Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Christ Our Life, Advocate & Calling. A Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter from John 14:15-21 for May 25, 2014

 Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A
(See TEXT below John 14:15-21)
May 29, 2011
(revised 5.14)

The Lectionary Gospel reading for the 6th Sunday of Easter opens to us a quiet time of communion between Jesus and the disciples. Those final few hours before the LORD departs for his suffering, his trial and his public execution he spends sharing confidences with those most important to him.
This makes sense. It makes sense to us that he would want to prepare his followers for this departure and for his death. Likewise, it makes sense for him to explain how they will get along once he is gone. His passing will leave a huge hole in their lives, but he wants his followers to know that they will survive.
For today's Homily I would like to offer three statements to help us unpack this text:
1) Christ, their Advocate, will send another 
2) Christ, their life, will continue with them, even when he's gone
3) Christ, their calling, will be loved through obedience

The text reads:
 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth..."
Jesus, their Advocate, their Comforter, their paráklētos (παράκλητος) -- the one who comes along side -- was leaving, but would send another helper to take his place.
Up to that point there was no need for another; Jesus was with them. But with his death who would empower them to obey, to follow the practices he had taught them? No, certainly they would need help, and that help was coming in the person of the Spirit-of-Truth.

Later in our text, but moving along this same idea, Jesus utters what must have been a promise that became a great word of comfort for them:
"I will not leave you orphans..." 
I love this text; it is precious to me. I rely upon it as I attempt to minster to the broken and to those who have lost their way. I also rely upon it when I lose my way -- "I will not leave you orphans..."
I recently sat across the table from a young widow who was pouring out her heart to me. We spoke of her loss, her long time in the hospital keeping vigil and the emptiness in her heart. Then she said something very interesting. She said, "People have told me I should be angry at God, but how could I, he was right there with me in the hospital, every moment." 
"I will not leave you orphans..."
This is not the first time I have heard such a testimony. Often the person in pain across from me speaks of a daily strength, a daily grace, that allows the pain to be endured. 
I think this is something like what Jesus was promising those first disciples. Notice, not that they would escape their troubles, but instead another would be present to them, to be with them through their troubles, just like he had been.
Which opens for us the second statement:
Again, notice the reading of the text: 
"I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me..." And then at the end: "...whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."
Jesus says, "the world will not see me...but you will,” and “I will reveal myself..." 
Jesus is gone, but in reality he never left, for his continued presence and power is promised through the Sprit-of-Truth's presence and power. 
Said another way, the Spirit of the risen Christ (1 Peter 1:11) would make Jesus present to his disciples even after his resurrection and ascension.  What a comfort this must have been later, when those disciples remembered these words. 
What about us?
Elsewhere, St. Paul describes the Christ as, "the last Adam" who " became a life-giving spirit." (1 Cor.15:45) Taken together, these two texts teach us that, through the life-giving Spirit-of-Truth, the risen Christ is still present and immediate to us as new-life as well.  
This means we too can find comfort from these words. This means the Spirit-of-Truth evidences the transcendent Christ, as life-giving Spirit, to us just as those original disciples.  And this means we too experience the new life found in the Christ.
We would also say that the presence and the power of the Christ is not direct to us, but is instead mediated through the Scriptures and the ordinances, through sharing life with those who are in need and through the preaching and the prayers of the people.
Which leads us to the final statement:
"Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments,'" and, "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me."
Clearly, the follower of the Christ is the one who practices the commands of the Christ. St. Paul puts it this way: "For in Christ Jesus...the only thing that counts is faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6)
Or, listen to this similar text from 1st John: 
"Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, 'I have come to know him,' but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him:  whoever says, 'I abide in him,' ought to walk just as he walked. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard." (1 John 2:3-7)
Notice the balance, “faith that is expressed in love,” or “whoever says, 'I abide in him,' ought to walk just as he walked.’” 
Let’s think about what this means from different direction. In John 13:1 we read, 
"Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." 
A beautiful text, but, specifically, how did Jesus express this love? In the immediate context he would kneel before his followers and wash their dirty feet. He became the servant of them all; he became their house-slave. 
Later would come the cross and the suffering, but here he offers the practice of love, and then he offers an explanation by way of the new commandment: 
"Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:33-34)
This is the work of obedience; this is the work of the Kingdom. To be honest, it is not some fancy theology or a scholar’s depth of insight, as much a these disciplines help us. No, quite simply it is being a servant to all. Until we somehow get there, we really don't love the Christ all that much!
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
To this end then, here's how I am challenging myself. I have asked myself, who would I exclude from GOD's circle of grace? It is now my calling to serve them, to love them, and then to pray for them. I think that order is the correct order. 
I believe this is what it really means to follow the Christ.