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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

A Place With No Night

                              A Place With No Night
                                                                 
                                                                 John 14:23-29
    
In the gospel of John, Jesus is frequently reported as preparing his disciples for the day he will not be with them. He has revealed to them his identity and now prepares them for their time of grief. He wants them to remember his words so that they can believe ina new way once he is gone. Having prepared them as well as he could, Jesus sets his face toward what must come in Jerusalem. With determination and resolution he tells them it is time to go face the future. Interestingly enough Jesus then continues his discourse immediately following his call to rise, as if he has forgotten some important matter. What follows is three more chapters devoted to his words about his identity, the True Vine image, things about how the world will react to him, the coming of the Spirit, and a lengthy prayer for his disciples. It is only after that prayer that he leaves and is betrayed by Judas and arrested. Let’s hear some of the words he spoke to his disciples. (Read John 14:23-31)
I wonder what the most important decision of your life was! We have all had to make decisions about jobs, homes, cars, and life changing courses of action. Some of us have made the life changing, all important decision to follow Jesus. And that decision has changed our lives and continues to surround and inform our current decisions. Through Jesus we have walked in the gift of light in making important decisions
I remember the eventful day that changed my life forever. It took three hours of painful reflection and conversation with my pastor, three hours of seesawing back and forth, three hours of debating and struggling with significant issues before I came to the decision to answer the call to ministry and begin seminary. One of the biggest blocks to answering that call was the debate about whether I had the skill and ability to lead, after all the call to ordained ministry is a call to word, sacrament and order. I knew instinctively I could do the word and sacrament part. But it was the order part that bothered me the most. Who was I to think that I could lead a congregation, help them make decisions, and act upon those decisions? But, after three hours of convoluted discussion with my pastor and the even more befuddled thinking that took place in those three hours, I arrived at the decision to make a commitment. I had wandered through all the arguments, discredited all the reasons not to continue, and finally made up my mind. It was as if a voice inside me said, “Rise, let us be on our way!” With resolute strength I called the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in downtown Detroit inquiring about the possibility of enrolling. Before I could back down I made an appointment and found myself in seminary a few weeks later, just in time for the summer session. But in those few weeks the internal conversation and my conversation with God continued. After being out of school for a number of years, what made me think if could go back and succeed? What would it mean for my family to pursue this new venture for God? Fortunately, I had the firm support of a very wonderful husband, who I believe said the words, “It’s about time!” And I stayed the course. But those few weeks of thinking, self conversation, and prayer prepared me further for the ministry I had decided to undertake.
Jesus had given his disciples preparation for the ministry that lay ahead of them after their time of ordeal. He knew there was the chance that once they ran away and even denied him they could stay away and not fulfill the ministry he had prepared them for. Their disappointment could be so great in losing him, and their sense of betrayal and loss so great that they would want to have nothing more to do with his ministry. So he carried on a long discourse with them, promising, prophesying, praying. Jesus was ready to proceed, but he wanted to reassure them that they would be cared for in his absence. He had to convince them that he would be with them in a new way, and that God would continue to care for them. When the time was right and all was said, it was time for Jesus to go to the Kidron Valley where he would be arrested and then face his opposition, his trial and death. And his disciples would meet their time of denial, betrayal and grief over the loss of their beloved leader.
We come to crossroads in our lives, time to make decisions and act upon them. Some of those decisions are not easy to make. We agonize over the right course to take. We sort through mounds of self-doubt, self-criticism, imagining all the possible consequences and outcomes of of our decision. We also sort through our gifts and good possibilities in making a decision. Our decision making sometimes involves a drain on our emotions, often enlarges our fears of the unknown, and even paralyzes us into inaction. We don’t want to make the wrong decision and ruin our lives by giving up our security even though we are unhappy in our current situations.
But what happens when we take our faith into account in our decision making and actions? What happens when we take the conversation Jesus has with his disciples in the gospel of John seriously, and make it a conversation between us and Jesus? First, Jesus promises to be with us, to gives us a peace that is beyond this world, and to give us an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to teach us and guide us in Jesus teachings. Our decisions then can be grounded in those teachings and we are not alone with all the uncertainties we entertain. When we include God in our decision making, we are going to have God with us in the outcomes of those decisions. When we know that God is with us, we are more fully prepared to :”Rise and be on our way.” We are more fully prepared to take the consequence of our actions and to see God working in all of it.
We must take the sense of God’s presence seriously as we prepare for our future. After all, this is God’s world, and we are the created ones meant to live in it. When we do stuff in line with God, then we make the best decision possible and can proceed from the strength of our faith. And if it happens to be the wrong decision, God is with us to continue to guide us where we need to go until we get it right.
When my sister and I made the decision to find a new place for my mother to live when she needed assistance, my prayers were intense about whether this would be the best move for her. The deeper prayer was that she would be prepared by none other than Jesus to make this move. As she continued to struggle with the decision to be moved, I continued to ask God to prepare her, to be with her, to ease her doubts, to reassure her that she would be well cared for and not left alone. With that kind of preparation she would adjust better and find her own place in a new and probably somewhat frightening world of living away from the home she had known for 20 years. She did come to a point where she seemed to say, “Rise, let us be on our way.” And her transition went smoothly. She love the lake near the facility and the little patio she had through the back door. She was checked on periodically and the nurses station was right outside her door.
How are our toughest decisions being made? Do we include God in the decision making process? Do we take time to listen to the voice of God within us? Do we hear the conversation like the one Jesus gave his disciples before the most defining moment of their lives? Do we acknowledge and accept the reassurance that God will be in our decisions even if they are the wrong decisions? Stepping out in faith means that we trust God to lead us, to be with us, to continue to guide and strengthen us for the journey ahead. That doesn’t mean there will be no bumps in the road, but with God we have the seat cushion to take those bumps more smoothly.
After careful, prayerful weighing the pros and cons in any important decision we can march forward in our decision toward new possibilities in doing God’s will in our lives. The light becomes day and the darkness of doubt and fear does not rule the day.

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