June 2, 2019 – 7 Easter C
Acts 16:16-34; Revelation 22:12-21; John 17:20-26
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Some years ago now Mary Ward and I drove to Greenville, South Carolina, to take our firstborn to college. We unloaded the cars and got everything somewhat situated in the dorm room. We met the roommates. Our daughter was excited to be starting college and we were excited for her. There was a little tinge of sadness inside Mary Ward and me but seeing Meg so excited helped that. Some of the other students and parents looked pretty scared. Later in the day all the parents were invited to attend a big meeting in the auditorium where the President of the University addressed us. He thanked us for choosing that particular school and then he said, “You have a very important job to do for your son or daughter in just a few minutes. Your job is to get in your cars and leave. For some of you that is going to be very hard but you can’t stay here. If you’re crying so much you can’t see well enough to drive, then pull off to the side of the road after you get off campus. The most important thing you can do for your son or daughter is to leave.” The message was delivered light-heartedly but the point was crystal clear and very helpful. In order for children to grow into their potential parents have to let them go.
Today is the 7th Sunday of the Easter Season. Thursday was Ascension Day where we celebrated Jesus’ return to the Father. Next Sunday is the Day of Pentecost where we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit. If you will allow the crass analogy, this day on our liturgical calendar is when Jesus has driven off in his Subaru and left us here. Jesus has gone back home to allow us the space to grow into our full potential. It may feel like Jesus has left us all alone in a cruel, hard world. But Jesus abides with us now even more in spirit than he did when he was here in flesh and blood.
God took a great risk with the creation of the world but the world was made because love has to have something to love. Creation wandered off and got lost. God becomes incarnate in flesh and blood in Jesus in order to restore creation to its loving purpose. The world was pretty confused by this God-become-flesh. Some became willing to follow the path Jesus laid out; some were not willing to follow. Even those who did follow were confused. They thought Jesus was a “kick-the-enemies-in-the-butt” sort of guy. But he wasn’t. He allowed the enemies to kill him and his followers were greatly let down. But then Jesus was raised from the dead and his followers got their mistaken hopes up again. “Now he’ll kick those enemies just like he was supposed to the first time he was here.” But no, after Jesus appears to so many following his suffering and death, he leaves us here with a promise and with hope. We’d prefer God to stay with us in flesh and blood and straighten out all the things that give us a hard time. But God wants us to know him as spirit. God wants us to learn to live with promise and hope. God wants us to struggle with that feeling of being alone until we find God’s truer presence. God lets creation go in order that we might grow to love God.
College students discover that the home that has nurtured them is not limited to the confines of bedrooms and bathrooms, dining room tables and kitchens islands. The home that has nurtured them is portable, it moves with them wherever they may go. Their growing into their potential strengthens their sense of home and reveals it to be beyond time and space.
Before Jesus suffered and died, he told his followers what would happen to him. He would go through suffering and death, not around it. He would embrace the hardships of the world to allow us to know that such hardships do not negate God’s love. Jesus prays for his followers that, along the way of their journey, they would become one with each other and the world. And then Jesus moves on so that we may know the spirit, so that we may know God to be portable, unlimited, eternal, and good. In order for there to be love, first there must be the letting go.
In our gospel lesson today, Jesus lets go of his followers, prays for them to become who God has made them to be. Jesus also prays for us as we receive the message of his followers, that we might live in hope and love for each other. As Jesus lets go of his followers in his prayer for them, and later when he leaves them to be with them in spirit rather than flesh and blood, trust is developed. As we let go in life, we develop trust. If we cling too tightly to this world, trust is thwarted. But each time we do let go, even in the smallest way, we come to know the eternal presence of God a little more.
Jesus comes to the world so that we may know God more fully. Jesus leaves this world so that we may know God more fully. And by returning home to the Father, Jesus is more fully present with us. Through Jesus God is revealed to be here and now. Through Jesus God is revealed to be portable, unlimited, eternal, and good.
Today we baptize the latest of the Clark children. We promise to help Henry come to know God more fully as he grows. Today we begin to let him go so that he may grow in grace. We do that trusting that God will abide with him every step of his life.