THE KIRK OF KILDAIRE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
A sermon preached by Joseph Welker, Jr.
The GADY Fraternity
May 21, 2017
These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by other, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.
Today you might forgive me if I am wondering what to say when we say “goodbye” or enter into a transition. After all, I leave after today for a 10 week Sabbatical and it is goodbye for a while. I’m also aware we are in the midst of saying “goodbye” to Amanda as she prepares to leave us… I don’t like thinking about it.
And especially today, on Graduation Sunday, I’m thinking about what to say to graduates as we say “goodbye” to them as they move away from home, on to college and their futures and the unknown future that awaits them. What to say?
This is the season of commencement speeches and lots of advice. By my favorite may be from Ellen DeGeneras who told one group of graduates:
“Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means you should follow that!”
Sounds like good wisdom to me as you walk into the future … a wide open, unknown future.
Today I draw our attention to what Jesus wants to share as he prepares to say “goodbye”… but of course in this case it is he who is leaving and the disciples, his friends who are staying behind.
What Jesus tells his friends sounds to me like good wisdom to share with you… These are things he wants them to remember after he is gone and as their lives continue without him physically present. He will be present through the Spirit, but it will be different.
His first goodbye word is this: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” — to which you might ask, “what commandments?” Which commandments?
There were hundreds of them. Fortunately, we know because he had just told them that he had a new commandment for them, and it went like this:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another”
In that I hear Jesus saying, something like this, “When I am gone… all you will have left is each other…” Take care of each other… love one another… As I have loved you… as I have modeled for you.
I hope you notice what Jesus assumes as he shares that commandment. He assumes we will be living in relationship with one another… with community. He never meant for disciples to go it alone. He always assumed that his followers would live in community. I think he would be puzzled today that some of his followers think it is not necessary to “go to church” or belong to a community: some followers think it is enough to do everything by themselves: pray, learn, serve… grow… And in an internet/google age this is especially tempting.
But something the internet or even so called social media cannot offer you is true community. People who love you, challenge you and support you along your journey.
For me this was very important when I went to college. When I arrived at Auburn I was all alone and knew only one person: John Kuykendall who had been my brothers’ campus minister years earlier. I had met John when I was 10 years old in the back of my parent’s station wagon on the way to an Auburn-Florida game.
When I arrived he was no longer campus minister but was a religion professor. Except for John, I was all along. But I knew that my brother met him at FPC in Auburn.
So I knew when I landed on the Auburn campus that I would find First Presbyterian. Even more I would find the campus ministry where I would eventually meet Sharon.
I did not belong to a fraternity except the fraternity called Westminster Fellowship (today called Presbyterian Campus Ministry)
By the way, you know the meaning of the word, fraternity don’t you. It means,
group of people sharing a common interests. AND he state or feeling of friendship and mutual support within a group.
Sounds like the church to me. I found that in the campus ministry… a place where Christians could gather for friendship and mutual support whose common bond was faith in Jesus Christ.
It was there I met Bob Dunham who is retiring today as the pastor of University PC in Chapel Hill. Back then I didn’t know how important campus ministry would become in my life.
Bob helped form our Christian community in college… he taught us how to love one another and love God through the years when we were learning and exploring questions of faith. Bob challenged us and cared for us and set us on our way after college. And for 38 years he has remained my mentor, pastor and friend. And Sharon’s.
A few weeks ago a staff member at University Presbyterian emailed and asked me to video a few words to Bob upon his retirement. I had 12 seconds. 12 seconds? 12 seconds to say what he has meant to me. I took 15 seconds and said something like this:
”Bob, at Auburn you taught us to celebrate the temporary (don’t wish your life away… treasure every moment throughout all of the stages of life) but today I celebrate something that endures: friendship for over 35 years…” Friendship and faith were the gifts you gave me… Peace be with you and War Eagle”
When Jesus tells his disciples and friends to love one another (keep his commandments) I think he wants them to have life long friendships like that where faith and love can be nurtured. A fraternity of faith as it were…
I think he would wish that for graduates and for all of us. There is a name for that fraternity: church. It’s not made up of perfect people, but it is made up of people doing their best to provide a place where we learn love one another and to love God.
Good news for graduates and all who move around, you can find this fraternity (church) in almost every community around the world! You have a world full of brothers and sisters in this fraternity! Never forget that.
But there is one other thing Jesus wants his friends to know as he says goodbye. He wants them to know they will never be alone… “I will not leave you orphaned”…
He promises that when he leaves the Spirit will come… literally the Paraclete. It is, in the Greek, an advocate, a counselor, a comforter and guide. It is God abiding with you and in you. You are not and will never be alone.
That may be hard to believe on some days. There are days all of us may feel all alone in this world… There are times everyone feels that way… facing our questions and our problems… but on those days know you are not alone. Jesus promised the Spirit would be with us.
There would be days of trials and troubles that his disciples would face in the days to come… they would face suffering, imprisonment… it would not be easy. No doubt they would feel all alone from time to time… Jesus wanted them to remember, they were
not alone… the Spirit was with them.
Sometimes in the church they would fight with each other… over difficult issues and it would be hard… they might wonder where is God when you need God?
But he would want them to remember, they were not alone… he would want them to remember that the Spirit of God was with them… who was their advocate, counselor and friend. No matter what the future held, God would be with them. God was sending a Spirit… a spirit to guide, help, counsel and lead them in the future. What a gift he gave them!
This was brought home to me a few days ago when I attended the Sprunts lecture series at my old seminary. Otis Moss III was preaching… he is a very talented, young African American preacher from the Southside of Chicago…
He told a story that I hope to always remember because it fills me with such.
He was talking about the need to remember our past and reflect on it – to remember what God has done for us…and what God will do for us… even as we move into the future.
Then he told this story: It is a story of a grandmother who anytime her grandchild would do something great or would get in trouble, she would always say “Gady” baby.
So her grandchild graduated from 8th grade and she said, “Gady baby”
Then her grandchild graduated from High School and she said, “Gady baby”
But then her grandchild, as a result of where they lived ended up dealing with drugs and drug addiction…and ended up in jail as a result..
Yet her grandmother would visit her and say “Gady baby”
“Gady baby” -Everytime she saw her granddaughter…
But eventually she came out of that situation and graduated from college and there she was on the college campus… and she walks across that stage
So there she was and grandma was shouting, Gady baby, Gady baby, Gady baby
But that is not the grandchild’s name… but she was shouting Gady baby, Gady
And so the grandchild eventually said, “Grandma, all my life every time I did something well or did something bad, You always shouted “Gady baby” Please tell me why you shout “Gady baby”
And the Grandmother smiled and say, “Oh, that’s just short for “God Aint Done Yet”
I want you to know “God ain’t done yet” Oh what a gift she gave her granddaughter as she was heading off into her future.
Brothers and sisters in this wonderful fraternity called Church… I leave you with this good word that sounds like a word from God to me and so I share it with you as we all walk into unknown futures:
To remember that we are commanded to love one another as we have been loved…
And to remember that we are never alone… in good times and in bad, I want you to remember to say, “Gady baby”… God ain’t done yet!
In fact, the best may be yet to come. Gady baby! Amen.