Easter 6 A 2020 Sermon
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we hear the Good News “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” Today, as we confront the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, the Words spoken by Jesus are Words that we need to hear.
For you see, the Words speak to our fears and challenges. The Words speak to our anxiety concerning being left alone, and abandoned, and being left in social isolation. The Words reassure us that we were not destined to walk this earth all by ourselves.
One concern that I have heard over (and over again) throughout the coronavirus pandemic is that the members here at Calvary Lutheran Church miss the intimacy of face-to-face conversation and contact. Even though it is a joy to see each other (and hear each other) via zoom on Sunday morning, most of you would agree with me that it is not the same as meeting together in-person for worship on Sunday morning.
During my conversations with you, I have heard it expressed that many of you miss the sound of your voice in song together with the rest of the congregation as we sang the hymns during worship. And many of you miss shaking hands and looking into each other’s eyes before and after worship in the Narthex.
I have even heard that some of you miss the sound of people “gathered together” in one room as we prepared for worship. But most of all, many of you have told me, that you miss the sound of each other’s voice without the distortion of zoom as we shared our joys and concerns with each other on Sunday morning.
The past two months have come as a shock. Nobody could have predicted that social distancing would have lasted this long. And nobody today can predict how long social distancing will be required in the coming days and months ahead.
So… here we are, worshipping together via zoom for the sixth straight week in a row. Just like the disciples today in our Gospel reading, no one could have foretold the changes that would occur in our journey of faith together.
For you see, just like us, the disciples also experienced a great change in their life of faith together.
Scripture informs us that for three years Jesus had physically been present in their lives. The Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus had walked with His disciples, and talked with His disciples and Jesus had even invited His disciples to be a part of His ministry as He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead.
We are told that the disciples had heard His teachings, and the disciples had been amazed as Jesus opened their eyes to scripture as He taught them all the things concerning Himself.
But now things were about to change. And that is why this text is listed as a part of Christ’s farewell address, because Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time when He would no longer physically be with them.
On the night just prior to His arrest, Jesus spoke encouraging Words to His disciples. Jesus told His disciples that He would not abandon them. And Jesus explained to his disciples that he would not leave them orphaned.
And again, immediately following our text today, Jesus told His disciples “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I said to you.”
Yes… Jesus would be leaving them. And yes… they would no longer see Him face to face as they had in the past. But hear this: Jesus will ask His Father to send the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will be God’s continuing presence with them.
And all this will be according to God’s plan, because His departure would give room for the Holy Spirit to come to our world. And the Holy Spirit would teach the disciples (and us) everything. And the Holy Spirit would remind them (and us) of all that Jesus had told them. Therefore, do not be afraid, because His departure would allow them (and us) to experience God in a new way.
Of course, after hearing this, the disciples were filled with fear and sadness. The disciples knew that they would miss the sound of His voice. And the disciples knew they would miss following in his footsteps as He lived out the ministry God had given to Him.
And that is why Jesus stressed that His departure would not mean abandonment.
Jesus promised that He would ask His Father to send them another Advocate (a Counsellor), who would be with them forever.
Now, normally when we think of an advocate, or a counsellor, we think of someone who sits and listens to our problems and perhaps offers a word of advice now and then.
But the New Testament word is “Paraclete” and this means someone who is not only a listener, but also a teacher, an advisor, someone who actively guides someone to make good choices that are in accordance with God’s will for their life.
The word “Paraclete” is also a word used in law which speaks of an advocate, of someone who speaks on behalf of someone else, who represents and looks after the interests and well-being of someone else.
So when Jesus states that He will ask His Father to send the “Advocate,” Jesus is saying that He will ask God to send someone who will listen to you, and teach you, and guide you, and look out for your well-being.
In other words, Jesus is telling His disciples that He will not leave them orphaned. And that they will be in good hands. And that is why Jesus told His disciples that “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
With the help of the “Advocate,” they will continue to experience His on-going presence with them. Because of this, they could love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their mind, and with all their soul; and that is why they could also love their neighbors as they love themselves.
Christ is with us. Christ has not abandoned us. We are not alone. Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” Therefore, even during this period of uncertainty and social distancing, we are promised that we are never totally alone.
The “Paraclete” will be/is God’s continuing presence with us. The “Paraclete” will teach us, and walk with us, and even speak for us when we cannot find the correct words to say. And that is why we can keep the commandments. Because the “Paraclete” is, and will be, with us forever. Amen.
Let us pray: O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding. Pour into our hearts such love for you, that, loving you above all else, we may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: “Come, Thou Almighty King ELW # 408
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and every-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.