“Take Us With You”

John 20:19-31,

The Second Sunday of Eastertide, Senior Recognition Sunday

Jonathan, Ben, Stone, Latisha, Shaun, Smith, Rose, Moesha, Meredith, Elijah, Will, Claire, Chris, Blair, Ally, Anna Kate and Shelby, all of us gathered here at Northminster today want you to know that, as you prepare to say a different kind of goodbye, and open the next new chapter of your life, your church will be with you, and for you.

Your next new chapters will take you places near and far; Oxford, Starkville, Ellisville, Hattiesburg, Spartanburg, New York, Paris Island, and Jackson, and, though we cannot go with you, we will, nonetheless, be with you; tucked away down there in the reservoir of your soul.

Some of you, I carried in my arms, up and down this aisle, on the day of your dedication.  Others of you came to Northminster in your childhood or adolescence.  But, all of you have been here often enough, long enough, in Sunday School, sanctuary, Bible Camp and youth house, to have had a lot of good strength tucked away down there in the reservoir of your soul, waiting to be brought up and put to work when you need it most in the next new chapter of your life.

Much of what Northminster puts down there in the reservoir of our souls has to do with living our lives in a thoughtful, prayerful, intentional way; a way of life which is summed up really well in Ephesians 5:15, (page 183 in your Youth House Bible) “Be careful how you live.” To be careful how you live includes careful speech, which includes being thoughtful about what you post or say on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where it is too easy to say too much too quickly.  To be careful how you live also includes establishing clear boundaries around your own bodies, and being intentional about maintaining those boundaries, which requires keeping your judgement clear and unimpaired, because impaired judgement puts so much at such risk.

“Be careful how you live” is one great Bible verse to have down there in the reservoir of your soul, as is Romans 6:3-4 (page 146 in your Youth House Bible), the passage we read from the water at every Northminster baptism, the one which says that to be baptized is to buried with Christ and raised with Christ to walk in newness of life; the idea being that, the baptism which takes a moment, lasts a lifetime.  So, be sure to take the memory of your baptism with you into life’s next chapter, tucked away in the reservoir of your soul; a memory which might actually cause you to ask yourself, from time to time, What should a baptized person do in this situation? What does my baptism require of me in this moment?

And then, of course, there is Matthew 24:34-40 (page 26 in your Youth House Bible), where someone asked Jesus to name the most important scripture passage of all, to which Jesus replied, “Love God with all that is in you and love others as you love yourself,” what we sometimes call, around here, the cross-formed life; a simultaneously vertical, up to God, and, horizontal, out to others, life; a life of prayer to God and care for others; the kind, courageous cross-formed life which, in every chapter of life, calls us to sit down with and stand up for the same people Jesus would sit down with and stand up for if Jesus was in Oxford, Starkville, Ellisville, Hattiesburg, Spartanburg, New York, Paris Island or Jackson.

Take all of that with you, and you will be taking some of Northminster with you.

It won’t be magic, but it will matter, because, while a lifetime in church doesn’t guarantee success for anyone, it does give strength to everyone.

Remember, for example, Thomas, in this morning’s gospel lesson.  When Thomas was separated from the community of faith, out there all by himself, in verse twenty-four, he found it impossible to believe in the risen Lord.  But, surrounded by the others, in verse twenty-six, Thomas was able to see, remember and believe what, alone, he could not; a small reminder, for each of us, of how much all of us need one another; how much we all need the church.

All of which is to say that, as you’re gathering your things for this next new chapter, don’t forget to pack the church.  Take us with you where you go.  And, always know that your church will be with you and for you, no matter where, no matter what; with you and for you, not as perfectly as God will be, but as passionately, and prayerfully, as people can be.

                                Amen.