Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sermon from May 12, 2013; Mother's Day; John 17:20-26

Rev. George Miller
John 17:20-26
“That They All May be One”
May 12, 2013

It’s Mother’s Day. Know how we can tell? Because 2 weeks ago Publix began running their ad-you know the one: the pregnant woman and her daughter making a meal using all perfectly placed Publix products.

They are shilling the heck out of their stuff, but it still gets me emotionally every time.

This add shows one aspect of motherhood: the meal-creator. Other commercials assign other roles to Moms.

There is the bather: the one who makes sure the children are washed and clean before going to sleep or going to school.

Another role is the mess cleaner-upper. If something spills, there they are with a 2-ply quilted paper towel or wet mop or stain remover, sometimes dancing as they do so.

If you are dealing with children, there are a lot of messes to clean up after. And if we are to be honest, as advanced and liberal as we like to think we are, a lot of women will still say their spouse or partner is just another kid they have to clean up after.

Keeping things clean is not an easy task. We are a people who like to have stuff, lots of stuff. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we like to take care of them.

How many people here truly enjoy having to sweep their floors, vacuum the carpets, wash dishes, dust their knick-knacks and launder, dry, fold and iron their clothes?

Life is a mess and no matter how hard we try to keep things spotless, there is clean-up which needs to be done and not everyone wants to deal with it.

Which can be a good thing. If people liked to clean up things themselves there would be a bunch of people out of their jobs.

Ask Joanne and Stephanie, who make a living cleaning up for people who don’t want to or no longer can. Or the good folk at Griffin or Feather’s dry cleaning.

If the world wasn’t a messy place, we wouldn’t have judges and lawyers, police and fire departments.

The church also deals with the messiness of life. People seeking care and assurance when life falls apart. People seeking help with everything from rent to utilities to transportation.

We try our best to respond with compassion but alas we can’t clean up everyone’s mess.

For some, simply having a place to come to for an hour or two a week gives people a reprieve from whatever mess is at home, the work place, the doctor’s office or their check book.

Life is messy. Things break. Things fall apart. Things unexpectantly happen. And it is particularly hard when you’re not prepared for it and feel like you are left alone to deal with it all.

Is that part of what is going on here in today’s reading?

What we just heard today is a piece of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse”, a rather lengthy monologue he gives the last night or his life.

Jesus has shared a last meal with his followers, he’s washed their feet, and now he is preparing them for the messiness of what’s to come: his own betrayal, the hatred that others will show to them, the persecution they will face, how they will be put out and scattered about.

Those are hard truths to share, but like any parent, Jesus knows he can not hide them from the realities of life.

So, like a loving parent, he also gives them words of instruction and inspiration.

“Little children,” he calls them, “Believe in God. Continue doing the good works I have shown you. Keep my commandments. Go and bear fruit.”

“Don’t let troubles rule your life; know that fear passes. Love one another just as I have loved you.”

Then, Jesus turns his attention to God and on their behalf he asks “God, watch over them; guard them so they don’t become lost. Sanctify them; be present to them just as you are to me. Let them know you intimately.”

Jesus asks something else. “Do not take them out of the world, but protect them.”

I think any good parent knows just what Jesus is saying here.

You raise your children the best that you can, shelter, wash, clothe and feed them. Teach them values. But at some point you have to let them go.

Out into the world.

The first time they cross the street alone. Their first day of school. Their first sleep over. Their first time driving a car by themselves. Their first day at work.

Step by step, event by event, there is the letting go, the trusting, and the hoping, even in the midst of worry.

You prepare them the best you can; that they look both ways, are nice to others, make smart choices, and don’t worry about what people may say or think.

That’s partly what Jesus is doing here.

Jesus is soon to leave them, and although he will still be present in their lives, it’ll be in another way, a way that’s not always so obvious.

Though the world can be a messy, treacherous place, Jesus does not want to remove them from the world; he does not want to sequester them away.

He knows there will be bullies. He knows there will be those who will test their limits and try to get them to do things they should not. He knows all about the many trials and temptations they will face.

Because he knows that things will be difficult, things will be messy, he tries to prepare them.

Maybe if they hear his prayer to God it will prevent them from making bad choices. Maybe if he prays on their behalf they will do the right thing. Maybe if he entrusts the future of the community to God, the community will entrust their future to the Father.

Maybe, just maybe, by them being out in the world, independent but unified as one, they can help transform the world into a better place.

Perhaps, just perhaps, by remembering his words, by emulating his actions, they can bring joy and life into their community.

They can demonstrate to others that there is another way, a better way. A way that involves service instead of selfish greed. A way that involves mutuality instead of “what’s in it for me?” A way that involves reaching out as opposed to pointing fingers.

A way that places God, and God’s commandment that we love one another, first.

Does Jesus think all of these things will come to pass? I don’t think so. He knows well enough problems will arise, friction will frazzle them, and faults will take place.

His followers are, after all, only human.

But like a loving parent, Jesus tries his best to prepare them, give them the tools they need, the assurance that they matter and the knowledge that they are not alone.

Maybe, when they fail, when they are hurt, or when they hurt another, they will find comfort by recalling his words and resetting their spiritual compass.

Like a good parent, Jesus has bathed and fed his children. Like a good parent, he loves them all equally, wants to see them all get along, and to play well with each other.

And now he has instructed them so they can enter into the world, with all its messiness and strife, so they can live their lives, so they can make a difference, so they can participate in God’s gift of eternal life.

Jesus wants the same for us. Jesus wants us to have joy in the now, to experience the glory of God.

Jesus wants us to know that no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, no matter how messy life is, no matter how starved or soiled we get, we all have the Lord’s love dwelling within. We are all God’s children.

With that knowledge is hope; in that hope we are united. Being united in Christ is our vitality.

Amen and amen.

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