GiftsEden On The Bay

All are welcome ~ Come as you are

Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Much to Come - 05/22/2016

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now,” Jesus says to his disciples in our reading from John today. It's an attention grabbing line. What does he mean? And why can't we “bear” it?

These are among some of the last words of the teachings Jesus shared with his disciples while he was among them on earth. It's right before his beautiful prayer to God for the disciples that we read a couple of weeks ago ... a prayer that makes very plain that Jesus was not only praying for the disciples who physically sat at his feet, but for all of us too. “I ask not only on behalf of these,” he says of the twelve and those who followed him throughout his Galilean ministry, “but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” (John 17.20ff)

After offering his prayer to God, Jesus is betrayed and his earthbound ministry comes to an abrupt and violent end. It leaves these words from today's reading just hanging out there. It must have made the disciples wonder and it leaves us wondering too. What did he mean? Why didn't he finish his teaching? What are these many things he still has to say to us and why can't we bear them?

One reason this statement from Jesus may catch our attention so actively is because it seems to contradict something else Jesus says just before this … he tells his disciples “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (15.15)

So, we may wonder, why does he seem to contradict himself … and even in the same teaching? One minute it sounds like Jesus has taught us everything and the next minute he says there is so much more.

This apparent contradiction may certainly leave the high school graduates we celebrate today scratching their heads. Will there be a test after this lesson, Jesus? Because we may not be sure what the answer is. And who can blame them. I know I'd be headed to the dean's office asking for a pass or fail grade in the face of contradictory teachings like this.

And that is how this may go if we were dealing with human teaching, but not with Jesus, our fully human and fully divine teacher. When this type of apparent contradiction comes up in Jesus' teaching our instinct should be to go deeper and dig a little for what is really going on.

So what is it then, what is really going on here?

Well, just before Jesus says that he has shared everything with his disciples he gave a new commandment. We know we are to love God above all else and we know that we are to obey God's commandments. This is the law handed down through Moses and the Hebrew people that we continue to pass through the generations today. For us, we often begin with Luther's teachings on the Ten Commandments in the Small Catechism. But Jesus adds to that tradition when he gives us a new commandment – to love one another as he loves us.

And that is everything, isn't it? All the other law hangs on these two things, Jesus teaches us. It is our ultimate litmus test. When we wonder at the compassion and righteousness of all other law, of all our choices in how we live our lives and care for creation, of how we relate to others and how they relate to us, this is how we test it. Does it fly in the face of our commandmentx to love God above all else and love each other as Jesus loves us?

If it honors these two commandments then we say it is just and righteous law – if not, then our Christian identities in this world demand that we question it and re-align it with Jesus' commandments.

So in that sense, Jesus has taught us all we need to know, all we need at the foundation of everything else.

It also means that when Jesus says he still has many things to say to us, but that we cannot bear it, there must be something else going on.

Well, I believe we have a clue from the fact that we have this reading on this day, the day we deem Holy Trinity Sunday. Jesus is talking here about the work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate who will come into the world after him. When the Spirit of truth comes, Jesus says, it will guide us into all the truth … the Spirit will speak and move and act on behalf of God, just as Jesus did while he was still among us.

“I still have many things to say to you.” Jesus is saying this to his disciples and to us as he prepares to make those last steps as a human being toward that cross in Jerusalem. But his presence with us does not end on that cross or in the tomb where he was laid when he died. No, that is just the beginning of this new way that Jesus ushered into this world, this new way that God seeks to be in relationship with us.

Jesus, through the activity of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is still teaching us, is still revealing the nature of our loving and ever-present God to us.

It is the teaching activity of the Spirit that Jesus refers to when he alludes to all these many things that we have to learn.

“... but you cannot bear them now,” Jesus continues. This verb our Gospel writer chooses here and that we translate as “bear,” is βασταζω (bastazō). It may also be understood as “carry,” or “hear.” It points to our ability to bear or carry or hear something.

While thinking about this, I was reminded of my own call story – the journey I have made and continue to make into ordained ministry. I felt called to a religious life at a very young age, but I also felt called to other vocations professionally and personally. So for me, it wasn't until I was well into my adult years that I fully heard my call to be an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the church. It wasn't until 30 years into my vocations as a parent and communicator that I could bear that call ... that I had been fully prepared to hear and perceive and respond to that call.

Because this relationship … the way we come to know God and ourselves in God's world is a process. It is a process for the graduates we honor this weekend as they begin this next chapter of their lives. And it continues to be a process for all of us no matter where we are on our journeys, no matter what vocations we are called to … parents, teachers, laborers, ministers, scientists, public officials and defenders, friends, caregivers, artists, etc, etc, etc. and encompassing all manner of God's wondrous diversity.

It is a process that shifts and grows with us over time and through the persistent and loving activity of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. We have learned all that we need to know to be faithful followers of Jesus in this world, but there is more to come, there is more to be revealed to us about how God desires to be present with us and through us.

And there is one more thing I feel is important to note regarding this statement Jesus breathes onto us today. On this day, when we hold up our uniquely Christian doctrine of the Trinity, we remember that when Jesus says “I,”  what Jesus is saying is “I, God,” … because Jesus is God, just as the Holy Spirit is God. “I God still have many things to say to you … to you, my disciples, to you, my people of Eden on the Bay in Munising, MI; to you my class of 2016...” God is still speaking to us.

So even while we wait for that day of glory when Jesus comes again and the Kingdom of God is fully revealed, God's abundant and healing acts of ongoing creation continue to take shape in our lives – around this table, at this font, in our vocations and in all the places our journeys take us. Though that activity we are forgiven and renewed time and time again by this Holy Spirit of Wisdom that we read about in Proverbs today, this presence of God that continues to shape and strengthen us like a divine master architect and dance among us like a joyful child.

I end today with a blessing prayer that I gave to all our graduates, but it relevant for all of us and it also reflects our Proverbs reading well.

For a New Beginning, by John O’Donohue
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.


Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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