As with any sermon I post, what is written below is not always what is said verbatim in a service. Things are added or omitted, but it gives you a general idea of the message.
"Cry Out to Jesus" by Third Day (This was the Special Music played prior to the sermon. It was an added blessing to the service that had brought healing to others as they had watched it during the week.)
"Love, Peace, and the Holy Spirit"
May 1st, 2016 (Easter 6)
John 14: 23-29 (NRSV)
Fort Oglethorpe UMC
John 14: 23-29 (NRSV)
23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter. "Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!"
We come together this morning to worship the Lord of Lord and King of Kings in the midst of life—continued grief and continued celebrations. We join together in community to hold one another up, to encourage one another, to pray for one another as each of us has different concerns, burdens, struggles, joys, and celebrations.
Today’s passage brings us a message of hope in spirit and in truth that we are not alone.
Let’s begin in verse 23. It is a tad odd that the lectionary passage chooses to start with a verse that states: “Jesus answered him” and without looking back, we don’t know who asked or what the question is. The context for the passage is that Jesus is in the upper room, sharing his final discourse with the disciples. Here is verse 22: “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Knowing the question helps us better understand the answer … or does it? Jesus has a way of not always answering the exact question answered. Jesus answers here in verses 23-24: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.” The answer doesn’t directly answer Judas’ question about revealing himself to the disciples, but talks about those who will love Jesus, how they will respond, and how the Father will respond to them. Jesus also clarifies that the word heard is from the Father, reminding the disciples of Jesus’ relationship with God. To simplify these 2 verses, we love God and Jesus by keeping the words of Jesus which are of God. Remember when Jesus put it very simply for the disciples to remember how to show love in context of what is the greatest commandment?
Matthew 22:36-40 --“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Love. Jesus taught about love in word and deed.
The next things Jesus teaches here is about the Holy Spirit and peace.
Verses 25-26—“I have said these things to you while I am still with you.26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
Jesus is trying to prepare them for his departure in this final discourse. He is sharing everything that he can with them while he is still with them. But he wants them to know that when he is gone, the Holy Spirit will be with them. Here, the term “Advocate” is used. Other terms are: counselor, guide, helper, companion, comforter, encourager. The Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name to be with the disciples to remind them what Jesus taught and to continue to teach them.
The Holy Spirit is a gift from God sent to minister in all these ways. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life? Have you experienced the Holy Spirit as Advocate? Counselor? Guide? Helper? Companion? Comforter? Encourager?
Earlier in this final discourse, in John 14:17, Jesus told the disciples that they will know the Holy Spirit: “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
How amazing is it that we are not left alone, but have access to the Holy Spirit who abides with us and in us?
Jesus uses the teaching of the Holy Spirit to lead into that of peace.
Verse 27—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Though there are many powerful teachings in this passage, for me, this is the take away verse for today, the central verse. Notice the bulletin cover.
Jesus is telling the disciples that he offers them peace. Not as the world gives, but peace. It is a peace that often defies understanding and flows deeper than our circumstances. For me, it is the type of peace that one has when your brother has been in a race car accident and is in a coma for several months and you don’t know what is going to happen. It truly is the peace that passeth understanding. Even though I have heard this saying, I didn’t know its origin, so I looked it up: Philippians 4:7 (KJV)—“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Other versions use “transcends” or “surpasses” instead of “passeth”.
How many have known this peace in difficult situations? How many sitting here today can testify to that peace even in the midst of Jim’s untimely death? This peace helps us through the difficult times and helps us heal in the broken and wounded areas.
Jesus continues his teaching in this passage in verses 28-29: “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
Jesus has tried several times to let them know he would be leaving them. It hasn’t been easily understood. Even though they walked with Jesus, learned first-hand from Jesus, lived with Jesus, they didn’t always understand him. In fact, they often misunderstood him. I continue to be grateful for Jesus’ grace in working with the disciples because I know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will work graciously with me as well.
When Jesus tells them that they would “rejoice” knowing that he is leaving, he isn’t telling them not to grieve. He is setting up the bigger picture for what his purpose was and is. He realized that because of the relationship he had with them, his leaving would be difficult. The Easter joy of resurrection and being with the Father does not negate grief of losing the relationship. Jesus knew that grief when he wept at the grave for a friend. There is a way to experience both joy and grief in loss of a loved one.
What Jesus offers the disciples (and us) in today’s passage is love, peace, and the Holy Spirit. What Jesus is reminding them and us is that we can be made whole. Today, we celebrate Holy Communion, a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and love for us. It is a time of remembrance, but not one of grief. It is a time of celebration as we recognize that we are made whole in Christ and whole as the body of Christ.
As we prepare for communion, I want to share a poem (“Well-Being” by Sudha Khristmukti from India) from page 16 of the May/June edition of AliveNow: Wholeness.
Listen to these words: [read aloud during the service; I cannot post on my blog because I haven’t requested permission at this time]
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
NOTE: By clicking on the Alive Now link above, you can read the editor's comments for the Wholeness edition.
May there be love, peace, and the Holy Spirit on your journey, leading to wholeness and healing.