Today is Senior Sunday, the worship service in which we celebrate the achievement of graduation from High School and College. I’d like you to think back to your own graduation or the graduation of a friend. Do you remember what you did the night of graduation? I can’t quite remember what I did, but I am certain of what I didn’t do. I didn’t update my facebook status. I didn’t send out a celebratory tweet. I didn’t share graduation photos on Instagram. I didn’t google directions to the after party. One of the things I love about graduation is to take a moment to step back a think about the culture this graduating class in inheriting. The Class of 2013 is inheriting a culture that is more connected and less connected than it has ever been. In general we can send a facebook post quickly around the world, while at the same time finding it increasingly more difficult to shake the hand of a neighbor. They are inheriting a “culture of updates.” If you have a smart phone, maybe you’ve noticed that nearly a day doesn’t go by without one of your apps needing an update. Soon downloading an app to your phone will be ancient technology. Soon the only data on your phone will be your profile or your identity, which will connect to the cloud so that apps can be updated as frequently as the speed of light will allow. You heard it here first, by the way. The Class of 2013 is inheriting a world dictated by lengthy anticipation with instant reward. The Christmas decorations are hung earlier and earlier every year, yet the twelve days of Christmas, the days between Christmas and Epiphany, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The next Iphone will be announced months before it will be in stores (great anticipation) and people will camp out to get the new phone on the day it is available (instant reward). Wedding venues book up years in advance (great anticipation), while the wedding ceremony is getting shorter and shorter (instant reward). Our graduates are inheriting a culture in which there is great pressure to think globally, update continuously, and live with great anticipation of instant reward.
I’m not sure what the tradition is today, but during my High School senior banquet, the Senior Class President would read a list of wills for the underclass. You know, “Stephanie Johnson wills the Junior class her seat at the cool table in the cafeteria. Jason Smith wills his English IV notes to the highest bidder . . .etc.” Imagine that today’s text is Jesus’ senior banquet in which he is willing wisdom to the Junior class of disciples. Jesus too asks the disciples to think globally, update continuously, and live with great anticipation, but, as Jesus says, “I do not give to you as the world gives.”
Jesus asks them to think globally. Jesus says, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Jesus is asking the disciples to think globally in the sense that God’s desire is for heaven and earth to be one. Revelation 21 says, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples and God himself will be with them.’” We pray it daily—“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Notice that Jesus says, “We will come to them and make our home with them.” It is not for us to ascend to the heavens; rather we are charged with creating a fruitful environment in which the God can work with us in building the Kingdom.
How do we do this? By keeping Jesus’ word. What is Jesus’ word? Jesus says earlier in the Gospel of John, “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.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The environment we are asked to create is cultivated by the power of loving each other as God loves us. In a way, Jesus wants the disciples to see the world as a place in which God will dwell through the love we share with each other. Oh, it started in Jerusalem, but Jesus wants them to think globally, so that all the world will know the love of God.
In addition to thinking globally, Jesus wants the disciples to update continuously. Jesus says, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit will be sent to the disciples as a guide. Why do we need the Holy Spirit to be a guide? Jesus did not come to establish a new law. One of the phrases I hope my Sunday School class will remember after I leave is, “The Bible doesn’t tell you what to do on a Tuesday afternoon at 2:30.” A simple church is one with lots of rules; however a church which transforms the world improvises with the Holy Spirit. For example, “sin” is that which separates us from God and from one another. “Sin” is an archer’s term, meaning “missing the mark.” In other words, God is asking us to hit the target, but humanity’s aim can be really off at times. The most harmful sins are ones in which people get hurt, like shooting an arrow into the crowd rather than in the vicinity of the target. Christ calls us to repent, which literally means to “turn around,” and aim for the target. Here’s the catch—it’s a moving target. Now, the target is fixed upon God, but God is alive and dynamic and on the move. Should the church establish a rule that simply says, “A Christian is one who aims north by northwest,” then we will miss what God is doing a great deal of the time. We must repent daily. Daily we must be in prayer asking, “What is your will today, Lord.” In addition to thinking globally, we must update continuously, or continue in righteousness, righteousness meaning, “being in relationship with God,” a God who is alive and dynamic and on the move.” The target is moving with the Spirit, therefore we need to Spirit’s guidance daily to repent, to turn toward where God is leading.
Jesus said, “I am going away . . . now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.” The disciples find themselves in this in-between place. Their teacher is with them, but he won’t be with them for much longer. He said that another is coming who will guide them and teach them and help them remember who they are and who God is calling them to be. The disciples are in this extended period of anticipation, an in-between time of transition. Anticipation can raise the heart rate, create tension in the body, and cause paralyzing anxiety, which is why Jesus stands before them and says, “I am leaving. Some of you may be sad or confused. Some of you may frankly be quite happy. Others may be filled with great anxiety. So, to the Class of 2014, to those of you who will be here after I leave, I will you peace—my peace. My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. The world fills you with an anxiety-filled anticipation with a fleeting sense of instant reward, but I give you the kind of peace, which transforms anxiety into hospitality, uncertainty into creativity. It’s the kind of peace, which transforms the unknown into hopeful opportunity. If I can leave anything with you, I will you the kind of peace, which surpasses all understanding.
Today, as we gather around the table, let us think globally. It doesn’t matter where you live or on what side of the railroad tracks you grew up. You are welcome here. Holy Communion reminds us that all of us are God’s children, and that all are in need of God’s grace and mercy. As we gather around the table let us update our soul, so to speak. Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit, our guide and our Advocate. As we gather around the table, let us be filled with a holy anticipation and excitement for what God has in store for us today, tomorrow, and forever. Let us inherit a Godly culture which calls us out into the entire world, a culture in which the Holy Spirit walks with us daily, a culture which transforms anxiety into joyful peace. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!