You shall never be alone again

“You shall never be alone again”
6th Sunday of Easter
John 14:15-21
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Separation anxiety can be very devastating. When parents send their sons or daughters to college away from home, there is a feeling of immediate loneliness and fear. Loneliness as to feel living apart with your love in a distance; and fear that if something happens to him or her, the parents are not there in an instant to tend to his or her needs.

Perhaps there’s more fear on parents who have to send their sons and daughters who enlisted to the armed forces to an assignment where danger is present. One mother came to me and said, “Fr. Please pray for the safety of my son, he will be assigned in Afghanistan and eventually in Syria.” I saw the face of fear in her eyes. We stood at the altar and prayed for God to send the Holy Spirit, the advocate, to keep him from harms way.

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?

Another devastating situation in life is Isolation and the fear of dying. I know many people who are battling from Cancer, some are my patients and some are friends. Some of them ended up isolating themselves not letting anybody know their status. They even refused anyone to come and visit them. Although some have the courage to inform their family and friends about it, but to most, they chose such as a private matter and detached themselves from the rest.
This cycle goes on from one person to another, from age to age. The fear of being separated or isolated continue on.

Even our Lord Jesus Christ knew what it meant to be all alone. Not too long after Jesus said the words “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. This is the most comforting words we heard from our lord Jesus Christ. 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.”

Jesus Christ is truly present with us through the Holy Spirit. When we share Holy Communion and in the prayers, 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, in the sharing of the cup and in living the Godly life and in our community building.
I thank God for allowing us all here to share a generous heart to provide each other 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 if we have not loved, and have no 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. We experience the presence of the Father’s Love in our service to each other and to others. It is like the mother who cuddles her child to provide a comfortable feeling.

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 shall never forget to pay tribute to all the men and women in uniform whose unbroken line of heroes have borne the heaviest burden for the freedom that we enjoy today. (May I ask all the veterans to please rise so we could thank you for the services you rendered. Round of applause.) Let us give thanks to their families as well, for allowing them to stand for freedom and peace. Thank you to all peace lovers and for sharing the love we now enjoy. Let the flag of our country continue to fly freely as a symbol of democracy and freedom, for to it the spirits of those who have gone before us is forever remembered.

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.

You have a place in God’s house

“A Place in God’s House”
John 14:1-8
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

As you entered the Church today, each of you was given a ticket. I ask you to hold it up and look at it. It may look ordinary to you. But imagine for a moment that it is a ticket to something very especial. Not a ticket to a play, or to a concert or a movie. It is not even a ticket to something as important as the Giants or 49ers game. It’s a ticket to an event that is able to change your life for the better. This event is a celebration that has the power to lift you up from where you are stuck. This ticket enables you to witness something that gives people wholeness and healing. This event enables you to harness your creative abilities to the greatest of your potential.

I also ask you to imagine that there are those who don’t have such ticket. They don’t have a place set aside for them to witness this event, to receive the enlightenment, to experience the healing. So they stand about broken, lonely, distraught.

What about imagining that you have more than one ticket? What would you do with them? You are only capable of using one. Would you save them for your family and closest friends? Would you sell them to the highest bidder? Or would you give them away to anyone who would take them.

Imagine….

Have you ever thought how blessed you are to have a roof to live, food to eat and a health care to secure you? You know, having a place is important. It gives one a sense of belonging. Lydia and our friends from St. Luke’s Van Ness could tell us the devastating scenario they witnessed visiting the children at the Garbage Disposal area in Manila. Hundreds of children who sleep in the smokey and filthy cold garbage place, and are vulnerable to diseases and even death. That’s why homelessness is so devastating. The physical effects are bad enough. But the emotional effect is a feeling of not belonging anywhere. Of not having a place. Jesus himself experienced this feeling of not having a place during his birth and when he said “foxes have holes but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Yet he didn’t want us to feel that way thus he promised us to go and prepare a place for us in the kingdom of God.

If you have been observing where people sit in our Church pews, People had their places, just as people have their places in most churches. That can be good and bad. If people get selfish about it and make visitors feel uncomfortable for having sat in their place, its bad. But if, having a place, gives people a sense of belonging, then it is good.

People have their places for a lot of reasons. Some choose their place for matters of convenience. Some sit where they do to be near a friend or relative. Trini and John have special seats which they probably marked as their designated seats, maybe because they want to hear better of what I am bubbling here. Now most of you choose the back because you want to have a better view of what is going here at the altar. You know, in the Old Testament, those who are seated at the very back are those with disturbing sins. I don’t blame you if you insist to have a better view now. What matters most however is you have a place in this Holy place, and having a place is important.

But I am not talking about just any place today – I’m talking about a place in the Kingdom! Having a place is important and Jesus knew that. When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, he told them, “I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am you may be also”

In the years after Jesus’ resurrection when the Church was being persecuted, they remembered these words. The promise that they had a place in the Kingdom kept them going. It transformed them from a fringe sect of Judaism into the Church of Jesus Christ looking for his return in glory.

By God’s grace we have a place in the Kingdom. We say, “When two or more gather in Jesus’ name, he is in the midst of them.” Jesus is here and we have a place in his presence and that changes us. We sit here and hear God’s Word and are lifted up and enlightened. We sing God’s praises and we realize new gifts and unlock hidden potentials. We are healed and made whole by lifting up our prayers to God. Because we have a place in the Kingdom we are transformed from ordinary people into daughters and sons of God Almighty.

Now, enough with your imagination, you don’t need a ticket to come to church. Admission is free. It’s on the house. You only need to accept the invitation to come into God’s house and worship in Christ’s presence. Jesus already paid the price of your admission when he went to the cross. That is why the tickets we handed out are red, because the price of admission is Jesus’ blood. That ticket merely symbolizes the promise that there is always a place for you. But look at all the empty places and consider all the empty places in the church each Sunday. The places where no one is sitting. And the places were people once sat who have taken their place in glory. Would each of those saints like someone else to take their place here on earth. And there are so many hurting people who need a place in the Kingdom.

I ask you to invite souls to our midst. I have over 500 tickets here. You can take as many as you want. What will you do with your tickets? Don’t try selling them. They aren’t like tickets to the Giants or 49ers game. You can get those for a few hundred dollars. These tickets are priceless. They represent the free gift of Jesus’ holy presence dwelling in our midst.

Give someone a place in the kingdom today – supply them with a ticket into the presence of God. On your way out take some tickets. And give them away and tell people it is a ticket to church. If they look at you strange just tell them it is to remind them there is always a place for them with Jesus at church. Some people will just stick it in their pocket and think you’re strange. But someone might accept the invitation and take a place worshipping God in church on Sunday morning. And won’t they be blest to witness this celebration of God’s love and grace. Amen.

Thank you Mothers, women all

“Thank you Mothers, women all”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Whenever we have fellowship meal or Church picnic, did you notice that most of the times women are all around doing big tasks? Say for example when we are doing the barbecuing, it’s the only type of cooking a “real” man will do. When a man volunteers to do such cooking, the following chain of events is put into motion:

The woman goes to the store.

The woman fixes the salad, vegetables, and dessert.

The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils, and takes it to the man, who is relaxing beside the grill.

The man places the meat on the grill. The woman goes inside to set the table and check the vegetables.

The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning.

The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman.

The woman prepares the plates and brings them to the table.

After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

The man asks the woman how she enjoyed “her night off.” And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there’s just no pleasing some women. God bless all the mothers. Happy Mother’s Day!

Let me serenade you with this song written and sang by John Denver: “For you” You deserve it.
Just to wake up each morning,
just to have you by my side.
Just to know that you’re never really far away.
Just a reason for living,
just to say I adore.
Just to know that you’re here in my heart to stay.

For you, all the rest of my life,
for you, all the rest of my life, for you alone, only for you.

Just the words of a love song,
just the beat of my heart.
Just the pledge of my life, my love, for you.

 

 

In Honor of all Mothers, I would like to read this poem to you:

They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry. They cry when they are happy and laugh when they are nervous.
They fight for what they believe in. They stand up for injustice. They don’t take “no” for an answer when they believe there is a better solution.
They go without new shoes so their children can have them. They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children excel and cheer when their friends get awards.
They are happy when they hear about a birth or a new marriage. Their hearts break when a friend dies.They have sorrow at the loss of a family member, yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left. They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart. Mothers come in all sizes, in all colors and shapes. They’ll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you to show how much they care about you. The heart of a woman is what makes the world spin! Mothers do more than just give birth. They bring joy and hope. They give compassion and ideals. They give moral support to their family and friends. Mothers have a lot to say and a lot to give. And just as the Gospel today tells us, they came that we may have life and have it abundantly.”

My dear mothers in God, I may not fully know what you are going through in your life, but let me tell you that I will walk that way with you if you will let me. I will keep you company in prayer until we both see what life has in wait for us. And as we walk I will remind you that we have many twists and turns in life that are common. We’ve been through this many times and in many changes. We’ve learned our lessons and we have the wisdom to think it through, the courage to do what must be done, the faith to know that there is love at the end of our rope. We may not know what is yet to happen, but we do know that we are not alone. We can walk together. We can walk with God by our side. Let me say these again to all mothers, grandmothers and those who take the role of a mother, thank you!! We love you and will care for you just as you cared for us. May you have more strength and courage to share your love and you always be surrounded with joy and peace. Amen.