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No Orphan Left Behind

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Mother's Day)

14 May 2023

Year A

Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+

Acts 17:22-31

Psalm 66:7-18

1 Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

Sunday Cycle of Prayer

The Church of the Province of West Africa

St. Matthew’s Church, Orlando

St. Michael’s Church, Orlando

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

“I will not leave you orphaned.” This week, in anticipation of Mother’ s Day and in reflection upon Jesus’ words to the disciples I was reminded of a favorite comic strip from the funny papers, The Family Circus created by Bill and Jeane Keene. Just imagine this comic, a circle with Billy, the oldest child in the family, talking on the telephone to someone, maybe a friend,

“Yah”....says Billy, “ My Mom is in the hospital and me and Dad and my little sister Dolly and my little brother Jeffy and our dog Barfy are all home. we are all home alone.”

With 7 year old honesty and earnestness Billy shares the longings and worries each of us have experienced whether we were children, teens or adults in times of transition. Billy, and all of us, long for and miss a loving touch, a motherly presence and care, relationship and connection. Today on Mother’ s day we remember our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and women who have been like mothers, loving us when we needed tenderness most and those mothers who have fallen short of our hopes. And today we will consecrate our Statue of The Blessed Virgin Mary which celebrates Mary, the model of motherhood for in the flesh she was Jesus’s mother in her person, Jesus’ disciple in her love, Jesus’ servant to the very end Mother’s Day, Blessed Virgin Mary and our lessons today focus on love- love the key to being a good mother and a good Christ follower.

Now also in the cartoon young Billy also expresses what all of us may also have felt even in the midst of family and even our four legged friends part of him, part of us, can feel lonely, alone, orphaned. In the midst of life’s changes, tragedies, and transitions just like Billy you and I can feel abandoned, vulnerable, orphaned. As they sit around the Last Supper Table I suspect the disciples feel these same feelings, ask the same questions aloud or in the silence of their hearts

What do I do now? Where do I go next?

that Billy and we ourselves ask when we feel abandoned, orphaned

Who will walk beside me to guide and nurture me? What will become of me?

The Good news is Jesus’ leaves no one behind who wishes to follow and obeys his commandments. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus will continue to love and guide us until he returns again, I will not leave you orphaned. This week we resume the Last Supper story right where we left off....

---the discipleshave been fed ---Jesus, the ever-present servant, has washed their feet in love

----Judas the betrayer has been dismissed.

In the dark of night, at the end of the day Jesus does not hide the truth, yes I will be leaving you, your lives will change, you will be sad and sorrowful for awhile but you will not be on your own like orphans. Jesus the one for whom they left everything and everyone behind is now leaving THEM to go to the Father, promising he will return again.

Understandably the disciples, feeling like orphans pulled from their roots and their blossoming new identities ask Jesus more questions, Where are you going? How can we follow you? Can you show us the Father. As you know, the feeling of being orphaned is real, very much alive in the hearts of those who have lost homes to forest fires, tornadoes or hurricanes; stand at the countries’ borders hoping for asylum; wait with a loved one who is terminally ill. Anyone who has ever loved and lost a home, spouse, child, friend, security, hope, has probably asked these orphan’s questions. Most of us fear becoming orphaned for being orphaned exposes our human fears of being unworthy not enough, and in the stories I have heard from orphaned men and women who lost parents, were housed in orphanages or in the foster care system there is a high risk of their losing trust and isolating from others and even God depending upon only themselves to survive feeling deeply hurt, their hearts broken. But in God’s kingdom and even in the world you and I were never created to be self-sufficient or to stand alone God created us to be in relationship with each other offering ourselves, as the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus himself did to each other in sacrificial love, dwelling and remaining with each other just as the Father is alive in Jesus and Jesus alive in the Father rooted, connected, seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the very opposite of being orphaned, Jesus promises us that God will never abandon us no matter what happens in our lives, in our deaths and no matter how far down the road we transgress or deeply we dig ourselves into the mud of sin, God invites us to repent and return to God and to obey Jesus’ commandments. Jesus never leaves behind anyone who wants to follow him there are no orphans in God’s Kingdom.

In the Old Testament, YHWH, through the law and 10 commandments, advocated strongly for compassion, protection, provision, and justice for widows and orphans who were at risk of poverty and marginalization when the male head of household was deceased. In the New Testament, Jesus also advocates for us, all of us, asking the Father for another parakletos

(parakletos in Greek is one who comes alongside us) as a counselor, comforter, and intercessor,

someoneto listen, teach, support, and guide us with the voice of the Father, someoneto strengthen and empower you and me when we feel alone, overwhelmed, rejected and especially orphaned. Jesus is the first parakletos who gave his very body, his very life, body and blood to redeem us sinners who will ascend after a period on earth to sit at Father’s right hand and he gifts us,those who know His voice and his way of love with the Holy Spirit to guide us to live and become Christ’s disciples, servants who act with love toward our brothers and sisters. When you proclaim Christ as your Lord and Savior and are baptized in the holy waters of baptism marked with the holy chrism oil, The Holy Spirit ignites God’s spark of spiritual presence and wisdom in your heart, a spirit that will always be with you forever throughout eternity abide with you,

dwell very close, closer than your very breath and attend to your every thought and every fear.

And this Spirit which is IN us, as Our Collect reminds us far exceeds anything we can ever understand and guides us, if we listen, toward fulfillment of life and more than we can ever desire. A Holy Spirit that invites and calls us into a life of abundance fully alive, seeing God in every moment even those moments in which we feel orphaned and alone.

How do we KNOW the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives? Jesus reminds us if we truly love Him we will keep his commandments, His simplified version from Torah law with love toward God, our neighbor, and our selves fully, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength to love as we would want to be loved ourselves. Jesus calls us to respond with LOVE, not fear, to make obedience, not obligation, the basis of our choices to follow him.

How do we know we are living a life anchored in Jesus’ love? Remember that Jesus is both leaving and coming, Jesus is both present and absent, as always with Jesus there is a tension

Yet and not yet.

And, as my colleague1 reminded me this week we have to ask ourselves is Jesus for us a past memory or a present reality? Are we living in a sentimental story or a living experience that challenges, guides and nurtures our lives?

How are we living our lives, what fruit are we bearing? whose feet are we washing? who is outside the boundaries of our love? If we are indeed keeping Jesus’ commandments our love will be growing, expanding, challenging us to transform our view of ourselves, the world, and perhaps even God. Or is our love self-focused leaving people outside the circle of Christ’s love

those who are not “like us” in some way residing in worldly orphanages; the nursing homes, addiction treatment centers or on the “other side of the tracks”. If we keep ourselves present and obeying Jesus commandments we not only are not only left orphaned out of our love for Jesus and our desire to be like Jesus and of course his mother, The Blessed Virgin Mary we will not want to leave anyone else out, not matter how different from us they seem to be - I will not leave you orphaned.

This week I encourage you remember you and I have not been abandoned, we never will be by Jesus and let us not abandon others to the orphanages of the world. Love with all you have and all the Holy Spirit is encouraging you to do, remembering that the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit love us with all they have and all they are.


Cover Image: Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

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