The Seventh Sunday of Easter
The Reverend Ashley Mather, Curate

John 14:1-14

Feel Alive
Prayer: In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Nine years ago, I went on my first mission trip to Kenya with the Kansas to Kenya program. I joined the college team with three other college students, the K-State Canterbury Intern, and three members of the clergy from around our diocese.

Throughout most of my school days, I have been an over planner, and this trip to Kenya (although I was not in charge) was no different. I spent many hours leading up to the trip planning minor details. Once it was time to board our plane though, I let go of the things that I could no longer control and turned my attention to learning as many words and phrases in Swahili. From Wichita to Atlanta to Amsterdam to Nairobi I spent 30 hours either resting or practicing Swahili, and by the time we landed, I felt confident in my ability to have basic conversations with those who didn’t speak English.

On our first day in Maai Mahiu we went to All Saints’ Anglican Church to see the church and to visit their vicar. As we were driving along the side road that led to the church, I heard a young child yell “Muzungu,” which means white person. Within the blink of an eye 20 children were running behind our Matatu. When we arrived at All Saints’, our clergy headed into the church to meet with their vicar, and we decided to hangout with the children who were waiting outside.

We wanted to teach them some games, but many of them couldn’t speak or understand English so we did a lot of mimicking. When we didn’t know how to mimic something, we would run over to out mata-tu driver, Clemet, and ask him how to say certain words. We taught them how to play Red Light, Green Light and Duck, Duck, Goose

In the middle of one of our rounds of Duck, Duck, Goose, this little girl who was about three-years-old came and sat on my lap. She didn’t say anything, but she turned around and looked at me and smiled. I said “Jambo”…hello. I’m sure she knew what I meant, but one of the older kids who did speak English said to me: “She doesn’t speak Swahili…she speaks Kikuyu.” Kikuyu is a tribal language.

Well I didn’t practice Kikuyu on the plane, so I had no idea how to verbally communicate with her, but when she turned around and looked at me. I felt like I had known her her whole life. She did not speak English, and I did not speak Kikuyu, but it’s like we were speaking the same language in our hearts. Both of our souls were connected in that moment, and I felt so alive. More alive than I had ever felt be-fore. Alive in the way that only my soul could understand.

I saw her every day for about three days and on our last day at All Saints’, she ran after our matatu cry-ing. I have no idea how she knew that it was our last day at the church. Maybe someone told her in Ki-kuyu. Maybe she just knew. My heart was aching as I watched her running after us.

I have never felt so connected with another human being in that way like I did with Eliza. With a three-year-old, Kikuyu speaking, little girl, and I know that it was the Holy Spirit at work. I often wonder if I was looking into the eyes of Jesus, and I still think about her and pray for her nearly every day. She’d be about 12 years-old now.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is saying a final prayer for his disciples. The way that the lectionary has divided up the readings, we only hear just a small portion of this powerful prayer, but even just the small portion we hear is striking. It’s poetic, beautiful, and it simply bears Jesus’ soul and the love he has for his dis-ciples.

Jesus knows that he is leaving his disciples, and there is a bit of sadness in his words, but he is praying that God will protect them after he is gone. He is praying that the disciples will live out his resurrection, and in order to do that, they need to find ways to be rejuvenated and to feel alive. It begs them to ask this question of themselves each and every day: What makes you feel alive?

And so I ask you, my friends: What makes you feel alive?

Karoline Lewis, one of my go to preaching authors, asks some important questions that can help us to dig deeper when asking ourselves: What makes us feel alive? She asks, “What will keep reminding you of the resurrection? What will help you remember that resurrection is here and now. What Easter feeling will remain in your memory so that you can draw on it when you need it the most?”

Lewis expands on those questions with this reflection. She says, “I think we need these kinds of mo-ments — the kinds of moments when we feel alive, and fully. Why? Because Jesus is no longer in the world but we are. And we need reminders, any kind of reminders, many kinds of reminders, that resur-rection is not just a one-time event, or only that which secures our future, but is a way of life. I think that’s exactly what Jesus is trying to say in this final prayer to God that the disciples get to overhear. It’s what they need to hear. It’s what we need to hear.”

During this time of quarantine, we are grieving the loss of celebrating some big moments together phys-ically as a community: Holy Week, Easter (and the entire season of Easter), and Pentecost. It can be un-derstandably easy to feel like we simply missed Easter and Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. It can be easy to forget how to celebrate the resurrection and how to feel alive in our relationship with God. I know that we are all finding new ways of connecting with God right now, and I know that I can’t just fly to Kenya each time I need to rejuvenate my faith life, especially right now, but I have to do something. We all have to do something.

What makes you feel alive? What especially make your soul feel alive right now? AMEN.