Goodbye - Reflections 5-21-20

Texts for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 24, 2020

photo by Brian Adams from Pixabay

Do you know what a “Minnesota good-bye” is? 

It is a several step leaving process when visiting someone that starts with standing up and saying “Well, we’ve got to be going now.”  Moving from room to room – picking up a potluck dish, getting coats from the back room, waiting while the host dishes up some leftovers for you – a clump of the host family and other guests stroll along and continue to converse with you. Another log jam occurs at the front door when someone from the other room hears that you are leaving and comes to join the farewell. After a while, you make it out to the driveway, accompanied by hosts and other guests where talking continues as you load your car. You get in it and roll down your window to hear what someone called out to you just as you sat down. You get out of the driveway and drive away while the gathered crowd waves and shouts “goodbye” while you wave out your open window.

As an Iowan I would like to say that it happens in Iowa too. 

The reason I bring up this method of parting is because I’ve often thought of chapters 14-17 of the Gospel of John as a Minnesota goodbye - Jesus style. As I said last week, these chapters are called the Farewell Discourse. Between the supper at which Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and his arrest in the garden, Jesus poured out his final goodbye to his dear friends and followers in 4 chapters. You might (well, I might) describe the reading for this week as Jesus’ driveway prayer. The group will separate soon.

Jesus is acknowledging that the time is near; his work is almost over. Our worship planning resource says that in this reading, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, asking that those who continue his work in this world will live in unity. That seems a bit remote and formal. All through these chapters, as well as this final prayer by Jesus, I hear urgency and grief, and maybe a little apprehension for what is ahead for him – and for them. And I hear love for them. These are dear friends, gifts from God. Protect them. Then, yes, Jesus calls for unity.

When I was driving my daughter to college, I felt urgency and grief, and tons of apprehension about what was ahead for her. Have I said everything she needed to know to make her way without me? How will I ever let go of my little girl? What does this mean for me? Protect her.

These recent weeks, I have heard plenty of stories with urgent, apprehensive, and grief-filled words as loved ones were taken away for treatment of COVID19 with no guarantee for an outcome and no promise of seeing them again. Protect them.

One thing to know is that this prayer is about us. You and me. We are also the ones that are so loved. And we are also called to unity with brothers and sisters in Christ. 

The first reading for Sunday happens to be a reading for today as well because it is Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter.  The story of Jesus’ ascension from the book of Acts describes the actual moment of goodbye when Jesus rises to the clouds, out of sight. It is much cleaner exit. No driveway chit chat. Boom. He’s gone. 

Right before that (in the driveway perhaps?), Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit, just as he did in last week’s section of the farewell discourse.  He will pour his Spirit upon them, he says. Remember that he says that to you. No goodbye needed. 

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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