John 14: 15-21
Sixth Sunday of Easter
This Sunday we continue to listen in on Jesus’ farewell address to his bewildered disciples. We pick up where we left off last Sunday when we realized that God has roominess enough to hold all the children of God. We dwell with God now, today,this very moment—there is no need to wait for the future to have a deeply personal relationship with God.
Jesus begins this segment talking about love. Jesus tells his disciples that if they love him they must do what he has taught them. In return Jesus will talk with the Holy One and request that another Friend be provided for the disciples. He calls the Advocate the “Spirit of Truth.” But have no fear, for the godless world will not accept this Friend for the world cannot see it because the world does not know what to look for. However, the disciples know this Friend already, Jesus claims, because the Spirit of Truth has been staying with them and will even be in them. Jesus love for them would never end. Death would not destroy that love. Jesus will leave but the Spirit of Truth will remain with them and so will love.
Jesus will not leave the disciple orphaned. Though the world will no longer see Jesus the disciples will see him because Jesus is alive and so too will the disciples soon come alive. When that takes place, they will know that Jesus is in God and the disciples are in Jesus and Jesus is in them. How will they know this is so? Jesus says that those who know and follow his commandments are those who love Jesus.God will therefore love those who love Jesus.
How wonderful that reassurance must have sounded to the disciples. Put yourself in their place.
This was all being told to them before Jesus’ crucifixion, death and Resurrection. They must have been very anxious; had a thousand questions and no easy answers.How were they going to manage on their own? How would they have the resources to keep the movement going? They were barely able to grasp all that Jesus had taught them while he was with them. It must have been very comforting to hear that they would not have to rely solely on their own resources. They will not have to be in charge. Someone with more knowledge and with more strength is present and will take on that responsibility. Even more comforting is the fact that this someone loves them. Love was not ending.
The writer of John composes the Gospel long after Jesus’ Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit. His community is a church struggling to deal with division and uncertainties. Like the disciples, John’s community is in need of promises and reassurance. They needed to hear Jesus’ promises with new ears.Perhaps we Easter People are is in the same position today—in need of hearing Jesus’ reassurance and promises with new ears. It has been such a long, long, time since the first Easter and Pentecost that the feeling of being orphaned comes bubbling up at times.
“Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8). The Holy Spirit IS with us. Jesus does love us! God LOVES us! How then do we express our love for Jesus? We express it by living our lives according to his teachings. Sounds simple right?
But in our materialistic, self-centered culture it is difficult to go against the strong waves of disobedience. Loving God as a priority in ones life has faded into oblivion for many people. With the prevalence of war, violence, and bullying and an invisable enemy called Covid-19 it is easy to loose hope and feel that the Holy Spirit is absent. I know I am preaching to the choir. Those that need to hear that obedience to Jesus’ teachings bind us to the love of God in a stronger more powerful way, are out running, golfing, relaxing with the Sunday paper, watching reruns of sports events,or home sleeping soundly. Yet, even we sometimes fall away from Jesus’ commandments to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus also expanded our understanding of his commandments to include caring for the poor, listening to the voices from the margins, praying for our enemies, our use of our resources, and forgiveness. None of this is a walk in the park!
So where is the hope, reassurance, promise, and comfort for us today? It is right in the midst of us and IN us, just as Jesus said. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us so that we may transform the world or at least our little corner of it. Does the world know we are Christians by our love? The love that is poured out from the Holy Spirit into us will overflow into the lives of others. Our very lives will be evidence of the Sprit in our presence. Love grows hope, reassurance, and comfort. Dianne Bergant refers to those who live and love as Jesus did as “agents of God’s love in the world”(Sermon Seeds). I really, really like that phrase. If we embrace that thinking “agents of God’s love in the world,” wouldn’t it inspire us to keep love flowing to all God’s creation? Imagine the possibilities if all of us in the world who say we love God lived as though we did.
We are Easter people! We are Resurrection people! Halleluiah we are not orphans. This is a place where all who are grieving, in doubt, or searching can come to find love, comfort, encouragement, and strength. This can happen because, as Kathryn Matthews writes: “…they can sense God’s presence and the Holy Spirit in our midst, inspiring and sustaining the life we share together, nourished for ministry in the world God loves” (Sermon Seeds).
“…and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23); Jesus and God’s Spirit taking up residence with us permanently. That is pretty awesome. Barbara Brown Taylor describes this home as a giant heart of a place with room enough for everyone whom love binds together. Does our church, does the UCC, look like a place with a humongous heart that has room enough for everyone whom God loves?
In the greatest of hope I believe it does. Love never ends.