Sermon for Sunday May 17, 2020 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
John 14:15-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
On this sixth Sunday of Easter, which is also the Sunday after Mother’s Day, we hear Jesus using parent language again for God. This time, Jesus, our heavenly parent, tells us “I will not leave you orphaned.” That phrase is so poignant, so tender. “I’m leaving,” Jesus tells his frightened friends, “But I’m not leaving you alone.”
Jesus promises to send the advocate the Holy Spirit, to be with them - to be with us - forever. Again, the Bible seems to be reaching out and speaking to us, in this time. I feel like we are the frightened friends, saying,
“Jesus, everything is changing.”
And Jesus is saying, “Yes, and I am not leaving you alone. I am not leaving you orphaned. In a little while you’ll see me. In new and surprising ways. And I am sending the Spirit of Truth, who will abide with you forever.”
The Holy Spirit is referred to and translated as “Spirit,” “Advocate,” and “Comforter” in the New Testament. The Spirit of Truth, the one who will be our Advocate, the one who will not leave us, but will be our Comforter always.
Don’t leave us, Jesus. We are not ready to be in the world alone, without your parenting presence. We are not ready to grow up all at once.
Somehow that Godly Play story captures that for me: everything was changing fast, and yet Jesus was there, in new and surprising ways, in ways they couldn’t comprehend or imagine.
We need the Holy Spirit right now: we need the Spirit of truth and courage to blow open our closed doors, and help us re-enter a scared and scary world. Just like Jesus’ earthly followers. The world was frightening outside that upper room where they last saw him, and where they went back and huddled after.
The first disciples in Jerusalem needed a surge of the Spirit of God. They needed God on their side, advocating for their strange little hopefulness in the face of apparent defeat. They needed comfort, to give them the courage to go out and forget fear, and spread God’s love.
We don’t know what tomorrow brings. That is always true, and right now we really know that. We don’t know how all the things we used to do are going to look next week or next month or next Fall or next year. It is going to take courage to go out and spread the Good News.
I don’t mean the courage to go out and not be afraid of the virus. We should be careful, and considerate of those more vulnerable. We should make good choices. I mean the really hard and courageous things. To speak hope into a world of fear. To comfort those who have lost jobs and people. To speak forgiveness to people wanting to place blame. To speak gentleness into anger and disappointment and frustration. To speak healing into systems that were already crumbling and now are breaking or broken beyond repair. To speak mercy to those in need who we feel don’t “deserve” it. We will need the Spirit to be disciples of Jesus. We always do, but now we know we do!
Come, Lord Jesus! Do not leave us orphaned! Come Holy Spirit! Blow truth and courage and kindness and mercy into our very being, so we can be like Jesus, and be his disciples in a scared and scary world.