Today on this sixth Sunday in Easter I say to you. He is Risen!
He is Risen indeed.
“If you love me, you will keep[a] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[b] to be with you forever. 17 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[c]you.
18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
May God bless to our understanding the Words that we hear today.
The seven verses of scripture we just read are a part of a longer farewell address by Jesus, that he gives at the last supper. We heard the first part of this farewell last week. It is odd for us, as I mentioned then, to be in this pre-death moment with Jesus since we have just so recently experienced his crucifixion and resurrection, but it is the opportunity once again, to go back to this moment in time, so that we can hear things that we might have missed the first time. Things that will directly impact us in the days ahead.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen
So we remember that this is the last time Jesus will speak to his disciples before his death and we hear him trying to summarize all of his teachings into this one last moment.…It made me think about how I felt when we dropped the girls off at college the first time…I tried to fit 18 years of mothering into the last three minutes before we got in the car to drive off and leave them on their own…the mom mantra of no piercings, no tattoos, no boys, call me at least once a week, study hard, don’t skip class , be nice to people, be careful, don’t forget to eat, no parties, I love you, call if you need anything…it’s kind of the same thing here with Jesus and the disciples.
Jesus’s farewell speech goes on for a very long time, and the longer he goes on the more anxious and perplexed the disciples get, if they are understanding Jesus correctly, and they are not sure that they are…he is going off on some sort of family reunion with his father, they can’t go with him now, but they can come later and in the meantime, he is leaving them in charge while he is gone and they are not so sure they are ready for that responsibility.
They know that after three years of following Jesus that they cannot just slip easily back into their old lives; things have change, they will never be the same, but in that moment, it was very unclear to them just exactly what it WAS going to be. It was beyond their power of imagination.
I suspect that for most of us, it would be beyond our imagination too…even after Easter and the resurrection, our own imaginations too often fall far short of the dream of God, and Jesus words about love and obedience may seem to be just that…words to a lovely speech that happened long ago.
But they aren’t just empty words because Jesus backs up his claims with a promise, a promise that was important for the disciples to hear then and maybe even more important for us to hear now…you will not be orphaned…you will not be alone because I have asked God to send an Advocate to be with you.
I suspect the disciples probably didn’t understand that any more than we might understand it. What is this Advocate and what does it mean to us? There are other words that are usually assigned to the Advocate, counselor, intercessor, comforter, Holy Spirit; Jesus was letting the disciples know, letting us know that with his death we were not going to be left alone in this world. That the presence of God was still going to be around in abundance, but now it would take the form of the Holy Spirit. In our lives it is the Holy Spirit who strengthens us, comforts us, guides us and inspires us. It is the Spirit who enables us to interpret the signs of the times in ways very different from the ways of the world. It is the Spirit who works through us for the transformation of the world. It is because the Spirit has been given to us that, in the midst of our life journey, whoever we are and where ever we are, that we can live our lives in the promise of fulfillment.
In a few weeks, we will celebrate Pentecost, and that will give us plenty of time to talk and reflect further on the Holy Spirit, but for now, it is enough that we understand that this is the promise of love from a beloved Teacher to his anxious disciples.
But right now, Jesus was trying to help the disciples understand how the Spirit was going to help them go forward with their part in the on- going ministry of Jesus in the world.
It may be hard to hear it, but in today’s scripture is the commission to the early church. We forget sometimes that the befuddled, sad, scared group of men listening to Jesus ARE the future of the church and it is interesting to me that Jesus is speaking to them not as individuals…there are no personal messages here. He is speaking to them AS the church AS a community of faith and his words here, 2000 years ago are just as important, maybe even more so to the church today.
IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS….Those who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me;
What are those commandments? (Love God, love neighbor…love one another as I have loved you…)
It’s a pretty consistent message, love, love, love. Jesus not only told us to do it, but he expanded our understanding of that love to include forgiveness, praying for our enemies, caring about the poor and the marginalized, and ordering our lives well, including our use of money-all stuff that we don’t always like to talk about because none of it is easy…
I don’t get the sense here, or in any of the other places in the gospels that Jesus is offering these things to us as “suggestions” or “guidelines,” he is not making a statement he is stating a fact. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO and you do it because you love, and when you love, really love the way that God loves, then doing what is good and right comes to us naturally and easily.
Jesus was getting his disciples ready for change…not nice slow change, but life coming at you at the speed of light change. “You can love me” he says, “but NOT by clinging to some cherished memory, NOT by doing things the way you used to do them, NOT by sniping and bickering with each other. You can love me best; you can love me with enduring love if you will continue my work and keep my commandments.”
As I read this week and got my mind around the big concept here I started asking myself the question that I am going to ask you now. “Church…how are we keeping those commandments? Are we offering life-changing love at the speed of light or at the speed of church? Here we are, six weeks after Easter, does it make a difference to our church that Jesus has risen from the dead? Is his presence here, living and breathing in our church? Are we letting the Spirit guide the life of this church, is God still speaking through the life of the congregation? Is the good news spoken here, not just through my words on Sunday morning but in all the things that we do? Does our church look like a giant heart of a place with room enough for everyone whom love unites? What do you say Church?”
Do you know that saying…Dance like no one is watching? It’s an invitation to live life without inhibitions. I would like to change that saying a little bit today to: Live like God is watching.
What would we look like if this church lived each and every day like God was watching? I see that as a challenge, one that I would like you to join in. Let’s become the church of God watching. Let’s become the Church that shows that we are not afraid, we have not been left alone, we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we are not orphans, we are Easter people! A church full of Easter People is a place where grieving or searching souls can be comforted, encouraged, and strengthen- Let us show the world, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE as we live as a community of faith where the risen and ascended Christ and God are made know through our life together in the Spirit, and from which we are sent out with good news for all the world!