Mid-Week Lenten 1
March 7, 2001
"Don't Be Afraid…To Be Alone"
Seminarian Jon W. Smithley
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Tonight's Sermon text is John 16:32 which reads:
(Jesus said) "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me."
Please join me as we pray. Gracious God our heavenly Father, we thank you for all things, and especially for the salvation that is ours in your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. We pray now that you would open our hearts and our minds to thy saving Word. Teach us, we pray 0 Lord, to walk according to You and your Word, for it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. In the precious name of Christ we pray, Amen.
Dear friends in Christ, If you were to take a close look at our daily lives and our daily schedules, each and everyone of us would see that we're quite busy. There are those days when we have so much on our "plate" that it's hard to find even a moment to relax and just catch our breath.
And sometimes, it may even feel like we are losing this rat race here on earth. I wonder if this is actually what God has called us to do with our lives? I wonder, if this is maybe a human concept or rationale that we adhere to, to find ourselves always busy and never alone? I wonder if we live our lives this way, because we're afraid to be alone. After all, loneliness does rank near the top of all the things we dread.
Loneliness takes the form of many and various forms. Think of the elderly man in a nursing home who has outlived all of his contemporaries and somehow is forgotten by his family and relatives. Think of the widowed grandmother who never hears from her kids or grandkids. What about the single-mom who has to place her kids in daycare and work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet? What about the college kid who has a hard time fitting in or making friends soon after they leave home? Loneliness can be one of the more complex fears in our lives. Often times, loneliness is accompanied by many other factors: grief, depression, fear itself, unhealthy stress, and in some extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.
I believe that loneliness really stems from the fact that because of sin, man's perfect relationship with God was severed when Adam and Eve fell from grace and fell into sin. See, really everything in life does have a theological component to it; we just don't know it. We, too reap the deadly benefits of our first parents. We too are born sinful and unclean. We too inherit and are born with the fear of being all alone.
Besides, we are actually made with an internal and inherent need for the support of our family members, and the love and compassion of others. It's for a good reason that Jesus says over and over "Love one another," "Be kind and compassionate to others," "Love as I have first loved you." Jesus knew what He was talking about, contrary to popular belief. You see, Jesus was fully Divine and at the same time, fully man; yet another mystery we don't fully understand, but yet we do understand by faith.
What Jesus is basically telling us is that we are to fear not. We don't have to be afraid to be alone! That's right, Don't be afraid to be alone. Yet we struggle with this more than we need to, but that's what we humans do best, struggle with those things we really need to let God handle. Besides, God has already handled everything for our good and benefit. In fact, what hasn't God handled in the universe?
In our text for tonight, Jesus says directly to His disciples that they will scatter each to his own home. It was fear that caused the disciples to go their own way and forsake Jesus. We too act just like the disciples, don't we? Sometimes, we learn well the mistakes of others by making the mistakes ourselves. We too forsake Christ when we choose to do what we want over what He wants. Our actions and behaviors isolate us from God, the very condition that leaves us alone and afraid.
This is the very condition that God doesn't want us in. God doesn't want us to be separated from Him or from His love. That's why God the Father did something about our dreadful and helpless situation. He sent His Beloved Son Jesus Christ who bore all our sins and hell itself so that we don't have to so that we don't have to be afraid. That's right, we are indeed free from all sin and its ugly consequences. We are not alone. Jesus is our faithful companion. Because Jesus bore on the cross the forsakenness of God, God will never forsake us. We know this to be true for in Hebrews 13:5, God has said, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." I think we can all take a sigh of relieve here. God has paid for all our sins with the very blood of Jesus Christ and now we know that God is never going to leave us. That my friends is Good News, very Good News.
It even gets better though. When we do stray and wander, God doesn't leave us for the wolves. God pursues us and brings us back into His flock and care. God does this through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, through the Sacraments, through pastors and His servants and people. God takes care of us, better than we could image or even do ourselves. God is always with us. As Christians, we have been brought to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit and have the Spirit's presence within us.
God has indeed made us His own. We belong to God, we are his children. Thanks be to God for His unending riches and glory in Christ Jesus.
When I said it gets better, I meant it. God is with us in every situation and circumstance in our lives. He will be there when things are good, and when things are bad. In the very next verse of John 16, verse 33, Jesus says to you and to me these very words: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the World." This too is Good News, very Good News. In Jesus we have peace. Let me say it again, in Jesus we have peace. In this world we will have trouble Jesus even tells us this beforehand. Let us ask in faith, for God to give us His strength to endure and persevere through that which will be troublesome. And now take heart, Jesus has overcome the world for us. Jesus has indeed overcome all sin, death itself through His death and resurrection, and the mean old Devil. Satan is a defeated foe, let's live as those who have the victory, for the victory is ours in Jesus Christ.
Just as I have said that God is with us always and in every situation and circumstance, God will be with us in every stage of our lives. He is there in the miracle of conception, the awe and nervousness of delivery, the "terrific" two's, something I'm learning about right now. God is with us in all our homework and projects, all our long hours at work or on the road. God is with us when we are middle-aged and even when death may be experienced in our family and even in our own death, whenever that might be. The One, who holds the stars in His hands, also holds you and me in His hands.
That is why we worship the One who created all, the eternal Creator, the Alpha and the Omega. In this season of Lent with our focus on repentance, let us not forget two things about the cross: With Jesus hanging on the cross, we see first hand the love that God has for us. No doubt about it. It doesn't get any more graphic than the crucifixion of Christ. But also we see what it is for man to be alone and separated from God. Jesus did that so we would not have to experience that type of separation for eternity. Christ substituted Himself for the very punishment we so deserve. As we cry Abba Father, let us thank Him who gave His very Son on our behalf.
It is with great joy that we remember Christ's very words in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Christ is always with us, to the very end. We indeed, do not have to be afraid to be alone because we are not alone. Christ the crucified and risen, our very Redeemer, lives and is with us each and every day. Let us fear not and just believe. Amen.
Now may the peace of Christ that passes all understanding keep and guard your minds and hearts to life everlasting. Amen.