Saying Goodbye is essential to our walk with Christ. It is essential in our relationships with each other. And, is essential in our own growth as living, loving, spirit-filled human beings.
We all say goodbye in many ways and in many different settings: the death of a loved one; the loss of a job or a retirement; College Graduation; the birth of our first child; the end of a relationship. All of these mark the end of one chapter in our lives and the start of another.
Saying “Goodbye” recognizes that something we value, something that is essential to who we are right now, is ending.
Most of us have had to say “Goodbye” to loved ones who died. And someday, those we love will say Goodbye to us when we die. With death, all that we are slips beyond human grasp. All that is left of us here in this world are the memories of those who knew us – good memories and bad; memories that those who love us will carry with them as they move forward into their own future.
Death means saying goodbye to those we love.
The loss of a job or a retirement is another way of saying goodbye: it marks the end of a way of life or a career. We must say goodbye to the friendships and the community and sense of self that are all wrapped up with that position. We are no longer a teacher, or a manager, or a police officer, or a writer – or a preacher. Part of our identity dies, and will never come back again in exactly the same way.
Leaving a career means saying goodbye to a big part of how we see ourselves, and what defines our place in this world.
College Graduation is another way of saying goodbye. …Yes! School is done! But what now? Get a job?? Be responsible?? Rent an apartment and get a car??? OMG, I have to “adult” now??!! …Nah, I’ll just move back in with my parents!
At the core of the concept and calling of discipleship is the idea that, while journeying with others as they learn, we are learning more about our own faith, about ourselves, and that God’s Love is around us and within us all the time. And so, it is hard to justify interpreting Paul’s journey to Macedonia as being only to evangelize others or to “save” a rich merchantwoman from eternal Hellfire and Damnation.
Our scripture readings this morning all touch on different aspects of the issue of Discipleship.
In Acts 16, we see Paul and his team of co-workers responding to Paul’s vision that they are to minister in Macedonia. Once they arrive there, we see a woman in turn responding to Paul’s evangelism. She establishes a church within her own home; a church that Paul’s Epistles tell us supported him and his ministry for the rest of his life. Yes, Paul, Silas and Timothy were all Disciples. But, so was Lydia and so were those who succeeded her in the Church at Phillippi, and so are we.
Our reading from the end of the Book of Revelation is John’s penultimate vision of New Jerusalem: descending from Heaven, unifying Heaven and Earth. We will finally see the face of God; forever free from any curse or sin.
Paul’s dream, his work, and ours, are all part of preparing for the New Jerusalem; which is the goal of our Discipleship: the vision in the Book of Revelation is of what will be made manifest when our work, as disciples working together to build the Kingdom of God here on earth, is complete.
But, Literalists tend to see this passage, and the Book of Revelation as a whole, as a declaration of how everyone must become a Christian, and that those who refuse that call will perish. (Meaning us too, since we do not interpret the Bible in the same way they do.) For many of them, the Book of Revelation is an affirmation that there is one and only one true faith, and that it is theirs. It saddens me how those who believe there is a very narrow path to salvation are often equally certain they are one of the few who have actually found it.
But, did Jesus actually teach this? Is it a helpful interpretation of scripture?