The Advocate Helps Us Find Joy

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, May 21, 2017, Easter 6, Year A, John 14:15-21


“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

In the name of God + Amen. Please be seated.

Good morning!

This past week went by fast. Really fast. Partly because, lately, it feels like every week flies by, but this week, especially because Christian & I, were leaving Thursday for a conference in Ann Arbor.

Whenever we go out of town it throws the routines, habits, and “normalcy” of our day-to-day life into a frenzy. We shlep our beloved kiddos off to one of the grandparents and hope we packed the right clothing….and their toothbrush.

We shlep our beloved dog, Daisy, off to someone and hope she plays nice at her new friend’s house.

We have to pack our own belongings…and remember our toothbrush.

Needless to say, not much is easy about it, even though the rewards for us all far outweigh the challenges. The kids get quality time with their grandma and grandpa, Daisy gets time at a different house, we get to take a deep breath.

It’s good, very good, but it DOES throw our day-to-day into a bit of confusion, for a time.

I imagine this is what Jesus’ disciples must have been experiencing when it came time for Jesus to prepare them for what their next week was going to look like. When Jesus will Ascend to the Father. He said, “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

Now, when I slow down with that part. Right there. “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” I think about what his friends must have been experiencing, feeling, thinking.

I try to put on what the author of John seems to be attempting to show us in these words.

I come up with a lot of sadness, confusion, maybe even disbelief. I don’t come up with a lot of warm fuzzies, that’s for sure.

Just a few chapters ago, they witnessed their teacher, their friend, crucified and were hiding in a locked room from fear when Jesus appeared to them in the resurrection story we heard on Easter Day.

As they were beginning to learn what all this meant with Jesus eating and walking and drinking with them once again, I’m sure they weren’t thinking that he would leave again. Right?

I heard a quote this weekend by the writer, S.C Lourie, that I think gives voice to those moments when we are faced with the psychological effects that the Disciples were likely navigating.

She writes,

“Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always.” – S.C Lourie

At this conference we were at, in Ann Arbor, we talked a lot about wellness.

Financial Wellness, Spiritual wellness, Psychological Wellness, Physical Wellness. Being trained in Sociology, I was most fascinated by the psychology sessions. I geeked out when the presenter started quoting all these studies. It’s true. I love to read studies about human behavior and patterns.

One of the things that stuck with me so much though, was how the presenter framed psychological health. She said, “Psychological health is not the absence of psychological challenge…but the capacity for recovery and resilience–that ability to bounce back from life’s extraordinary challenges, and is grounded in positive connections.”

Connection is something that humans are hard-wired for. And when we experience disconnection, for any reason, our light is diminished. One of the most common ways we, as humans, experience disconnection is through shame. It makes us want to hide.

But the good news is humans have an amazing capacity for resilience. Part of our resilience is biological, about 20-30% according to some psychologists, but the rest can be learned! Because our brains have this crazy thing called “neuroplasticity” our brains can actually create new pathways for responses.

Practicing gratitude will actually retrain our brain pathways to love and joy!

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” The advocate who will help us find joy, experience love and belonging, aid us in becoming resilient from life’s challenges.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” -Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW.

I invite you to join me in taking up the practice of gratitude. I invite you to find a notepad to keep with you this week and write down the things that you bump into on your journey that you are grateful for. Maybe it’s for a moment of silence, or a good night’s rest, or a conversation with a good friend, or a surprise visit from someone you love. We have a lot to be grateful for, even when we are facing uncertainty, pain, and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Gratitude is the pathway to Joy and love and belonging.

This place is a place for YOU to know that God loves you and you belong.

This is a place for us to live into our call to discipleship and be strengthened by our common practice and participation in the sacraments.

This is where we practice being our truest selves so we can have the courage to go be Christ to the world.

Take heart, St. Phililpites. You have the Spirit of Truth to guide you.  

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Amen.