May 11, 2020
Love serves and willing stoops to serve;
what Christ in love so true
has freely done for one and all,
let us now gladly do!
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #360, verse 3]
The readings for May 17, 2020, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, are as follows:
I spent a few hours on the telephone this past weekend talking to my sisters and other people who are either friends, or have had some sort of a nurturing role in my life. It was, after all, Mother's Day. I talk with my sisters often, but I used the occasion as a pretext to reconnect with those whom I don't call on a regular basis.
Perhaps you also have found reasons to reach out to people whom you've been out of touch with for a while. Over the last couple of weeks I've received emails and text messages from people who I would least likely expect to be contacting me, unless it were a complaint of some sort. I've gotten those (the complaints) as well, but the pleasant ones, the ones which say, "You've been on my mind," are so comforting, so delightful, and seem almost like an answer to a prayer.
It's as if God were saying, "He's feeling discouraged and needs some word of support."
It's what I think about when I read a line in this coming Sunday's Gospel,"I will not leave you orphaned."
This Sunday we read once again from the 14th chapter of John, which continues what is called the Farewell Discourse.
To set the scene for you, it is Passover. Jesus has shared a meal with his disciples knowing that in less than 24 hours, he'll be dead - hung on a cross like a common criminal.
He had begun the evening by washing his disciples' feet, demonstrating for them the love of a servant; but also, by showing them that their relationship is defined by God's love. He then began to tell them what was going to happen - that he would be arrested, tried, convicted and crucified; betrayed by one of them.
This was an evening of significant distress for the disciples. Jesus is aware of that. You may recall that a few verses earlier Jesus told them, "Do not let your hearts be troubled."
But the disciples were highly dependent on Jesus. They felt confident and safe in his presence, and the thought of doing without him was very threatening for them. Their world was falling apart. They felt powerless and alone. We've all read and heard how incompetent and faithless they can be. In the presence of Jesus, they were like "little children" - they relied on his love and comfort. In fact, Jesus occasionally addressed them as "little children".
So, it seems clear that without Jesus they would indeed be like orphans - lost and hopeless; their past cut off, their future completely uncertain.
But Jesus assures them, "I will not leave you orphaned."
Many, if not all of us, have experienced feelings of abandonment over the past couple of months.
Like the disciples, there are a lot of hurting, confused, scared, and disoriented people in our world today. People who are feeling like orphans because they have lost a loved one to the novel Coronavirus or are suffering from it themselves. People who have lost their job or have been furloughed as a result of this pandemic. People who are feeling isolated at home and pained by the idea of not being able to worship in person in a church building.
Even as I write these words, I feel as if I'm picking at an old scab and reopening the wound. How many different ways can I describe what we've been going through with no apparent end in sight?
Just this past week, a noted epidemiologist,
Dr. Michael Osterholm
, stated that this pandemic could be with us up to 24 more months!
So it is important to balance these words of scientists and public health officials with the words of comfort that Jesus offers us:
I will not leave you orphaned.
With these words, Jesus assures us that God wants no one to feel like an orphan.
As people who are intimately related to each other through God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is a special and holy bond between each of us given to us in baptism.
We are reminded that we have a special understanding - a responsibility, if you will - to preserve that bond and encourage one another in the unique relationship we have with each other.
Jesus' words become our words to one another as people of God's family, as we reflect the love and care of God into the lives of the people around us.
We are, as Martin Luther said, "little Christs for each other."
Jesus has equipped us to be his disciples, to follow his word, and to be a place and community where he and his Father dwell.
You have heard it to the point that it sounds like a cliché, but "we are all in this together."
We are not abandoned because we have a God who loves us; a God in whom, "we live and move and have our being," as the apostle Paul tells us in the reading from Acts [17:28]; a God who says to each of us personally and individually, "I will not leave you orphaned".
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
: Staff meeting.
: Finance & Budget Committee
Cleveland East, Cleveland West, Canton-Massillon Conference
Northeastern Ohio Synod Council Executive Committee
ELCA Conference of Bishops weekly Check-in
St. Matthew's, Medina, Social Concerns Ministry Team
Our closing prayer is a prayer of Martin Luther, which can be found on page 85 of our Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal:
Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give. Amen.
+Bishop Abraham Allende