Do Not Leave Us Comfortless


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Have you ever felt ‘ghosted’? You’ve been calling, IM’ing, even emailing and DM’ing, but there has been no answer from the other person – not even an acknowledgement. You’ve been scoping out their social media pages and they’ve been happily posting, updating their statuses, so it isn’t that they’ve been out of circulation. In fact, they are very much in circulation…to the point that they’re re-posting the posts of others.

Let me ask you this question: have you ever felt that God has ghosted you? He seems to be answering the prayers of others, so what’s up with your prayers? Beloved, it is for this reason, we pray, ‘Do not leave us comfortless’.


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‘Do not leave us comfortless’: the opening words of the petition in the Collect for the 7th Sunday of Easter. Seems counter-intuitive, right? Why, on the heels of the celebration of the Ascension, Jesus Christ’s return to His place of glory at the right hand of His Father, would we pray ‘do not leave us comfortless’? Why, in one week before we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church would we pray, ‘Do not leave us comfortless’? Why, after all the years of witness, all the evidence of God’s work in the Church, in building the Church as recorded in Scripture, in saving God’s people as recorded in Scripture, after all the work that God has done in our lives, why would those who penned the Collect find nothing better to pray than, ‘Do not leave us comfortless’?

Is it such an unreasonable prayer, though? Surely, there are times when we feel ‘comfortless’. Just this week, I wondered whether God had been ghosting me. What about you? I’m sure you’ve had moments of testing, prolonged pressure or darkness, extended times of challenges and difficulties, when you’ve wondered ‘Where is God in all this?’, ‘Has God not heard my prayers?’. In such moments, you cry out, ‘Lord, do not leave me comfortless!’ But, for all its appearance of dismay, is this really a petition fuelled by despair? Is it really a petition born out of hopelessness?

Is There Really No Hope?

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Let’s explore, shall we? In your daily life, would you make a request of the one who does not have the authority to grant you what you ask? Would you ask anything of the one who is incapable of helping? Would you turn to the one who does not care to help? I can’t think of anyone who would make a request of someone believing that that person would not answer, whether it be today, tomorrow or some other time in the future. Let me put it this way, I refuse to believe that anyone would make a sincere, desperate, and heartfelt plea of one who, they are convinced, will not answer. And well, if such a person exists, I suppose I stand corrected.

In like manner, would the petition, ‘do not leave us comfortless’ have been made by those writing it if they believed that God would not respond? No, dear ones! My deep belief is that it is the petition of ones who are full of hope – full of hope in the One who has the power, who has the capacity, and who is inclined to respond to the plea. This is the petition of those who have studied Holy Scripture, are familiar with the great cloud of witnesses, have reflected on their individual and communal lives and are fully convinced that they shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, if only they would reach out to the Almighty in that faith.

What Does the Word of God Say?

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And the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter take us through that expression of hope. In the Lesson, Acts 1:6-14, the disciples eagerly enquire of Jesus, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ They are eager, for Israel had been waiting centuries for God’s promise of restoration of Israel to be fulfilled. They knew Jesus was approaching the end of His mission and so, trusting that He was the fulfilment of the Scripture, as is emphasised in the Book of Acts, they eagerly looked to Him for that restoration. That eagerness was perhaps tinged with a bit of anxiety when he answered, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.’ Who can say to what extent the apostles understood the eternal timeframe contained in Jesus’ response? They were limited in their thinking – thinking of the nation of Israel being restored, and within their lifetime. Jesus’ response projected to a time as far as the Second Coming, way beyond the single nation of Israel, and way beyond a time that anyone living or departed could foresee.

Notwithstanding Jesus’ response, they continued to hope. Noting that this exchange happened moments before Jesus ascended, the imminent physical separation from Jesus did not lead to the confusion and befuddlement created by the physical reuniting with Him after the Resurrection. Isn’t that something! In fact, having been through the Resurrection, they were now prepared for the mystery of their faith, this faith that they had spent three and a half years building while Jesus was with them. This hope is what allowed them to receive quietly the message of the angels, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). This hope is what allowed them calmly to return, as Jesus had already instructed them to do, to Jerusalem  where they were ‘constantly devoting themselves to prayer, (Acts 1:14).  This is quite unlike the response of the disciples who, disappointed at the events between Good Friday and Resurrection Day, left Jerusalem to return to Emmaus.

The hope that we recognise in the Lesson quickly amplifies into a robust song of victory in the Response, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36, in which the Psalmist celebrates God’s triumphs over His enemies: ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him.’ This psalm in the NRSV – the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible – is entitled a psalm of praise and thanksgiving, celebrating the victorious Lord who comes to the aid of Israel. As we continue through the psalm in the Psalter, we see what is the basis of the hope. It is the comforts that God has given to His people in the past: He has fathered the orphan, defended the widow and given the solitary a home. God has brought forth prisoners into freedom and made the rebels live in dry places (verses 5-6). This God made the earth shake and the skies pour down rain. This God made provision for the poor (verses 8 and 10). I can almost hear the chronicler crying, ‘Extra! Extra! Read all about it! How wonderful is God in his holy places!’

It is on this foundation of hope that Peter can write to the faithful in the Epistle, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, ‘Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.’ This encouragement is offered by one who has suffered and been rescued from his suffering to those who are currently suffering. This encouragement is offered by one who has experienced the glory of restoration, support, and strength. Glory that God offers at the end of our suffering.

This assurance was given out of hope redeemed, hope justified for it was given by one who understood the ultimate restoration after suffering – the Ascension of Jesus Christ. This Ascension ended Jesus’ earthly mission. In this week’s Gospel, John 17:1-11, Jesus prayed, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you […]. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.’ (John 17:1, and 4-5). In verse 11, Jesus continued in prayer, ‘And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.’ This glorification which helps to shape Jesus’ prayer also offered Him comfort during His trial, crucifixion and death. It is this assurance of restoration that helped Him to withstand the ordeal on earth. It is this guarantee from the faithful Father that drew Him out. Beloveds, Jesus, in all that he endured, knew that the Father would not leave Him comfortless, even when He prayed on the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Might I suggest that it was the assurance of who His Father was that gave Him even the breath to cry out seeking comfort?

Hope Does Not Disappoint Us

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Beloveds, it does sometimes seem that God has forsaken us. It does sometimes feel that God has forgotten His promise to us. It does sometimes appear that God has ghosted us. However, let us be encouraged by the assurance given us by the Son, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever’ (John 14:16). We are to be comforted by the Ascension, for it is God’s guarantee of restoration, God’s assurance of redemption, and God’s promise of glorification. Beloveds, He is with us by His Spirit; we have an Intercessor who sits on His right hand, and He who is love, has always desired that we should all be saved. So, let us join the prayer of hope for we know that He shall never leave us comfortless.

And in the assurance of God’s comfort, may you grow in the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit. Amen.

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