Sometimes Lonely, Never Alone
Words for 6th Sunday of Easter – 17 May 2020 – Parish of Felixstowe
A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. (John 14v18)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
Some, who are reading these words, are orphans and may have lived your life in a limbo of loneliness and uncertainty of belonging.
Others are orphans for whom growing up with the State as your parents has been an enriching and liberating experience. Free to be yourself and not having to grow in the shade of siblings or an extended family.
Still others have become orphans late in life and battle with the anomie that comes with the passing of parents and the generation that was before, and for perhaps the first time, knowing a deep existential loneliness.
Wherever we are in the journey of life, and however our family is shaped, everyone one of us has seasons (if not years) when we experience intense loneliness and, even if surrounded by friends and family, we may feel ‘orphaned’.
For me this was most profound during my teenage years when I was at Boarding School.
A time when the only thing you had common with those at School was that you were separated from those at home. Yet, perversely, during the holidays, many of us discovered that we weren’t at ‘home’ when we were in our own homes either!
Looking back I learnt two things;
I became ‘me’ in the middle of that loneliness at School, it was, in a sense the place where I was born.
Loneliness is the common condition of the adolescent, for the child to become the adult there must be a leaving of home and a joining with the future.
The in-between spaces in our lives, for many our teenage years, is at the same time lonely and fruitful, dark and dawn, empty and overflowing with hope and promise.
The time between Ascension and Pentecost is a time of loneliness and emptiness, a moment in which the Church is already but not yet. The Disciples are poised to become Apostles, yet they wait in a kind of ecclesiastical ‘lockdown’. Frightened to venture outside in case they meet a death similar to their Saviour, yet anxious to be clothed with power so they might find the boldness to do that very thing.
Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church. This means that the time before us, these ten days between Ascension and Pentecost, is like those last few weeks in the womb. Mum is starting to nest, rushing around spring cleaning ahead of the new birth, ensuring the empty nursery is ready to be filled, longing for the ache in her arms to be relieved by the joy of a nursing babe. This is, in some sense an empty time yet, if there can ever be degrees of pregnancy, a time when we are ripe for new birth and the joy of life ahead.
We may feel lonely, left behind by God, and locked in by fear, but we are never alone.
The words of today’s text ring true, and as one of my colleagues told me, would be a sermon complete by themselves.
I will not leave you orphaned;
I am coming to you.
What do we do then while we wait?
Do we itch to go out and return to normality?
Do we retreat into isolation and reject all that has gone before as folly?
Or do we wait expectant, in the lonely darkness of the womb, for the dawn of new birth?
These ten days ahead can be just more scratchings on the walls of the cell of our isolation ticking off a calendar or they can be a time of growth and re-birth.
A time of becoming ‘me’ by knowing more deeply the One who loved us before we knew who we were.
A time of knowing we are loved even, and in spite of the unloveliness each of us finds within ourselves.
A time to reach deep into ourselves and discover again that the One who knew us before we were born is still there, holding us, loving us, breathing new life into us.
This time, this locked down lonely time, is God’s time with you.
Why not use some of it spending more time with God?
[This blog ‘Sometimes Lonely, Never Alone’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]