Jesus spends a lot of time explaining his parables and teachings to the disciples. Another area Jesus spent time explaining was of how he would have to leave the disciples. Understandably, they were confused.
How could Jesus leave? Why would he want to?
They did not fully comprehend what Jesus was called to do. They did not know about his death and if they did they would have counseled him to flee. However, in the midst of his farewell discourse Jesus shares with the disciples that they will never be alone. The Holy Spirit would come to breathe life anew.
We inherent this same promise, we are not alone.
We Are Not Alone
Text: John 14: 15-21
You have heard the expression ‘seeing the world through rose coloured glasses’. The insinuation being that those who see the world this way don’t see the negatives in life. Everything is perfect and cheery, no need to be upset or worry. Perhaps they fail to see situations which are difficult for others because their own situation doesn’t carry the same concerns.
Sometimes, it might be nice to see the world in such a way. To avoid seeing the struggle others go through, to only see the positives in any given situation. As nice as that might be, and some days I wish everything was great and cheery, it is far from reality. The world is not rose coloured, there are as many shades to a situation as we see in rainbow. For every bright and vibrant aspect of life, there is perhaps a dark underbelly representing the struggle that you and those around you experience. No one is immune to it, some of us simply ignore it better than others.
You are all familiar with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the work she did and the legacy she left. What you may not be aware of is that she left a record of her lifetime of struggle. A struggle with the darkness that plagued her because, for more than half of her life she did not feel the presence of Christ. However, among Christians she has been generally accepted as a modern saint. Her work in the ghetto’s of Calcutta, working with people that society wanted nothing to do with are a modern legend. She persisted in this work even when she did not feel the presence of God, she continued to be faithful.
A group of people that Mother Teresa worked with were orphans. Those left by there parents and those orphaned by society, cast to margins, forgotten and unwanted. Her ministry was to this particular group of vulnerable people. Ministering to them didn’t make her rich by earthly means, but demonstrated the grace and love which we experience from God.
In the Old Testament one of the most important thing that God’s people could do is care for the Orphans, Widows and Strangers in your midst. This commandment is central to their identity because it is central to God’s identity. One of the reasons that the ancient Israelites got into to trouble with God was because the forgot to keep this commandment. If you read through the Prophets of the Old Testament you will find ample evidence of this.
The principle failing of the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan is that they don’t care for the stranger they come across lying at the side of the road. They forgot that they were supposed to demonstrate God’s love for them, by loving others. Jesus teaches us that loving others is second only to our love for God.
When we consider the work of Mother Teresa, the command of God in the Old Testament to care for those who cannot care for themselves and the teachings of Jesus to love our neighbour we are surrounded by a great sense of comfort. This same sense of comfort is at the heart of our passage from John’s gospel. This passage is a continuation of the farewell discourse that Jesus was sharing with his disciples. We heard the first part of the passage last week where Jesus tells us he goes to prepare a place for us.
Today we are reminded by Jesus that we will not be alone. Jesus promises not to leave us as orphans, and then in the next breath tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit. A powerful reminder that we are not alone.
We find many reminders about how we are alone or isolated. We see this theme within scripture in the stories about Job, we find it repeated in Lamentations and the Psalms. We also find themes of isolation within society, on television, in literature and in music. Recently, I had opportunity to rediscover a set of lyrics that speak to loneliness:
In your house I long to be;
Room by room patiently,
I’ll wait for you there like a stone.
I’ll wait for you there alone. – Audioslave, Like a Stone
These lyrics from a song titled Like a Stone were written in 2002 and the reason I revisited them this week is because the songwriter Chris Cornell took his own life this week. When you consider these words, the wider context of the song and his death a whole new level of meaning is introduced.
Yet, what I find compelling about this story, tragic as it is, is that within it I see the promise of Jesus Christ. That yes, there are rooms set aside for us. That our loved ones wait for us and that they are there with Jesus, but the difference is that we are not alone. We are not isolated, we are not shut out, we are loved by God, by Jesus and the Holy Spirit is with us still. We are not alone. This is the power behind today’s passage which finds itself embedded in a section of the gospel where Jesus is saying good-bye.
Theologian Samuel Cruz writes, “This Gospel passage speaks to a very human reality: the fear we feel when we lose a loved one who played an important role in our lives. Those of us who have had such an experience know that we can become shaken and concerned about the future. It is easy to think, “How should I proceed when a strong personality in my family passes on?”
“How can we live up to the example of our mothers, fathers and mentors? Who can replace Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, etc.? I can imagine the disciples probably asked themselves similar questions: “How can we keep The Commandments, our faith, and continue our struggle without the guidance of Jesus?
“This same spirit would not allow for the exclusion of a woman who was a Samaritan from the blessings of the Kingdom, as the Spirit will not allow for the exclusion of any among us today.” (Working Preacher).
This passage is rich with theological imagery about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pneumatology we would call it at seminary. Often with this passage this is where we start and where we stop. As wonderful as it is to expound upon the blessings of the Spirit, this passage is much simpler. In fact we might even call this passage easy.
Don’t leave people alone.
It’s seems so easy, but perhaps it is the most important thing that we can do. We are all able to feel and experience abundant love, our passage today is God’s promise that we will never be alone.
Another way to consider this passage is by focusing on the first sentence. If the command is to love God, and if God is love, then to love God implicitly means loving Love lovingly and practically, leaving none orphaned. – Larry D. Bouchard, Feasting on the Word
Leave no one alone, for we have not been left alone. We are in God and God is in us, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and we have been called to love one another.
As Christians, we don’t see the world through rose coloured glasses. We view the world through glasses tinged with the shade which is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This means we are called to see things through the lens of love and well that changes you. When you see the world this way, even when circumstances dictate that it might not be your first choice. Well then you realize that the world can be a rosy place, a place worth being, filled with people worth loving, celebrating the goodness that comes in knowing that God will never leave us alone. Amen.