By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
May 9, 2010
Read: John 14:23-39
In this simple reading is great peace. Jesus says, “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.” It is peace because of the abiding presence, but it is not a peace that sits still. It is an abiding that leads forth into a desire to live a life poured out in love for the sake of the world.
Many of you are aware of the tragic accident that took the life of a 13 year old boy in Coatesville on Wednesday night. The accident has caused the resurfacing of mistrust, racism, division in the City. Our gospel lesson today speaks of unity, of a peace that is not of this world, of how we are connected to each other. We are all in this life together and together we can find a way to come together as a community that we can be proud of. I ask you to think about how these words today can be about us, can be about Coatesville.
Barbara Brown Taylor tells the story of how she is the eldest of three daughters and was the designated baby sitter in her family. From the time she was 12, she was the one her parents left in charge when they went out at night. In her words….
First my father would sit me down and remind me how much he and my mother trusted me—not only because I was the oldest but also because I was the most responsible. This always made me dizzy, but I agreed with him. I would not let the house burn down, I would not open the door to strangers. I would not let my little sister fall down the basement steps.
Then my mother would show me where she had left the telephone number, remind me when they would be home, and all together we would walk to the front door where everyone kissed everyone good-bye. Then the lock clicked into place, and a new era began. I was in charge. Turning around to face my new responsibilities, what I saw were my sisters’ faces, looking at me with something between hope and fear. They knew I was no substitute for what they had just lost, but since I was all they had they were willing to try.
And so was I. I played games with them, I read them books, I made the pimento cheese sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off. But as the night wore on they got crankier and crankier. Where are mommy and daddy? Where did they go? When will they be back? I told them over and over again. I made up elaborate stories about what we would all do together in the morning. I promised them that if they would go to sleep I would make sure mommy and daddy kissed them good night when they came in. I tried to make everything sound normal, but how did I know? Our parents might have had a terrible accident. They might never come home again and the three of us would be split apart, each of us sent to a different foster home so that we never saw each other again.
It was hard, being the babysitter, because I was a potential orphan to. I had as much to lose as my sisters, and as much to fear, but I could not give in to it because I was the one in charge. I was supposed to know better. I was supposed to exude confidence and create the same thing in them. I was supposed to know all the answers.
Many of us know what Barbara means, not only because we were babysitters too but because we are Christians. We are all of us Christ’s elder children in the world, the ones he has left in charge. We are the responsible ones, the ones he has trusted to carry on in his name, and everywhere we go we see the faces of those whom he has given into our care. Some of them are still hungry to see him and some of them are not. Some of them are still open to his return and some of them have closed their hearts. Some of them are still waiting and some of them have clearly given up. At first they jumped out of bed whenever they thought they heard footsteps on the stairs, but now they know better. Morning may come and it may not. They may wait to find out and they may not, slipping off into the night to look for some other, more reliable light.
Where is he? Where did he go? And when will he be back? It is hard, being the ones in charge, because we are potential orphans too, only he said we would not be. He said he was going away, but he also said he was coming back again, and not only at the end of time.
“Those who love me will keep my word,” he said before he left, “and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” Not visit. Not pass through from time to time. Not send a postcard. “We will come to them and make our home with them.” John only uses the word “home” twice in his gospel. Both times around the last supper table. “In my Father’s house there are many homes (or dwelling places),” Jesus says a little earlier. “I go to prepare a place for you.” It Is not a temporary place he is talking about but a permanent one, an abode large enough to accommodate the love that binds him to God on one hand and binds him to us on the other , a giant heart of a place with room enough for everyone whom love unites.
It is John’s idea of heaven to move in with the God who has moved in with us—only the address changes between the first time he writes it down and the second. It was out there somewhere the first time, a place in the future where Jesus was going that no one could follow him to, a place we would have to wait for him to come back from and show us.
By the second time John writes it down, Jesus is no longer going but coming. The place is not out there somewhere but right here, a place in the present where God dwells with those who love Jesus and keep his word. “Abiding,” he calls it, “staying put”. “We will come to them and make our home with them”.
I am a little fuzzy on the details, as John himself is, but abiding seems to involve becoming part of a large extended family, and a holy one at that. When God and Jesus move in with us, apparently, they make lots of keys—keys for the Holy Spirit, keys for other disciples, keys for all kinds of in-dwelling cousins in Christ. Coming and going, we learn to recognize each other, and to call upon each other for everything that people who live together do.
Whatever else this is, it is very good news for babysitters, because it means that we are not alone in the house. There is someone else at home, in us and in those for whom we care, which means that we do not have to be God-sized for them. We can be human-sized instead, with room within us for God to dwell and heal all our hearts from the inside out.
It is very good news for orphans too, because we do not have to be. Those who truly love us live inside us, and no one shall snatch us out of their hands. We may have to learn a new way of communicating with them, since they are inside us now and not outside, where we can hang on to them in the old way. If we want to talk with them, we may have to sit down someplace quiet and listen very carefully for the sound of the wind blowing inside of us, for the sound of the still small voice that speaks in silence more often than it speaks in words, but henceforth there can be no doubt about where home is for them or for us. Coming or going. God dwells with us, leaving us notes all over the place: “Love one another, don’t be afraid; believe in God, believe also in me. If it were not so, would I have told you?”
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