Pastor Ralph J. Mineo, St. Luke's Lutheran Church
I can vividly remember my first day of Kindergarten. I was very excited about my first day of school! The walk from home to school was about a mile. My sister, Fran, who was beginning 4th grade walked me to school. I can remember the last part of the walk up the steep hill as we passed the library and approached the kindergarten building.
When we walked into the classroom, the teacher warmly welcomed me. Everything seemed wonderful! Then she asked me a question which was very confusing to me. "Where would you like to sit?" Without hesitation, I gave the most obvious answer: "Next to Fran." I was then given information I'd not had before. Fran would not be staying! I would be alone with strangers, all these people I didn't know. I cried vigorously! I was feeling abandoned!
I obviously survived. I would become part of a "new community." I would learn and receive an education. Above all, I would learn that my family was NOT abandoning me.
The disciples felt abandoned when Jesus died on the cross. When Jesus returned from death and walked again on the earth after his Resurrection, the disciples certainly felt abandoned again when he left them. But Jesus had firmly promised he would not leave them orphans. He would always be with them. His Holy Spirit would be a constant presence.
Jesus gave them a new community to continue his work. After Jesus ascended back into heaven, the disciples returned to BE the community Jesus called them to be. The first thing they did, the Bible records, is that they prayed together.
This is the call of the church: to join together in community, to pray together, to expect, anticipate, and recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, and be witness to the ongoing, wonderful deeds of God, continuing the work of Jesus himself.
Let us embrace this promise: Jesus never abandons us. He dwells in our hearts through faith. He lives in our daily lives through divine love. He comes again and again in his holy church. Where do you sit today? I hope you can always give the obvious answer: "Next to Jesus." He'll be there! Always! Amen!