“Have We Remembered Everything?”Dr. Mike Massar John 17:1-26 Year B – Seventh Sunday of Easter
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.”
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 . . .
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″ . . .
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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,
“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?’;
‘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 . . .
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:
1 John 5:1-6
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
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)
Love in Any Language
Shout to the Lord
They ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love
We Are Called Christians (David Danner)