5th Sunday After Easter – 16th May 2020

John 14:15-21

“The Promise of the Holy Spirit”

‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,to be with you for ever. 17This 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.

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They 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.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of the most loved figures in literature are abandoned children or children without parents.  Think about J M Barrie’s Peter Pan, Roald Dahl’s James, in James and the Giant Peach, or Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. Then there is Tom Sawyer, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter. 

In all of these stories, in our engagement with the lives of these children, we discover who these orphans learn to trust and mistrust; who they find through a child’s eye, as genuine or not genuine and how they deal with difficult circumstances.  Who helps them on life’s path and who throws stones in front of them. Who is loving and who is cruel.  

And what makes the lives of all these characters so interesting is partly that they seem to acquire real skills of innovation just to deal with the difficulties of their everyday circumstances.

Another wonderful story revolves around a little girl called Eppie; she is abandoned – but not quite an orphan as the story unfolds – and Silas Marner takes her in with the love of a true father.  Silas says this of Eppie; “Unlike the gold which needed nothing, and must be worshipped in close-locked solitude which was hidden away from the daylight, was deaf to the song of birds, and started to no human tones Eppie was a creature of endless claims and ever-growing desires, seeking and loving sunshine, and living sounds, and living movements; making trial of everything, with trust in new joy, and stirring the human kindness in all eyes that looked on her.”

All these young characters have the ability to draw us emotionally into their stories; their stories that bring deep insight into the true nature of family, community, relationship and the loss which sometimes everyday life wants to brush over and move on from.  But these are all things which are core to our humanity.  That is, they are stories which transcend beyond vulnerable children to all those who feel susceptible and weak.

And in today’s New Testament reading that vulnerability and exposure seems to apply to us all.

In their discourse with Jesus the disciples are confused and feeling vulnerable as he says that he is leaving them, returning to God the Father.  These people, these strong men and women, resurrection followers of Jesus – they are feeling orphaned.  You see, feeling or being orphaned is not a childlike thing; ‘feeling like an orphan or being orphaned’ is a human thing.  Jesus presents that paradox to us.  He knows the importance of the parent child relationship and understands the circumstances of how we can all feel orphaned –alone, exposed- even as adults.

So Jesus’ response is, I will not leave you orphaned.”   That is the promise. Whatever we face, we will not be left to deal with isolation, loneliness, life’s storms, or separation from our loved ones alone.  The promise of Jesus is we will never be “orphaned” by God.  That a polar opposite truth in faith exists, for with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, we are constantly and always “parented” by God, who helps us to see and respond to the life of Christ in ourselves and each other.

Here, Jesus gives us the reassurance that no matter what age we are or circumstances we face, his promised Holy Spirit is with us and will give us the guidance, wisdom and life we need and our world needs.  That our lives can be full of new possibility, new things and hope. That all the proper possibilities and our human creativity can be unending.

Just before his ascension, by assuring us of the continuity of God’s presence in our lives and world, Jesus is also assuring us of the ongoing availability of God’s absolute and unconditional love, today, in the week ahead and always.

O God the King of Glory,

you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ,

with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:

Mercifully give us faith to know

that, as he promised,

he abides with us on earth to the end of time;

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

With Ascension love and peace,