We Are Not Alone
We Are Not Alone
We are coming to the end of the Easter season and Jesus is preparing us, as he did with the disciples, for what comes next. In our passage from John, Jesus speaks of the Advocate who will come and be with us. We know the Advocate as the Holy Spirit, the thrid person of the Trinity.
Children’s Scripture: 1 Peter 2: 2-20
It is a quiet evening in Jerusalem. Jesus has gathered with the disciples, his friends. They have journeyed up and down the countryside over the past three years. During that time Jesus has healed many people, he has taught to large crowds which gathered, he has provided instruction to just the disciples and we have witnessed other conversations with individuals such as the woman at the well and the sisters Mary and Martha.
They have come to Jerusalem to participate in Passover, but a darker thread hangs in the air. Jesus has indicated that one of them will betray him and then Judas stormed off. His words seem to have a finality to them as he shares his final words with the disciples. The passage we read this week forms part of the farewell discourse (John 14-17) where Jesus prepares his disciples for life without him.
As he talks to the disciples, his eyes scanning over their familiar faces, I can imagine his voice catching in his throat as he says, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.
I envision tears streaming down his face as he tells those individuals closest to him, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
Friends, we are not alone. God will not abandon us. These are powerful words on any day, important reminders to the love we receive from God. In these difficult times of the Covid-19 Pandemic, they are even more heartwarming.
We are not alone.
God will not abandon us.
Jesus tells the disciples, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” (John 14:18) These are more than emotional words told to people he loves. These words speak to the ancient promise that God made to the people of Israel and which the people affirmed they would also do. These words of Jesus are rooted in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy we read, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. (Deut 10:17-18)
God brings justice to the orphan and the widow, loves the stranger. Jesus is invoking an ancient belief about the promise of God. Remember that our passage today flows out of the reading we had last week. In that passage Philip asks Jesus if they could just see the Father. The response Jesus gives is, if you have seen me, you have seen the father. Jesus, our redeemer and God, our creator are one. To know one is to know the other.
When Jesus says to the disciples I will not leave you orphaned, it reaches all the way back to this understanding of God, who is the God of gods, Lord of lords, the Great God, mighty and awesome, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers. These words of Jesus provide immense comfort.
How is it that Jesus will not abandon us? He promises us the Holy Spirit, who will be our Advocate. About the Holy Spirit Karoline Lewis writes, “Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, this “advocate” is who Jesus has already been for his disciples—guiding, teaching, reminding, abiding, witnessing, interceding, comforting. What they have known in Jesus, and fear losing in Jesus’ impending absence, they will always know in the promise of the paraclete [Holy Spirit].”
She continues, “When we recall that the fundamental meaning of paraclete is the one who is called to be alongside others, we realize that the first principle of Christian leadership is not a characteristic, a determined trait, an expertise to list on a resume, but is a way of being.” (Karoline Lewis)
If a way of being is a foundational trait for a follower of Christ, if this trait requires relationship and community and a ministry of presence then how might that inform the way that we worship and care for one another? How might the ways we express love and affection for our neighbours be informed by this way of being?
If Jesus is telling us that he will not abandon us, then we should not abandon the world. Now in by no means am I suggesting we’ve done that or that the church has done that. Rather, I’m asking if in light of our present circumstances of living through a global pandemic we might ask the question again of how do we serve this world which God so lovingly created?
How do we come along side our neighbour, in a safe and responsible way? Safe and responsible, in the understanding of social distancing which health guidelines require in our present time. But we can reframe that idea of social distancing and ask what is a way that we can come alongside our neighbour, whom God loves, in a way that respects who they are in life and the journey that they are on? How do we responsibly execute justice for the orphan and the widow, individuals who when Jesus walked the earth, were the disadvantaged in life. They didn’t have the social supports that family provided, they were on the outskirts of society and marginalized.
How do ensure in a time when we are forced to isolate that we don’t abandon those who require God’s justice? These are questions for our present time, but also need to inform our thinking as move towards life post-Covid. How will our community change, how will we care for one another, how will we ensure God’s justice continues to be done?
We are living through an unprecedented time. Being asked to do surrender some freedom for the common good, short term measures. But through this time, we remember that God walks with us, that we will not be left orphaned. We remember the message of Easter; indeed the message of our faith is that life, not death, has the final word. Thanks be to God for that. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.