Kevin was a little different than some of these other young men though. He was about to graduate from high school. And he had been offered a scholarship to go play football in another state. “It’s not Penn State y’know,” he said “but it would be a new start.” Over the few days that Kevin was at Bridgeport, I spent a lot of time with him. He had a lot to recover from. He had been shot – and had multiple stab wounds. And I happened to be on call the night he came into the Emergency Department – so I followed him from those first tense moments – through the floors – until he was ready to leave. We had some time to talk.
And I found in him a young man who was bright – and kind – and faithful. He said he wasn’t even sure why he got caught up in the gang fights…he just did, he said. And he was having trouble finding the motivation to get out. He could admit to me that he thought the violence was stupid. That he didn’t really even understand what it was all about. But he just didn’t see what else there was for him. He wasn’t even sure he’d bother to go take this football scholarship. His response was always – “who cares?” That’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? Who cares?
And the answer is God. God cares deeply for Kevin. And wants Kevin to have a different life. And God wants for us to care for the Kevins of this world, too. Imagine how different his life would have been – if only someone would have answered his question with an – “I do”. “Who cares? I do.” God wants for all of these young men – and women – who have been failed by the system – who have been left – or abused by their families – God wants for all of them to have a different life.
In the course of those days – Kevin and I talked about a lot of things – including this Gospel text. Because I wanted him to at least have heard from me – to know that I meant it – when I said that God cared.
In our story this morning, the disciples are worried – and upset – because Jesus is preparing to leave again. And they think they can’t bear it. They’ve been through a lot. And now he’s leaving them again. In a world that was extremely dangerous for them. And they’re afraid of what that means. Of whether Jesus will ever be back or not. If they’ll ever be together again. And this is what he says…
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…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.”
I hope you can hear the care with which Jesus says this… Today Jesus makes a bit of a turn. In these last weeks of Easter we have talked a lot about Christ’s resurrection. But today – instead of his resurrection – Jesus talks about our resurrection. For Kevin – and for you – and for me – Jesus is preparing a room. A dwelling place. None of us who believe should ever be able to ask “Who cares?” Because we have the proof right here. God cares. Jesus goes to prepare a place for us so that we can be with God forever. When systems fail us. When people fail us. Even when we fail ourselves. God’s love never fails.
I don’t know what happened to Kevin. That’s the nature of being a hospital chaplain. When he left – I don’t know what choice he made. Whether it was to move out of state and play football. Or to continue to live his life in Bridgeport. Kevin believed in God. But he didn’t believe in himself. He didn’t believe that he was worth anything. And it took him some time to wrap his head around the idea that God loved him so much – that God wanted to be with Kevin forever. Kevin wanted to believe. I think that’s why he tolerated hanging out with me so much! I could see in his face – in his eyes – how much he wanted to believe…longed to feel cared for – loved – and known. I’ve always wondered what it would have meant for him if someone had told him sooner.
That the God who knows him better than he knows himself – loved him more than he could possibly imagine. For us who believe – who have a relationship with Jesus, it can still be hard to believe. But I hope that it sinks in. That it means something. God loves you so much that God wants to be with you forever.There is a special place – prepared by Jesus – just for you. No matter who you are or what you’ve done – God wants to share forever with you.
It is the truth. Truth that should lead you to follow the way – and live the life Jesus laid out. Truth that begs to be shared. No one had ever told Kevin the truth. And Kevin didn’t know enough to tell himself the truth. But you do. We do. We know that it is our responsibility as Christians – to tell the truth. To walk after Jesus – to follow in his footsteps. And we know that in doing so – we find this life. In which we are beloved. Forever. Like the disciples – we live in a world that is dangerous – and scary. So did Kevin. And we all do – in one way or another. A world that would have us believe that we are not special. That we are not precious. But just another person – in the midst of many – who cares?
God does. God cares for you more than you can imagine. And has a plan for you. And a place for you. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe. And let your heart hear the truth – so that you can live this life now – and know that Christ goes before you to prepare a place for you. Amen.