No Orphans Today – 14/05/2023
15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’
I think I have only once in my life been an ‘orphan’. It was short-lived but had lasting effect.
At one stage in the rather transient and sometimes traumatic life of my family, I ended up alone with nowhere to go for one night.
I was living with my stepsister and her husband and their two young kids. I was fourteen.
My stepsister’s husband was an angry man. One evening he began to take out his anger about something on me. In the ensuing scuffle, my stepsister got involved and upset. That was my change to fly to coop. I did.
I remember hiding in the scrub on the vacant block across from the house watching them pace up and down on the front veranda – probably both hoping I was alright, but also (for the husband), hoping I would turn up and no one would find out what happened.
It was then I had that sense of being alone – being what it might be like to be an orphan.
I could have walked a couple of kilometres to my dad and step-mum’s place (where I used to live), but for some reason didn’t. Dad was probably away, as he often was, and the reception from my step-mum might not be too good. We did not get on.
So, I walked a few more kilometres to my best mate’s house. His mum and dad were great people. I always found welcome and kindness there. I was at their house a lot. It was better than being at home.
They must have got quite a shock when I turned up about 9pm on a weeknight, probably looking a bit scared and unsure of myself.
They took me in. My experience of being an orphan was over.
When you are kid, you often are not privy to the conversations the adults have about you. Someone decided that it was best if I move away from the stepsister’s house, but not to my Dad’s house but back up to the city to my Mum’s place, to live with her and her new husband. Maybe that feeling of being unwanted continued for some time after all.
I remember that sense of being abandoned, left to my own devices to fend for myself without any one even knowing I was around. I remembered the feelings of anger at my so called ‘family’. It is not a good thing to not be loved by the people who are supposed to love you; not be protected by the people who supposed to protect you – especially when you are young.
I can relate, at least in part, to those who have been through this kind of abandonment or feel this kind of aloneness in the world. Maybe you can too? Maybe you feel like a bit of an ‘orphan’ at the moment?
This surely is the kind of feeling those close friends of Jesus must have been carrying in these series of farewell messages Jesus speaks as things hot up and he knows his end is nigh.
In a hostile world they had been secure and safe with him. They had found welcome and kindness with him. They had seen and heard things they longed to see and hear. They had even experienced the ability to do similar things when he sent them out across the region to speak and do his message. They surely had grown in confidence and hope.
And now they hear him say that the party will soon be over. All that hope, that safety, that close-knit caring community, that close bond that they shared together with him would be changed forever.
How beautiful it is that Jesus understands their sadness and fear of being all alone and abandoned. How gracious it is that he even speaks long about what his departure will mean.
Then the promise that all alone, orphaned, unwanted people need to receive:
18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
‘I will not leave you as orphans. I will not leave you all alone, abandoned, fending for yourself in a hostile place’.
For all the orphans of God, this is life-giving news. If you have ever been abandoned, left out, unwanted, unheard and all alone – or felt that way, this is a beautiful word.
So strange, thought, how we often choose to be orphans of God. We begin life with this natural will and way to do our own will and walk our own way that is opposed to God, dismissive of God, disobedient and stiff-necked before God. Unlike orphans familywise, spiritually, we seem to choose to be orphans.
This drive within us draws us away from all Jesus has to give. We seem to be always living on the thin red line between experiencing the joy of being at peace and as one with the Lord and his Word, his people and his plan, and being out of step with these things living life based on our loves, and our needs and our wounds and fears.
The Lord is trying to draw us into his orbit of grace and we run away at pace!
But Jesus still makes his promise to never abandon his disciples then or now to the wind.
He tells us that,
The Father draws us close: In John 6:44, Jesus tells us that;
“No one can come to me unless the Father DRAW that person, and at the last day I will raise them up”.
That word ‘draw’ described God’s persuasive influence upon our hearts and his ability to renew our minds on things. The Father is always trying to exert his persuasive influence on your heart and mind to seek you, include you, ‘draw’ you into his community of love and hope.
The Son also ‘draws’ you too.
“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself (John 12:23)
Jesus would soon be ‘lifted up’ on his strange throne. Not the one King Charles or Queen Consort, Camilla, sat on, but on that wooden cross of pain.
Jesus, the Suffering Servant, with arms wide open and blood flowing freely invites the world into the victory he will win in three days that would create a whole new day for a whole new heaven and earth to begin.
And then, especially here in these farewell discourses in John, the Holy Spirit is involved in seeking us orphans of God and the many orphans of God you know.
The Holy Spirit convicts. John says the Holy Spirit’s presence and working and gifting are what ensures we are never orphans of God, never abandoned to our own devices.
16 … I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth.
Orphans, whether made to that by someone else for some reason often unknown, or spiritual orphans who choose their own loneliness are sought after by God.
Jesus promises that he will not leave anyone. In fact, he will actively come to people all the time. He will draw close to you and draw you close to him, if you will allow it.
You are no orphan today, friend.
The Father is drawing you close. The Son is drawing you close. The Spirit is convicting you or your wayward heart that takes you away from them but also the heart of forgiveness and love he still has for you.
You have and will always have an Advocate – someone in your corner, someone in your ear, by your side, on your journey together with all the other orphans. Even in times when we feel scattered or actually are scattered, it will not last forever. Jesus comes close. You will recover. There will be somewhere to go. All of this living and working and struggling is not useless. You are still heading somewhere good with the rest of the community of the Spirit.
How do you know? Jesus says;
The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
The Spirit has been given to you and me, friend. He filled you at that first dying and rising in the font and will sustain you until the last rising in the new city of God.
The Father is drawing you close today. The Son is drawing you close today. The Spirit is convicting you again – convicting you of this truth – You are no orphan today.
(1st + 3rd of Month)
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