Happy Mother’s Day. In our church, we celebrate our parents once a year, so I will say, “Happy Parents’ Day”. We celebrate parents because they are anchors for their children. It is not so much what you do for them that matters. It is your presence.
Your presence is the anchor for your children as they grow up. Your presence allows them to grow securely into who they are supposed to be. Your presence is the safe space in which they blossom. Your presence is the place from which they venture out into the world. Your presence is their anchor. That is the greatest thing you can do for your children – be an anchor for them through your presence.
An anchor keeps a boat securely moored. It keeps the boat safe at harbour when storms hit. It keeps it from drifting out to sea and getting lost. It keeps the boat calm and steady so it can get ready to sail.
Just like a parent, Jesus was the anchor for his disciples. They left everything to follow him. He was the one in whom they pinned all their hopes. They sat at his feet as he taught. They were beside him as he healed people. They felt purpose and meaning in his presence. He was their true anchor. But now, Jesus is talking about his departure. It’s making them very uneasy.
Jesus makes them a promise:
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. (John 14:18)
To be orphaned is to lose the anchoring presence that parents provide. Orphans are very vulnerable. The disciples were feeling very vulnerable. What would they do if he was gone?
But Jesus is promising that he will not leave them alone. He will come back to them. He will come back, but the manner in which he’ll come back is very mysterious.
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. (John 20:19)
They didn’t understand what Jesus meant. What Jesus says is very mysterious. What does it mean that the world will no longer see him, but that they will? Jesus is promising his continuing presence with them, but not in the way they had experienced up to now. Until now, they had been with him physically, and his physical presence had been their anchor. Jesus is talking about a different kind of presence. He’s talking about a different reality. A spiritual presence in a spiritual reality.
This was difficult for them to understand. It’s difficult for us to understand. In our contemporary, scientific, technological age, reality for us has become only what we see with our eyes and what we can touch. Reality is what we experience on the surface. Reality is logical and what we can make sense of. So the anchors we seek are concrete, tangible, and make sense. Health, wealth, job, family and friends. These are anchors we can see and that make sense.
But spiritual people have known that reality is not only what we can see or touch. It is not just what our analytical minds can deduce. There is a great reality beyond what we see. We may not see it with our eyes, but it is just as real. Spirituality is being in tune with what is real but not visible to our eyes. Spiritual growth is about cultivating eyes to see this greater reality. Pastor Dave is a very observant guy – maybe that’s why he’s a pastor. He went to Germany for his sister’s wedding. He was at the airport for the first time since the pandemic began. There were so many people – everyone going off to their destination. When we’re there, we’re just focused on where we’re going. We go, check in our luggage, wait, then board the plane. But in order for each person to get where they’re going, there are so many things happening behind the scenes. There are so many people involved, so many systems at play, so much coordination that takes place, to get each person where they need to go. We don’t really think about any of that. We don’t see everything that happens behind the scenes. But all of what happens behind the scenes is real. We couldn’t travel without all of that.
That is what spiritual reality is like. It is all the things happening beyond the sight of our eyes. We may not see or notice it, but they are very real nonetheless. Being spiritual is to see what we don’t see. Beneath everyday life, there are many things happening. There are things happening in your heart. Things based on your interactions and experiences. Someone around you might behave in a strange way, but underneath the surface, there’s a lot happening. Beneath and beyond the reality we see is a spiritual reality hidden from our eyes but that is real nonetheless. A spiritual person learns to detect and discern these things.
While Jesus was with the disciples, they were not very spiritual people. His physical presence was their anchor. They saw the wonderful things he was doing but did not understand the deeper meaning of them. But Jesus was preparing them to be spiritual people. He said this:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
He was preparing them for a spiritual presence in a spiritual reality.
Our circumstances can take away our anchors at any time. Our health, our wealth, our reputation, our relationships. Our material reality is affected by material circumstances. If you anchor yourself only in what can crumble, that is not a solid existence. When they become shaky, you will be shaky. Many traditional anchors have been crumbling and people are very affected by it.
Spiritual reality is not affected by outward circumstances. Jesus promised his spiritual presence to be with them forever. That spiritual presence would be their anchor. This is an anchor that no material reality can take away. Whatever the circumstances, the Spirit is with us. Whatever we’re going through, the Spirit of God is present with us. Not even death itself can take away this anchor. God is with us now and forever.
This is what the disciples experienced at the resurrection:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)
Behind locked doors Jesus came to them.
Resurrection is to experience the mysterious reality of God’s presence that becomes your true solid anchor.
When you experience the spiritual presence of the living God, it doesn’t matter what you’re going through. There may be many storms going on in your life. But at your core, at the center of your existence, there is the calming presence of God. This presence gives you peace. That peace shelters you from the storm. You can even set sail through the storms. You can do so because you have the power of God that comes with God’s presence.
Through The Storms
When God is with us, we have a power that is much greater than our own. We have God’s power that propels us. It is like a boat that has a motor. We are the boat, but God’s power is the motor that is attached to the boat. It is God’s power, but we are attached to it. On its own, the boat cannot surmount and overcome great waves and storms. But with the motor that is the power of God, the boat can propel right through the storms. The path may be rocky, but we have power to propel through it. When God is present in us, we have this power of God – divine power. The power of God manifests in our lives when the presence of God is alive in us.
There’s a Mother’s Day story in today’s Toronto Star that illustrates everything I’ve reflected about. It’s the story of someone named Danielle Kane. On July 22, 2018, someone went on a shooting spree in the Danforth. 2 people were killed and 13 injured. Danielle Kane was one of those injured. She was out with her longtime boyfriend. She was a nurse and heard that someone had been hurt. Went out to help – as soon as she opened the door, gunman was there and shot her. Broken ribs, lungs filled with blood, bullet in her spine. Medically induced coma for 11 days. One of her vertebrae shattered. Had to stabilize spine by fusing two other vertebrae. Over three operations, also repaired injuries to abdomen. Paralyzed from waist down. After recovery, two months at rehab institute to manage pain and get used to living in wheelchair. Relationship couldn’t withstand the trauma – they broke up. Two months later, the pandemic hit. All alone, she had lost all the anchors that had held up her life: career, mobility, relationship, hopes for family and children. Deep depression. But somehow, something changed. She recalls with clarity the day that things changed. Feeling overwhelmed, she called out to God for help, pleading for relief from the isolation and loneliness. She did this even though at the time she considered herself an atheist. Looking back, she doesn’t know why she turned to God. All of her friends and family had been there to support her, but she hadn’t felt comfort from them. She says this: “I was at the end of myself. I was very desperate and entertaining thoughts of self-harm. I said: ‘God, if you are real, I really need you right now because I can’t do this on my own.’ All I can say is that I felt this feeling of peace, and the anger and bitterness I had from struggling so much in my situation just went away. I can’t really explain it except that I felt like God was here to help me.” That was her experience of resurrection. She can’t really explain it, but she experienced the reality of God’s presence with her. That presence has been her power for life. Life is a challenge every day. But she found a church, and through her faith she found partner who became her husband. The story of her wedding is beautiful too. And another amazing story is that she gave birth to a child. So her longtime wish to be a mother came true. She is now the happy mother of a beautiful daughter. What a Mother’s Day story! I don’t know her, but I’m so thankful for how things turned out. I was in tears reading this story.
The prophet Isaiah says this:
“The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
My friends, everything else in life will wither and fade away. But the Spirit is given to us, to be with us forever. What is the anchor you hold onto? God’s presence is more real than your temporary circumstances that will wither and fade away. Learn to see that spiritual reality. Learn to see God’s presence in your life. Pray for it. God’s presence is your anchor. This anchor will give you divine power to take you through life.
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