Easter 6: I will not leave you orphaned
When the children were little they had a favourite book, I’m sure we all had a story we liked to hear again and again. This particular book was called a “Pocketful of kisses”. In it the central character, Digby the mole is going away from his mum for the first time to school, he is so upset she blows kisses into a handkerchief and gives it to him to pull out whenever he is sad .He can place it on his cheek and feel her with him. When I first went on a residential week away in training I had to do the same for my youngest, blow kisses in a handkerchief, give him one of my jumpers to cuddle and promise although I wasn’t physically with him, he could still sense me. The anxiety and grief of separation is something that is universal to all human experience. We will all have stories that tell of this…
In the Gospel today we hear of Jesus sitting with his friends, it is after the last Supper and he is trying to prepare them for what lies ahead. He has washed their feet and given them a new commandment to love and to serve each other. He has told them he is leaving, that he has to go, and even as death draws near he is trying to get the message across that they must continue to take care of each other, to love God and love each other. The disciples are confused, unsure, not sure they understand what will happen and they must at some level be a little fearful.
Like a parent, Jesus tries to reassure them he will not leave them desolate, he won’t leave them orphans. God will send another helper, an advocate to live in them and with them, to guide them in the future ahead. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth which they will receive in time. The disciples perhaps could not grasp what he was talking about, fear and confusion often overrides any sense of reassurance or comfort. We know that ourselves.
Perhaps some of us feel a little like the disciples right now, life is unsure, we don’t know what the future holds and fear hangs in the air, even if we are not always fully aware of it. Many are experiencing loneliness, the separation from community and the absence of others. Loss is felt in so many different ways; loss of physical contact with the people we love , loss of our routine and activities, loss of work …..Where do we find comfort?
For most of us the harsh experience of desolation and abandonment has been lived through way before this virus struck. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that sense of being orphaned. Anyone whose relationship has broken, who has been betrayed knows that sense of desolation. Anyone who has lost their job or home or dreams knows that sense of emptiness and hopelessness.
We carry this sense of loss because even the most hermit like of us were created to live in relationship with others. The relationship of the Trinity; Father to Son and to Holy Spirit is both within us and around us ,calls us always into that love with and for each other…giving and receiving. That love is the dynamic that flows through the universe, through creation ,ever drawing us closer to it’s source. We are created to love and be loved.
Whatever way we are feeling at the moment, whoever we miss being with, whatever the losses we experience, God’s promise is the same to us today, as it was to the disciples back in the upper room 2000 years ago. We will never ever be abandoned, we will never be orphaned.
Paul’s words in Acts remind us that we are God’s offspring…each one of us are one of God’s children, and God lives in us as we live in God. Often we just don’t realise it and spend half our lives running around wondering where God is, when in reality God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. We are God’s children and each person therefore, is our brother and sister. This is where Jesus words about keeping the commandments come in. If we say we love God with all our hearts, souls and minds but don’t live out love visibly in our lives then how can we say we truly love God? We are called to live in a relationship of care and love with all our brothers and sisters, as difficult as that may be at times.
At the same time God’s love is never conditional, it is there whether we choose to love or not, it sustains all of creation. The problem is when we put up barricades and choose self containment, indifference or hate we withdraw from Christ in ourselves and others and we are less aware of the Holy Spirit, the advocate, the comforter in our lives. We are less aware that we really are God’s children.
Bedtime stories and handkerchiefs of kisses won’t always comfort us, but God’s love will. It is all around us sustaining the universe, it is there in creation, it is there in the generosity and love of human beings, it is there in our being. The gift that Jesus talks of, the Holy Spirit , enables us to breathe in that love of God; Father ,Son and Holy Spirit. It enables us to breathe in the gift of living a life in all fullness. It enables us to breathe in the peace that only God can give and it enables us to breathe out that life to others. As we take our breaths today may we know God’s presence with us, may we know the touch of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, may we know we are never orphans.
“….I will ask the Father ,and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. …I will not leave you orphaned”. Amen