"The Messiah is With You"
There is a story out there about a monastery that had fallen upon hard times and was soon to close its doors. Once a great order, as a result of waves of antimonastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism n the nineteenth, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extend that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly, it was a dying order.
On the grounds of the monastery stood an old hermitage where a rabbi would come rest, write, and pray. He visited frequent and upon his last visit the abbot, having been agonizing over the sadness of the monastery closing, he went and sought advice from the rabbi. He asked the rabbi if there was any advice he could share to help save the monastery. The rabbi explained how he too has noticed how the spirit seems to be gone in his synagogues too and the two of them wept together.
After many minutes of embracing one another and crying, the abbot finally said, “It is good for us to have been together but I did not accomplish what I cam here for. Is there any advice for you to give us in an attempt to save the monastery?”
The Rabbi said, “No, I’m sorry. I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”
The next few weeks for our youth group is going to be exciting, with a lot of unknowns. Such as….
What will happen when what was once familiar no longer feel this way? What will happen when the ones we love, will be gone? Not gone but not here with us. What will happen when our normal routines, our normal time together doesn’t look, or even feel, like it used to?
What are we to do?
Perhaps we can find truth and comfort in these words,
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another…Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me [Jesus]…I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you…Those who love me, will keep my word, and God will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them…Do not let your hearts be afraid. Do not be troubled…”
As our time draws nearer to an end, as we become aware of the realities of our Seniors Katie and Jill leaving us, we may indeed become frightened, nervous about what will happen next. Yet, what will happen next is unforeseeable, but there are things we know will happen.
We know that we will still have the opportunities to gather together. We will still have the opportunities to break bread together over shared meals on Sundays and we will have the same friends who will be there when we go. Our calendars will still be made, Sunday school will still happen, and you can guarantee Loucon and other events will happen too.
There isn’t that much that won’t happen. Some of us may not be there, but you all will be and this is important. Remember when Jesus had ascended into heaven and the disciples were left alone? Do you remember what they did? They didn’t go to more athletic events, they didn’t go to other places, and they didn’t leave their friends. No they continued what they had done for 3 years. They made sure everyone was accounted for, checking in regularly with each other, and gathering together.
Even when times became extremely unsafe for the disciples, they continued to meet together, celebrating the joys of life, praying through the pains, rejoicing and loving with one another. Even amidst the chaos, they found comfort in each other, their fellow travelers. As they met together, they did those disciplines and practices Jesus gave them: devoting themselves to prayer, to the teachings of the apostles, to the fellowship of one another, and the breaking of bread. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper with each other. They kept meeting, committing themselves to the promises they made to each other.
In so doing, all that was scary, unsure, annoying, hurtful, and even amidst the disorganization, they discovered the face and love of Christ in one another.
“Peace, my own peace I give to you,” Jesus tells the disciples, reminding them that although he is gone, Jesus remains with them. Jesus makes a promise to send his comforter, the Holy Spirit, who will guide them and go along with them wherever they find themselves. Even when Jesus was gone, the disciples continued to learn, continued to rejoice, and continue to discover what it meant to love.
Youth of First Presbyterian Church, what is to come, we are unsure of but find comfort in knowing you have traveled quite a ways with one another. Find hope in the fact that you all are friends, you’ve gone on mission trips, you’ve gone to youth council’s, you’ve gone to Sunday school together, celebrated birthdays at Cracker Barrel, swam at pools, sung songs, and shared life as a community together. You know each other and God, God knows you and loves you.
Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” It was at a party on the beach when the disciples saw the risen Christ. Jesus invited his disciples to come, eat breakfast with him, and he asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you!”
Jesus stands, in this time of uncertainty, asking you…
“Do you love me? If you do, know I am here with you, always. Take comfort in each other and know that when two or three of you gather together in my name, I am there with you.”
As for the story at the beginning of the article…
When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, “Well, what did the rabbi say?”
The abbot replied how he couldn’t help and explained how they read the Torah together, wept and that the only thing he said was, “The Messiah is one of us.”
In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monk pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi’s words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? As the monks further pondered the rabbi’s cryptic message, they went through each monk there as to why each one could be the Messiah.
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect. As people began to visit the monastery and its beautiful campus, people began to notice the extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five monks. What was once a dilapidated monastery became alive with people visiting more and using its facilities to pray, meditate, and gather.
Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them.
May we, in these coming months, come to better understand the love and peace of Christ, so that in doing, our understanding of how important our community is will be revealed with tenderness and mercy. Then in all of our doings, now and always, may we come to see the face of Christ, the Messiah, in everyone we meet.
After all, the Messiah is with us.
Peace of Christ to you friends.