Grace and peace to you from God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who is in us and with us now and always. Let all of God’s people say, Amen.
“Little children, I am with you only a little longer.
You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you,
“Where I am going, you cannot come.”
We’ve all been there before.
So, what do we say?
What do we tell our little ones when we are the one that’s going away?
What were we told when we were the little one?
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is the one who will soon be going away.
As our reading picks up, Judas Iscariot,
the one who betrayed him to the leaders of the people,
has left Jesus and his fellow disciples in the upper room,
and gone out to see to it himself.
Later that evening, he will lead them out with clubs and swords to arrest him,
and well, the rest is history.
And of course, he knows it.
Jesus knows that soon, he will be taken away from them, and for a time,
They will be on their own.
So, what are Jesus’ parting words to his disciples?
What instructions does he leave them with?
“I give you a new commandment, he says, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is urging his disciples to love one another,
Because In just a few hours, he will no longer be there to see to it himself.
He will no longer be there to love and care for them himself.
And I think I know a little something about the way Jesus is feeling
as he makes this heartfelt appeal to them.
In less than a month, I’ll be going away too, for a time,
three months to be precise.
In less than a month, I’ll be leaving the ones I love too,
the ones I’ve shared love and life and ministry with everyday now for almost six years,
Which is to say, in less than a month, I’ll be leaving all of you for a time.
And that’s not as easy as you might think.
And it isn’t easy for Jesus either.
Think about it.
Jesus is there for us all the time,
And especially there for us here, every week in word and sacrament.
And as we all know, that’s no small or insignificant thing.
It’s no small or insignificant thing that our Lord comes to us
whenever and wherever God’s people come together around word and sacrament.
It’s no small or insignificant thing that Christ is really present with us
in, with and under the bread and wine of the Eucharist,
and whenever or wherever two or more of us are gathered in his name.
But even so, it’s not the same as the incarnation.
Its’ not the same as his being there, being here with us in the flesh, is it?
Even God knows and recognizes this.
And it’s out of this knowledge, and this recognition,
that our Lord himself experienced while he was in the flesh,
that his instructions flow out to us today.
Even in it’s completeness as God’s real presence with us,
and the means by which his grace flows into us,
Gods’ word and sacrament only leaves us wanting more,
hungering and thirsting for more of him,
anticipating that great day when we will know him, no longer in part, but in full,
even as we have been fully known.
Anyone who has ever had a long distance relationship with someone they love
knows exactly what I’m talking about.
As it says in the song I sang for Randy and Peg a couple of weeks ago,
Entitled, The Impossible Dream,
there is a certain kind of exquisite bliss that comes in loving a person
“pure and chaste from afar,”
but ultimately, the effect it has on us is only to make more exquisite
that moment when the distance between us completely evaporates.
That’s the moment we experience as truly sublime, isn’t it?
So, with all this in mind,
how do we live out this new commandment to love one another as he has loved us?
Well, as you no doubt already know, there are many, many ways
for us to live out Christ’s love for one another.
And we do. WE do it all the time in ways both large and small.
IN fact, one might argue that there are no small ways to live it out.
But today, I want you to recognize the importance of being there for one another,
being there for one another in thought and in prayer, yes,
But also and more to the point today,
being there for one another in the flesh,
being there for one another like Jesus was there for Peter and the other disciples
before they came and took him away.
That’s the missing piece now, isn’t it?
Jesus can be and is there for us in many ways,
But he’s counting on us being there for one another in the flesh.
He’s counting on us to be his body, the body of Christ, for each other and for the world.
And when we do, he promises to be there too in us.
I know, it’s ironic that I would be sharing a message with you
about being there for each other
when I’m preparing not to be there for you for three months.
But part of the reason for that is that for the past six years, I have been there for you.
And the other part is, I want to continue to be there for you.
In fact, while I’m away, I’m going to spend a lot of time meditating and reflecting on
Ways in which I and we as a faith community,
can grow in our Christian love for one another.
when I return I want to help lead us all into deeper and, more loving ways
of being there for one another.
In the meantime, I’m asking you to continue to be there for one another while I’m gone,
Especially here in worship, and at all the other congregational meetings and activities
that are going to take place over the summer while I’m on sabbatical.
That’s one huge way that you can continue to love me and one another while I’m away.
Stay together by getting together right here every week,
and whenever your presence is requested.
It will mean a lot to me to know that you’re all still here being there for each other.
And more importantly, it will mean a lot to you who are still here.
Be there for one another.
Love one another as Christ has loved you.