Have you ever moved? What was the hardest part for you? What helped you adjust to your new community?
As I was growing up, my family moved from one town to another a few times. Each time it was hard to say goodbye to friends and the familiar places and routines and then to build new relationships and familiarize myself with new surroundings and activities. As I have gotten older, I’ve had to keep moving – to college, seminary, my first call as a pastor, and beginning graduate school. I’m sorry to say even when you are an adult, and even when it’s a move you have decided to make, moving is not easy. But, as you get older, you do begin to gain perspective, and realize that change, and saying goodbye, is a part of life. You will miss the people who have been a part of your life (sometimes very much!), but there are new friends to meet (even though that can be hard if you’re an introvert like me).
As a pastor, I have been with families who have had said goodbye to loved ones for the last time. Even with the tremendous promise of Easter that they are in our Savior’s care, and in the fullness of time we will see them again as resurrected people, it’s hard to say good-bye.
A word that I have found helpful in those goodbyes is “Godspeed,” which (according to merriam-webster.com) is from a Middle English phrase, “God spede you,” which meant “God prosper you.” It’s come to be used to wish someone a good journey, or good luck, though it’s not used all that much anymore. But, especially in its original sense, saying “Godspeed” is like saying a short prayer for those you are saying farewell to; it is a short hand way of praying that God bless someone and watch over them until you meet again.
- Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone you cared about, a friend or family member who you knew you wouldn’t see again – or at least for a very long time? Maybe you or they were moving, or going on long trip, or maybe even you were saying your last goodbyes before they passed away.
- How can we as Christians help others who have had to say goodbye to someone they care about?
- Have you ever heard the word “Godspeed” before? What did you think it meant? Has your congregation ever used the “Farewell and Godspeed” liturgy from the hymnal?
Seventh Sunday of Easter
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
The reading from John 17 is part of how John tells the story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. On this night, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples, so part of what he says to them in their last night together are things he wants them to remember (like his commandment that they love one another), but also he wants to comfort them. He promises that they would not be alone, that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and guide them, and he prays for them.
Jesus wants the disciples to know they will not be alone, and he wants them to know what he hopes for them after he “goes to the Father.” In his prayer, he asks the Father to keep them safe, and that they might love each other and care for each other (that they may be” one”) just as Jesus and the Father are one. His words were not only meant to comfort those first disciples; John wanted all believers to know Jesus’ prayer for his followers, including us reading John’s gospel today. Jesus’ prayer is a prayer for us, too.
- Have you ever prayed for someone or has someone prayed for you?
- If you could ask Jesus to pray for one thing for you, what would it be?
- Take turns saying a prayer for every person in your group. If there is a specific thing that person is comfortable sharing that they want you to pray for, you can focus the prayer on that. Otherwise, you can simply say a prayer for God’s blessing on each person.
- Ask your pastor (or someone who has access to the LBW’s “Occasional Services” or the ELW’s “Pastoral Care” books) to make you a copy of the ‘Farewell and Godspeed” liturgy, and go through it. What do you like about it? What could be added or changed to make it better? If you have time, maybe you could even try to make up a version specifically geared towards your age group.
Lord of today and tomorrow – we ask that you be with us when we have to say goodbye to someone we care about. In those times, help us to wish them “Godspeed” and to be able to see the new relationships and blessings you give us. We thank you, Lord Jesus, for praying for us. May your words be a comfort to us and a reminder that we are never alone, for you are watching over us, and your Holy Spirit is with us. Amen.