Getting Ready for Sunday
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2016
“I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.” John 14:29
The Gospel text this morning (John 14:23-29) is preparing us for Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus is with his disciples, telling them what to expect after he is no longer with them. That’s why it is called the Farewell Discourse.
In chapter 14, verse 22, just before our passage begins, we read, “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’” In other words, “If you leave us, how will we still feel, or know, your presence? The world will not be able to see you any longer. How will we?”
As human beings, we confront this issue all of the time. In this complex age of telecommunications, we have come to expect that we can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time. We receive phone calls, text messages, e-mails and social media updates. It seems impossible that we might not be able to reach someone instantly. It reflects a reality in which we feel the need to stay connected to the world around us, but what happens when we lose that connection?
The disciples were seeking the answer to this question as they faced the coming loss of a direct connection to Jesus. They had been following Jesus for years, and now, Jesus was telling them he was going to be with the Father. Jesus says to them, “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father” (v. 28). I am sure their reactions were mixed. Yes, they loved Jesus, but it was difficult to rejoice at the thought of losing him.
In our gospel passage, Jesus was addressing that concern. He commits to staying connected to them in three ways. He promises to make a home with them, to send an Advocate, and to leave his peace with them.
I love the idea of God making a home within us. I am reminded of the historical precedent of God dwelling in the midst of God’s people, even on the move. While wandering in the desert, God led them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Eventually, the tabernacle was created so that God could dwell among them. The word “tabernacle” means “tent.” God literally pitched a tent among the people. God then came and dwelt among us in the incarnation of Jesus. And, now, Jesus was promising that God would come and make a home within us.
Jesus also promised to leave the disciples with the gift of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. “Advocate” can also be translated as “Comforter.” There is a danger, however, in embracing this notion of a Comforter. We can be lulled into the notion that Jesus is only about providing warmth, safety or security. The earthly ministry of Jesus was defined by being on the move, preaching, teaching, healing, performing miracles and changing lives - the opposite of safety and warmth. The Advocate is sent to remind us of the blessing and the challenge of being followers of Christ. We are pushed out of our comfort zones, in order to grow our faith, so we can impact the world for the One who dares to dwell within us.
Finally, Jesus promised a third gift: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you” (v. 27). We hear the word so often, we may not hear it anymore. When Jesus speaks of the peace of God, he is not talking about the end of conflict, or the absence of suffering. Jesus is granting the disciples nothing less than the gift of salvation. It is that gift, not a false ideal of a perfect world, that will get us through the toughest trials and tribulations of our life.
These gifts - the indwelling of God, the Advocate, and peace - are the same gifts we now have to offer the world. Imagine a world where being connected is not defined by technology or accessibility, but by a life-giving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, imagine how God might be calling you to help build that world. These gifts are not ours to keep. They are meant to share. How can you share them with others?
The Rev. Catherine Thompson is rector of Annunciation in Lewsiville