The Rev. Rhoda Montgomery, D.Min.
Sixth Sunday in Easter — May 5, 2013
Six weeks ago my niece Victoria was born….and this Friday she’s graduating from Texas A&M. I’m not sure how that happened! I cannot fully comprehend how 22 years have passed so quickly, and if it feels that way to me, I really cannot imagine how my sister must be feeling. I keep having those moments with Victoria like the dad in a certain car commercial, who is giving his teen age daughter some driving instructions, and she’s rolling her eyes and saying “yes dad I know, I know” but he’s seeing her as a 4 year old behind the wheel. I have to suppress the urge to tell my niece that I’ll go with her on job interviews and try to remember that she’s old enough to job hunt all by herself.
Even on our preschool campus, graduation time is upon us. I’ve now been here long enough that there’s a whole little cohort of children who have been at our Early Learning Center the entire time I’ve been here, and they’re about to move on to “big school” and leave our campus, and on occasion it’s made me get a little lump in my throat….and if that’s true for me…I’m guessing that some of their moms and dads are about to be curled up in a ball somewhere…flooded with memories and awash in time moving too swiftly.
It’s that’s time of year. It’s the month of May and although this year we’ve been surprised by a sudden burst of cool weather, we’re not surprised by the usual rhythm of graduations and end of school year dances and recitals, and the crush to get it all done before summer.
But even if you don’t have any connection to any school, your household is still affected to some degree by the changes this graduation season brings. At the very least, in another week, the lines at the grocery store and certain restaurants are about to get a whole lot shorter.
And for all of us, the Gospel lessons from John during these final few Sundays of Easter season have pulled us into the great big middle of some serious talk about change…and leaving….and a sort of graduation with a capital G. And I don’t like it.
There’s a lot about the Gospel of John I like. Jesus performing his first miracle at a wedding, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, our patron saint Thomas with his wonderfully honest questions and doubts, Peter getting to have breakfast with the Risen Christ, all of those stories unique to John’s Gospel. Love that. But now in these closing days of Easter season, the lessons change. And we’re back in the middle of the last supper…back at goodbye.
Last Sunday, and today, and next week we find ourselves in this farewell section of John’s Gospel. Jesus preparing his disciples not only for his death but for the physical separation that would come even after the Resurrection. The author of John’s Gospel devotes more time to the Farewell section than to the Crucifixion and Resurrection combined. Preparing for goodbye is an important theme in this Gospel, and frankly, that gets on my nerves. It’s too poignant. Too hard to hear in a month already full of goodbyes.
Farewell, Jesus says to the disciples, but don’t be afraid. Farewell, but don’t be sad. Life as you have known it will totally change but no worries. And I am with the disciples who throughout the whole farewell section of John… throughout chapters 13 to 17…the disciples say wait a minute.
You just got here. The time can’t be up. Wait a minute we just saw you do all sorts of amazing things…you rescued that woman caught in adultery…we just saw you restore sight to that man born blind….it was like five minutes ago when you fed all of those people with only a little bit of food…our feet are still wet from you getting down on your knees to wash them…what do you mean you’re leaving? And what do you mean when you say you are going away and you are coming to us? That doesn’t sound right. And by the way, we don’t want another, we don’t want an Advocate, we want you, Jesus.
And like a mother who knows her child must leave in order to become fully who he is, or a father who knows that for the welfare of his family now is the time to leave the comfort of one place and go to another, Jesus says to the disciples and says to us, you can do this. You can do this without me…why? Because there is no such thing as… without me, Jesus says.
So, go on. You leave the safety and familiarity of this room, you leave this place, and you go. You go and tell the story of Salvation. You go and spread the good news. You form that community that will change the world…you do the work you could have never done if I had stayed with you in the same way.
And remember, when you love each other, I am there. When you see each other, you see me. When you serve each other….when you wash each other’s feet you wash mine. And that’s only possible because I’m leaving you in one way…but with you always...with you through this gift...the gift of the Spirit.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit binds us all together, stands right beside you and breathes into your lungs the peace that comes from me, Jesus says. Peace that is available to you any time anywhere. Peace that’s not about a lack of noise…not about a lack of conflict or trouble or simply a synonym for an easy life.
The Peace I give you, Jesus says, is the Peace that will help you remember that there is no place you can go, not a cross or a jail cell not a city or a country, or a grave, there is no place you can go where you are not wrapped in my love…wrapped in my Peace…the kind of Peace that burrows right down into the big ugly middle of noise and conflict and sadness and death and says do not let your hearts be troubled….you are not alone…no matter what. The kind of Love...the kind of Peace that will transcend time and geography, but I have to let go of this way of being with you, Jesus says, in order to give you this gift. And as hard as that was to hear….as painful as goodbyes can be….it was exactly what the disciples needed. And it’s exactly what we need too.
No matter what lies ahead, joy or suffering, the music of graduation ceremonies, or the door slamming shut on that dream job, or even the final hiss of an oxygen tank by the hospital bedside, whatever this season or any season brings, like the disciples, we are also sent out, and we are also bound together by that same Spirit…that same Love that transcends the limits of time and geography…the Love that breathes peace….real peace… into us each and every day whether it’s May or October. Binding us…uniting us all with each other…and with the One whose Love of us never goes away. Thanks be to God.