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I Will Come to You

John 14:15-21

You can read the sermon below or watch it here: https://youtu.be/2faSFc65AZk  (Watching/listening is suggested this week because it includes a guided meditation.)

This passage from the Gospel According to John is from a portion of scripture that scholars call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. In this story it is Thursday of Holy Week, the evening before the crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples have shared their last meal together, and Jesus is trying to say goodbye, trying to prepare them for his departure, trying to calm them down. He has already told them (in a previous verse) not to worry, but you know how well telling somebody not to worry usually works! “The fear of loss is not so easily defeated. And so he tells them that he will not leave them orphaned, abandoned, or alone. Instead, he will send to them an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. . . . The word employed by John in this passage — paracletos — and often translated ‘Advocate’ can have several overlapping meanings. It can function in a legal sense, meaning literally one who advocates for you before a court of law. And it can function more relationally by designating one who brings help, consolation, comfort, and encouragement. All of these however, derive from the most basic meaning of the word to ‘come along side another.’”[1] God will send the Spirit to come along side us—in our joy and especially in our pain. “I will not leave you orphaned,” the scripture says. “I am coming to you.”

What a beautiful promise—a promise that is real even when we don’t feel it; a promise that is true even when all evidence says it is false.

But you know this. Nothing I’m saying here is new to you. And no matter how many times I tell you, it’s not going to change anything. So I want to try something different this morning. I’m going to ask you to trust me, to follow where I lead you. In return for your trust, I promise not to make you get in small groups and talk about it afterward! I want to lead you in a guided meditation. (If you totally hate this, you can take a nap and we’ll wake you when we’re done!)

OK, let’s start by making sure you are sitting comfortably, with your feet on the floor. If your shoes hurt your feet, feel free to slip them off. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Take a deep, slow breath and notice how your body moves as the breath enters your body. Put a hand on your chest or your stomach and feel it move as you inhale and exhale. Take a few more slow, deep breaths. As extraneous thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and let them pass. Feel your feet on the floor. You are grounded in the earth. As you breathe in, imagine bright light entering the top of your head, then flowing throughout your body.

Now I invite you to think of your favorite peaceful place. Keeping your eyes closed, imagine that you are there. You are alone, and you are completely safe. Nothing will interrupt your time here. Breathe in the air of this peaceful place. Pay attention to your senses. What do you see around you? What sounds do you hear? What does it smell like? Take a few minutes to enjoy this place you love.

Now look around again. In the distance you see someone coming toward you. You don’t know how you know, but it is God in some form—perhaps as Jesus, or Creator God, or Divine Spirit. It could be male or female, human-like or not. But look for who it is that is coming toward you. Know that you are safe in this presence.

Invite this Spirit, this Christ, to sit beside you. Sit in silence together, aware of your breath as you inhale and exhale, aware that you share the same air. Still in your beautiful, peaceful place, you are invited to speak to the Divine presence—to say anything that is on your mind. I will give you a moment for this conversation; feel free to speak your truth.

If you have finished speaking, listen for what the Divine might want to say to you.

Your time in your special, peaceful place is nearing an end. Begin saying goodbye to the place you have rested as you look around one last time. Know that you carry it with you and can return whenever you need. Notice again your breath, as it enters and leaves your body. Notice your feet on the floor. You are grounded again in the here and now.

When you are ready, you can open your eyes.

I hope you were able to allow yourself to enter into this meditation. I hope you felt God’s presence in whatever form you needed. I hope you spoke your mind. I hope you heard God’s heart.

Jesus promised, “God will send you another Advocate,” a companion, one who sits beside. Sometimes this presence is in the form of a vision, a dream, a feeling, an awareness of some entity beyond ourselves. And sometimes God’s presence is most clear in another human being.

A liturgical writer whose work I admire recently released a new book on sorrow. It is, oddly enough, a book of blessings for those in grief. I want to read you an excerpt from one of them called “The Blessing You Should Not Tell Me.”

Do not tell me

there will be a blessing

in the breaking,

that it will ever

be a grace

to wake into this life

so altered,

this world

so without.

 

Do not tell me

of the blessing

that will come

in the absence.

 

Do not tell me

that what does not

kill me

will make me strong

or that God will not

send me more than I

can bear.

 

Do not tell me

this will make me

more compassionate,

more loving,

more holy.

 

Do not tell me

this will make me

more grateful for what

I had.

 

Do not tell me

I was lucky.

 

Do not even tell me

there will be a blessing.

 

Give me instead

the blessing

of breathing with me.

 

Give me instead

the blessing

of sitting with me

when you cannot think

of what to say. . . .

 

If you could know

what grace lives

in such a blessing,

you would never cease

to offer it.

 

If you could glimpse

the solace and sweetness

that abide there,

you would never wonder

if there was a blessing

you could give

that would be better

than this—

the blessing of

your own heart

opened

and beating

with mine.[2]

 

 

Many of us, perhaps all of us, have experienced times when someone’s presence with us was just what we needed, when they were God in flesh for us. Jesus promised God’s paraclete, the advocate, the one who comes beside. This is God, and this is us. We ourselves can become God’s paraclete when we do not run from the pain or hide from the unknown.

Today we welcomed new members into this community, and in a few minutes we will elect new elders in recognition of their service and commitment to the church. May we all—new members, long-time members, and friends of the church—embody the presence of God. We are the church. Thanks be to God.

[1] Lose, David. “Communities of the Spirit.” workingpreacher.org.

[2] Richardson, Jan. The Cure for Sorrow. pp. 53-55.

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