For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
John 14.1-6, 27
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
The disciples just don’t get it. I mean, they’ve been with Jesus for years and they’ve seen it all. They were there when he walked on water and when he told the story about the mustard seed. They were there when he was chased out of Nazareth and when he healed blind Bartimaeus. They were there when he calmed the storm and when he made the lame man walk.
But now, after all of that, they still don’t get the whole picture.
“What to you mean Lord? We don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?”
Jesus said, “I am the way!”
In our lives there is a time for everything. Ecclesiastes hits the truth that we’d sometimes rather ignore. If we had it our way our lives would be nothing but birthing, planting, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, keeping, speaking, and loving. But life doesn’t work that way. For every glorious mountaintop there is an equally frightening valley.
When a child is born a new parents feel an unknown joy and expectation, only to realize how fragile the new life is and the terror begins to creep in.
When we start to recover from an illness, the memory of our horrible we felt stays with us and we find ourselves waiting for the next time we have to reach for the medicine.
When we find someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with, we begin to realize that if we lose them we might just lose everything that keeps our lives together.
There is a time for everything, and this was especially truth during the life of Jesus.
A time to be born, to a poor virgin in a small little town called Bethlehem.
A time to die on a hill called Golgotha while abandoned by the most important people.
A time to plant new ideas in the minds of his followers, and a time to pluck up as he brushed the dust off his feet village after village.
A time to heal the many who were suffering from every ailment under the son, and a time to let the dead bury the dead.
A time to weep for his dead friend Lazarus and a time to laugh while sharing wine around the table with his friends.
A time to embrace his friends while washing their feet, and a time to let go when encountering Mary by the empty tomb.
A time to go looking after the one lost sheep, and a time to let go of the broken theology of the scribes and the Pharisees.
A time for silence while he prayed in the garden and a time to scream as he turned the tables over in the temple.
A time to love the very people who hated him and a time to hate the very world that lost sight of what it means to love.
For everything there is a season.
All of us go through life from birth to death jumping back and forth between the mountaintops and the valleys, begin the joys and the sorrows, between the laughing and the crying. And all the while Jesus is with us – weeping while we weep, dancing while we dance, and praying while we pray.
Lo, I am with you, even to the end of the age.
Jesus insists on journeying with us in this life from our first breath to our last, knowing full and well that we need all the help we can get. Because even the disciples, the ones closest to Jesus, the ones who walked with him on the roads of life still didn’t get it.
Their hearts were troubled because they thought they knew what Jesus was here to do. They were awaiting a version of their own kingdom rather than Jesus’ kingdom. They saw a future that suited their needs best, rather than a future where all of God’s children could rejoice together.
“I am going ahead of you,” says Jesus. “I am preparing the way for you.”
To be frank, their confusion is also born out of their resistance to let go of the one who grabbed hold of them. If they had it their way, Jesus would’ve stayed with them forever walking along the sea of Galilee. They couldn’t bring themselves to a see a world where Jesus hung from a cross, so instead they just kept asking the same types of questions over and over again.
But as the way, there was no other way for Jesus than the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection.
Jesus walks through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus sits in the darkness of suffering and shame, Jesus breaks forth from the chains of death so that we might know that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
That’s the whole message of scripture.
The disciples didn’t get it, but you know who did? Kwabe did.
Kwabe knew the place where he was going, the place that Jesus prepared for him.
He knew that every single time he walked forward to receive communion at church that he was tasting what now belong to him forever and ever. He knew that every single moment with his children, every perfect embrace, is what he is now experiencing with God Almighty. He knew the forgiveness and peace that he experienced through Abigail was awaiting him in his promised resurrection.
Kwabe had eyes to see and ears to hear the kingdom of God in his midst. His faith was such that even without walking the streets with Jesus like the disciples, he knew the place where Jesus was going, and he held on to the way that is Jesus the Christ no matter what.
I was driving on my way to church one morning when I got a call from Kwabe on my cell phone. “Hello Pastor” he said calmly. Thinking there was something wrong on our recent financial report I slightly braced myself for whatever it was that he needed to tell me. But I was wrong.
He was calling to tell me he had cancer.
It hit me so hard that I had to pull into an empty parking lot because I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
In that moment I asked him too many questions, I prayed for him over the phone, I even offered to drive over to his house, and the entire time he remained perfectly calm.
And after a period of silence, a silence born out of the fact that I no longer knew what to say, Kwabe said something I’ll never forget. “It is in God’s hands. I am in God’s hands. And I know the way.”
I know the way.
It’s hard for me to admit, but Kwabe was more faithful that I am. When confronted by the stark reality of his finitude I began to crumble and yet he remained steadfast.
I know the way.
I miss Kwabe. I miss his smile and his laugh. I miss the way he was able to calm the room when everyone else felt anxious. I miss the way he would nod at me in the middle of a sermon as if to say, “Good job.” I miss the way he would wait for me after church to ask if we could pray together. I miss him.
I think Kwabe knew a sense of peace in his life that most of us don’t. Regardless of the circumstances at work, or at home, or at church, or even in the midst of his cancer, he felt a calm sense of peace that carried him through some profoundly difficult moments. And I truly and deeply believe that Kwabe’s peace came from knowing the way, the truth, and the life that is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Kwabe knew, deep in his bones, the place where he was the going, the place where he is now waiting for each of us. Throughout his life he was held in the palm of God’s hand and now he rejoices in the promise of the Good News made manifest for him through Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Kwabe’s heart and soul were not troubled, he was not afraid, because he knew the way.
Kwabe’s death is painful and difficult for many of us to reckon with. There will be days where we will continue to grieve and lift up our clenched fists to the sky. But there will come time when we will laugh as we remember those time that Kwabe made us laugh. There will come a day when we can smile with gratitude for all that he meant to us. And there will come a time where we can rejoice with Kwabe knowing that he is now rejoicing with the Lord.
Christ speaks to us through the scriptures, helping us to see and know what Kwabe saw and knew – there is a place prepared for us. And though we mourn and cry and grieve here and now, we need not be afraid because Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.
There is a time for everything. Our time with Kwabe has come to an end, but now the time has come for Kwabe to rest in the Lord. We are the ones now responsible for lifting up his lamp, to shine the kind of glorious light that Kwabe did, so that we, and others, can feel the peace that he knew in Jesus.
So thanks be to God for the life of Kwabena Sakyi, a man who deeply loved his family, who cared for those in his community, and who knew where he was going. Amen.