Yesterday we listened in as Jesus began his long goodbye to his beloved disciples. The setting was the Last Supper. Wine and bread had been shared, Judas had slipped out the door and Jesus had just finished washing his friends’ feet. Now it was time for the always uncomfortable words of goodbye to dear friends. Of course, they were frightened and confused and needed directions and explanations. Jesus began his speech with the powerful and comforting words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
This passage, which goes on to say that Jesus has prepared a place for us in his Father’s house, is the most frequently requested lesson for funeral sermons. However, it is not a passage about death and going to eternal life; it is about living life fully in the midst of changes and goodbyes. We all have a series of goodbyes and departures in our lives: graduations, leaving home for school or military service, getting married and carving out a life of our own apart from parents, moving to another part of the country or world. As we age we say goodbye to what once was easy for us, physical labor, eyesight, hearing, memory.
Jesus tells us not to be troubled by this. Every goodbye is an opportunity for a hello. Every challenging loss or change is an opportunity to use our imagination, flexibility and, most importantly, our faith in God that not only will we survive goodbyes, losses and changes, but we will thrive. Why? Because Jesus has shown us the way. Each of these situations gives us the opportunity to cling to Jesus who says he is the way, the truth and the life. None of these life events are faced alone. We face them with Christ. He has gone into the jaws of death for us and returned alive to equip us with strength and faith, love and compassion, mercy and justice — all the tools we need to get through. For those saying goodbye to loved ones whether it be at the airport, military base, campus or hospital room, we are handing our loved ones over to the care of Jesus. And, just in case that isn’t enough, Jesus finishes his goodbye instructions with this: “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” Not bad.