“NO ORPHANS HERE”

The End of Loneliness: Part One

John 14: 15-27

The Reverend Tasha Blackburn

January 10, 2016

We are born alone, we live alone, we die alone.” I believe it was Orson Wells who said that. He went on to say that thinking we weren’t alone was nothing but an illusion. And it can feel that way too. When we get into our own head, when we feel more and more cut off from those around us. We are alone, we think to ourselves. No one understands. No one cares. No one knows us. Yes indeed, we decide: we are alone.

And then chicken spaghetti shows up and we find out all that alone stuff is hogwash. We were finally able to return home on Tuesday night. Literally we had just driven down the driveway, the car hood was still warm, and there was a warm pan of chicken spaghetti. And it was from all of you. You may not have even known it happened but take a little credit here because that spaghetti was from the congregation and you fit that category, so that spaghetti was from all of you. All its creamy, pasta-ey goodness cuts through the lie we sometimes believe. For we are not alone. None of us are.

I know this, not just because of the chicken spaghetti; although, any of you who have received it know it should be evidence enough. But I know this too because I knew our own wonderful Trev Howard. Week in and week out she sat right there in that pew. And I know that at the last stage of her life, as a widow whose family lived miles and miles away, anyone would have assumed she was living out Orson Wells’ terrible words. But instead the opposite was true. I could barely find a time to visit Trev when she didn’t already have visitors. There was always someone there, bringing her flowers and cards, bringing her a shawl and a good joke, bringing her prayers. So I know we are not alone because I know how Trev lived and how she died.

And if that is not enough evidence for us all, I also knew Tom Cutting. And I will not soon forget that though he passed away 1,000 miles from here we knew we had to come together. So we had a worship service for him. His family was a time zone away. We were nowhere near them but we were. We were because we were all together. So it is not true that we are born alone, we live alone, we die alone. We know it is not true because of Trev and because of Tom and because of chicken spaghetti. It is simply not true.

Jesus tells his closest friends that feeling alone is the illusion, for we never have been. “I will not leave you orphans,” he promises. “I will come to you,” he promises. Jesus will return one day and, in the meantime, he has given us a gift, another Advocate to comfort and counsel us. It is the one he calls the Holy Spirit. But Jesus does not give the Holy Spirit to me. He does not give the Holy Spirit to you. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to us, not to one but to the community. All those “you’s” he says to them, they are all “ya’lls.” And not just any community of ya’lls. Did you hear what he told his disciples? “If you all love me, you all will keep my commandments. And then the Spirit of Truth will abide in all of you.”

The Holy Spirit will be present in communities that keep Jesus’ commandments, the most important of which he shares just a few lines later:  to love one another as he has loved us. In communities that love one another with Christ’s love, that is where the Holy Spirit is. That is where the Father and the Son come and make a home. That is where we are not alone.

This feeling of being alone, this sense of loneliness, it has hit epidemic proportions. Just a couple years ago the New Republic did a study and it found that 1 in 3 adults were plagued by loneliness. 1 in 3 of us. Perhaps it’s because we are living longer and we well know that aging is not always a bed of roses. Perhaps it is because we are moving more often and have fewer roots to tether us to a place. Certainly these are part of the reason. But I must believe that it is also because fewer and fewer people are in a community of faith. As humans we are so lonely, lonelier by the year the study showed, and we may even wonder why God has left us so alone, never realizing that he has given the Comforter to us but he only gives it from within the community.

All of this loneliness, this feeling of being orphaned and adrift, and Jesus gives us the antedote: be part of a community that shows their love for me by loving one another. Not only will the community ease your loneliness but their love in my name will bring the Father, Son and Holy Spirit close and all in the community will then feel God’s love. So join a church. Join a church for the community it will give you and join a church for the love of God you will feel through it.

Can you believe your love for one another is that powerful? Do you realize that each kindness not only eases someone’s loneliness but it brings the Father and the Son close so they will make a home here? Can you believe a pan of chicken spaghetti can do that? Jesus says it not only can but it does. This community thing is not just about being polite. It is about helping others see they are not orphaned, they are not alone. It is about making a home here that God would want to join.

Just before Christmas I got a note. It was from Trev’s granddaughter Andrea. Andrea lives in Hawaii and it was very difficult for her to visit as much as she would have liked to, and there was a great deal of guilt and worry over their distance apart. In her note Andrea thanked all of you. She wrote that the only way she could find peace with their distance was because she knew that Trev was surrounded by her church family. Because of all of you, she knew Trev was not alone.

We have no visible or tangible thing. We Christians, we have no statue or place or artifact to touch and show to the world so they will know who we are. All we have is this commandment to love. That is the only way anyone will know who and whose we are. And lots of times that love looks as simple as chicken spaghetti. But please, let’s never minimize it for when we keep his command to love in his name we show the Holy Spirit to the world. When we love one another we enable the whole community to feel God’s love. When we love, we ensure his promise that we are not, nor have we ever been, nor shall we ever be alone. Amen.