2019-3-31 “You Are Worth Returning For”

By Reverend Dr. J. Andrew Calloway
Saying goodbye, so long or, farewell, is both intrinsic to our nature
and an inherent part of our social reality. it is intrinsic to our nature
because we are not designed to live forever. We can spend 100 years
of our lives together, and no matter how beautiful, rough, boring and
exciting those years are, eventually we are going to end up saying
farewell. Saying goodbye, so long or, farewell, is an inherent part of
our social reality because people move on, people move away, people,
people move. Saying goodbye, so long or, farewell, is what we do
as living social human beings.
It matters not if the goodbye is anticipated or not, it matters not if
you’ve prepared for the inevitable farewell or not, goodbyes with
someone, especially someone you so deeply love and admire, are always
designed to be unimaginably difficult.
And there are more than one specific kinds of goodbyes: there’s the
goodbye where your loved one is headed off to college or the military
or to a new job out of state, it’s a goodbye to someone who’s leaving
the nest or the home in order to make a life for themselves, they may
even return to the nest, but not in the same child like way they did
before; then there’s the goodbye you utter when it’s time to end a relationship,
you say, we’ve come as far as possible and now it’s best
that we accept our lot and go our separate ways; and then there’s the
goodbye when someone departs from your life for good because of
And death is such a heavy word; it’s a weighty topic; but its also the
appointment we all must keep, it is the one of the universal destination
that we will all arrive at; it’s found deeply in the soil where we
all came from in the first place. Thorton Wilder, the great novelist and
playwright says we will live on this earth and then we will die, and
then we will all be forgotten, but the love we experienced is enough.
And in this text, the disciples are struggling because Jesus is in so
many words, saying, I know you want to keep me around, I know
you enjoy our relationship, I know we all love to break bread together
and talk about our future, but Jesus says, there will come a time
when, like every other human being, I will have to die and depart
from you. Jesus looks across at the named disciples that are present
and he lets them know that the ministry they are carrying out will
eventually lead to his death. He can’t preach what he preaches and
live unscathed. He can’t do the things that he is doing and walk past
the roman government like there wont be consequences. He knows
that his time is almost up and he tells them in so many words and in
so many ways, I won’t be here much longer.
And Jesus, the sensitive human and divine being that he is, senses
that their hearts are troubled. Maybe it was Peter’s facial expression
that gave it away. And we all know how much Peter loved Jesus. Peter
declared to everyone how much Jesus changed his life. Maybe it
was Thomas’ silence; Thomas gets an unnecessarily bad wrap during
the renaissance period but before the paintings of him that we have
seen by Caravaggio, Thomas was one of the bravest who wanted to
die with Jesus; or maybe it was 3 Bartholemew’s body language. You
know when you spend so much time with someone it becomes easy
to read them without them saying anything is wrong. For those who
have kids or spouses, parents or siblings, you know by the air they
give when something is bothering them.
And so Jesus says, don’t lose heart, I will go and prepare a place for
you to stay, and then I will return back here just to get you.
But it is here in this text that causes me to wonder about the disciples’
thoughts. So I wonder, at what point did any bit of incredulity set in?
Was it when he said hey don’t lose heart, believe in GOD? No… I
don’t think so.
Was it when he said hey in my Father’s house, there is plenty of room
for everyone? No… I’m sure they believed him.
What about when he said hey there will come a time when I will die?
I don’t think so. As hard as that must’ve been, but as intelligent as
they were, I’m sure they even believed it.
But then there was the big declaration, the divine announcement that
is quoted numberless times in our day and age. Jesus not only said I
will go away from you, but he also said, I will come back for you.
And no, I’m not sure, but if I were a betting man, I’d say that right
there, after Jesus says this, that there must’ve been some doubt.
1) the first reason that they would have had doubt is because the
question must be asked. Who on earth would return here? If you
tasted the sweet honey provided by heaven, if you danced to the
divine tune of angelic voices serenading your ears with music not
known to humanity, why would you return to a land like this? a
land where over 50 people are killed in Chicago on one day, a land
where an Ethiopian plane mysteriously crashes, a place where
Christian denominations cannot make up their mind about the
rights of queer people in this country, a world where Brexit debates
are deciding the fate of millions of British citizens, a world
where children from Mexico and Latin america are imprisoned in
US concentration camps for trying to cross a border, a world
where the rich and the wealthy walk into college and the homeless
people of Chula Vista and San Diego are treated like rodents. Who
would return here? Who would come back here? Who would
want to see a world like this again? If heaven was a mile away,
who wouldn’t pack up their bags and leave this world behind?
And Who would leave heaven… To come back here?
Would you?
Secondly, I wonder how many of them were thinking, not only why
would he return aaaaaaall the way back here, but why would he return
aaaaaall the way back here, just for me?
There has to be some part of our day when we aren’t being self righteous
and all high and mighty and take a real good look at ourselves.
Maybe not at church but at home when the lights are out, and nobody
is watching us, i suppose a few in here can honestly say to ourselves,
Jesus, I don’t always forgive the way I should, I don’t always
say the right things or the nicest things. I don’t always pay attention
to the least of these. I sometimes focus on my pain without giving too
much thought about anyone else’s. Jesus, if you knew all of that
about me. Why would you return for little ol me?
Which leads to the 3rd reason they could’ve been incredulous, perhaps
they wondered, if I were Jesus, would I return for me?
And this is where I have to reiterate my point: that you, my friends,
in spite of everything and through the very grace of God, are worth
returning for. Even though this world can be destructive, even
though you may not say and do all the right things, even though you
don’t have always have perfect faith but live with a certain amount of
doubt, like everyone else, you are still, undoubtedly, worth returning
This is what Paul was saying when he wrote:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor
demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither
height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He was saying that he knew that no matter what, God’s love is expressed
through the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus,
he knew that such love could only show that you mean the world to
And no, it is not because you are so pretty or handsome or magic but
because God is so gracious that God covers your limitations with His
own expectations. Do you meet them? No. But If you try god gives
you extra credit. If you try God meets you where you are at. If you
try God forgives what you don’t even ask to be forgiven for. If you
try God shows up and does the rest. If you try God finishes the job
for you.
Even if you only have a little it says God loves a cheerful giver. Even
if you’ve made mistakes and can’t be lifted up Jesus says if I be lifted
up. Through the voice of Isaiah he says
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.”
And through the gospel of John Jesus says
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take
you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
And it is no secret, some of us know what it’s like for some one to
leave and to promise they will return, only to find out that they sadly
wouldn’t or unfortunately couldn’t. Some of us know, intimately, that
the ways of life are still being written by a mysterious pen who sometimes
writes separation at the most inconvenience of times. But Jesus
is different. Trust him. Trust his love for you. Trust his commitment to
you. Trust that he will come back, specifically for you. Because, without
a shadow of a doubt, Community church, you are worth it