Sermon Test: An In-Between Time
When I retire, I should write a book.
I've been collecting a lot of stories for it. And no, not about you church people. It would be about my daughter Marie.
She's 36, but I always think of her as my little girl. Because of her mental disabilities, she's always a little girl. And I have kept notes over the years of her life. Because it's worth it.
She has brought a great deal of sorrow and pain to me and her mom. But she has also brought a great deal of wisdom, laughter, and joy. You could say she's a Good Friday girl, and also an Easter girl.
The Christian church exists because of Easter stories. Before there was a New Testament, before there were written gospels, before there was a completed Bible, there was a community of storytellers. People remembered their stories about Jesus. And people told their stories about Jesus. They told stories about what he taught, and how he healed, and how he lived, and how he died.
And stories of what happened after. Jesus was alive, and still with them. Not in the same way as before, but he was still with them. The storytelling community became the Easter people. They had Easter stories to tell. And Easter stories still happen.
Now, this is an in-between time. We are locked down and isolated from most other people. I am not able to see my little girl. I talk with her by phone, but it's not the same. I'm sure you are having the same feeling in your life. It's an in-between time. And we can't be with all the people we need. That makes our stories about them even more important.
After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, in a sense, he was gone. He was with his people, but not with his people. It has been an in-between time, ever since. He was here, and now he is here in a different way, but we wait for the better way. And stories get us there.
Right now, Marie is with me, but not with me. My stories about her keep me going. Especially the Easter stories Marie gave me. Like this one.
One year, long ago, she and I went for a walk. Just the two of us. It was a day or two after Easter, so I had some time off. Now, you must realize that Marie talks nonstop. If she's awake, she talks. So I'm only going to give you the highlights of our talk that day. There are always lots of extraneous comments she makes. You have to pay attention and sift through it all.
So as we walked that day in the Easter season, just for fun, I told her the Easter story again. I know it by heart from the gospels, and I tried to tell it in a way she'd understand.
Then I asked her a question. "Marie, who is Jesus to you?" She said, "He's my friend...he loves me." Well, you can tell she's a preacher's kid, right? Then she chattered on about some other stuff.
I said, "I'm so glad Jesus is your friend." She replied, "Do you want to see him?" I was kind of taken aback. I said, "Well, yes!" She asked, "Today?"
Holy smokes, she's like one of those in-your-face evangelists! Today???
I left a long silence. She chattered a while about other things. Then I tried again. "So how do I see him?" She answered very simply, with three words: "In your heart."
We kept on walking. She kept on chattering. And at the end of the walk, she said this, and I'm telling you the truth: "This was a good walk. It was good for our hearts."
Now, there is more to the story. Two weeks after that conversation, I took her for another walk. It was a gorgeous evening. I reminded her of our two-week old conversation about Easter. And then I asked her a question: "What did Jesus say the last time he talked to you?" Without a pause, she said, "He remembers my heart and he loves the smile on my face."
Then she chattered on about other stuff. And finally, she asked me, "Are you going to write this down?"
You bet I did. It's an Easter story, and like the first friends of Jesus, I cherish Easter stories in my heart. I need to cherish these Marie stories now, because it's an in-between time. I hope you have your own stories to cherish about the people you love but cannot see right now in this in-between time.
Remember your own stories, the ones that just belong to you.
And remember the Easter stories that belong to all Christians.
It's an in-between time, and we need those stories.
Take it from Marie: They are good for your heart.