Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 66:7-18, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21
I wonder how the disciple’s lives changed by being in the almost constant presence of the Lord. From our point of view, it is difficult to say. They still have struggles. They still fight amongst themselves. They don’t seem to understand the meaning of life any better than we do. And they still have loss. Today we continue where we left off last week as Jesus comforts the disciples. Jesus is leaving them soon and he wants them to know that they will not be alone. Even though they cannot go where he is going and they cannot see the Father, Jesus is not just abandoning his friends; he is not leaving them orphaned. All this preparation on Jesus’ part, all the questions he answered for them; did not keep the disciples from feeling the pain at his loss. Even though Jesus said he was sending an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them, we know that they hid away, feeling afraid and lost. These are natural feeling that we experience. I know when my Grandfather died I felt some of these same feelings. And I suspect when we have children that reach certain milestones in life we also experience certain feelings of loss.
Jesus says goodbye to his disciples today even though this goodbye is not forever. In a similar fashion, we honor our high school graduates. While some are moving to collage campus, others are staying close to home, but in either case, we are witnessing their growth from teens into young adults. High school graduation is a big deal. For many of us, at times and especially as adults, our children’s high school graduation seems like a foregone conclusion. We think, “Of course my kids w
ll graduate.” But like so many things in life, there is uncertainty and we know that not all kids do.
Much like Christ and his disciples, we are not going to abandon them either. Caden, Hunter, Keian, and Ryan hopefully know that this congregation loves them and wants to see the best for them, no matter what challenges come in their future. To their families, we support you as well. Obviously, we cannot support everyone financially, but we support you in prayer and fellowship; two things that money cannot buy. Even more than money, prayer, and fellowship, Christ supports you as well. As he has promised, he sent the Holy Spirit to be with each of you, with all of us. We will not be alone and we are not alone.
When we are in troubled times, and we do not feel the support we would like from our families, our teachers, or even this church, we are not alone. The Advocate is with us; within us, binding us to Christ and the Father. The interesting thing about this “Spirit of truth” is that the Spirit is not in the world. We can look for it in the world but we are not going to find it there. The Sprit of truth is within each of us and we make the Spirt know in the world through our lives. We cannot expect the “World” to see it or even understand it. History has shown that the world will reject it.
I think this may be what Paul is trying to tell us from his experience in Athens. The Athenians found God or gods in many places. They gave a name and attributes to the many gods. Paul found many objects made for the worship of these gods. In Paul’s exploration of Athens, he finds an altar erected “to an unknown god.” The Athenians seem to know that there is more out there than they have named and identified. So they seemed to erect a place to bring offerings to this unknown god. The god that is beyond all the named god’s. Paul uses the unknown god as an opening to show the Athenians about the one true God; the God who lives beyond the things we can make. The God who made all things. As Paul says this huge God “is not far from each one of us.” God wants us to grope for him.
I imagine this to be something like a baby in its mother’s womb. “In him we live and move and have our being.” A baby pushes, and gropes, and at times seems wrestles while in the womb. The baby cannot comprehend her mother that surrounds her; that sustains her life. But I wonder if the baby has some inkling of the love that the mother has for her. The unknown mother that loves her, protects her, and will try to do anything for her; even though the baby doesn’t fully realize its mother even exists. Even after the baby is born, I’m not sure the child knows the totality of the love that the mother has for her. The parents experience pain as the child grows. The parents have to let go of a certain amount of control, watching their child make mistakes and getting hurt. I’m not sure the child ever fully understands the love of her parents until she has her own baby. I realize that not everyone has such a loving relationship with their mothers. But ideally, I think this is how God would like our lives to be and this is how God is in our lives.
Jesus is sending the disciples out into the world to spread the Good News; to encourage a rule of life that is modeled after his. Growth is difficult and painful but a wonderful thing as well. Even though Jesus lets go of the disciples, he remains nearby and he sends the Holy Spirit to be an everlasting presence in our lives. We send our graduates into the world, to continue on a path in which the Lord is always present. We also go into the world guiding others even though we so often stumble ourselves. The Lord is with you now and in the future. God is with you when you are running ahead or when you have fallen down. Regardless of how we feel at the moment, God loves us more than we can imagine.