Tag: Advocate

Never Orphaned

Acts 17:22-31hands-old-young
John 14:15-21

 

Orphan. This is one of those categories of people the Bible has a lot to say. Over and over again God tells us to care for the orphaned and the widows. To care for the fatherless and the stranger. To care for the outcast and the afflicted. A sign of God’s people is their love and care for those who are most vulnerable.

In these ancient cultures where our scripture comes from, men are the people who can own property and bring in income. So… a widow… or a child without a father…. where are they going to get food? Water? Shelter? Who is going to protect them from being victims of violence?

God says again and again – you are. You are their protection.

Jesus reminds us that it isn’t just widows and orphans God wants us to care for – but ALL. So he shows us again how to care for strangers, care for outcasts, care for the physically and mentally sick. Whomever is at risk, we are their guardians.

So who is at risk? Who is Jesus telling us to remember in our prayers, to give our money and food to? Telling us to protect?

I tell you, I visited an orphanage.

I know – you tell me they are all closed. There are no more ran in the US and we only use the foster care system. But I tell you otherwise: I walked in and signed my name to the Visitor’s Sheet. Eyes poked out of doorways to see who this new person was with curiously and then disappeared back into their rooms. I got my badge that marked me as something even more different. That badge saying I’m permitted to be there, but not OF there. Permitted to enter, but also permitted to LEAVE. And I walked the halls of these orphans. Some laid in their beds calling for their mommies. Some had photos of their missing parents on their walls. Some asked me if I’d seen their loved ones, or knew who they themselves were.

Here, in this Alzheimer’s Unit, are the people who need others to give them food, and water, shelter. To protect them from violence. To be parental figures.

I found my orphan and she didn’t know who I was. But my orphan and I, we sat and talked anyways. Bit by bit, she told me a few memories of her parents, a sister… or a brother…

I sat and I thought it’s strange to think that nearly all of us will be orphans before we pass away. Eventually, nearly all of us, will bury first one parent, then a second, maybe even a third. We actually pray we pass away before our children, so it’s not a strange thing to be orphans… but yet… it doesn’t mean its any easier.

My orphan lost her parents decades ago, but the hurt was still so deep and fresh. And she still thought of them with mixed emotions. Relief – that they are no longer in pain. Relief – she’ll see them again. Sorrow – she doesn’t see them now. Sorrow she can’t ask them for advice, can’t introduce them to her great-grandchildren, can’t just share a cup of coffee. Simultaneously she recalled to me great bitterness and anger with her parents and great love and longing for her parents. No one has simple relationships with others when we’re honest.

The same is true in our scripture on feeling like an orphan today. This isn’t a simple relationship Jesus is describing. He is giving his farewell speech to his disciples. He’s telling them he’s going to a reunion with his father and they’re not welcome… yet. Telling them they know the way… but it isn’t on a map. And they are realizing Jesus is speaking about his death, and going to Heaven, and waiting for us there.

They are realizing they are about to be orphans.

Anger. They can’t go back home. They gave up their homes to follow Jesus. Fear. Who is going to protect them when Jesus is gone? Worry. Who are they going to turn to for advice? How are they going to keep following Jesus’ Way when Jesus isn’t there to lead them? Sorrow. There won’t be walks together and sitting down to dinner. Fear. How can they trust themselves to be the leader, the parent, the wise on when they know they know so little? Feeling so not ready.

And Jesus reassures them in these words. You do know the Way. What is more, the Spirit of Truth, which you have known through me, will be given to you to abide in you. This Holy Spirit will help guide you on the Way. We will meet again.

You will not be orphans. You will not be without someone caring for you. You have someone watching out for you, someone being your advocate – your helper and companion and champion – you have someone leading you, listening to you, loving you.

Want evidence? Lead, listen, and love another – and you will find you, too, are led, listened to, and loved.

So, again, who is at risk? Who is Jesus telling us to remember to lead, to listen to, and to love in our prayers, to give our money and food to? Telling us to protect?

Those who are aging are one of our brothers and sisters we need to give special protection to.

Another is those with physical or mental disabilities. Remember in Jesus’ time he cared not just for the widows and orphans… but also those with trouble walking, or speaking, or seeing. And those who suffered from mental illness and internal distress.

Today, our orphans are not in orphanages. They are in nursing homes, and at friends’ and families’ homes. And our orphans are in foster care and state custody. Our orphans are often homeless because there is so, so little help for those with mental demons.

Sadly, many police are like you and I, and not trained how to handle responding to someone in mental distress. So they see this ‘crazy erratic’ person, and choose to respond in ways that cause MORE distress and so more erratic behavior. Many, many mentally ill people are killed by responding officers because neither the cop nor the person know how to relate to each other – fear takes over – fear what the other will do – and one or the other goes from fear into attack mode.

Growing up, there was one of these guys living under a bridge near my hometown. Everyone knew him. He screamed at telephone poles most of the day. Where was his family? Did they know he was doing this? Had they passed away, had he run away and they lost track of him? Had he been more than what they could handle and care for?

… I’m his family, you know. So are you. Where were we?

Standing on the opposite street corner watching him and blaming his absent family. Judging them. When in actuality, Jesus commissions us – gives us the commandment – to love and care for those at risk and orphaned.

That man with mental illness is my brother. Your son. Our family.

And yes, he needed more help than any one set of parents, any one person, could give. But that is why we are more than one. We are the Body of Christ. Our parent in heaven, our risen Messiah, and our abiding Holy Spirit give us when we work together all that we need to care for all the orphans among us.

Paul argues to the Athenians in part that God isn’t like their statues. God doesn’t need us to feed God, bathe God, and bring God gold and silver because God provides US with everything and God isn’t IN a statue. Rather, God is in us and we are in God. We are God’s children, offspring.

In the same way, Jesus says he is in God, and we are in Jesus, and therefore with God. God doesn’t need us to care for God… but if we love Jesus, we will do as Jesus asks. Jesus asks us to love God – and love each other. Scripture tells us to love God, and love each other. The Spirit within us tells us to love God, and love each other. That Advocate reminds us again and again of the highest commandant: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind: and love others as you love yourself.

God doesn’t need bathed, need food, need support – God’s children do. The aging and the young, the physically or mentally challenged, or able or disabled, the often well or often ill – the widows and widowers – the orphans and the foster care kids – the moms and dads – the grandparents and neighbors – every single soul needs someone being their earthly advocate, just as we all need our Heavenly Advocate.

So who are the parents to the orphans?

Who are your parents?

We are. We are each other’s support, each other’s protection, each other’s advocates. We are each other’s family. We are the family of God.

Care for every person in some way – great or small.

Care for each other – here. And care for each other – out there, the strangers we are yet to meet.

We are never orphaned.

We are the children of God.

We are the family of God – and to love God is to love one another.

Amen.

Advertisements

Advocate!

John 14:8-17 [25-27]pentecost
Acts 2:1-21

I never met my great grandpa Lawrence “Bae.” He died before I was born. But I can tell you about him: he was a hobby photographer long before cell phone cameras or even Polaroids. He captured some of the only photos of the Delaware City Hall fire.

He fell in love with a girl too young to leave her mother. He promised her he was going on a CCC, a Civilian Conservation Corps trip– and then he’d be back to marry her. So Bae ended up in the Grand Canyon building the park we enjoy today. And after a few years, he went back to the girl — who now was a junior in high school — and this time, she was old enough to fall in love back. So Selma and Bae were married, and he signed her report cards while she finished school.

I know that it was actually she who worked – a restaurant, as a highly successful HER realtor – while Bae stayed home with the kids. This was pretty much unheard of in the 1940’s, and is still not common today.

I never met my great-grandpa, but I know him through stories, through his kids and grandkids, who have always tried to model what he taught: to value relationships. To go against the ‘norm’ in favor of doing what is best for those you love. To not be scared to forge new ways.

Have any of you literally met Jesus in the flesh – face to face? Then how can you say you know Jesus?

What about God?

Phillip stands before Jesus and says – Jesus, you know God face to face. Show us God, too. Let us know God as you know God.

And Jesus answers — Phillip? Do you still not know me? Anyone who knows me knows God. But I will die, and will no longer be here. Then how will you know me and know God? Through the Spirit which will abide with you. Then the Spirit will remind you of me, and I will remind you of God. Then you will live in the Spirit, live in me, live in God. Then the works you do will be more complete than those you’ve even seen now because you will be passing on the whole story of God’s love — which is only complete after I am gone.

The promised Spirit arrives fifty days after Passover: it’s been about fifty days since Easter. During this time, the disciples, the women, the little band of people who love Jesus have been keeping his commandments. They are in a locked room – perhaps the same room where the last supper happened – when there is a roar from heaven that sounds like the rush of a violent wind. Glowing threads, like tongues of fire, reached everyone person – and they caught fire with prophecy, with visions, with the ability to speak about Jesus with intense clarity in all languages.

And they passed on the story of God’s love, God’s power and works, as they had known them in Jesus. At Babel, humanity was fractured- each speaking a different tongue and therefore, spread out. But here, at this common house, Babel is reversed: all the different languages bring people together.

What does this mean? What is going on?

Some sneer – even when faced with miracles, some people choose not to believe. Those who sneered said, “These backwards, uneducated Galileans are drunk on new wine.”

Those who sneered didn’t know the truth of their statement. Remember: Jesus said he was bringing new wine for new skins. These people have new bodies – reborn in the Spirit – and now are full of new wine: the wine of Christ which is the Spirit of Truth.

Those who didn’t sneer listened to Peter who quoted the prophet Joel: In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

In Christ, there is no male or female, slave or free, child or adult, Greek or Jew, citizen or illegal citizen, Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, liberal or conservative, sinner or saint – in Christ – EVERYONE receives God’s Spirit. Everyone receives God’s love.

When the church began, that Pentecost two thousand years ago, we began with all tongues, and all view points, and all ages, and all genders, because God poured God’s spirit on EVERYONE who called on the name of the Lord.

And to this day, all who love Jesus, who follow Jesus’ commandments, are infused with the Spirit from God.

This spirit, the Greek word is Paraclete, is an Advocate. Paraclete means the “one who exhorts and encourages,” the one “who comforts and helps,” the one “responds to calls of help,” and the one “who makes appeals on your behalf.” This Holy Spirit, indwelling in us, encourages us to be Christ-like. Comforts and helps us comfort and help others. When we cry for help, the Holy Spirit intercedes, translating our tears and sighs into prayers.

Jesus said he was the first Paraclete, the first to comfort and help, plead our case, and sit with us.

The Spirit is the second.

And both are within and in God. Our God is God, our parent and creator. God our Jesus and savior. and God, the Spirit and Sustainer.

And how do we come to know this God-in-three-persons? This God who’s love is so radical it makes the world think we are drunk on wine?

Though relationships. Jesus tells his disciples he will die, he will be gone from the Earth, but the revelation of God through the Incarnation will not die, and not be gone from the Earth. It will continue in Jesus’ disciples’ community, and continue to be revealed by the Paraclete. The relationship the disciples have known with Jesus doesn’t depend on Jesus’ physical presence: it depends on the community of Christians coming together to love as Jesus loved, to model Jesus for the next generation, and to live into the new reign of God through the power and remembrances of Jesus through the Spirit.

I never physically met my Grandpa Bae. But I know him. I never have physically met Jesus, but I know him. My daughter won’t ever — likely– physically meet them either, but her communities: her family and church — will make sure she knows them.

We will pass on, we will advocate, with inspired tongues, the great deeds of power and love we know God has done in the past and in our own lives. We will pass on a peace that makes no sense. Peace – not as the world gives us in small doses. Peace from war, peace from insecurity, peace from disease – but we will pass on the Peace of Christ. The reassurance that God is with you, God has the final word, God knows what it is like to be human, and God forgives us of our sins. The Peace of knowing God loves us – no matter who we are, or where we are on our walk with God: God loves us.

Amen.