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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

We Get Attached - 05/28/2017

We get attached to things.

If you asked a sociologist about this human tendency, they might say that we develop this behavior very early on, sometimes becoming quickly attached to rather surprising things. Any of us who has ever known a small child has probably witnessed this.  I remember one evening a friend of mine and I decided to take our daughters, who were about three years old at the time, for a ride down to Presque Isle in Marquette to look at the water and the moon and watch the stars begin to pop out of the sky. We were riding along when my daughter became hysterically upset because the other 3-year-old said the moon was hers. Apparently my daughter thought the moon was belonged to her. A great argument ensured, followed by tears and inconsolable grief. I tried to explain that the moon was something the whole world shared. But the attachment the girls felt was too strong and the loss of their singular possession of their beautiful moon was too real – they couldn't comprehend anything I said to them.

Most of us can probably recognize this very foundational tendency to develop pretty strong attachments to things or people. That's why we have mementos with little stories attached to them. For instance, Larry and I have a series of rustic little pine trees in our house. We've had them for a long time and they are decorated all year with little mementos of experiences that I feel attached to  … maybe Larry too, I'm not sure how he really feels about these trees. But I am attached. They sport cow bells from bike races, a glass ornament from the Lutheran Hospital Gift Shop on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the name of a child killed by gun violence I got at a lecture by a man who works to save kids from gang life in Chicago. There's an bisque angel ornament I got from someone at my internship site who has since died. There's another angel from my sister. There must be 50 or more things on these trees at this point and could probably tell you the story … the attachment … behind almost every one of them.

We get attached to people too. We might be thinking of that very particularly this Memorial Day weekend when we take time to remember those who have died in service to this country. I think of the lengths some of us will go to in order to find someone's name on something as massive as the Vietnam War Memorial Wall and then the profound sense of connection of attachment one feels when finding that name. I think of visiting Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., several years ago and looking at that sea of uniform and perfectly-ordered grave markers; of letting my eyes linger on a name for a moment … names like Linda Stone, Earl McCartney, Garnet Jenkins … and wondering who their people are? Who was attached to them? What were they attached to in life?

This tendency, maybe even necessity, for us to have these attachments in our lives is probably a little different in all of us. Our attachments can can be a real strength in us – like attachment to the children of our community that results in a great place for kids to live and grow. And it can be a problem for us too, like when we get so attached to something that we value it above everything else, including God and neighbor, which of course can bring out our sinful natures.

However they take shape in us, these attachments have a tendency to be powerful and often surprising.

The reason I'm taking some time to talk about this human tendency of ours, is because I think it's good for us to remember that Jesus would have known about our tendency to become attached to things, people and even intangible things like ideas and melodies and memories.

He would have understood this, of course, because Jesus is God and God knew us before we were knit in our mother's wombs. But it's more than that with Jesus, he also knows this because he walked as a human being and he felt what it was to be in the skin of our humanness.

I think Jesus' intimate knowledge of what it feels like to be one of us and to become attached to this world is a powerful driver behind this passage we have from the Gospel of John today, and actually several of the selections we've had this Easter Season from John as we've weaved in and out of various segments of what's called “Jesus' Final Discourse to the Disciples.”

The Gospel writer felt this part of Jesus' earthly ministry was so important that a full 25 percent of this Gospel is devoted to it … it is the last encounter Jesus has with  the disciples before he is arrested in the garden and led to the cross where he will die for the sake of our sinful natures, –  and the tomb where he will defeat death and win us victory over that sin forever.

In this final encounter, which spans chapters 13-17,  Jesus is saying goodbye and preparing his disciples for the reality on the other side of that cross – on the other side of that tomb. He is teaching them, encouraging them and emboldening them to carry on the ministry he has begun. He starts by washing their feet and teaching them by example what it means to love and serve one another as he loves and serves them. He preaches to them too – as he gives them this new commandment to love one another in this way. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13.35)

He promises a gift too, in order to ease the growing anxiety that comes with hearing him say that he will be betrayed and that this is goodbye. “Little children,” he says to the disciples who are so deeply attached to him, “I am with you only a little longer … where I am going, you cannot come … (But) do not let your hearts be troubled,” he implores them.  (13.33 ff) Jesus must finish his work and prepare a place for God's people in the Kingdom of God, but they will not be alone because there is more to come. Yes,  he must leave the world, Jesus says to the disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” (14.15 ff) It is a verse that poins to our worship for the Festival of Pentecost next weekend.

And that brings us to our reading today – Jesus ends his lessons and his sermons, his demonstrations of love and his words of farewell, with a prayer to God for the well-being of this ministry team he has been preparing all along the way to Jerusalem.

Here, let's loop back to something I already mentioned – Jesus walked the world as a human, so he knew first hand our early-born tendency to attachment … and

… being fully human, he also experienced that attachment himself … attachment to those God gave him, to mold and form into the first people who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah finally come into the world.

When we hear this in the Gospel of John, we should be quick to remember that Jesus' love for these first disciples extends to us too. Later in this prayer Jesus makes that clear. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.” (17.20)

That's us, friends, us descendants of these first disciples who still together gather around the Lord's table, deeply attached to it and one another, changed by the bread and wine we use to keep ourselves attached to this very night Jesus was betrayed.

When we read the prayer in light of all that –  the love our Lord has for us simply bursts through the words of his prayer for us – they are like little super novas in our hearts and minds – they light up and create something new in our souls.

Just listen to some of it again … “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.” (17.6) …

And this … “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (17.11) …

And also this revelation “...this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (17.3)

So I invite you to reread this Chapter 17 prayer again this Memorial Day weekend, and then repeatedly throughout your life as a disciple of Jesus. Hear it in your heart and your mind infused as it is with the strong feelings of attachment Jesus must have felt for his disciples – and for us – when he prayed it. Let it make us all feel even a little like it must have made those first disciples feel as they listened to Jesus teach them and preach to them that night, as they heard about the promise of the Spirit to guide them and be with them, as they heard Jesus offer up this beautiful prayer of protection and love on their behalf. Let it continue to teach us, encourage us and embolden us disciples today to carry on the ministry Jesus began, in a world that lives freed on the other side of that cross … the other side of that tomb, and still so clearly aches for this ultimate attachment we all desire to God and our neighbor. Amen

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 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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