- The Rev. Arianne Rice
This is the full 30 minute Morning Prayer service. The sermon begins at approx. 21:00.
Good morning. It is good to be here. I am grateful to be able to see you in the eyes of my heart – that brings tremendous joy. And it hurts. It is hard.
There is joy and there is sorrow – at the same time. And it is important, it is faithful – to name that. Why do we call that one really hard day of the church calendar year – Good Friday? Because Truth is a paradox.
You know, the first Sunday we had to worship online was March 15th – nine weeks ago. We didn’t do online worship from Good Shepherd that Sunday because we couldn’t – we didn’t know how – and thankfully cathedrals grander than ours were already doing it. And as I watched from my living room couch that morning – and listened to the gospel – I was amazed at how Jesus’ words came alive. The gospel appointed was John 4 Jesus and the Samaritan woman, the woman at the well.
Part of their incredible conversation – is when she is trying to figure out who this person is – why would he be talking to her when for many reasons that wouldn’t be considered, “right.” And at one point she asks Jesus – you know Samaritans worship on this mountain – but the people of your faith worship they worship on that mountain– which one is right?
And Jesus replies, “All of it is all right. Because you know, there’s gonna come a time when where you worship – doesn’t really matter. Because there’s gonna come a time when people see it’s not about a place - it’s about worshipping God in spirit and in truth.” And I thought – holy moly. Here I am feeling so wrong – staring at my TV into another church, longing to be where I am supposed to be on Sundays – and nothing feels right. But it is. Those words of Jesus helping me see – it is all right. What matters is the spirit – that awareness of God to pray and give thanks for, in this moment. That is worshipping in spirit and in truth – no matter where you are.
Nine weeks later – when it still doesn’t feel right, and it’s not gonna for awhile – Jesus reminds us again. At the end of his long – what we call farewell discourse – Jesus says to his disciples on the night before he dies –
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
I will not leave you orphaned. I will not, Jesus says, leave you orphaned.
You know for the last several Sundays after the resurrection appearances. We hear a lot of “I Am.” We hear Jesus use image and metaphor to try and open our eyes to the the all-encompassing nature of God. I am the voice. I am the shepherd. I am the bread. I am the life. I am the way. I am the gate.
Again and again – always trying to answer that the echoing question of Moses – who are you God? I am.
But now – when nothing felt right for those disciples – on the eve of Good Friday. At a dinner gathering filled with love and sadness, hope and fear. Jesus lets go of the I am – and starts getting active with the verbs. Active with the description of faith.
I will not leave you orphaned. The world won’t see me – but you will. You will see my presence all around you. And you can see it. You’ll know it. Simply because it’s good. Good knows good. That’s how the heart sees.
I will not leave you orphaned. You will have an Advocate. Jesus tells us that we have an Advocate who is with us forever.
Such a specific word – Advocate - different from holy spirit or comforter. Advocate – is a noun and a verb – (just like faith). An advocate publicly supports and defends a person or cause.
We all need advocates. Parents advocate for their children. Children advocate for their parents. We ask people to serve as advocates, people are called to be advocates, we hire people as advocates, we elect people as Advocates. Advocates give voice to a person or cause they believe in.
Knowing we will never be orphaned - What do we hear Jesus asking us to be an advocate for?
This bell ringing we’re doing – that’s the voice of an Advocate. We had one person, then two want to share in spreading the good news, giving thanks and praise for the work of others for the common good.
One heart, then two hearts – reach out and find a lot more hands and hearts to ring bells – at other churches – other schools – to proclaim – you have an Advocate and thank you for your advocacy on behalf of the common good. A hard reality and a good truth.
Recently I was asked – how long we will keep it up? I don’t know. It’s the work of the spirit. I know what I hope – I hope we keep it up forever. If the sounds of bells remind people of the common good, or of giving thanks, or of the need to pray. If hearing a bell reminds us once a day that we are part of one human family – that is good. Jesus advocated love - love God and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the cause Jesus asks us to advocate for. Love.
I just want to encourage you about one other thing, my friends. All of us need an advocate. And at different times in our lives we need different advocates to remind us of the good.
Right now there is joy and there is sadness. There is calm and there is anxiety. There is clarity and there is confusion. There are those who have – and those who have not. And there is a cacophony of voices telling us what to do and trying to predict a myriad of futures.
For all of us this can get overwhelming. So, just like Mr. Rogers reminds us in crisis to look for the helpers – I think minister that he was would also remind us to look for the Advocates. To be an Advocate. To ask for one if you need it. Ask for a referral for a therapist or counselor. Reach out to someone who you know can be present and normalize what you are feeling when you are overwhelmed. Someone who you trust is able to be a source of strength. A source of goodness and love.
Love holds us - love abides in us in sadness and joy. Good Friday is always a part of Easter. And through it all Jesus says - I will not leave you orphaned. I am a living presence that abides in you and you in me.
Thanks be to God for that truth – Alleluia. Alleluia.