Make Them Holy In The Truth
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalms 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19 May 16, 2021 – 7th Sunday in Easter
I have watched with a detached curiosity as the scriptures we read week after week have walked with us through the transition we are now navigating. From Palm Sunday through Christ’s appearances to the disciples, walking with them, grieving with them, letting them touch his scarred hands and feet.
He promised them that their sorrow would turn to joy. He told them that it was necessary for him to leave so they could receive the Holy Spirit.
I have worked with these themes in our meditations together. I don’t know of anyone who ever had a more challenging transition than Jesus and the disciples. I don’t know anyone who has handled it better.
They were able to keep the main thing the main thing. One phase of Jesus’ ministry had come to a close, but the best was yet to be. The work had to go on and the disciples, informed by the Messiah and guided by the Holy Spirit, had to do it.
In January of 2007,a man had a stroke and fell onto the subway tracks in New York. Wesley Autry just happened to be there, and he jumped down on the tracks and held the man and himself between two tracks until the train stopped.
When they asked the 40-year-old construction worker where he got the courage, he said, ““I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help. I did what I felt was right.”
The disciples saw the old world in a new way. They saw their neighbors in trouble and they did what they felt was right. In our reading from Acts, we can feel how they have been inspired and emboldened by their time with the risen Christ.
It looked so dark just a few weeks ago as they hid in fear behind locked doors. Now, here they are, replenishing their inner circle with another witness to all Jesus had done, so that together, they can carry on the Lord’s work themselves.
They are now moving out of their time of grieving and into their time of serving. There is something more than an end and a beginning in this. It is not about a person or a group of people. It is about carrying a truth so important that it is going to change the world…and there are changes the world…and we… need.
As we have worshipped through Eastertide this year, I have spent a lot of my time putting my things in boxes, taping the boxes shut, and stacking them against a wall. It feels a lot like dying.
But I can see a resurrection coming. In less than two weeks now I will be carrying the first wave of boxes and belongings to a new place.
The belongings will find their place in a new space. A friend who helped me move in when I came here called me “the furniture whisperer.”
Things have a place, and they will tell you where that is if you sit with them a while. Sometimes they need to move around a little bit because they fit in a couple of different places.
Those boxes will be opened again in a new place, and a new chapter in what is now a surprisingly long story will begin.
At the same time, a family of six is doing the same thing in Billings. Some of them will be leaving the only town they have ever known to start a new adventure.
You will be getting to know a new pastor and they will be getting to know you…and Bigfork…and the Flathead…and the schools.
We will all be doing an old thing…as old as the walk to Emmaus…in a new way. My guess is that you and I will all find Christ sitting in a new place with us…and we will recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
Something good is bound to happen here…something big. I have told you many times over the years that something big is going to happen here. This is just too special a place with way too extraordinary people to keep it from happening.
A new disciple has been chosen to serve with you. It is someone who has carefully studied Jesus from the time he came to live among us. It is someone who has prayerfully reflected on what Jesus calls us to do…and she has done it…giving her life to follow him…willing to make big changes in her life to follow him.
We might be critical of the disciples for leaving the selection of Matthias to chance…to decide who would fill the empty place in their circle by the casting of lots.
But there is always chance involved whenever there is a change…and change is inevitable. The winter fades and spring begins. The moon wanes and waxes. The tide has to go out before it can come in again and make its offering to the shore. A grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to produce its fruit.
We may not like what happens as a result of chance, but the good news is that things could always be worse. The bishop could have sent you a lawyer. She could even have sent you someone who has been divorced more than once.
She might even have sent you a Democrat. Then what would you have done? How in the world could that have turned out alright?
There is an element of chance in all of this…and all of that…from our limited…mortal…point of view. But maybe there is a great inevitability in all that happens to us…because of us…that is just too great for us to see.
How is it that an itinerant rabbi from the hill country of a nation that has been conquered…and conquered… and conquered…turns out to be the savior of the world? That question is beyond us. That truth is with us.
How is it that a man who is rejected by his own people can become one day…and all through recorded time …the King of the Jews? How is it that the Flathead…this land that time forgot… something that was once as scoffed at as Jerusalem …can become the place where something big… something huge…something bigger than the world…can happen?
We don’t have power, but sometimes power has us…and sometimes we can do a little good… that turns into a lot of good…if we can open ourselves to the gifts of time…and timing…and goodness God has set all around us…and sends to…us each day.
This church is going to be here for a long, long time. By that I mean the building and the people who serve their Maker…in it…and through it…and because of the one story it has to tell…and the many stories its people have to tell.
What good people. What amazing people. I missed Bob Shennum, who helped launch Telstar. He was gone before I arrived. But I met his widow, Doris, whose grandparents founded the town pronounced ‘Keevin’…not Kevin…a few miles north of where I was born.
I barely got to know Dewey Muhleman, who helped launch the Hubble Telescope. After I told you about the first hike I took, along the west side of Lake McDonald, Dewey asked me at fellowship time if I was alone. Yes. Did I have bear spray with me? No. Dewey was a brilliant scientist because he shook his head and said, “Not good. Not good.”
I have had some good talks with Cy Varnum who helped make the moon buggy go. Cy’s great lesson for me was the unflagging love he had for his wife, Jean, when she took a fall and had to struggle her way back.
She never had anything to worry about because Cy loved her and doted on her and watched over her every moment from that day forward. She was always wonderful. Just ask Cy.
And it’s not over for you or for Jesus in this little unincorporated village where most people ask you …after you have told them where you are from: “Where’s Bigfork?”
Your days of scientific cutting-edge stuff is not over, though. Let me tell you about a couple of young people who have grown up in this church.
I had one of the most interesting hours of my years here with the Rowdy Bunch book club…you all are welcome to join…talking to Dominic Benning who is working on the cutting edge of Parkinson’s research.
We are looking forward to doing the same thing with Carinna Torgerson who will help us learn more about the claustrum, the part of your brain that is the switchyard in your head that makes all the other parts of the brain work together.
This church building stands in Bigfork, Montana but it also carries the flame of Christ to Texas and Florida…Arizona and California… to Saudi Arabia…Germany…Singapore and Austria…through people we think of as our summer friends.
They remind us after each dreary cold winter…after we have become so accustomed to our good fortune that we no longer see what is here, but only what isn’t here…that we live in a place that has been blessed …and blessed…and blessed by God.
You teach the story of Christ in this special place by living the story of Christ…and people in your village know that and celebrate that even if they are only here for Scouts or AA or Bridge Club or Rotary or tai chi.
In this church, I get invited to members’ homes for dinner and find myself breaking bread with the most promising military leaders from Turkey and Japan…Bangladesh and Norway… Thailand and Greece… who are here to meet real Americans …and be real Norwegians and Greeks and Thais.
It isn’t a transaction that will make us or break us. It is the relationships we have…with each other and all we come to know…by chance.
You see why I keep saying something big is going to happen here? And I am talking about Close Encounters of the Third Kind big.
It is already happening. Globalization accelerated the spread of the covid virus, but the virus accelerated another kind of globalization where people can live anywhere and work anywhere, and those two places don’t have to be the same place.
The April traffic looked like June traffic and the May traffic is starting to look like the July traffic. Whoever would have thought we would be remembering driving through this country in January…with warm nostalgia? Well…we have arrived.
Still the stories of Jesus and Moses and David and Esther and Mary and Ruth resonate in our lives today and bring a clarity to our world that our world itself does not know.
John writes to us, 2,000 years hence, that “God gave eternal life to us, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have God’s Son does not have life.”
It’s not that complicated. We are explorers and we have to test what we knew of our last home to understand what our new home is going to be like.
We make it complicated by experimenting to understand the truth…of our lives…in our place…in our time. But we look for truth and understand it is part of love or love is part of it.
So, our Lord and Savior prays for us today: “I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours… I have been glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one.” I couldn’t say it any better.
O, Lord, what is it that you want to accomplish in the world through us – through me – this day? Amen.