I Will Not Leave You As Orphans

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

Being abandoned is one of the most difficult things a person can go through emotionally speaking.  I have been told that even negative attention or abusive attention is better than being abandoned.  The reason being, even negative attention asserts that a person exists.  Abusive attention, though it is horribly sinful, still acknowledges that the person who is being abused is present and alive.  However, being abandoned or forsaken by someone else basically communicates to the one being abandoned that they do not exist, that they are essentially dead, and not of any value or worth.

For example, great fear can also come upon us when we begin to notice hints of abandonment.  In response to possible abandonment we resort to sinful tactics to regain attention.  Children will act out in sinful tantrums to be noticed by a busy mom.  Youth will break the law and do stupid stuff to grab the attention of a distracted father.  Women will dress scandalously to seize the attention of a preoccupied husband and possibly other men. Men will accumulate luxurious material products to impress his lady, and possibly other women.  Elderly will lavish gifts upon children and others in order to ensure that they won’t be forgotten in the nursing home. 

Indeed, there is a great amount of fear, anxiety, and concern present in our lives due to our need of having to be noticed and this need that we have to be taken care of. 

No matter what people say, this world is difficult because it is infected and twisted by the fall of Adam of Eve.  From birth we are born stained by sin.  This sin has alienating effects.  It not only puts us at odds with ourselves and our neighbor, it puts us at odds with God.  In fact, because of sin we are born as spiritual orphans.  Yes, orphans.

For children who grow up as orphans, there are tremendous consequences to this abandonment.  An orphan is, of all people, most helpless, more so than a widow.  They are alone, powerless, and destitute.  Furthermore, they do not have precious memories, memories that could sustain them in the midst of their abandonment.  This means that they may search their whole entire life for the answers to who they are.  They may spend countless hours searching out their original identity to learn about their biological parents to see if they matter.  Being shuffled from home to home only undercuts certainty and assurance.  Thus, a deep longing can arise in an orphan to be accepted, to not be alone, and to be noticed.

The idea of an orphan is a most fitting metaphor for our relationship with the Lord.  We are indeed born into this world as spiritual orphans.  We are born with this sinful nature that has estranged us from the Lord.  In fact we are no ordinary orphans, but spiritual orphans in complete rebellion.  We run to our own sin and devices.  Thus, it is only through the powerful blood of Christ that we are adopted into the Lord’s Kingdom.  Surely, it was the Lord who chased us down and sunk us underneath the powerful baptismal waters.  It was the Lord who pulled us into the kingdom kicking and screaming.  Like Hosea in the Old Testament, it was the Lord who sought us out in our unfaithfulness, purchased us, cleansed us, and placed us in His Church.

With all that said, one may wonder if after being placed into the precious confines of God’s grace, if he or she is left alone to fend for themselves?  The disciples were also considering the same thing some two-thousand years ago as they gathered in the upper room to have the Last Supper with Jesus.  While eating with Jesus they heard the news that He would be departing from them.  Yes, the events of Jesus’ passion were about to happen.  The disciples would be scattered like scurrying cockroaches blinded by light.  Jesus would be put on trial, flogged, beaten, crucified, and put in a tomb. Jesus knowing all of this and knowing that after His crucifixion and resurrection that He would ascend to the Father, says, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”  He also says to the disciples, I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”  Oh, what comfort this news must have surely been.  They will not be left as orphans.  What comfort it is to you and me right here and right now.  Indeed, Jesus is promising to send His disciples the Holy Spirit.  Keep in mind though that they had already received the Holy Spirit, for ‘No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:3).  However Jesus is promising them a special outpouring of the Spirit, which would come to them at what we know as Pentecost.  Now even though Jesus has never promised us another Pentecost, His promises in this section do apply to us.  They do apply to us because Jesus continues to send us the Holy Spirit to teach us all things, help us, and remind us of everything He said to us in His word (Jn 14:26).[1]

My friends, we are not left alone in the world to fend for ourselves.  Christ asks the Father to give us the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, and we receive Him continually as a gift.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is not given as a reward for your prayers or given because of your obedience and doings.  You cannot ‘pray’ the Holy Spirit down upon yourself.  He comes at the request of the Son to the Father.  Any talk about ‘getting the Spirit,’ to the exclusion of Jesus requesting the Spirit is utter delusion.[2]  Rather, as a gift, the Holy Spirit is given to you through the Word in order to be your constant companion.  The Holy Spirit stands aside you, counsels you, helps you, teaches you, reminds you of scripture, convicts you of sin, points you to Jesus, guides you, and gives all glory to Christ. Indeed, Jesus comforts His disciples and us by this profound promise.  He promises that He will not leave us but will continue to come to us through the Counselor and live within us through faith.[3] 

My friends, you are not a spiritual orphan.  You are not forsaken.  You are not abandoned in this life.  The scriptures are your story, your lineage, and your history.  Your identity is in Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.  You are not lacking, for in Christ you have every, yes every, spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm.  Indeed, “when the Holy Spirit is doing His job, all we see and hear of is Jesus.  When you clearly hear and see Jesus then you know that the Holy Spirit is at work.”[4]

Today's Gospel reading tells us of the blessings we receive from the Other Helper - the Holy Spirit.  Truly, by our own reason and strength we cannot believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him; however, the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctifies you, and keeps you in the true faith.  Yes, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps the Church with Jesus Christ in one true faith.[5] 

You are not alone.  You have not been abandoned.  You are not a spiritual orphan for the “Holy Spirit offers forgiveness, life, and salvation to [you] through faith in Jesus Christ.  Through this faith God adopts [you] into His family.  We become brothers and sisters of Christ and children of our Heavenly Father.  God is with [you] in this life and, when this life is over, He will take [you] to be with Him in heaven forever.”[6]

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Sermon Studies on the Gospels: Series A ed. Richard D. Balge (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing,  1989), 202.

[2] Harold Bulls, “Buls Notes on the New Testament.” http://pericope.org/buls-notes/john/john_14_13_21.htm (16 May, 2014).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Naomichi Masaki, source of quote unknown.

[5] Paraphrase of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed according to Luther’s Small Catechism.

[6] James T. Batchelor, “Sixth Sunday of Easter Sermon at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.” http://lcmssermons.com/index.php?sn=963 (16 May 2014)

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