A sermon preached by the Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch
at Christ Church, Stroudsburg, PA
6th Sunday of Easter, May 25, 2014
Today I invite you to linger here, in this time when it is finally, fully spring and on the edge of summer. Taking note of the coolness of a morning breeze and a bright spot of afternoon sunshine. Giving thanks for safety from a sudden storm and enjoying the respite of a windswept sky. Linger in hope and wonder, in relief and anticipation.
I invite you to linger here, as we come again to Memorial Day, and remember the sacrifices of women and men who have done nothing less than given their lives so you and I can enjoy so many freedoms we take for granted. Offer prayer for their souls and for the easing of grief for loved ones they left behind. Linger in sorrow and solidarity, in honor and in gratitude.
And I invite you today to linger here, with Jesus. We are in a supple kind of time in our Church life. These are the last days of Easter. We are still full of the resurrection life, but far enough away from that day of Ester joy that we have time to contemplate and deepen our understanding of what it means to be an Easter people. This Thursday we celebrate the Ascension, a different kind of leave-taking. It may seem to you recent or long ago when as a Church we celebrated Maundy Thursday and we remembered Jesus sharing a last meal with his friends. He lingered then. In John’s gospel that we heard today, Jesus speaks volumes after the meal was ended. He lingered at the table with them and spoke of love, and hope, and his departure. He had so much left to say, even after three years with them. He lingered, wanting to prepare them for his leaving, his death. But at the same time wanting them to understand that he is not letting them go. Leave-taking is difficult and sorrowful, even if you are the Son of God. Maybe especially so.
What he most wants them to know is that they will not be abandoned, and that he loves them, and that that love abides, “I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming to you.” To his disciples then and to us now, Jesus promises the Advocate, the Spirit of truth. Not only is this Spirit of truth God’s very presence with us, but Jesus promises that this Spirit abides with us, is within us. Abides. It is an old-fashioned word, but one I love. To abide means to continue, remain, survive, last, persist. It can also mean to live or dwell. It comes from old English a (onward) + bide (stay). To stay onward. It has the same root as the word abode.
The Greek word behind this is meno, a word used often in John’s gospel, which means to remain, abide, dwell, endure. It has a sense of permanence. So when Jesus uses the word abide, he means us to understand that this is not a momentary or temporary thing, but forever. The Spirit of truth abides in us always and forever. In commenting on this passage, artist and minister Jan Richardson refers to sacred entanglement noting that Jesus “twines his words around them, calling them to stay with him, to remain, to persist in their sacred entanglement that will bear fruit for a hungering world.” (from The Painted Prayerbook.)
Being entangled in God’s love, lingering with Jesus, abiding with the Spirit of truth. These would be excellent ways to spend the last days of Easter. As we gather and share the sacred feast, I invite you to linger with Jesus after the meal. Hear his invitation to stay. Remember his promise that we are never abandoned. Remember that God’s love abides in you, and you abide in Christ. Linger in this liminal time, so that you can fall in love with God all over again. As Jesuit priest Fr. Pedro Arrupe wrote in the last century:
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
(attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ 1907-1991, from Suzanne Guthrie, At the Edge of the Enclosure)
Linger in this spring morning. Linger as you remember those who have given their lives. Linger with Jesus and discover the Spirit of truth which abides in you. Become more entangled with Jesus. Stay long enough to fall in love with God all over again.