Sixth Sunday of Easter 25 May 2014
(Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66 1 Peter 3:13-22 John 14:15-21)
“Don’t Ever Hide that Way Again!”
I don’t remember very many stories of getting in trouble when I was a small child, but there is one I will share with you this morning. We were playing hide and seek in the house. I’m not even sure, but I guess I was playing with my brother and sister who we were all about the same age. I think I was probably about five years old. In our living room, we had one of those coffee tables in front of the sofa. I guess it was about 5 feet long. The end facing out into the room was a solid piece of wood, but the end facing the sofa was open. Well, that is where I went to hide. I crawled in and made myself comfortable, and before I knew it, had fallen asleep.
I have no idea how long I was asleep, but when I woke up, the whole house seemed very quiet. I kind of snuck out, still not wishing to give away my secret hiding place in case anyone was still in the room, but what I saw out the window was this: what appeared to be every adult in the neighborhood was gathered on our front lawn. Even at my young age I knew they did not look happy. So I walked out, heading straight toward my Mom. I’m sure I had no idea the mix of emotions from all those people, but when I got to my Mom, her look was both one of shock and relief, as she picked me up and said, “Thank God you are safe.” Then with exasperation she said: “Don’t you ever hide that way again.” And then she began to cry! [Hold on to that story!]
And Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming to you” [vs.18].
This morning we pick up the Gospel story exactly where we left off last week. We are still in John’s Gospel; we are still in the Upper Room on the night Jesus was betrayed. They have finished the meal. Jesus has washed their feet. He has told them one will betray him. Jesus has told them he is leaving them. Now he is trying to assure them that they will not be left alone.
I will admit I do not know much at all about orphaning, but I think it begins with the longing each one of us has in our heart about being connected to another. It has to do with feelings of safety and security with another person.
I think we have “orphaning” feelings when children graduate from college and leave for a job in another state. I think we have “orphaning” feelings when, we realize our parents are getting divorced. I think we have “orphaning” feelings when a best friend takes a job transfer and moved away. On this Memorial Day weekend, I know there are many spouses who feel “orphaned” when their husband, wife, son, daughter are deployed to another country on the other side of the world. In any of these situations individuals are always left with feelings of profound and painful separation.
I think we may often find ourselves in a similar place as were the disciples when it finally sunk into their heads that Jesus was leaving.
Of course, it does not end there. Jesus promises to send an Advocate, a Helper, the Paraclete, the Spirit. Advocate is a legal term, where in a courtroom, you have someone to stand up for you when you need it; the one who speaks on your behalf; the one who lends you a helping hand, takes your side, and won’t leave you down.
In John’s Gospel, especially, John’s take on the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit looks a lot like Jesus. No wonder Jesus says, “You know him.” Because, as it turns out the Holy Spirit at one time or another has looked a lot like you, even a lot like me, definitely a lot like each and all of us every time we stand up for another.
The Holy Spirit looks a lot like the doctor who turns away from her computer screen at the end of an appointment to give you her full attention when you mention that you are afraid the pain in your side reminds you how your mother’s cancer started.
The Holy Spirit looks a lot like the hundred people standing around the luminary pond at the Relay For Life remembering those who have died, and supporting those still on the journey toward recovery.
The Holy Spirit looks a lot like any one of us when we try to bear Christ’s love into the world. In the theology of John’s Gospel, the only one thing necessary to receive the Spirit is “…to love Him and those around us.” The Spirit comes to us, once we, by loving Jesus become one with him who is one with the Father.
And if the Holy Spirit still seems so elusive in the world, it may be that we still struggle, as did the disciples, to believe that Jesus will not leave us orphaned, will not abandon us.
Too often we still have this idea that like a well-hidden child, we need to hide. That we need to hide our failings, our sinfulness, our wrong choices—all so Jesus won’t abandon us, leave us orphaned. It does come back to this God who is always in our corner. And no matter what you do, have done, or failed to do; no matter what you believe or do not believe; no matter how far you have fallen away or how far you may or may not have returned, God is saying, you don’t need to hide from me, because I will not leave you orphaned. I will not leave you.
I believe God is holding each one of us in His arms and saying (as did my mother, but more gently), don’t ever hide that way again. Don’t you ever hide that way from me again.”
So here is my ending. You want to see the Holy Spirit going out into the world. Jesus tells us that we are all offspring’s of God. We are so closely connected—Jesus in the father, Jesus in us, we in Jesus. So as I end, I want you to think about how the Holy Spirit is at work in you and through you for each other and for the life of the world.
[I will walk around the church with a large mirror] This is how the Spirit goes into the world! This is how the Spirit goes out into the world! Amen.