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Power of the Spirit: We are not alone

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Scripture: John 14:15-21

In the complex tapestry of human experiences exists a great challenge, the haunting recognition that despite our best efforts, we remain entangled in a world wide web of crises. Wars rage on distant lands and sometimes in our own backyards; famine scorches the earth, leaving the vulnerable to wither; poverty's grip tightens, suffocating hope; and ideological division fractures our communities. We dwell in an age of anxiety, where our individual and collective resources often seem woefully inadequate to overcome these obstacles. These are sobering realities, and they remind us that, left to our own devices, we will perish. But the good news for us, for all of us, is that we are not alone. As captured in one of my favorite Church creeds, aptly named "A New Creed," we can comfort in the invincible assurance that we are, indeed, never alone. This creed opens with these words, “We are not alone, we live in God’s world. We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.”[1]


Despite the sobering realities we see in the world around us, a glimmer of good news shines forth in the truth that we are not alone. This profound truth was never more palpable than in the pivotal moment shared between Jesus and his disciples, as heard in our scripture. As Jesus prepared himself to face death on the cross, he gathered his disciples for a meal and some conversation. They had done this many times before, but this time, it was not like any other they had shared. Whether the disciples understood it or not, these were anxious times, and Jesus had things he needed them to hear, lessons he wanted them to learn, practices he hoped they would absorb. "I have not come to judge the world, but to save it," Jesus affirmed (John 12:47b, CEB). He then modeled the epitome of humility and servitude as he washed the feet of those who followed him (John 13:1-20). He forewarned them of the trials he would face, the betrayal that would come from within their own ranks. He gave them a new commandment, a divine mandate: "Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love each other. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34b-35, CEB). He shared with Peter about his impending denial; to Thomas, he declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6, CEB); to Philip, he professed, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9b, CEB). And in the midst of their confusion, Jesus shared a promise of deep and abiding comfort, assuring his friends that even though he would depart, they would never be forsaken. They would not be alone. Jesus assured his friends, “I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever” (John 14:16, CEB). In saying this, Jesus etched an indelible message on their hearts, a message we, too, must hear: we are not alone.


It seems that every generation must navigate its own turbulent waters, bearing witness to the ebb and flow of collective anxiety and pain. However, even within these tumultuous tides, there have always emerged resilient souls who discovered hope—a hope not anchored in human ingenuity, military might, or technological prowess but in a transcendent truth that defies the pervasive suffering that marks our shared human experience. This is a hope rooted in the unshakeable conviction that there is a Divine Presence—a Higher Power if you will—that possesses the capacity to raise us beyond the brokenness and disarray that plague our world. It is this enduring, life-affirming hope that offers not just an escape but a transformative renewal, giving us a newfound hope and purpose not just in a time to come but in the here and now.


Let me share a story that speaks to the power of not being alone in facing challenges. During the darkest days of the Second World War, a group of soldiers found themselves separated from their unit, lost in enemy territory. As they ventured through the perilous landscape, they stumbled upon a small church. Though the church was abandoned, they decided to take refuge there for the night. One soldier, a devout Christian, proposed they all pray for safety and guidance. Though some were skeptical, they were desperate enough to give it a try. Miraculously, they were never discovered by the enemy that night, and the next day, they were able to rejoin their unit. The soldiers later recounted that never before had they felt so strongly the presence of God within and around them. It wasn’t about avoiding danger or escaping unscathed; it was the unshakable feeling that they were not alone, that some Divine Presence was with them, offering comfort in a time of unimaginable stress.


Friends, perhaps today you find yourself navigating the turbulent waters of your own life. Maybe you are burdened by personal hardships, disheartened by the division you see in society, or overwhelmed by the state of the world. I invite you to lean into the message of hope that we find in the life and teachings of Jesus. A message that says you are not alone, you are loved, and you are called to share that love with others. For some, this might mean taking a first step in a journey toward faith; for others, it could be a renewed commitment to live out the commandments that Jesus has given us. Wherever you are on your journey, know this: you are not alone. Jesus promised us an advocate, a Companion—the Spirit of Truth—to live within and guide us even through the most difficult moments of our lives. This is not a promise limited to a few chosen ones but is available to all of us.


In a world often characterized by chaos and despair, we are offered a beacon of hope that shines brightly in the darkness. A hope that tells us we are never alone, that we are eternally loved, and that we are destined for something greater than ourselves. That is the core message of the Gospel, and it is the foundation upon which we, as a community of faith, stand united. Just as the disciples found strength and comfort in the words of Jesus, we, too, find our strength in the message of divine love and eternal companionship. We are bound together by this sacred truth, and it is our calling to share this message of hope and radical acceptance with the whole world.


So, let us go forth, strengthened by the Spirit, anchored in faith, and propelled by love, to live as disciples who bear the ultimate good news: that we are, and forever will be, not alone.


Thanks be to God.


Amen.

[1] United Methodist Church. 1989. "A New Creed" in The United Methodist Hymnal. United Methodist Publishing House.

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