26 May 2019 - Easter 6
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
“You know what's in that tablet, Mama?
All my secret thoughts.
What I feel and what I think about.
What it's like late at night
to hear a whippoorwill call
and hear it's mate call back.
The rumbling of the midnight train
crossing the trestle at Rockfish, or
just watching the water go by the creek and
knowing some day it will reach the ocean,
wondering if I'll ever seen an ocean and
what a wonder that would be.”
- John Boy, from “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story”
Yes, I’m an old sap, when it comes to some things;
Though, I’m not one for the Hallmark channel.
But, I do love the stories of Earl Hamner, Jr.
as told through
the 1971 movie
“The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” and,
after that, the television series, “The Waltons”.
The movie recalls the Christmas of 1933,
During the Great Depression,
When John Walton, the father, was forced to find work in another part of the state.
He promised to return home to the family for Christmas.
When he fails to come home, the family becomes worried,
And John, the eldest son, goes out in a snowstorm
In an attempt to find his father.
What I so loved about this movie
Was how it created in my mind
a sense of home and family.
Home was where a soon-to-be adult son could have a personal, touching, private conversation with his mother.
Home was where the family gathered.
A fire in the fireplace warmed the room
While the wind howled and the snow blew outside.
Home is where family gathered around one lone extended table,
A roasted turkey was front and center,
And steaming food flowed from the kitchen.
Home is where generations gathered;
Grandparents and children alike have a place at the table.
Everyone has a voice.
Everyone is loved.
Home is where the family circle is completed when the father returned.
The cynic will compare Hamner’s perfect family
With the reality of our own dysfunctional families.
You can’t fool me.
We all have them.
We all come from them.
We all contribute to the dysfunction of our family.
Sin, evil, and mortality are a reality in our world,
But rarely given a thought in Hamner’s world on Walton’s Mountain.
Even the way we define home and family
Has changed since 1971,
Many of us find our moral compass spinning,
Our cultural values being challenged,
Our faith upended;
Giving us a feeling of being lost
In our mortal pilgrimage towards God.
Don’t play the cynic.
Turn to the Good News instead.
The 14th chapter of the Gospel of John
Is so very helpful to sort out the confusion and
Answer our unnerving questions.
It helps us to obtain our bearings,
Find our sea legs,
Strengthen the base of our beliefs, and
Grow in confidence and faith.
The 14th chapter of John is a part of a three chapter section
Called the “Farewell Discourse”.
The Farewell Discourse is full immersion in love;
Starting with Jesus washing the filthy feet of his family,
Instruction to love each other,
Love the neighbor,
And to love our God.
Like many of our families,
Jesus’ family was as dysfunctional as a jaybird.
Jesus’ family amounted to a bunch of
Door knobs, doubters, deniers, and
Don’t forget the black sheep of the family that ended up betraying him and taking his own life.
Jesus was leaving.
His mission is to convince his disciples that
They are better off without him.
This seems counterintuitive.
How can life be better when Jesus is removed from the playing field?
Given my druthers,
I’d rather have Jesus whispering directly into my ear;
Telling me where to go,
What to do, and
What to believe,
Discernment, prayer, and movement of the Holy Spirit.
Throw in a few Hail Marys’ and a Ouija Board, too.
How can life be better with Jesus gone?
Think of Jesus as closing the circle.
In the beginning … the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
An arc of abundance and multiplying miracles advances the circle.
Christ’s grace and love fills every gap,
Making the circle
one of inclusion and acceptance.
His passion and death, substitutes out our sins in exchange for his life, called forgiveness.
Passion and death,
United by our common mortality, reconciles us with each other and with God, called reconciliation.
The resurrection brings round the circle.
Christ is risen!
Eternal life for all believers, called salvation.
Easter life is eternal life.
…. God so loved the world.
There is one more movement before closure,
One last tick of the tock.
The ascension of Jesus Christ
Completes the loop.
Jesus physically leaves us behind, and
It’s for our own good.
Jesus promises that he is going away
To prepare a place for us to abide;
As a family, with the Father,
When he comes again, Jesus promised,
He will take each of his disciples to that place
Where he, the Father, and the faithful abide together.
“Rejoice!” Jesus tells us,
Because he is returning to the Father. (14:28)
Jesus ascends to the Father
To make a place
And to make a way
For us to return full circle
To the Father.
The word “Abide” is succulent fruit in the Gospel of John.
Abide is used 34 time in the Gospel and
another 19 times in the epistles attributed to John.
Abide, Meno (Greek), means to dwell with God,
Cohabitate space, to share the same space with God,
Sustain unbroken fellowship with God.
To abide is to be present,
Bound by the Holy Spirit
In union with Jesus Christ and
Our heavenly Father.
That we might abide;
make our eternal home with God.
Are you convinced life is better than had Jesus remained?
Jesus may have been raised to die another day.
That was never God’s plan.
By the ascension of Jesus
Each of us now has a way back home,
A way back to our Heavenly Father,
To gather around that table
And feast at the heavenly banquet.
Come around full circle with Jesus.
God has made a way for each of us to join him.
God has made room just for you.
Thanks be to God!