Very sorry that the Zoom platform failed us in our effort to have prayer time together this 6th Sunday of Easter, 2020. But we hope that you are all doing well, and rest assured, you all remain in our prayers no matter what!
Here is a short reflection on this Sunday’s readings from Acts 17:22-31 (when Paul speaks of God and the Resurrection life to the people of Athens) and John 14:15-21 (where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will be with his friends always, and where He asks them to live the love He has taught them all about).
Reflection, Easter 6, 2020 Acts 17.22-31; John 14.15-21
Isolation. Feeling abandoned? Harrowing and hard! It can feel awful, and we can also get frustrated and irritable. May God’s peace be with us!
Even without the current crisis situation, we may have experienced this feeling before, and had and have hoped for more and better human care and attention.
If we believe in God, the spiritual dimension of this may make us feel existentially insignificant sometimes, when we go through challenging times and situations. Where is God in our troubles? Why isn’t he helping us out of them now? Doesn’t He care?
Jesus too felt abandoned by his friends at the end. Fair enough, seeing how he was arrested and by whom, a crackdown instigated by the religious authorities and the Roman occupiers, his disciples no doubt ran for their lives, themselves disappointed that the one they believed would change their society and circumstances had been stopped. They lost hope in the higher cause, since they perhaps understandably did not comprehend how it should all happen.
Jesus must too have felt abandoned by his friends, and some argue that this man who literally embodied the mission of Immanuel, ‘God with us’, may, on that horrid Cross, have also felt deserted even by His Father in Heaven. He cried out, citing Psalm 22, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
But as I’ve suggested before, if we read the rest of Psalm 22 in its entirety, it goes through further excruciating suffering, but ultimately comes to redemption and rejoicing at the end, where ‘all the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord’, and where ‘the poor shall eat and be satisfied and those who seek the Lord shall praise Him, and their hearts shall live forever’ (Ps 22:27 & 26). To me, even from the Cross, Jesus, I believe, is pointing us to the truth that God is always and forever with us, even and especially in our troubles.
Jesus’ words to His friends before He is taken from them, from John 14 today, come just after His reassurance to them that He is going ahead to prepare a place for them with the Father, and Jesus promises and will lead them home, as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Even when Jesus is about to depart from them physically, they are never abandoned. By no means made orphans, but always part of God’s family.
And Jesus also promises that even if He isn’t physically with them, they will always be accompanied, supported, defended and comforted by another member of the Trinity of God: the Holy Spirit. For that word that He uses, parakleton (= ‘Paraclete’), is in our NIV Bible translated as ‘Advocate,’ which means: our companion, who protects us, who counsels us, who inspires us, who prays with and for us, who works wonders!
If we live in the love that Jesus has taught us, we will always abide, feel at home in and with God, just as Jesus is, all thanks to the wonderful work of the Spirit. And Jesus invites us to obey His teaching, which is all about God’s love and how to live it. If we do love as Jesus did and commanded, we need no further proof that we live in God, as Jesus does. What an invitation – to be blessed and be a blessing!
Paul too knows, feels and lives this, as he travels all over, sharing the brilliant news of New Life in God. He gives a short lecture to his hearers in the great city of Athens, which one writer describes as a kind of ‘Monotheism 101’, pointing to the Resurrection. He connects with what his hearers, many unfamiliar with his faith background, might have been wondering, given their own culture. This shows his care for learning about and communicating with people who were quite different from himself, all in order to invite them into God’s family. No one should be excluded or feel abandoned, in Paul’s view, too.
We can all come to know the living, loving, and caring and comforting God, who is and will be always with us, no matter how we feel. Amen.
Yours in Christ, Sam