Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jesus Ascends, But We Are Not Alone

(Read Acts 1:1-11 and John 14:15-21)

We live in the digital era. A time when you have access to all the information you could possibly need or want, and then some. A time when you can be connected to people around the globe via email, text, phone, even video chat.

I once wrote a poem that said, “Heaven is instantaneous travel in space; I want to be with you and here you are.” Well, we are not so far away from that reality of being together even across the miles. Because of video chat, I can be here in New York and you can be there in San Francisco, but somehow we can see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices. The only thing we are missing is touch. But oh, how important touch is.

While the digital era connects us in a way like never before, it does have its minuses. On the negative side, we are never alone, and being alone is necessary for the human spirit. It gives us time with ourselves and time with God, time to reflect and plan. But we are never alone now. Sure, we might be without people around, but our phones and computers make it so that we are always being bombarded, always having to respond to something or someone. I know for myself, it’s hard to turn off my devices and just be. The phone sits there waiting to ring. The computer sits there waiting to deliver. In this day and age, we must be intentional about creating quiet time for ourselves.

While it’s important to be alone at times throughout our week, no one likes to feel lonely. There’s a great difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone has the potential to be nourishing and calming, a time of respite and renewal, a time to collect our thoughts. But being lonely just feels plain old bad. When we are lonely, we actually want to be with people; we need them to nourish us and comfort us. Because let’s face it, the best thing about life is being surrounded by people that we love.

We need people surrounding us, and we need God surrounding us in order not to feel lonely and in order to be truly happy in life. And the one certainty, the one guarantee is that we are always surrounded by God. While Jesus was still on this earth, he told his followers that once he left this world, we would not be alone. He said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). This Advocate is also called the Helper or the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that he will not leave us orphaned as children without our parents. We will have this Advocate who will abide in us and be with us always.

To me, the Holy Spirit might be one of the most beautiful aspects to Christianity. God did amazing and miraculous things in and through Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit is the way that we connect to Jesus after all these years. The Holy Spirit is both in you and around you. The Spirit is the one who helps to transform our lives and guide our paths.

I want to read you a poem about destiny. It is thought-provoking, and while you hear it, keep in the back of your mind the thought that it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into our destinies.

Read “Follow Your Destiny, Wherever It Leads You” by Vicki Silvers

There are three lines of the poem that really stick out to me:

First, “The pattern of life does not necessarily go as you plan. Beyond any understanding, you may at times be led in different directions that you ever imagined, dreamed, or designed.” This is the primary work of the Spirit. The Spirit is wiser than our understanding, and that’s because the Spirit is God’s understanding. And so, in a continuous motion, the Spirit plans our lives for us and leads us into directions with God’s intention for our lives in mind.

The second line of the poem that I want us to reflect upon is: “Rather than wondering about or question the direction your life has taken, accept the fact that there is a path before you now.” We all have ideas and dreams and hopes for our lives, and that is a good thing, but we must ultimately hand over our lives to God’s will. The Advocate’s primary work is to give us a path and to encourage us forward on that path. And in fact, we are on that path right now! No matter what your life has been or will be, right now is the most imporatnat moment for you to sink in and get in line with what God is doing in your life.

The third line: “Keep your belief in yourself and walk into your new journey.” I would also add, “Keep your belief in God and walk into your new journey.” Even if you feel stagnant right now, you are not. You are on a journey and God is leading you forward into your destiny. Change is always happening in big ways and small ways. People of great faith know that life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey we are on now.

Through all of this, I have found a name for God that rings true to me. God is the Great Orchestrator. God is the true designer of our lives, and he always has a symphony in mind when it comes to our destinies.

I say all of this with hopeful, but bittersweet news. The Bishop has asked me to leave Trinity and move to Manhattan to serve Park Avenue UMC as their associate pastor. It’s a great opportunity for me to be in the city, but it will be hard for me to leave the life I have come to know here, most importantly the people I know here.

This is such a beautiful church filled with beautiful souls, I will miss you dearly. I will miss the green grass and the big blue sky as well. But back to what I was saying early, it has been lonely for me here in many ways. I have had plenty of constructive alone time, but it’s been hard to meet people. I’m hoping New York City, surrounded by millions of others, will not be so lonely.

My friends, Jesus has ascended to heaven, but we are not alone. We are surrounded by and filled with the Holy Spirit, who is orchestrating all of our lives in ways unknown. Do not be afraid. Be filled with joy and confidence. The journey that you are on is not a dead end road, it is a mystical path fulfilling your destiny.