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Sermon 5.12.24 What We Leave Behind

Good Morning St. Andrew’s and Happy Mother’s Day.

It’s a joy this morning as a preacher to be able to have all of these readings that are completely and totally focused on the Father and the Son,

because why not make Mothers Day about men, every other day seems to revolve around us.

We might as well own that from the start.

Okay, I’m done with the shade, now I’m going to actually preach.

On this last Sunday of the Easter Season, we are in a holding pattern of sorts.

The Feast of the Ascension was on Thursday, the recognition that Jesus’ resurrected body could not stay with us forever on this earth, if we were going to grow in faith as an ekklesia, a gathered body of believers called the church.

But we are also one week away from Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit was poured out on the faithful to lead and guide the new church by the merit of Jesus.

It is in this in-between time that we find ourselves today, like the disciples asking what’s next, where do we go from here?

And it is in this in-between time that Jesus gives us this remarkable prayer for His followers.

Often, in the Gospel of John, we can get lost, because of the He is in me, and I am in you, and He is in you, and you are in Him, and you are in me, etc…

But if you look at what Jesus is asking, at baseline, it is the prayer of someone who knows that there is a new stage of development coming that will not include him in the same way he has been leading before.

What particularly struck me about this prayer, as I was reading in preparation for this Mothers Day Sunday, is that it is the prayer of all parents for their children.

Knowing that someday, we will all leave this form of ourselves behind, we realize that someday our children will have to live in this world without us.

And, as sad as that seems, it is also beautiful.

Even in this - though he was not a parent himself to physical children - as the commercials say, “He gets us.”

So, on this Mothers Day, I’m moved to preach to you about What we leave behind.

I want to pick out a couple of pieces from Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that go along with our theme, and then share with you a practical example of where I have seen the witness to Jesus’ legacy of what he left behind, so that you can have confidence and strength for you journey of faith.

Let’s jump into the prayer.

Jesus began his prayer by saying, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”

In this beginning, Jesus recognizes what we proclaim about our children; that they are gift to us and our primary responsibility to them is to make God known.

We cannot control whether they keep God’s word, but I want you to know that because of you it does live within them.

Jesus continues, “Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them,”

When we leave, it is their decision what to do with the word that they have received. 

Just as when Jesus ascended, it has to be their faith that will carry them through.

When our children look at our lives and at our faith, they know what we believe; for better or for worse, they know.

And our witness to the fact that everything we have comes from God is the only thing that can combat what the material world would have us believe;

That we did it all ourselves.

Whether it’s “God woke me up this morning,” giving thanks for our blessings, “giving it up to God,” or any other of the myriad ways that we glorify God, we leave behind a sense that everything has been given by God.

And though we take away the self-satisfaction that comes with thinking that we did it all by ourselves, we leave behind for our children a sense that they have an advocate,

Something beyond themselves that cares and that is in control in a world that can get so chaotic and challenging.

The next thing that Jesus says is that he has been glorified in his disciples, his children.

When we talk about legacies, Jesus shows us that the most important legacy, the place where we will be glorified is in the people whose lives we have touched.

This is the greater glory, to leave behind a love that transcends any work that we have done.

We spend our lives busy, and we do some amazing things, but it is the love we leave behind that will glorify us.

Finally, having thanked God for giving the gift of children, for allowing them to learn from our example, and for being glorified by this love that we leave behind, Jesus comes to the final and longest part of the prayer.

Knowing that he will have to leave them behind, Jesus prays for their protection.

And this is the hardest part, isn’t it?

God gave us our children, that may have been the easiest part.

Even for those who were not able to birth children themselves, because of different circumstances have been able to teach children, come to church and influence children, have children in their families who become like their own child; to nurture and be nurtured.

The hardest part of what we leave behind is simply the fact that at some point, we have to leave it all behind and they have to make their way

(I was going to say on their own, but actually that’s the most beautiful part. They won’t be on their own, because God will provide what they need in our absence).

Jesus asks for all of his disciples, for the early church, and for us – you and me – to be protected from the world when he leaves it behind.

And God gives us the confidence that just as our parents left us in God’s care and protection and we have come to where we are,

God will continue this blessing of protection over all of those whom we commend to his mercy and care.

And so we see in this prayer that Jesus makes a kind of guide for what we can leave behind;

Knowledge of God, recognition of gifts, a glorious legacy of love, and protection over those we leave behind.

This is a mother’s prayer for her children,

And I don’t know about you, but thinking about all of the generations who have said this or something like this on my behalf strengthens me for the journey ahead.

I know that it is the prayer, even if it comes in different words, that my ancestors and my own mother have prayed over me.

And it is the prayer that we all carry on and try to pray over our own children and all of the children that we meet through our actions, our dreams, and our common life.

 

Now I just want to leave you with a final thought today, and this really brought this whole theme of what we leave behind to life for me and I hope that it will be a strength and blessing to you as well for your week ahead.

I’m curious, if you’ve ever noticed something.

(Some of you may have heard me comment on this before, but today I’m going to preach it)

In my life, I am privileged to get to visit some pretty great people and to offer care and communion with people who are homebound or sick.

It’s called pastoral care.

On Easter Weekend, what we call the Triduum, which is just a fancy way to say “the Three Days,”

Among the several people whom I visited were three women.

Corinne Blanton, Jeanne Hayes, and my Grandma (we call her Tutu, which is hawaiian for grandma, but her given name is Roberta Richardson DuTeil).

Each one of these women is 100 years old, or there abouts.  Jeanne Hayes will be 100 the first week of July.

Isn’t that amazing?

How many times in life are we priveleged to know one person who makes it to 100 years old, not to mention three?

And, at some point when I have visited these amazing, faithful friends, I think about all of the women who surrounded Jesus faithfully during his ministry.

I think about all of the wisdom that was passed down through the generations by women such as these.

I think about all of the John 17 types of prayers that have been prayed by these women over us.

I thank God for the witness of the Gospels that remind us that it was the women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection.

And as we sit and look at pictures of family members; children who are now grandparents, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great grandchildren and all of the different relatives who come to sit at the feet of these wise centurion women,

There is always a picture of the newest baby, and I realize that if these 100 year old women get to see this generation, at some point, when they were babies in the 1920’s, there was a 100 year old Christian woman who lived to see their generation.

If you go back like this in time, generation by generation, I’ve come to recognize and be in awe of the fact that there are only 20 women such as these between us and Jesus.

20 mothers, great aunts, church women, caregivers, world creators, ancestors between us and Jesus.

Isn’t that amazing to think about? It doesn’t seem so far away now, does it?

What these women do is to bring us closer to Jesus.

Not just by time or generation, they do that and it is remarkable, but they also bring us closer to Jesus because through their faith they remind us of our legacy and heritage; what Jesus left behind.

Through all of the things that they have seen, witnessed, and overcome, each of these women have come this far by faith and have remained steadfast in belief.

As younger generations, we sometimes discount this legacy and heritage.

It seems easy, like living 100 years is just a matter of checking off days on a calendar.

We often take women like this and their faith for granted, but believe me, they’ve seen some stuff.

They’ve witnessed the best and worst of humanity, and yet they have kept the faith.

These women are a witness to us that what Jesus left behind still has power.

They remind us that what we leave behind will make a difference.

As you go through this week, think about these women and all the women in your life.

Say a prayer of blessing over these women, who pray for us on a daily basis.

Be a person who prays for the children in your life the John 17 “what we must leave behind” prayer.

Make known the name and blessings of God, recognize the gifts in your life, be glorified by the love you leave behind,

And with the protection of God passed down from generation to generation, 100 years by 100 years,

When another 20 Christian women have come and left this world behind and given it the legacy of faith and prayers,

the love and protection, the care and mercy of Jesus will continue to shine into the ages of ages until we are all united in faith on the last day to the glory of God.

Let this be what we leave behind.

Amen.

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