Never walk alone
This Sunday Susan Carter, our Priest, reminded us that we need never suffer from "separation anxiety" as Jesus prayed for us, and promised that God will guide and protect us on our journey through life.
Readings for Easter VII - Year B
Acts 1:15-17, 21-16
1 John 5:9-13
We see little children who are heading to school experience it. To the Jules Ferry École Maternelle in Chamalières for example.
Occasionally the little ones will draw back, not wanting to leave the shelter of their mothers, or their fathers.
Sometimes we go through it ourselves, when we send our own children off to college, or when they leave after a wonderful holiday and return to their homes.
It is separation anxiety.
My sharpest memory of it was when I was in high school. My mother was a dental hygienist, and would work Saturday mornings, getting up well before her slumbering children, to go off and to clean teeth.
My job on those mornings was to clean the house, but occasionally I was a bit of a slow riser to the task - a notorious one for sleeping in when I could.
The sound of the door closing, though, would jolt me to full consciousness. Mother was gone. I was in charge. We – my sister and brother and I – were alone.
I can’t help but think that is what the disciples were going through at this moment.
After fifty days with his followers, on the heels of that amazing and wonderfully glorious resurrection, Jesus has departed. He has ascended to be with God the Father.
Jesus has left the building.
They must have experienced some separation anxiety, don't you think?
As he had instructed, they had met Jesus up in Galilee after Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb. After that encounter on the road to Emmaus.
Jesus had returned with them to the place where they first gathered. It was the locale where they had begun those three years of teaching and preaching and ministering.
He had prepared them the best he could before that entrance into Jerusalem – and the execution on the cross.
On returning, Jesus had solidified his instructions to them during those fifty days on their home turf.
But now, he was gone.
Simon Peter, also called Cephus – a nickname akin to Rocky –is in charge.
In the reading from Acts today, Peter is working hard to be the leader. He’s explaining the history that got then to where they are, urging them on to a new reality.
Jesus has departed. But so, too, is Judas gone.
Peter is organizing them to implement a plan – to be the apostles and carriers of the Good News of the Messiah out into the rest of Palestine, and Samaria, throughout Israel and Syria.
To keep the believers together, Peter is organizing them, working hard to get them focused. He is trying to keep them from despairing because they might think of themselves as leaderless.
And, so, they cast lots to see who will fill that twelfth slot – the one that used to belong to Judas.
It was something to do. It had to be done.
Need they have worried or been concerned or – perhaps – over-functioned a bit?
We get that answer from the gospel of John today.
Jesus, you see, is the other part of that equation of separation. What does he do? He prays.
He prays for them and offers to God his view that they will thrive.
“I have made your name known to them,” he prays. And Jesus adds that he has taken care of them and shared with them the truth of his divinity.
Jesus is giving God his final report before heading home - and it's a good one. He, also, understands the separation. He can sense the anxiety that the believers must be feeling.
He continues in his prayer to God: I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
What incredibly powerful words: I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
What does that mean for us?
It is a prayer of petition with great impact.
It means that – even when we feel cut off, or anxious about separation – we are not alone.
There will never be a sense of isolation or disconnection when we accept that Jesus walks with us. We are guided and shielded.
Jesus has asked God for protection of his sheep – his flock – and because he has asked, it is granted.
We never, ever, walk alone.