St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Fourth Sunday after Easter, 2014

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 “Let Go and Let God...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those, whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thou pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men.
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell.
And poppy or charm can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
(Death be not proud by John Donne)

In today’s Gospel reading in John Chapter 16 verse 5, we see how Jesus is talking to his disciples on the night before his is crucified. The disciples are absolutely mortified to finally learn that this very person in whom they had placed their trust, their livelihoods, their hope and passion for life, was now announcing his departure. The disciples could not believe their ears as they slowly tried to make sense of what Jesus was telling them. This was, after all, not part of the plan as they understood things. 
“Sorrow filled their hearts...”

I am sure that many of you sitting here this morning have experienced that sinking feeling when a partner announces their decision to leave the relationship, or perhaps you have just received the sad news that a loved one has passed away. For a moment time stands still, you become aware of your breathing, your heart beating and in that instant you wonder if your life will ever be the same again.

I am sure that this is how the disciples must have felt as well. To them their world was coming to an end... all their plans, dreams and goals were now going to change. Were they even going to survive this physically and spiritually?

The pain of separation.
Jesus realises that His disciples are struggling with this news and because He believes in transparency and the empowerment of His followers, he quickly follows on by saying the following:
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

Jesus knew that it was vital to give His disciples hope... hope to continue the mission of spreading the good works that Jesus had begun, hope to continue establishing the kingdom of God on Earth and hope to continue bringing people to God. Jesus was not prepared to leave the disciples empty handed or without resource. He knew that the Comforter or Holy Ghost would be present in order to guide, strengthen, empower and lead the disciples on their continuing journey of faith.
You see, my friends in Christ, Jesus had the insight and wisdom, through the Father, to realise that in order to fully establish the mission of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, He had to leave. For it is in His leaving that the church ultimately gains her power through the Holy Spirit and the Trinity becomes fulfilled. The success of this is in the fact that the Christian Church has survived for the last two thousand years...

This Gospel reading empowers us as Christians in many ways...
Firstly it reminds us that God is with us through all of our trials of separation and hardship, whether it be through death of a loved one, divorce or the ending of a relationship with a significant other. Jesus knows the real pain that we go through when these events happen in our lives. He is with us every moment, every step that we take and every tear that we cry. He is with us through the Holy Spirit. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Secondly, it reminds us that just as Jesus reached out to the disciples as they struggled with their pain, so we too as Christians should reach out to others during their time of need. I am reminded of a true story I was once told by a lay minister here in this very parish. A curate had just begun his ministry when a much loved parishioner suddenly passed away. The curate realised that it would be part of his duty and responsibility to visit the family of the deceased. When he arrived at the front door and rang the bell, the wife of the deceased opened the door and they both simultaneously burst into tears. They held each other and cried and cried and cried. The curate eventually left, devastated that he felt that he had been unable to impart strength and support. He considered resigning his post. The following day the widow contacted the curate and explained to him that she felt incredibly comforted by the curate as he was the first person who had allowed her to cry freely with someone... God meets us when we reach out. Reach out.

Lastly, we have nothing to fear. God is with us. In the same way that John Donne reminds us that death can no longer be proud for we awake eternally... eternally in the light of Christ. Separation from God is death. The Holy Spirit keeps us reunited in the love of Christ. We do not have to fear death nor being separated from the love of God, for if the Holy Spirit is in our lives, we are then filled with the love and light of Christ. 

John 14:26 – 27 says, “But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

As Christians we are not promised an easy road in life paved with gold and diamonds. Our life will, by definition of our fallen humanity, be one of struggle, pain and suffering. Our joy and hope lies in the fact that our Risen Lord lives in and with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We are not alone.
We are in God through Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.
That is our privilege and strength as Christians.
That is also our responsibility and accountability.
How often do we remember to include the Holy Spirit in our daily walk and struggle so that we can remain empowered in the light of Christ?
May God continue to bless you with His Holy Spirit in the week ahead as you walk your journey of faith in the love and light of Christ.


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