First Congregational Church
May 26, 2019
Sixth Sunday in Easter, Memorial Weekend
John 14:23-29 & Acts 16:9-15
“We’re In This ___!”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Most folks have heard of the well-known book called “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” There is a parallel story, from the Bible, much lesser known, called, Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Noah's Ark. In the Cliff Notes version, Point #1 is Don't miss the boat.
Point #2: Remember that we are all in the same boat!
Point #3: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.
Point #4: Stay fit. When you're 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
Point #5: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
Point #6: Build your future on high ground.
Point #7: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.
Point #8: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
Point #9: When you're stressed, float awhile.
Point #10: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
Point #11: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.
When I was working on a title for this morning’s message, I couldn’t resist the temptation to leave it open-ended. So, before going on to the scripture passages, how would you fill in the blank, “We’re In This ___!”
Thank you all for your answers. I can honestly say I hadn’t thought of some of those. It would be equally interesting to throw out such a question at the end of the message, to see how much answers may - or may not - have changed. Until another time, we have our scripture passages.
The first passage takes place during Jesus’ last week, according to the writer of John, during the Last Supper. The second passage takes place some time after Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension back to God.
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
Thank you, Dawn. For obvious pronunciation reasons, I decided that it would be easier for me to read the second passage this morning, because otherwise I’d owe someone a favor so big, I might not be able to ever fulfill it.
I direct your attention to the map insert in your bulletin. To set this passage, the great Paul went on three journeys, the second of which is the background for our Acts passage. If you zero in on the middle of the map, you see the word Mysia, and about three names down from there, you see the name Thyratira. That is the home of the woman from our second passage. Somehow she ends up in Neopolis, which is north and west of Thyratira, across that bay of water, to the right of the word Macedonia. Neopolis is where all the big action takes place from our second passage.
Following the two lines south and east of Neopolis, a little less than an inch or so, you see a tiny island with its name, Samothrace to the right of it. That is the halfway point and overnight stay of the great Paul, which begins more south and east, still along those two lines, at the city of Troas.
Troas to Samothrace is a good day’s sail, as is Samothrace to Neopolis. If you wanted to drive it, the trip around the Agean Sea from Troas to Neopolis is about 9.5 hours, and one can only imagine how long it would have taken by foot. Now, back to the story.
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Sam’othrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira (thee a tree ah) named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
As you were listening to this portion of the passages, did you notice the use of pronouns? Did you notice that a good many of them were “we” or “us?” We stayed there; We sat down, she invited us.
Although they aren’t mentioned in this specific passage, Paul’s traveling partners were Timothy and Silas. Timothy had just joined Paul and Silas. In fact, Timothy had just become an official Jew, lest people might have thought him suspicious; Timothy’s father being Greek. I wonder, being so far removed from that time, if we tend to gloss over this little part of today’s passage.
After all, how many of us would think of getting a tattoo before joining up with a particular tech company, so people wouldn’t think you were too square or out of touch with their culture. Or how many of us would be willing to get our hair cut in a certain manner in order to join the ministry of this or any church? That concept may seem a little odd to us in 2019, but all those centuries ago, it seems that people were rather willing to go to fairly substantial measures to show their dedication and loyalty to a cause and or group of people.
It’s interesting, too, that Paul, et al., had expected to find a place of prayer, and instead they found a group of ladies. Apparently there wasn’t time for grumbling about diverted plans, because the next thing we know, the writer of Acts is listing Lydia’s credentials and she’s inviting Paul and his buds to stay overnight at her house.
We’re not so apt to invite strangers into our homes to spend the night, except for those family members we don’t call strangers, but sometimes, flat out strange. Or unless we’re running a Bed and Breakfast. This is, however, the perfect place to go back to our first scripture, from John 14.
Jesus had said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” In this definition of community, Jesus reminds all of us of the Holy Trio of Relationship: God, Christ and The Holy Spirit. Even God is in a relationship of others, creating a partnership that lends strength, comfort, encouragement and companionship - in our human way of thinking.
There is no question that there are a great number of people who are lonely and alone, and those situations tend to be observed or thought of in terms of sadness or even pity. Regardless of whether we are wired for getting our energy through solitude or through being with other individuals, we are never, ever alone. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are always with us. Technically, we are constantly surrounded by party of love and life. And still, sometimes it’s hard to enter into that “party.”
Being so far removed from that time, we may not appreciate the oddities of the passage from Acts - the work of God being led by a woman and a man with a multi-racial heritage. From the earliest days of Christianity, God was using anyone willing, to further God’s kingdom of love and grace.
The idea of “We’re In This Together” is an incredibly nice and even cozy thought as we sit in this sanctuary, clean, at a descent temperature, lights, and a living, breathing organist and pastor. Just turn on the tv, radio or your computer, and you will soon discover just how uncommon this scenario is on this morning where some churches are meeting in alternate spaces due to tornadoes and other people - of all sorts of ethnicities - are sleeping not in their own beds while they try to figure out how they are going to put their lives back together after the last flood that came their way.
Regardless of our living or worship circumstances, we are all in this “life on earth” thing together. What happens to flooded-out farmers relates to us because we are all connected to each other through Christ. What happens to those who have lost their homes relates to us because we are all connected to each other through the Holy Spirit. What happens to those who lose their livelihoods due to fire or finances or any other reason outside of themselves, relates to us because we are all connected to each other through God.
On this weekend that celebrates those who never made it out of their service uniforms, it’s hard to not think about those who gave all they had to give so that we can determine just how we join into this idea of being in this world together. For such freedom and sacrifice and charge, let us pray.
Holy, Eternal God, thank you for this day and tomorrow and all our other tomorrows. Help us recount the sacrifices of those who gave their all in allowing us the freedoms to determine how we join your ministry of reaching those who need help and grace and love. Stir our hearts to those who may need a touch of grace, a listening ear or a glimpse of recognition. Grant each of us that peace that your son spoke of, a word from your heart and mind. For all the gifts with which you bless your people, we all say, Amen.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.