(Because there are visual aids, like videos and pictures, in this sermon, feel free to view the video recording of the sermon HERE)

I speak to you in the name of one God, Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to share with you a video I recently saw on Facebook posted by a school teacher coping with our current situation of e-learning. See: video clip of screaming teacher. I love this video so much. I love how it brings humor into a difficult situation. I love that she feels comfortable speaking her truth. And I love that without many words at all, she is able to give voice to exactly how I am feeling much of the time during this pandemic. And since this video has been viewed tens of millions of times, I don’t think I’m alone.

In times like these, it is more important than ever to seek comfort, to find answers to difficult questions, and especially to be able to voice our frustrations and feelings just like this amazing music teacher.

Cue today’s Gospel lesson. Today’s Gospel is the beginning of what is called the Farewell Discourse, or what some call the Speech of Comfort. This was the last speech given by Jesus to the disciples the night of the Last Supper, directly after the washing of their feet and before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Jesus knew the disciples were scared and unsure of what was about to happen, so Jesus shared these words— “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in me and believe and God.” Translated another way, “don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.”

During our own time of fear and uncertainty, during a time when we, ourselves, are looking for compassion and consolation, it is so lovely to hear this reading, BUT that’s not actually why it is read this Sunday. Although Jesus’ speech is given after the Last Supper and before his death (imagine how you would feel reading this between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday), we are hearing this lesson today during the season of Easter. We are no longer in Holy Week. Yes, Christ has died, but Christ is now risen—death has been vanquished and new life is now possible.

So why are we hearing this story in Easter? Along with giving his disciples comfort, in this passage, Jesus knows that very soon he will no longer physically be with them. For this reason, he is telling the disciples how they are to maintain relationship with him after his ascension to be with the Father. Jesus is saying, “I am going before you to my Father…to prepare a place for you…remember who I am and the marvelous works I have done. I am He who healed the sick…I am the one who cured the lame…I am the one who did not forget the poor and persecuted…I am the one who raised the dead to life. I am the Great I AM. I have done these things so that you will believe—believe in me…trust in me, and I will always be with you.”

What normally happens when Jesus says something unbelievable? That’s right, the disciples don’t understand, and they have questions. Thomas asks, “we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.” Trying to be helpful, Jesus restated what he had already said, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father…what I have done is the work of the Father…if you have seen me, you have seen God.” But as we’ve learned from Doubting Thomas, this wouldn’t make sense to them until they witnessed the miracle of resurrection. And what do you think they were feeling between Christ’s death and resurrection? See: video clip of screaming teacher.

Yes, Praise the Lord, Alleluia, Christ is Risen, it’s Easter, but what does that mean when so many of us feel like this music teacher…when so many of us have hard questions just like Thomas and Philip—“Jesus, I’m sorry but I don’t remember the way and I don’t know where to go from here…can’t you just show me the Father?” The good news is that the answer today is no different than it was for the disciples. Trust in God, trust in Jesus. Even though I am no longer here, I am with you always.

It’s that simple, and yet, it is that difficult. Trust. Jesus is telling us to trust in him and we will never be alone. What does it mean to trust? How is trust built and fostered? Since it is Mother’s Day, I’m going to use the relationship I have with my mother to illustrate how I understand the trust that Jesus is asking us to foster.

This is my mom, Kathy Rutledge.

If you’re wondering, she is just as nice and sweet and caring and cute as she looks in this picture.

She is the kindest, most loving person on the planet. Her world revolves around her three children and three grandchildren. Each of us knows that we are loved unconditionally by her. I love my mother very much, and, obviously, I think she is the greatest mother in the world, but my love for her doesn’t even come close to the love that she has for me.

I talk on the phone with my mom about 2-3 times week, and I normally call her when I’m in a good mood and really feel like talking. But do you think 2-3 times a week is enough for her? Absolutely not! She would love to hear from me every day, multiple times a day. This isn’t because she is lonely or starved for attention…it’s because she cares for me and is truly interested in how I’m feeling. She understands if we talk every day, I won’t always be my best self. She knows she runs the risk of not talking to this Andrew ****(picture of happy Andrew), and potentially talking to an Andrew that is feeling like this. See: video clip of screaming teacher. But that is how amazing she is. She loves all of who I am—not just priest Andrew, or nurse Andrew, or Andrew at his best—BUT she also loves cranky Andrew, scared Andrew, and depressed Andrew.

I know that I can call my mother at any time of any day. I know she will listen to me, love me, and not pass any judgment on what I am saying. I feel safe sharing all of who I am with my mother, I trust her, and when I finish a conversation with her my heart rarely feels troubled. If I’m angry or depressed, talking with my mother doesn’t magically make me feel better—but knowing that someone cares about me, listens to me, loves me, no matter what…I know that whatever burden, whatever weight I’m carrying—doesn’t seem as heavy knowing that someone else is there to help me hold it.

Trust in God, believe in me. As a post-resurrection, Easter people, this is the relationship Jesus is inviting us into. It is this kind of connection that Jesus longs to have with us, and it is the kind of relationship Jesus longs for us to have with each other. Any time we have a real, honest, vulnerable exchange where our feelings are not only shared, but heard and held, trust is built, and God is at the heart of that interaction.

Today’s Gospel is a reminder that we have never, nor will we ever be alone. Jesus has prepared a place for us, but it is up to us to risk going there. I say risk because it is not always easy—sometimes it will feel the hardest thing you will ever have to do.

To this day, I still regret those times in my life when I didn’t trust the strong and loving relationship I had with my mom—thinking what is going on with me wasn’t important enough to burden her with. I remember being in the fifth grade, only having female friends and singing Phantom of the Opera on playground, and being made fun of and bullied on a regular basis. I remember feeling like there was something wrong with me—that God had made a mistake—and I thought at the time that it would hurt my mom too much to know how unhappy I was…that she wouldn’t be able to help me bear the burden on my fear and sadness. That thought couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The same way my mother would have given anything to know how I am feeling at any time—good or bad, right or wrong, frivolous or not—that is way God wants to be with us.

The message this morning is not a complex one. We are not called to live this life alone. We are called and invited to be in relationship with God and with one another. This means we are not to keep our feelings to ourselves. How we are feeling is truth to us and that truth begs to be honored and heard by God.

During times of trial, like the current pandemic we find ourselves, most of us have new burdens and worries that are weighing us down. And it is especially true, right now, during times of grieving and loss, that God not only can handle our anger and frustration and sadness, but God needs to hear from us. God wants us to pray.

In its simplest form, prayer is just communication with God. Most of us think prayer can and should look something like this (picture of pious kneeling prayer). But like Jesus says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” the post-resurrection Jesus dwells in all of us—God’s dwelling is in all of us. Prayer isn’t just bowing our heads and closing our eyes. Prayer is having a holy conversation in which we share what is true for us, and we trust our that in the sharing, we are known and loved and that our hearts may be less troubled.

Reach out. Don’t stay silent. How you feel, whether you think it is warranted or not, matters. Communicate with God, either like this (person pious praying kneeling) or like this (pictures of various forms of communication like talking on phone, email, two people talking/hugging). And if you don’t know what to say, or if words seem too hard to formulate, sometimes our prayers come out looking like this (teacher screaming), and that is just as holy as any other prayer. Amen.