Sermon , Easter 6A, Sunday May 17, 2020.
John 14:15-21 (13:33- 14:31) 13:33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ 36 Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ 37 Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ 38 Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times! 14:1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ 6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ 8 Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ 9 Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’ 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 ‘All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 ‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
I have heard Christians saying that they hope this COVID threat will bring people back to Jesus.
We hope that the many ‘happy pagans’ who may believe a bit of this and a bit of that about the world and God and themselves, or believe nothing of the sort, might be prompted by this disruption to ask serious questions about life, and as they do, somehow find Jesus’s way, truth and life.
It is a good hope! But I suspect it might be a bit misguided. It may even be a bit like Grandma’s peaches; a bit self-preserving! We preserve our own settled life and God is the one who will somehow bring questioning sinners to faith…… They get disrupted. We stay safe. He will do all the work. We will get the benefit.
I know that it is true that we have nothing to offer God for all his kindness in adopting us as his dearly loved sons and daughters. But I think we are more a part of people coming to a loving relationship with God than we probably wish to know….
I say this because of what I hear in this conversation with Jesus in the Upper Room.
Jesus has already spoken of an unwelcome moment coming. Back in Bethany after Mary had anointed him for burial ahead of time, Jesus says:
‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’ (John 12:8)
This little community have been with Jesus for a fair while. They have seen many things. They have pondered many words, asked many questions. They have hoped for much.
Now, as the annual Passover meal comes around like clockwork, Jesus disrupts their comfy expectations.
First, there is that foot washing business. It is disruptive. It is hard to be served liked that. It is a direct challenge to my illusion of self-sufficiency.
And then, like when a dinner guest at your place starts to talk about the two subjects you never talk about at a happy dinner party: politics or religion – and keeps on speaking; the disruption continues when Jesus speaks of being betrayed by someone in the very room. Third: Jesus then speaks of Peter’s shameful betrayal that will be completed by sunrise.
Feeling a little disrupted yet?
Dealing with this disruption, four of them speak.
37 …. ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’
In other words, Take me with you, Jesus. ‘I’m a celebrity. Get me out of here!’. I have earnt it! I can do it”.
38 ….., ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!
Peter, alone, you will fail. You can’t earn truth and life or live like you can. These are all given gifts, not earned payments. I will have to give you it all. It will cost me everything and be free for you, and yet you will gladly give everything for it because it is so good.
5 …., ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
‘Jesus, show us the Future: Then I can believe’. “Jesus, we don’t know your future, so we don’t know ours. Tell us our future, that will do it”.
6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Thomas, I am your future and your present. You don’t need to know your future because I am your future every day.
8,….. ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’
‘Jesus, show us God: Then we can believe. Lord, if we can see him up close for real, that would do it. We’d all feel better.
“How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?”
Phillip, you see me; you see the Father. You don’t need some big miraculous experience of God the Father revealing himself because he already has – in me – in full.
Judas (the other Judas):
22 ……. ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’
‘Jesus, show them God’. Then we will be able to believe you. “Jesus, if they see God in one big undeniable clear way, that would do it”.
23 ……. ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
Judas, I do show them God the Father – through you!
Judas, they see the Father, me and the Spirit – God in total, through you. You show them the Father every day!
‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:19)
Love each other. That is enough for their seeing of God.
Friends, we are involved in people coming to a living trust in Jesus.
This pandemic won’t bring people to a loving relationship with their heavenly Father. It is raising good questions. But, like any hard thing, this is all it can do. This crisis time needs something else. It needs someone to say something into those good questions.
It is us. We are the ‘super-carriers’ of the healing virus, called ‘the gospel’! We are carriers of the antidote to not just COVID 19 but life without God’s goodness and blessing and love – in other words hell on earth.
“But we can’t do it either”, we say. True, but not true….
If we speak just our words, our dreams, our understanding, our visions, our ways, our truths…. We cannot be God’s super-carriers of life.
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The Holy Spirit makes us super-carriers of God’s life for dead people.
How so? The Spirit of God is now not just ‘with us’ but ‘in’ us.
“…But you know him (the Holy Spirit), for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17)
As we ourselves are also disrupted in all this, the Spirit is our Advocate.
He transforms our lack of courage and over-dependence on our own work and skill and understandings (Peter),
he takes our demands for control over our future (Thomas),
our demands for a show of strength to convince us (Phillip),
our demands for a show of his strength to convince those who do not believe (Judas).
By Jesus’ Word, the Spirit gives us the ‘Father’s forgiveness shot’ that kills our ‘divided wandering heart’ and makes us ‘super-spreaders’ of his undeserved love all our lives, and in all parts of our lives.
This pandemic will not make them believe and neither will all the miracles in Jerusalem! In the suffering, grief, disruption to normal life and the questions it raises, the Spirit will call them to believe his words and the life through us.
So, adopted orphans of Jesus, baptised in the Spirit by the Father’s mighty hand,
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more Or close the wall up with our community’s dead! (William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III)
Into the call of the Spirit we go, friends. Not as disconnected, diseased and despairing orphans isolated in fear, but as community of grace gathered and scattered in little groups, together and alone; but together in him; the way truth and life for every orphan of God in this community.
Be disrupted with real hope and no fear. The Spirit makes this disruption holy and of great purpose.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.