Scripture: John 14:18-19 (NRSV)

[Jesus said,] "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live."


Well. This wasn't supposed to happen.

We're here for a festival meal, Jesus. We're in Jerusalem, so let the good times roll! Okay, granted, the good times consist mostly of embarrassing the religious and civic authorities (Wave those branches, everyone!), but that's not just good fun, we're going to save the world!

But wait. "Orphaned," Jesus? What's that about? The world will no longer see you? And why is your living suddenly a phrase that sticks in our hearts?


Well. This wasn't supposed to happen, either.

In planning for Spirited Wednesday, the one thing I wanted desperately to avoid was this: a meditation from a member of the Conference staff, particularly the editor. But I'm afraid a combination of distraction, inattention, and communication gone astray has left me without a contribution for today, and, well, the show must go on.

Jesus' friends nearly abandoned the show, or so say the gospels: drowsing in the garden, fleeing from the police, skulking in the courtyard until an emphatic denial was called for. Only in John do we find any of Jesus' closest friends standing near the cross: three women named Mary, and "the disciple whom Jesus loved." On Sunday, two days later, they've gathered again behind locked doors, and if they've developed a coherent plan for continuing Jesus' work and furthering his movement, John gives no sign of it.

It takes a resurrection -- "I will not leave you orphaned" -- to get them moving again.

A gap in spiritual reflections does not compare, as a calamity, to the crucifixion of Jesus. In fact, the only immediate similarity they bear is that central conviction, "This wasn't supposed to happen."

They share as well, however, the need to regroup and respond. In this small emergency of mine, an editor's contribution will do (humblingly inadequate as it may be). To revive the movement of renewal and healing Jesus was creating, it took much more: a veritable resurrection.

I know I will face more "Oops" occasions in my life, and I suspect a good number of them will be of my own creation. "This won't be what was supposed to happen!" There will be times of failure, times of loss, times of disappointment, times of disillusionment.

In each of those times, I'll be called upon to regroup and respond. Sometimes it will be a matter of a little extra labor and a little bit of grace. Sometimes I'll need to review and revise, to make larger changes and pray for inspiration and direction.

And sometimes, it will take more than I have, or that my friends and colleagues have, or that the whole Church of Jesus Christ has. Sometimes, renewal and revival cries out for nothing less than resurrection.

And so this assurance: "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you."

In this hope and promise, I can stand.


Where renewal and revival cry out for help, God, swiftly grant resurrection of mind, body, or spirit to your children. When "it wasn't supposed to happen this way," help us regroup and respond, review and revise, and reflect your love and glory. Amen.

Cheryl P. Anderson

pastor of the First Congregational Church of Washington

May 21, 2014
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