In the Spaces – Lent 4
In the Spaces
March 22, 2020
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: John 14:25-28
We’re alone now.
We’re not really, but with all this social distancing it feels like we are. A friend told me the Ruli Brothers meat counter mosh pit has become an orderly line stretching around the store. Everyone carefully standing six feet apart. Personal space on steroids.
I married an introvert, but I’m not one. My wife would social distance in a heartbeat, preferably to a cabin surrounded by at least 100 acres of field and meadow, ridgetop and stream. But even she, after a while, begins yearning for connections. For those she loves. For family. For friends. It can get so lonely. We can feel so alone. Anything for a hug, a handshake, a high five, a shared laugh (not an emoji laugh but a real one) over a stupid video.
Jesus, only hours away from the cross, only weeks away from his ascension, knows his departure will create a vast hole in his disciples lives. They will experience fear and longing. They will experience anxiety and uncertainty. For three years he has literally been God With Them. The visible, touchable, huggable, walking, talking, high fiving, tell a joke, share a story, laugh over the stupid, cry over the hard, presence of God in their lives.
Soon the disciples will be alone. But they won’t be. God had been present in the world long before Jesus and would be long after. One will come. The original Greek here is Parakletos – a comforter, helper, advocate, assistant – someone who helps us get through life like a lawyer helps a client get through a legal matter. Someone who is on our side, working the system, hearing our needs, responding to us. The Holy Spirit – the breath, the wind of God.
• The breath bringing life to Adam and inflating our own lungs as we exit the womb.
• The guide who opened the eyes of Hagar to a well in the desert before she and her child died or thirst, and who brought a friend of mine, at his worst moment, to a place of healing, renewal and salvation.
• The presence who was the fourth person in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s fiery furnace and was the second person holding a friend as she waited for surgery.
• The rescuer whom David experiences reaching from on high in times of trouble, and whom an acquaintance experienced when stuck on a highway during a whiteout blizzard.
• The life giver who sit with Lazarus in his tomb and who reversed another friends journey between the kingdom of earth and that of heaven.
• The sustainer who journeyed with Jesus on the cross and journeys with a friend who is managing enough burdens for a multitude but is able to keep going.
The Parakletos. The Holy Spirit. The wind, breath, of God. The one who enables Christ’s peace.
I was in ninth grade. The good kid whose worst crime to date had been sneaking Cracker Jacks between afterschool snack and dinner. (This doesn’t sound like much, but in my family, in my house, with my mother, this was a pretty serious crime.) But boy meets girl, girl meets boy, hormones ranged and now I’d done something much, much, much worse than the unauthorized eating of unauthorized snack food. If I told my parents, they’d kill me. If I told my pastor he’d tell my parents. So I sat alone, in my room, convinced I was about to be struck down into the pits of hell. Instead God’s presence engulfed me. The Parakletos, the divine self, the advocate, comforter, helper, surrounded me. You’re okay. Its okay. Come on. Get up. You’ve got a life to live. I’ll be here with you. It will be okay.
Since then I’ve done much worse things – it wasn’t that bad – not nearly what most of you were thinking – and felt a lot less guilt – but I will always remember the sense of divine presence I’ve experienced. The peace I received. The peace given to me. I knew then, for the first time, how real, how present, our God can be.
As I entered Sparkle last night for some milk a strange feeling entered the pit of my stomach. Usually I breeze into Sparkle with little thought, thinking only of what I needed to get and who I might meet. Last night was different. Would there be milk? Would there be other people? Would I catch it? Two people were in the milk aisle. I lingered at the end until they’d moved far away. I marveled at the bare toilet paper shelves and wondered if diarrhea was a side effect of social distancing. At the register I carefully maintained my six feet.
Fear, loneliness, anxiety have filled the spaces between us. But God’s also there. The divine presence, the wind, the breath, the peace. We’re not going through this alone.