prepare me to live on my own. Before she left she handed me a sheet of paper with parting advice – that last bit of knowledge to impart to her daughter as a nervous college freshman. The sheet of paper had three lines that read like this – Darks wash/rinse cold. Whites wash hot. Sheets and towels wash hot.

Now really, my mom had done much more to prepare me for life on my own at college than just a laundry cheat sheet. My parents – like all parents – had done their best to raise their children with morals and values, to teach what is right and wrong, how to behave with manners and to impart their wisdom of life. They also, by loving me, showed me what it was like to love other people, to respect others, and to live in relationship with people around me. But then, as I turned 18 and moved to Iowa, they trusted that what they had taught me in those first 18 years would serve me well. That I would be reminded of their guidance and continue in the ways they had taught. My mom and dad knew that eventually I would leave, even if my high school classmates disagreed. They knew that eventually they would no longer be with me every day.

Jesus knows he will be leaving soon. He is saying these things – assuring the disciples that he will not leave them orphaned – while he is still with his followers, still able to communicate what is about to happen. Jesus knows that his time on earth is coming to a close but this does not mean that his ministry is coming to a close. Jesus tells his disciples that to love him is to keep his word. To keep Jesus’ word is to continue to live in love. Love for Jesus is really love in action. Loving others.

The disciples will not face the future alone. The gift God has given to them in Jesus will not end as Jesus goes to the cross and then ascends to the Father. God will send the Advocate. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the disciples will continue to live out God’s commandments to love. To live out the word that Jesus brought. Jesus says that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said.” The disciples will not be alone but the Spirit will guide them, reminding them of their lives in Christ’s love. Reminding them of the love they have been given to share.

Jesus promises that the Father will send the Holy Spirit in his name and also promises his peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” This peace that Jesus offers is not world peace as we think of it or the end of conflict. Jesus offers his peace. He says “my peace I give to you.” The peace that Jesus leaves is the being of his life, his joy, his love. This peace comes from the heart of Jesus’ life – his life in which he taught, healed, loved. We share this peace in our lives and in worship. “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” “And also with you.” Often times, the pastor then invites you to share that peace with others. We are sharing the peace of Christ – the forgiveness, the grace, the love that we have been given.

Jesus tells his disciples to not be afraid. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus tells the disciples this but we are afraid! Our hearts ARE troubled at the thought of someone leaving us. Someone who we love, someone who has been a guide, who has been preparing the way for us. As a college freshman, alone, three hours away from home, I was terrified. Losing a grandparent or friend after a long battle with illness does trouble our heart. We are afraid and feel unsettled at the thought of people leaving us. These people may be our aging parents. Grandparents. Friends. We put off discussions about death – we don’t want to think about it because it brings fear and sadness into our hearts. Or maybe it’s not death – maybe it’s moving to college. Maybe your parents are divorcing and your mom is moving away. A family member is called to active duty in the military. For the disciples, this person they loved was Jesus. And now he was leaving.

Though I seemed to be alone on the library lawn on my first day of college, I was not orphaned. When someone close to us dies, we’re not abandoned. If we haven’t made plans for life’s unexpected moments, we may feel stuck. Unable to move. But Jesus prepares the way for us. Jesus is going to the Father and he tells his disciples that if they love him, then they will rejoice in where he is going. We have the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father. We have the promise of peace. Not the peace of this world, but the peace of Christ with us and within us. Jesus prepares his disciples and prepares us to live in community. A community of Christian love. Where together, we feel the love of Christ and share it by loving others. A community where we uphold each other with the love God has first given us. Where together, the Holy Spirit guides us to welcome all people to share in Christ’s peace. Where we are never orphaned, abandoned or alone but Christ prepares us to live in love. May the peace of the Lord be with you all. (And also with you.) Amen.

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