NextSunday Worship


May 13, 2018

“Have We Remembered Everything?”

Dr. Mike Massar John 17:1-26 Year B – Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Introduction:

The Hispanic writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez,

wrote exquisite novels –

                One Hundred Years of Solitude,

                            Love in the Time of Cholera

                                        and others –

                that express the importance of remembering.

Marquez shows us

that sometimes people

are trapped in the past,

living out of nostalgia.

But he also shows us

that sometimes people get trapped in the present,

and that, too, is an imprisoning experience.

I have come to appreciate that importance

more and more.

While my mother was dealing with dementia,

she retained her sweet spirit

(She is one of the sweetest people I know),

but her loss of memory

was tremendously frustrating for her.

(I’m sure that some of you

have coped with a loved-one’s similar situation.)

When we were together

I probed around and talked about things in the past,

most of which she couldn’t connect with,

but others that were so clear and lucid.

However, most of the time

she couldn’t remember things very well,

and if you couldn’t laugh about it,

you had to cry.

For instance, at one point

I went to Austin

to see her.

Because of the compactness of schedules

I set up an extended breakfast with her

and my sister, Mary Ella.

When I picked them up

Mom looked like a million dollars,

and I complimented her

for looking so lovely.

When Mary Ella and I had a brief moment alone

she laughingly told me

that Mom had gotten up at 5:30 that morning

and gotten completely dressed.

She came into my sister’s room

and told her she was so excited about the day.

Mary Ella was pleased.

But then Mom said,

“But I’ve forgotten what I was excited about.”

Mary Ella said,

“Mike’s coming, Mom.”

“Oh yes.

That’s why I am excited.”

I laughed and cried

both at the same time . . .

Memory is a most important thing,

and in our Scripture this morning

Jesus is asking us to remember . . .

 

The Witness of Scripture:

Our text for the morning

comes from the last part of John’s Gospel

which has been titled

“The Farewell Discourse.”

The 13th – 17th chapters reveal intimate details

of Jesus’ farewell address

to His disciples.

Understanding this setting

is vital in comprehending

our text for the morning.

In these five chapters

the whole tenor of John’s Gospel changes.

Up to this point we, along with the disciples,

have followed Jesus,

listened to His teaching,

observed His actions.

And up to this point,

we have found ourselves

in the stories . . .

a wedding in Cana,

a night time visit with Nicodemus,

a radical encounter with a Samaritan woman,

and many others.

John’s Gospel seems to pull us into the Gospel

more so than the others.

We are almost compelled to engage.

 

Interestingly enough, in the 13th chapter

the style changes.

Instead of moving with Jesus

in a narrative manner,

listening in on conversations,

we are suddenly aware

that we are now a congregation

being spoken to.

At the end of Jesus’ address

He does something remarkable,

He prays for us.

Just think about that for a minute.

We often think of praying to Jesus.

But God’s Word this morning

reveals this startling reality:

Jesus is praying for us.

From those immortal words in the 14th chapter,

“Let not your heart be troubled . . .”

Jesus reminds us that He is concerned

about us . . .

He is praying for us!

He is saying good-bye,

but He is not going to forget us.

 

You will remember that on Easter morning

when Mary Magdalene finally encountered Jesus,

she tried to hold on to Him,

so tightly that He couldn’t get away.

“Do not hold on to Me,”

Jesus told her.

You see, to hold Jesus

is to limit Him,

to define Him,

to grasp Him.

But you can’t hold Jesus.

He is risen!

He is moving out,

beyond the confines

of our expectations and categories.

The Christ after Easter is a living God,

not some containable, definable pet of a God

for whom we whistle and He is there.

He comes and goes.

He is present, then absent.

Instead of the platitudes we often use —

“Since I took Jesus into my heart,”

“Since I put Jesus in charge of my life” —

we need to understand

that we don’t take the Risen Christ anywhere;

He takes us!

He comes and goes,

because He still has work to do.

 

In His final words to us

Jesus doesn’t promise us

that we will never feel alone,

doesn’t say that the times of absence,

the dry valley of loneliness,

will not be difficult.

He doesn’t assuage our fears

with cheap or trite consolations —

“I’ll live on in your memory.”

What He does

is pray for us.

And as the writer of Hebrews reminds us,

Jesus keeps at it . . .

He is our High Priest,

interceding on our behalf.

 

With that marvelous assurance,

let us listen this morning

to the words of Scripture

that come in the prayer of Jesus . . .

for us.

Would you, therefore,

bow your heads, close your eyes

and listen with your hearts

to the Word of God

as heard in the prayer of Jesus?

From the 17th chapter of  John’s Gospel,

beginning with the verse numbered “1″ . . .

 

The Sermon:

A few years ago

Joel Siegel, the movie critic for ABC’s

Good Morning America,

wrote a most interesting book.

Siegel had a style

very much similar

to Neil Simon.

He was clever and funny

and, at the same time,

brilliantly insightful.

His book, Lessons for Dylan,

was written to and for his son,

but it is a heart-rending read

for all of us, I think.

 

At the age of 57

Siegel learned that he would become

a first-time father.

Needless to say,

he was ecstatic.

But then in a cruel twist of irony

two weeks later,

he had learned that he had colon cancer

and only a 70% chance

of seeing his child born.

Fortunately, Siegel survived

long enough to see his Dylan born

and lived five more years,

but Siegel knew he was terminal,

and terminal he was.

(and aren’t we all?).

Thus, he began to tell his story to Dylan.

You see, like the Jewish fathers of old,

Siegel felt the responsibility

of the boy’s education.

Consequently, he wrote letters to Dylan

about all sorts of things.

The letters are long on values and ethics

and short on braggadocio,

although there are some proud moments

that Siegel wants his son to have.

Whatever, the book is poignantly informative

in describing the art of saying good-bye.

 

This week

I thought of what a valuable lesson that is.

You see, in our text for the morning

Jesus is saying good-bye to His disciples.

It is a moment rife with emotion.

Not only is everyone spent

after the culmination

of the past three years’ events,

but there is that ominous feeling

that something is about to transpire,

something that will be excruciatingly

painful and sad.

From our perspective

we know that Jesus is about to leave them;

and I think the disciples sensed this, too,

in ways they couldn’t adequately express.

I believe that Jesus was emotional about things.

He did love His disciples.

After all, they had left everything to follow Him —

jobs, families, communities.

They had invested their lives in Him

and yet He must have wondered

if they fully understood everything.

I think that thought must have troubled Him,

that last night in Jerusalem.

He did several things

to punctuate His calling

and theirs.

He took a towel

and washed their feet.

It was a powerful, intimate moment,

an unnerving one for Simon Peter

and the rest of the disciples.

It still is.

I suppose that may be the reason

why very few Protestant denominations

practice foot-washing.

Yet, it was Jesus’ dramatic way

of reminding them that He had been sent by God

to serve . . .

and so had they.

But even in that act

I can’t help but wonder

if Jesus wasn’t a bit anxious,

concerned that they didn’t get it —

the calling, that is.

 

Therefore, He spent the rest of the evening

giving them direct exhortations

about what God had called them to be and do.

In a strange sort of way

it’s like parents leaving their first-born

with a baby-sitter for the first time.

The parents almost can’t leave

out of the sheer anxiety of worrying about

whether or not they have remembered everything

they need to tell the babysitter.

The litany of what to do

or where to find what they need

can almost eclipse the evening.

At a much deeper level

Jesus had the same pangs of worry

about His leaving the world in the hands

of these sitter-disciples.

John, the most attentive of the disciples,

picked up on Jesus’ concerns

and remembered them in such a pronounced way

that we have this most personal conversation

recorded in His Gospel.

At the end of His remarks

Jesus prayed for His followers.

It is a model for public prayer.

By that I mean, the prayer

was addressed to God,

but spoken so that the community

might listen in.

 

As usual, Jesus’ model

is such a wonderful one for us this morning.

You see,

there is a temptation to speak to graduating seniors

in terms of pithy proverbs

or poetical quotes,

meant to impress or even inspire.

And those are not altogether bad.

However, I will leave those

for the graduation and baccalaureate spekers..

What I would like to say to you today

is to remember . . .

remember that God created you for a purpose.

And your joy will be found

when you realize that purpose

and how your gifts and the world’s needs intersect

to create a pronounced sense of calling.

Tragically enough, the world

will try to sell you on lifestyle

rather than life itself.

The world will entice you

to choose jobs to make money

so that you can have all those lifestyle-enablers.

But be careful,

lest you lose the sense of God’s intentions for you,

so that careers usurp the place of calling,

and occupations overwhelm vocations.

Those are just lifestyles,

not life itself.

Jesus said it quite clearly,

“I am the way, the truth and the life.”

He came to give you life,

life which in its essence

is meaningful and good and joyful.

 

One of the things that I said to our three children

over the years

(perhaps ad nauseam),

when they are going out for an evening

or leaving for school,

was:

“Don’t forget whose you are.”

I want them to remember our great love for them,

but more than that,

I wanted them to remember, first and foremost,

that they were God’s.

 

There is the magnificent story

taken from Hasidic Judaism

that is told by Martin Buber,

the great Jewish thinker.

Buber once said

that when a Rabbi Zusya died and met God,

God was not going to ask him

why he wasn’t more like Moses

or David or anyone else.

Rather, God was simply going to ask

“Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?”

(Buber, Martin; Tales of the Hasidim)

 

And I could say that to each of you

with great affection and affirmation.

But even saying that makes me cringe with worry.

Have we told you enough about God’s great hope in you?

And are we faithful enough to let you go

to pursue your calling in that hope?

Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote,

“On some occasions cowardice asks

‘Is it safe?’;

expediency asks,

‘Is it politically correct?’;

vanity asks the question,

‘Is it popular?’

The important question is,

‘Is it right?’

(King, Martin Luther; “Is It Right?” in Joshua Dubois’ The President’s Devotional, May 6th)

 

I remember former U.N. Ambassador, Andrew Young,

telling about letting his daughter go off to Uganda

to work with Habitat for Humanity.

When she brought up the idea

he had argued vociferously against it.

He knew the danger lurking on that continent;

he knew about the insanity of Idi Amin and others.

Andrew had been so distraught and so worried

about what might happen to her there.

He pled for her to reconsider,

and not to go.

Her reply was startling,

“But haven’t you been telling us all these years

preaching all those sermons,

that when God calls

we are to follow?

God is calling me

and I have to go.”

And what could he say?

He said, “I realized that all I wanted

was a respectable Christian,

not a real one!”

Young watched her plane go airborne

with tears running down his cheeks

and prayers bursting from his heart.[i]

In a sense he was praying out loud

for his daughter and himself,

“Remember whose you are.”

(I have heard this story repeated often, the first time was from Millard Fuller at a Christian Life Commission Conference)

 

Jesus did much the same thing

on that night in the upper room.

He washed feet;

He prayed out loud,

and then He did something quite unusual,

something by which

His disciples could remember Him.

He took some bread and broke it,

saying, “This is My body, broken for you.”

And then He took the cup and said,

“This is the new covenant in My blood.”

“When you eat this bread and drink this wine,

remember . . .

Remember that you were created in love

for love . . .

Remember.”

 

About the writer:

Dr. Mike Massar grew up in west Texas, attended Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mansfield College at Oxford, the Graduate Theological Foundation and the Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. His ministerial journey has taken him from 7th and James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas to Wildewood Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, to the First Baptist Church of Clemson, South Carolina, to the First Baptist Church of Tyler, Texas, to the University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

He and Lisa have three children — Matt and his wife, Meredith, Patrick and his wife, Kendall, and Meredith and her husband, Chris Munson as well as two grandchildren — Luke and Mae. After over forty years of pastoring churches in Texas, South Carolina and Louisiana, Mike is completing his ministry at University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Gruene, Texas, where he and his wife, Lisa, will begin writing the next chapters in their life. Those chapters will include writing, traveling and enjoying their family, especially their grandchildren

 

Scripture and Music:

Psalms 98

Acts 10:44-48

1 John 5:1-6

John 15:9-17

 

Hymns:

In Christ There Is No East or West

Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

For the Healing of the Nations

Help Us Accept Each Other

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

 

Anthems:

If Ye Love Me (Thomas Tallis)

Spirit of Faith, Come Down (Carlton Young)

O Sing Unto the Lord

No Greater Love

Sing A New Song Unto the Lord

Clap Your Hands (Allen Pote)

Here Is Water, Lord (Joseph Martin)

 

Solos:

Love in Any Language

Shout to the Lord

They ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love

We Are Called Christians (David Danner)

Posted in Dr. Mike Massar, Sermons on April 23, 2018. Tags: , , , , ,