Welcome to worship this day, for the 6th Sunday of Easter, landing on May 14th, 2023! We are glad that you’re here to join together in the worship and praise of our God!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. While all the words you need to know will be on your screen and the sermon is included below, you can use the bulletin to see the full order of worship and the page and hymn number references.
For a fuller worship experience online, you are welcome to have a lit candle in your space that can be extinguished with the altar candles after the sending hymn. If you’d like to participate in communion, you may do so by having something small to eat and drink ready to be consumed at the appropriate time in the service. Further instruction will be given then.
May God’s unending and blessed love be upon you and fill you with joy, hope, and peace, now and always!
God, may your Spirit, our helper and advocate, open our hearts and minds this day, that we might be enticed by your Word and your message of love for the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So as you all know, today is Mother’s Day, and I hope everyone hearing these words is able to take some time today to appreciate their own mother or the mother figures in their lives, for the sacrifices they made for our benefit and all that they’ve contributed to help make us who we are today. Mother’s Day is a great reminder for us to reflect on all that mothers do and the role they play in our lives, as regardless of who you are or where you’re from, you will have a mother of some sort.
Now, I can’t speak for all mothers, but I can say from just out of my own personal experience that my mother and the mother of my children (who are two different people, in case that wasn’t clear) do way more for their kids than their respective baby daddies (who are also different people). Maybe your experience with your mother was the same, but it just seems like that mothers in general are more nurturing, more supportive, and more likely to go ballistic in protecting their kids from any kind of threat whatsoever, even if that threat is a well-meaning dad that cracked one joke or pulled one prank too many. Ask me how I know…
And I think that is why kids, my kids seem to be drawn more to their mom than to me, which I recognise might not be the case for all kids out there. While I can be more playful and make the kids laugh more than their mom, I see that they continue to gravitate toward her as the source of their nourishment, care, and love. Of course, I’m aware of how the roles aren’t set in stone at all, but I’m just saying that is the case in our family, and perhaps in others out there as well. I’m not saying that it has to be or should be the case, but just in my experience, that is what it is.
And whether or not these roles are similar in your family or the families around you, I think there is one driving force in all of us that pushes us toward these parental figures in our lives. And that is that we don’t like it when we don’t have all what mothers or our parental figures generally provide. What I mean is, we don’t like to not be nourished or cared for or loved. We don’t like to not be watched over or protected. We don’t like to feel like we don’t belong or are alone.
Trust me, as an Asian born in Canada at a time when there weren’t too many Asians born in Canada, I’ve had a lot of time to feel alone, left out, and not belonging. Heck, even now as an Asian pastor in the Lutheran Church at a time when there aren’t too many Asian pastors in the Lutheran Church, I feel it. A lot. I don’t blame anyone for this, mind you, I recognise that it really just is what it is. I just think it’s important to note these strong feelings in many, if not all, of us of needing that belonging, that community, that love in our lives.
“I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you.” Interesting words that Jesus chose for this Mother’s Day. It’s like he knew. Either case, this passage comes right after last week’s passage, so we are still in Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. So while he probably wasn’t talking about Mother’s Day, he was talking to that need to be loved and belong, and the fear of loneliness. Because let’s not forget what Jesus’ farewell discourse is all about, it’s about him saying farewell. His time with them in the flesh is drawing to a close, so he’s just tying up all the loose ends and preparing them for his departure.
Well, it didn’t go so well, did it.
The disciples were left afraid. Confused. To the point that each one of them, not just Judas and Peter, betrayed and denied Jesus just through their inaction, confusion, and fear. Jesus said he won’t leave them orphaned, but in those first few days at least, they sure seemed like they were. And after the way they totally abandoned Jesus? They probably would have had it coming.
So their sense of being abandoned was real. Their apprehension of being alone was legit. Their fear of not being loved was understandable… and relatable.
I don’t know how many of you have lost a parent, but I’m pretty sure you know that my dad passed almost 6 years ago now. If you knew that, then you probably also knew that my dad and I didn’t get along very well. We were just too different… or maybe we were too alike. I don’t even know to be honest as I still, to this day, don’t even really know him.
But even in that? Even in the strained, barely present, dysfunctional relationship I had with him, I was still scared of him dying. I was afraid of him leaving our family and me. I didn’t want to feel… I don’t know… orphaned. I know, my mom is still around, but I never lost a parent before so I wasn’t sure what it’d be like.
And I’d imagine any of you who lost a parent went through similar feelings. Or I’m sure any of you who lost a close loved one that you looked up to as a source of love and care maybe felt like this. Or maybe perhaps even the disciples felt like this, once they caught an inkling of what Jesus was talking about in not being with them for much longer.
So Jesus’ “I won’t leave you orphaned” was meant to comfort, to console before the fact, to counsel them in what is yet to come. Even though the disciples probably didn’t know exactly what Jesus was talking about, they probably understood that change was upon them, that things will be different soon, that Jesus wasn’t going to be around forever.
Or was he?
Before this part in the story, Jesus told them that he’ll be sending them an advocate, which we understand to be the Holy Spirit. This advocate will be with them and us forever, leading and guiding us to show God’s love to all people. But the interesting part of this is that Jesus doesn’t say that he’s sending just any old advocate, but another advocate. As in, an advocate in addition to himself, who also will continue to act as an advocate.
Imagine that. Jesus, alongside the Holy Spirit, with us always. Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding us forever. Jesus and the Holy Spirit together, preparing a house for us with many rooms, welcoming us in the pen of Jesus’ flock, watching over us and protecting us from the dangers that may come.
I know, this doesn’t always seem to be the case. In fact, probably for most people it seldom seems to be the case. What, with the world going in the way that it’s going, with wildfires burning up forests, people polluting the world with nary a second thought, and the quest for power constantly being so all- consuming in the countries, governments, and individuals, it really seems like we have, in fact, been left orphaned.
But let’s not forget this house that we talked about last week. This flock that we talked about the week before. The welcome and belonging of the Spirit that we talk about pretty much all the time.
See we often forget our position in God’s kingdom because we equate it with how the world treats us. We often lose sight of the promises of welcome and inclusion in God’s house because we don’t always feel welcome and included in the world. We often feel like we’ve been abandoned and orphaned by God because that’s how the world often has us feel.
But Jesus reminds us that we aren’t actually alone. We aren’t in fact abandoned. We aren’t even close to being orphaned. But we have the Spirit of truth on our side, abiding with us throughout our lives, joining us together in community, welcoming us from all walks into the everlasting house of God.
My friends, this is the point of Easter. This is the point of the gospel. This is the point of the life and ministry of Jesus, to show us this love and peace that surpasses all understanding, stretching throughout this broken and hurting world to encapsulate us all, revealing to us a belonging that even death cannot put to an end.
It’s true, Jesus has not, does not, and will not leave us orphaned. Rather he continues to live in us and through us and often in spite of us, showing us and reminding us of God’s gracious and everlasting love and welcome, calling us into a life full of belonging and meaning.
As we come close to the end of the Easter season, may we always be reminded of our welcome into God’s kingdom and family, that no matter what the world might throw at us, we might hang onto the promise that we will always be loved, always be welcomed, and never be left orphaned. Thanks be to God. Amen.