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Where Is He?

John 17:1-11

The Rev. Jon Roberts

1 June

2014

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, 2 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. 4 I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; 5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made. 6 “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; 8 for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; 10 all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

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The Ascension, by Dosso Dossi, 16th C.

Christ, in His glory,
Came to comfort the afflicted,
And to afflict the comfortable. [1]

Speaking of afflicted, a couple had two little boys, ages eight and ten, who were excessively mischievous. The two were always getting into trouble and their parents could be confident that if any mischief occurred in their town, their two young sons were involved in some capacity. The parents were at their wit's end as to what to do about their sons' behavior. The parents had heard that a clergyman in town had been successful in disciplining children in the past, so they contacted him, and he agreed to give it his best shot. He asked to see the boys individually, so the eight-year-old was sent to meet with him first. The priest sat the boy down and asked him sternly, "Where is God?"

The boy made no response, so the priest took a Bible and slid it in front of him, hoping perhaps the boy would remember some passage of scripture in which to give an answer. He then repeated the question in an even sterner tone, "Where is God?" Again the boy made no attempt to answer, so the priest raised the Bible and raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy's face, "WHERE IS GOD?" At that, the boy bolted from the room, ran directly home, and slammed himself in his closet. His older brother followed him into the closet and said, "What happened?" The younger brother replied, "We are in BIG trouble this time. God is missing and they think we did it!"

Yes, God came to afflict the comfortable. We find another group of young men confronted with the same. They were mischievous. They left their parents and their jobs. They were comfortable for three years by following someone of great power and authority, drawing tens of thousands to his side. They traveled around watching him heal and teach and preach. They lived on the land and went house to house. Rabbis scratched their beards in disbelief. Many would criticize them and point their fingers. “You! You are one of them,” they said to the leader whose name was Peter. But he denied Jesus. There is no mistake about it.
Someone who is crucified and anyone who follows that person must be defiant. Where do we find any comfort or glory in that scene? Yet, Jesus returned for them to see. He walked with them and talked with them and said that they were his own. God, the Father, gave these mischievous men to Jesus. They were led to a place called Bethany and was raised up once more, this time in white, not in red.[2] It was God’s way of raising himself and saying, “Here I am.” And then, he disappeared. At that moment the disciples were once more confused and stunned. They bolted home, went to the upper room, locked the door and hid in the closet. Did they think they had something to do with this? Jesus’ last words were about them. “Protect them in your name that you have given me [Jesus], so that they may be one, as we are one.”[3]

During our struggles in life it’s important to ascend; to rise above and to be removed from them. Where do we find in our current day the ability to ascend? It’s in the answer to the question, “Where is God?” We find the moments of ascension in our faith. When we defy the worldly standards of running away from our troubles or pointing blame, we count on God to show the way. He leads us on a journey where we separate the earthly from the heavenly. Our toes leave the ground and we come out of our closets when we see the sacrificial love God shared with us, and for us and in us, through the descent of His Son, Jesus Christ. He descended into earth, so that we may ascend into heaven. God gave each one of us the ability to lean not on our own understanding but to trust in Him.

Trust is required for faith to exist. You will find many moments in bitter tears and agony when you can’t find the answers to life’s hard questions right away. You want to bolt from the room, run home and hide in your closet but your faith won’t let you do it. You must ascend in your moments of affliction and descend in your moments of comfort. Remember, Christ, in His glory, came to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable. To see the glory of God you must see by faith. Then you will know the answer. “Where is God?” He’s right here, inside, the one who trusts in the Lord, living by faith.

[1] Peter Finley Dunne, “Observations by Mr. Dooley”, 1902; original quote, later adapted by church leaders, ie. The Rev. Billy Graham; Acts 19:1-7.
[2] Luke 24:52
[3] John 17:1-11

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