6th Sunday in Easter - May 22, 2022

Updated: May 27



The end of May stands out as a time of transition. Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. We can feel the seasons change. Until the cold snap yesterday, we thought the summer heat had replaced the gentler spring temperatures. Still, pools will open. Baseball is in full swing. Families picnic in the park. The days last wonderfully long, enabling us to spend more time outside in the evenings. As we approach June, we wonder where the year went. Time to panic; 2022 is almost half over. In a month, days will start shortening as a countdown to December.


Our most prominent transitions at the end of May are, of course, graduations. Whether from kindergarten, elementary school, high school, or college, we honor these milestones, as we should. They are a big deal. Days and long nights of studying, tests, projects, and papers all lead to a graduation ceremony. Graduations are the culminations of hard work and sacrifice, both by the student and by the student’s family and close friends.


We give particular deference to high school and college graduations. Those events mark the end of eras. After the speeches are given and the diplomas handed out, the connections the students have with each other, the ties their parents have with their friends’ parents, are weakened or lost, to be replaced by new connections and ties that emerge where the students next find themselves.


With high school graduation, many students become independent or largely so, as they move out of their family homes on a permanent or, if college-bound, school year basis. College graduation commemorates the completion of that separation from childhood with the child a child no more but rather an adult able to live on his or her own.


This Sunday we celebrate our graduates. Many we have seen grow up in this church, others are welcomed newcomers. In this church family, we share the pride of their accomplishments and the excitement of what the future may bring for them.


I have a particular interest in graduation this year. Hortencia’s and my youngest child, Holly, is graduating from high school. For Holly, it is a double transition, for in a month she will return to us from a youth exchange program in Germany. Since August, she has lived with her excellent host parents and their wonderful daughter, who has become a second sister to Holly. The Holly who will return will not be the same one who left last year. In the same manner, the high school graduates going off to college will change before that first Thanksgiving vacation back home. They will experience greater independence and want to carry that change home with them. The negotiations that follow challenge all parents, but that challenge proves necessary for the children—and the parents—to grow.


We try to aid our children’s growth by giving advice. We warn. We share stories about what it was like for us in our day. We foretell what challenges they will encounter. I suspect the subjects of this guidance, our children, ignore or forget most of it in the excitement of making their great leap of independence and in their determination to make their own decisions. I also suspect some of the guidance can and should be ignored as the world in which the parents lived has changed. The ritual, however, is played out as it has in previous generations. Despite parents’ inability to control their children’s future as they depart from home to college or from college to the real world, parents nonetheless feel their litanies of specific “suggestions,” paired with some insistences, fulfill one of the last requirements of parenting.


Perhaps the parents and the graduates would be happier if we just stuck to Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” While he offers no advice about how often to do laundry, going to bed early, making friends, and majoring in a subject that could result in a good-paying job, Dr. Seuss thoroughly covers the basics. Great encouragement to be brave and take the world by storm:


You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.


Warnings that life will not always be fun or easy or successful:

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.


Assurances that the obstacles can and will be overcome:

On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

* * *

Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.

Confidence that life will turn out well:

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!


Dr. Seuss is not the author of our gospel reading today. Jesus’ farewell discourses in the Gospel of John span four chapters of almost unbroken monologue, as complicated as Dr. Seuss’s words are simple. But like Dr. Seuss’s book, Jesus’ words serve to teach at a time of transition. It is the last time Jesus extensively educates his disciples. Jesus knows it will be the last time, so he packs as much as he can into these instructions. The relationship Jesus has with his disciples will be forever changed when he concludes the discourses. Shortly after he concludes, Jesus is arrested, tried, and executed. After his resurrection, it is not like the old days. Jesus does not return to live with the disciples, but only briefly visits them. They will be without Jesus, their teacher.


In our reading, Jesus warns the disciples how it will be. He soon will go away, but they should not worry or despair. He assures them that the Father will send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Advocate will teach the disciples everything and remind them of Jesus’s words.


Like high school and college graduates facing the challenges of becoming independent adults, the disciples are taking a giant step towards living their own ministries. They are moving from being students to becoming teachers themselves. From being followers, they emerge as leaders. For the world’s knowledge of Jesus, the effect Jesus has on the world, originates with these disciples. They had to understand Jesus’ message, explain it to others, and generate the interest and excitement necessary for those others to pass the message on to still more people. It is a sign of Jesus’ impact on the disciples and the power of the Holy Spirit that the message reaches us 2000 years later.


This May saw another transition. We buried Deacon Rose Ann Smith yesterday. While this diocese has always had the occasional deacon waiting his mandatory time before becoming eligible for ordination to the priesthood, Rose Ann Smith belonged to the first wave of deacons in this diocese whom we term vocational deacons. A vocational deacon is called to serve only as a deacon and does not have a call to become a priest. Rose Ann was one of my role models both as I discerned my call to become a vocational deacon and when, fifteen years after Rose Ann’s ordination, I was ordained. With her death, we lost a connection to those earlier days, days in which the identity, role, and legitimacy of vocational deacons were continually questioned, days in which the character of the vocational deacons like Rose Ann and how they lived their ministries ensured this diocese would continue to ordain deacons to remain as deacons. You don’t often get to meet trailblazers. When they are gone, it can feel like the children have taken charge.


In death, Rose Ann experienced the greatest transition we can perceive. Death is the transition that awaits us all, puzzling us and often scaring us. It is as we contemplate death that Jesus’ farewell discourses give so much comfort. At the mileposts of our lives, even in our deaths, Jesus brings us into his relationship with the Father. For all our faults, Jesus chooses us. In Jesus’ name, the Father sends the Holy Spirit to sustain us through all our transitions and to that moment of death. By preceding us in death, Jesus shows us that death is not the end but a beginning.


One final transition demands a place in this sermon. Today is Mother Courtney Jones’s last Sunday at St. Andrew’s, at least for the foreseeable future. It has been my tremendous joy and honor to get to know Courtney and to become her and Michele’s friend. Courtney was ordained a vocational deacon, but later she discerned a call to become a priest. I sadly missed her ordination last week as I had to be out of town for family reasons. Because I could not attend on her day, I am especially glad I can talk about her now. Courtney was an outstanding deacon and will be an outstanding priest. I know the Spirit will sustain her and Michele as they continue their journeys. I know that this transition is not an end of our friendship, but a change.


I should have something clever to say to Courtney, some great words of advice, but my advice would likely miss the mark and be forgettable, as my advice to my daughter Holly will be when we drop her off at college at the end of the summer. So rather than attempting some insightful comments that will smooth Courtney’s path in life, I instead will quote the final words of the good doctor, which to me seem to fit nicely for Courtney, as well as for our graduates:


So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!




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