6th Sunday of Easter
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who is revealed in love. Amen
In this season of Easter
the theme running through our texts
has been the disciples asking ‘now what?’
Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended to the Father
leaving the disciples with the instructions
to go out into the world sharing the good news about Jesus.
And while that sounds simple
the actual doing of that is proving to be difficult for the disciples
even though Jesus tried to prepare them
with his teachings for just this moment.
At the end of the section of Jesus’ last teachings to the disciples
that we read today
Jesus says “and now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
He’s preparing them for what is to come
even as he knows that they will struggle with it.
Sometimes as students we don’t realize the full importance of a lesson
until after we’ve been in the situation
that lesson tried to address,
We heard some of these teachings in Lent
on the way to the cross
and perhaps we heard them one way
but now we are in the season of Easter,
and these teachings appear again
with the disciples we look at them from the otherside
through the cross and the empty tomb,
we look back at Jesus’ words of preparation,
looking for the answer to the question, now what?
A question Jesus knew we’d be asking.
Jesus has been teaching that he’ll be going away
and Judas- not Iscariot- asks “if you’re going away how will you reveal yourself to us?”
Yes we wonder,
how will Jesus reveal himself to us
now that he has ascended to the father.
Jesus answers “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.”
which is the complicated way of saying
that God is revealed in the loving relationship
between Jesus and his father,
and those who love Jesus
are joined to that relationship.
Jesus reveals himself to us in love.
Why he couldn’t have just said that I don’t know
it sounds so simple,
and maybe it’s the simplicity of it that trips us up,
I know I’ve been tripped up by it.
Before you start school to become a pastor you have to go through a series of interviews, one of which is a psychological evaluation, it’s for a good reason, to protect the church but it’s very intimidating because at the time it seems like your whole future and your ability to serve God is on the line, so no pressure right? I did my psychological evaluation in the year after I graduated from college, and I was a little late to the interview because I’d had trouble finding a parking spot so I was a bit flustered and the guy doing the interview told me he did these things for a bunch of different denominations and at one point he asks me about my concept of God and this I could talk about, I was 22 years old and I’d just graduated with a Bachelors in Religion and so I go off on this topic for quite awhile, and when I finished the guy looked at me and said “A lot of people say God is love…” and then moved on and I was left with the horrifying thought that I’d gotten the God question wrong.
A lot of people say God is love.
It sounds so simple
and yet Jesus knew that we’d struggle with it,
after he tells the disciples how he will be revealed
he gives them two gifts to help
the Holy Spirit and his peace:
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 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. 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.”
What Jesus is saying
is that we don’t have to get the God question right
in order to be in relationship with Jesus,
we don’t even have to understand it,
and we should not be afraid if we don’t,
we are not alone in our experience of God,
simply by loving Jesus
we are in relationship with him and the father
and this love is shared within a community of people.
The ‘you’ in Jesus’ teaching is plural,
it is not just an individual relationship with God
that Jesus is talking about
but a communal relationship with God,
a communal promise,
which is what allows the community to grow
beyond the first generation of disciples who knew Jesus in the flesh.
I had a professor in college who didn’t like the Sunday School song
‘Jesus loves me’
‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”
His point was that yes the Bible tells us that Jesus loves us,
but we know that Jesus loves us,
especially the little children meant to sing the song
know that Jesus loves them
because they are loved within a community
that shares the love of Christ with them.
The community of disciples grew
because of the shared love of God that people experienced in community
love comes first,
and that’s where Jesus’ first gift comes in,
the gift of the Holy Spirit,
given to remind us of Jesus’ teachings,
to help us through the unexpected things that come up
no matter how well we prepare for the future.
And while the thought that we can never be fully prepared
might cause us some anxiety
Jesus has given us one more gift
the gift of his peace.
Jesus makes sure to emphasize
that this is the peace of Christ
not the peace of the world.
The peace of the world is conditional,
a false promise of security,
an absence of conflict,
it is momentary.
The peace of Christ is lasting,
rather than quickly putting a bandaid on a conflict
it works through the brokenness
to get to harmony and wholeness,
a place where everything thrives.
The peace of Christ is everlasting
and it is ours.
Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Now we live in the peace and love of Christ,
guided by the Holy spirit
we seek to share this peace with others,
not through understanding or force
but through love.
Because you know,
A lot of people,
say God is love. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.