The Fifth Sunday of Easter
The Reverend Ashley Mather, Curate

John 14:1-14

Let Go
Prayer: In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you had a chance to read my five-minute meditation from May 1, these first few thoughts may sound familiar. I mentioned that the first half of the fourteenth chapter of John has been popping up in my own life a lot over the past few months. Of all the gospel readings appropriate for funerals, this is by far the most common one selected. It was part of the daily office readings for the feast day of Saint Philip and Saint James the Less, and we just read it again this morning.

I love this gospel reading because of how much we can relate to Thomas and Philip. The disciples are coming to the realization that Jesus will be leaving them physically for good this time, and they don’t necessarily know what to do with this information. Thomas pleads with Jesus and says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And after Jesus tells them that they will know the father because they know him, Philip asks Jesus to show them the father.

His disciples have already heard all of this before, but they were in denial, and they weren’t able to comprehend that he was actually leaving this time. Jesus was with them for roughly three years, and I’m sure that time came with a lot of hard lessons, and I’m sure they were getting used to what was normal for them. When Jesus died, it was devastating, but then he was resurrected, and they had a new normal to look forward to, and now…Jesus is now talking to them about his soon to be ascension into heaven. What happened to their new normal?!

It does sound like Jesus is frustrated with the disciples, but he doesn’t spend much time there. I think he knows that the disciples need support, and they need something they can hold onto in the midst of everything they have to let go of. Jesus has a simple message for his disciples, and that is to look at the Jesus they already know and there they will find God also.

Between my first two years of seminary, I took part in a hospital chaplaincy program. During my interview at the hospital that I ended up serving in, I was able to witness an incredibly powerful moment: The first thirty minutes of my hour long interview was a typical interview. We were in the chaplain’s office and he was asking me questions, I would answer and ask my own questions, and he would clarify. After that, the chaplain wanted to show me around and take me to the different units. The first unit we walked into, I instantly heard crying, and the chaplain explained to me that this woman’s husband was in the process of dying. One of the nurses walked up to us and said, “He actually just passed away.” The chaplain looked at me and said, “Alright…we’re going in there.” He then informed me what I needed to do, and we walked into a room full of people grieving the loss of their brother, father, and husband. I witnessed and felt the emotions of this man’s family as they had to let go.

I was talking to a couple of my friends about this experience and the sheer heaviness that was in the room, and one of my classmates talked about how death is a lot like a baby entering this world. When it’s time for a baby to leave the womb, they are forced to let go of everything they have ever known, go into the unknown, and to live in an in-between space of being in the womb and being in the world…it’s uncomfortable, scary, and hard to let go.

“As the new is birthed, something dies and that which is eternal can find its full nativity only in death. In both the maternity wing and the hospice room, the family is changed—all things are being made new. Birth and death are but the bookends of a shelf full of stories of transformation…”

As all of you know, we are in the midst of a time when it seems like we are letting go of more than we ever imagined we would within the span of just a couple months. And I believe that we are in the midst of living in an in-between space of letting go of our normal lives and waiting to see what our new normal will become once we’re able to be together again. And just like someone who is about to die or a baby on the verge of being born…being in this in-between space is uncomfortable, scary, and hard to let go. And it’s so easy to get frustrated with one another.

Like Jesus’ disciples, there are many unknowns and we so badly want to know the when’s, the why’s, the how’s, and so on. But we don’t have the answers, and just like the disciples put their trust in Jesus, we must also put our trust in those who are trying to keep us safe as they are trying to find the answers and solutions. Some biological mothers might tell you, when a baby being born resists coming out of the womb…it can make for a long, difficult, and painful process. There is going to be tension no matter what, but if the baby let’s go of the only world it’s ever known and relaxes, then the in-between space might just become a little more bearable.

We are all trying to figure out who and how to listen for the best health advice for our neighbors and ourselves. And this naturally comes with tension, but when we start getting overly frustrated with one another, it causes us to tense up and to cling to things that he have to let go of.

And those things that we cling to are different for everybody. We all have things that we need to let go of in order enter into our new normal when the time comes. And I invite all of us to dig down deep and to figure out what we each need to let go of.

In her poem In Blackwater Woods, Mary Oliver says that “to live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

Church is different than it ever has been, but if we look at the Jesus we already know, there we will find God and the church as well.