Preacher: Jacob Wilbur
Message: "Isolation and the Spirit"
Scripture: John 14:15-21
Greetings, Epworth, you haven't seen much of me on camera since I have been putting together the videos for Sunday. I have now passed on that responsibility to Tai since the semester is coming to an end. I will be gone for the summer doing CPE in Sacramento, which is clinical pastoral education. Basically, I will be learning how to do pastoral care in a hospital setting. I will be coming back to my final semester in the fall and look forward to at least seeing your faces online for my final semester at Pacific School of Religion. I have been enjoying making those videos and giving back to such a wonderful community. I have been doing a lot of work for school, so I feel like I haven't had much time to contemplate what has been happening around me. I have been staying in my dorm most of the time and have been writing my final papers and attending class online.
I didn't know much about isolation before the pandemic, but there were moments in my life; I have felt a feeling of isolation. I remember as a child, I didn't like tight spaces. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I was the younger brother, and my older brother would through a blanket over me and cover me and put his weight on me. In those moments, I was scared and felt like I could not breathe and worried if I would ever get through this or get out of this. Another time was when the Tubbs fires in Santa Rosa that burned much of northern Santa Rosa. I lived out in Sebastopol at the time, and I wanted to do something. I felt isolated at home and away from the suffering that was happening elsewhere. I know it was going on because I could see the ash falling out of the sky. I reached out to organizations and shelters that were in place to see if I could help somewhere, but it seemed like no one needed volunteers. I was stuck inside worrying about my friends in Santa Rosa, and I wanted to reach out to them. It almost felt real. The only reason I knew it was true was because of the ash falling out of the sky. I felt trapped and stuck and guilty that everyone else was being affected, and I was not.
I wonder if Jesus felt trapped. I wonder If he felt like he couldn't speak the full truth at times, that people would not believe him or trust him. I wonder if he felt trapped when the Pharisees always tried to trap him in his words. It takes a lot to always be put in the spotlight.
I have been watching a lot of Netflix lately, and one I have been watching is about Michelle Obama. She may have been feeling the same things as Jesus. She was just a normal but brilliant person put in the spotlight. She shared her final experience as she was moving out of the White House. She was trying not to cry as she was moving out even though she wanted to. She didn't want to cry because the trumps were moving in, and if she did, it would be seen as a political message, and also, she didn't want her makeup to run. She stayed strong until she got onto Air Force One, and she started balling. She felt it was like a release from being perfect all those years she was First Lady. I wonder if this is ever how Jesus felt in his ministry. I wonder if he ever wept before God because his ministry was hard. I know I have, and I am sure many of the disciples did too. I wonder if any wept when Jesus said he was going away and sending someone new.
The disciples were in the room having an evening meal just before they headed out to the garden where Jesus was going to be betrayed and taken. This part of John Gospel is different than the three synoptic Gospels. Jesus goes further into explaining his relationship to the father and gets into some heavy and deep theology. It is also in John, the only Gospel, where Jesus washes his disciples' feet. The author of John uses the verbs for love 57 times; his favorite word is love. When Jesus says to keep my commandments, Jesus is really telling the disciples to love.
Just before the verse, we had today, Jesus says, to his disciples,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so
you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are
my disciples if you love one another.”
In this same verse, Jesus tells his disciples he is leaving, and where he goes, they cannot come. Peter then speaks up for the disciples and says I will not betray you, but Jesus says you will. Thomas and then Philip also speak up in fear and worry. I bet also the other disciples were afraid in their hearts from Jesus's words that he was going to leave them. I bet there was a sense of isolation and loneliness filling their hearts, hearing these words. When change happens, people fear, when we can't see the people we love, our hearts long to be with them. When we are separated from our family, it's hard. Jesus knowing this, tells the disciples he is not abandoning them but sending an advocate, a defender, a helper, or friend to be with them. He also reminds the disciples to keeps his commandments to love one another, which he repeats through the next few chapters.
Here Jesus also prophesies what will happen to the disciples after he is taken and after his death. Jesus knows they will be persecuted because, through the whole Gospel of John, he was persecuted and falsely accused. He knows his disciples will also follow him in this. He wants to comfort them, but he comforts them by telling them that he will always be with them through the Holy Spirit. He says, "I am in the father, and the father is in me." I am sending you the Holy Spirit that will dwell in you. You will never be alone, and I will always be with you through this spirit to comfort and support you.
Jesus speaks to us in this time through the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus reminds us we are not alone because the Holy Spirit is with us. God is in us through the Holy Spirit, and for me knowing God is with me on this journey of life gives me comfort.
I ask all of you to remember that God is with you when you are feeling alone in isolation. That God is close to you when you are struggling for God is close to the brokenhearted, and God feels for those who are suffering. If you have a hard time keeping faith at this moment, know that you are not alone. The disciples had a hard time keeping their faith as well when Jesus was telling them he was leaving, but they stuck close to each other. As a community in Epworth, let us be close to each other by checking in with each other through zoom or a phone call or even prayer. Remind others that they are not alone in this isolation. Show up for them as you believe God shows up for you. Stay safe and comfort each other in the love Jesus commands of us, which is the same love he shows to us. Love one another as I have loved you.
Special thanks to... Preacher: Jacob Wilbur
Contributors: Rev. Brian Adkins, Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Carol Baumbauer, Kiana Jardin, Susan Jardin, Orion Lacey, David Ourisman, Sally Nasman
Special Music: Rev. Jerry Asheim, Danica Elliott, Judy Kriege
“Siervo Por Amor/Servant for Love” Special thanks to: Eliseo Hernández, Zeneyda Argüell, Johny Téllez, Alejandro Robles, Elizabeth Hernández, Justa Orozco, Auxiliadora Moreira, Yadira Campos
Video producer: Tai Jokela
Podcast producer: Ethan Lindsey
Livestream producer: Merrie Bunt
All those who participated by watching from home!