John 14:15-21 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
This week we continue our trek through the Farewell Discourse and much of the context is the same as last week. We continue to hear this promise of Jesus’ abiding connection with God, and we hear the promise of our abiding connection through the gift of the Holy Spirit who will be with us forever.
Rather than belabor additional contextual points, I’ll jump into preaching possibilities that I’m seeing.
If last week was about hindsight, this week could be foreshadowing/foresight. Pentecost is only a few weeks away and here we get a text of Jesus promising us the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. Given that Pentecost is also on Memorial Day weekend and folks could be traveling, this could be an extra Sunday to talk about the Spirit and how she abides with us. What does it mean that she is the Spirit of Truth? What does it mean that she is the Advocate, the Paraclete?
This would have to be delicate. Very delicate. But this is a very bold, direct, and somewhat strange line from Jesus: “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” And at the surface it means what we think it does: ὀρφανούς, i.e. parentless.
On Mother’s Day this could be a balm for someone’s soul or an absolute gut punch. If someone has lost their parents recently, or have been estranged, or were in fact abandoned, these words might fall heavy.
But there’s two additional descriptions around this word ὀρφανούς: “of uncertain affinity” and “comfortless.”
This first definition opens up a world of possibility, “of uncertain affinity.” In short it expounds upon the connection point that Jesus has been talking about. Jesus will go away and so the disciples will feel unconnected. Affinity is a wide-ranging word that all center around the feeling of connectivity to others. Jesus promises us, that he will not leave us unconnected. Through the Holy Spirit and through the Body of Christ, we are connected. We are not left alone. In fact, the presence of Christ can be seen even more readily now, because Christ is in each of us. And as long as we remember that connection, we will have Christ with us, we will have each other, and we will never be alone.
The second definition also offers an opportunity, “comfortless.” Another name for the Holy Spirit is Comforter. Jesus sends the very thing the disciples will need. In a time when they may feel comfortless (both after the crucifixion AND the Ascension), Jesus gives them the comforter. The Spirit of God who will guide them to truth so that they can continue to see Christ in the world and continue to feel the abiding presence of God.
Just a little commiseration
This week’s text is short, right on the heels of last week’s text, and is right on the heels of Pentecost. There will need to be some double-dipping here and there in terms of themes and content. It’s a good opportunity to build on some themes that you’d really like your congregation to take away. For me, I’m really harping on seeing the divine presence in our neighbors.
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