“You’ll never be alone”
6th Sunday of Easter
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
HCSM Daly City, CA
May 29, 2011
Before a baby is born, the baby sleeps comfortably in his mother’s womb, enjoying the warmth and peaceful feeling of his surroundings. But when the time comes where he had to leave that comfortable space, and the ties that bind him from the mother through the umbilical cord is cut, the baby starts to cry and begin to feel a different kind of world. There’s the first feeling of separation anxiety. The baby will then calm down and begin to feel better when the mother cuddles him to her arms and feel that warm comfortable feeling.
Do you remember those days when mommy and daddy have to leave for work and you start to cry? They will then hug and kiss you saying, “That’s alright sweetheart, Daddy and Mommy are going to work to earn money so baby can have food to eat. Grandma and grandpa are here to look after you. We promise to be back soon.” Do you remember? Do you remember when grandma or nanny couldn’t stop you from crying even when offered every kind of food or funny faces just to calm you down? You even turned them into instant American idol singers! As a child we had those feelings of separation anxiety.
It is hard to understand however that we thought those feelings of separation anxiety is only experienced during childhood. No, we experience them when we are teenagers, when we have to transfer to other schools leaving our best friends behind and start anew, or when we have to move from one state to another because the cost of living is too much and we can’t afford them.
Young adults experience these feelings as well when their boyfriend or girlfriend leaves them brokenhearted, or when one promised to love them eternally but turned out to be temporarily. (I remember them too well. It was hard to explain. There were many roads to choose. Thank God for forgiveness or was there?) kayong may mga atraso sa mga asawa at kasintahan, magpatawad na kayo.
It becomes harder to comprehend when all these things about separation anxiety continue to haunt us even when we reach the retirement age. When our children have to move out and start their own, leaving you home alone. It is even unimaginable when your own family didn’t even have the chance to visit you when you were at a retirement home, so desolate, crying why do you have to go through this?
This cycle goes on from one person to another, from age to age. The anxiety of being separated continues on. We need to stop this from being spread around, but how?
Even our Lord Jesus Christ knew what it meant to be all alone. Not too long after Jesus said the words I read this morning, he was nailed to a cross. And among the things he said was “My God My God why have you forsaken me.” In that moment he took our sins on him and knew what it meant to be separated from God. In that moment he experienced true aloneness.
But Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ for sending the Holy Spirit, our counselor, who will guide and protect us and fill up the gap while we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who promised to go prepare a place for us and will come back to take us with him so that where he goes, there we may be also.
Jesus promised that his disciples would never be all alone! In our reading today he tells his disciples that he will not leave them “orphaned” or “desolate.” He will send another “counselor” to be with them, an “advocate” to encourage them. In short Jesus will make sure that there is someone to stand with them. Someone to guide, comfort and teach them.
Jesus fulfilled part of this promise after the resurrection. They were not orphaned – all alone. He appeared to his disciples for 40 days. For 40 days he counseled them and opened their eyes. But then Jesus further fulfilled this promise when he sent the Holy Spirit. Ten days after he ascended to the Father, on the day of Pentecost, he sent the Spirit. And through it we received another advocate. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus and the Father are made present in our lives. Through them we are never alone whether in a crowd or when no one else is around. Whether we fall into the pit of separation anxiety, or when a great heavy burden is placed on our shoulders due to economic hardships or even death.
But all this talk of being alone and not being alone is framed by statements about keeping Jesus’ commands. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever.” “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Now we may say, “So if you want to have Jesus in your heart you must do what he says.” But that doesn’t seem to be that point here. Jesus is not saying “if you don’t want to be alone, you’d better do as I say.”
It’s deeper than that. Loving God and keeping his commandments are all rolled together. You really can’t do one without doing the other. If you truly love God you will want to do his will. And you can’t sincerely try to do his will without first loving him. In the same way loving God and knowing his presence are all rolled together. God is present in our love for him and in our actions that live out that love.
As a teenager, I was an active choir member of the United Church of Christ even though I was baptized Episcopalian. I love to sing the song, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of life” That song resonates in my ears whenever the Love of God is shared around me and to those whom I pray. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me whenever I carry the love of God and share them among those who need them because I know Christ is made present to us in our love for one another. That’s why church is so important. Not the building but the community. Here we love one another in Jesus name and we live out God’s love together in our worship and ministry. And Christ is present in that.
Jesus Christ is truly present with us through the Holy Spirit. When we share Holy Communion or act according to Jesus’ teaching, Jesus is there. He is in our hearts and souls. Jesus is really present by the Holy Spirit of God. So come, for Jesus has promised that we are never alone; we are not orphans. He is with us in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup and the living of the Christian life.
I was watching the news yesterday about a pastor who sheltered his flock by buying houses and offered free housing to his members who became unfortunate due to the economic hardship and help them get back to their feet. Sometimes I would wish that we have that means to shelter our members who have been stricken by economic hardship and keep them there until they are able to get back to their feet. That way, their anxiety and fear won’t break their family apart or think about ending their dreams and even their lives.
I thank God for allowing us all here to share a generous heart to provide these members good words and supports and in many other ways. Thank God for sending the Holy Spirit to inspire us all to love others and be compassionate and just to support each other through thick and thin. We may have all the luxury in life but have no love, and mercy we are nothing. Love therefore is what brought us all here; love is the reason why we are living.
And that is what we do here. When we break bread together and drink from the cup of salvation, we experience the presence of the Father’s Love in Jesus. It is like the mother who cuddles her child to provide a comfortable feeling. It is like the son and the daughter who would pay a visit to their parents living alone at home or at the retirement homes, taking them out and share good memories of the past. It is like young adult who found his way to ask forgiveness of the past and venture for a better future.
I ask you therefore my dear brothers and sisters to keep in our hearts the words of Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So that when confronted with the forces of anxiety and despair, loneliness and emptiness, we may find hope in the Love of God the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ and the assurance of the Holy Spirit who guides and comforts us.
We must not also forget to pay tribute to all the men and women in uniform whose unbroken line of heroes have borne the heaviest burden for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Let us give thanks to their families for allowing them to stand for freedom and peace. Thank you to all peace lovers and for sharing the love we now enjoy.
May we continue to carry the torch of freedom and peace so that our children and our grandchildren will reap the good fruits of their labors. Amen.