Monday, April 29, 2013

Seeing the World From The Perspective of the Christ. A Homily for May 5, the 6th Sunday of Easter from John 14:23-29


Sixth Sunday of Easter
Homily for 5.5.13
John 14:23-29 
Year C








I love these days of the Easter Season Celebration. How joyful are these weeks of sifting through St. John's Gospel for clues to the real, abundant life Jesus offers us in himself. Truly, there is something compelling and securing in St. John's words, even to we who are so long removed from his original hearers. In part this is true because we know these insights come from the sage experience of an often tested apostle, and they offer a thickness of thought that somehow balances the troubles and cares of a world so willingly at war with itself.

Today's pericope is no exception. We continue listening in on what has been termed Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse -- those brief hours of instruction the LORD had to prepare the disciples for his imminent departure because of death. We still hear the echos of last week's text: 
"My children, I will be with you only a little while longer...love one another..."
You see, the LORD knows in his heart-of-hearts that these men are not ready for what will happen to him; he knows they are not ready for his public humiliation and state execution. How could they be? How could they know that the ideas they possessed about his Messiahship had almost nothing to do with the reality of Jesus' true calling and ministry?

Still, in the end, Jesus offers them a clear and confident assurance that, though they will be scattered, they will eventually be preserved through the ministry of the Holy Spirit:
“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you,"
This means, therefore, that Jesus leaves them and himself with true peace:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."
These words encourage us. They lift us from the mire of loss and grief -- “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Here, we are allowed to see the world from a new, different perspective. Here we see the world as it really is, not only though the lens of the present human condition, or what may be termed the human predicament, but we are also allowed to see the world from the perspective of the victory of the cross, the achievement of the resurrection and the new humanness found in the living, risen Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Or, to put a fine point on this idea, and based upon today’s text, we see here:
PEACE BEYOND CHAOS  
LIFE BEYOND SELF
TRUTH BEYOND EXPERIENCE


PEACE BEYOND CHAOS
First, then, let’s look through the lens of the text that offers us Peace Beyond Chaos. Today’s text reads:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you...”

Jesus here offers a contrast between the peace the world offers and the peace found in himself. We know only too well that the world offers peace, but it is a sort of peace that cannot satisfy, a sort of peace that focuses on the self and a sort of peace that is only momentary. 

In contrast, there is a completeness and a wholeness to the peace offered and fostered by the LORD, a peace that denotes fullness and a deep internal rest. In the Holy Scriptures this peace is called Shalom.

“OK, Preacher. Great! But how do I find this peace? How do I find this complete wholeness, this fullness of internal rest?”

We only find this peace living within the presence of the LORD, or as Jesus promises here, the reality of the Holy Spirit:
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
This means we find Shalom that is living peace within the movement of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus into the lives of his obedient brothers and sisters. In the Holy Spirit -- who remember is the Spirit of the Risen Christ -- the GOD who is there, who is Spirit and Truth, makes himself known:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him,” reads the text. GOD makes his dwelling with us? 
The New Revised Standard Version translate this verse as:
"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."
GOD will make his home with us...

A good way to understand this is to think about the time the LORD spoke to the nation through the Prophet Jeremiah, saying:
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
This text offered the Nation a reminder of the reality of Yahweh’s continued and steadfast love, even through the catastrophe of exile.  I know well the plans I have in mind for you... plans for your welfare and not for woe...” Here we have the promise of homecoming, the return from exile and “...a future of hope.” This describes a peace found within the chaos of the world, but a peace only truly understood within GOD’s presence and their homecoming.

How powerful is this idea of being at home with the LORD. When we think of the idea of home, many of us think of the place where we find inclusion, protection and acceptance. Home is the place -- both of the address and the heart -- where we reside in trusted shelter. (this is why it is so devastating when this shelter is somehow violated)  Here Jesus would have us know that the home-place of the heart he describes and promises is where his Spirit resides and where, no matter what we face within the chaos of the human condition, we are never alone, we are never without resources and we are never out from under his love.


LIFE BEYOND SELF
Second, then, we look through the lens of the text and find Life Beyond the Self:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words...”
To see the world as it really is -- from the perspective of the victory of the cross, the achievement of the resurrection and the new humanness found in the living, risen Christ -- we must come to understand that in Jesus’ mind the obedience of his followers to what we have here termed from this pulpit the Jesus-way is supreme. 

This means, to truly be a disciple is to live, decidedly, beyond the dictates of the self.

We have termed and attempted to describe the Jesus-way by reminding ourselves of Jesus’ teaching on the narrow-way or the house built upon the rock. Likewise, we have shown the truth that being an actual disciple of the LORD -- to be a “Follow me,” disciple -- means there is decisively something to be done! Something to be practiced! And, finally, and of late, we have described this Jesus-way as becoming a genuine human being, or becoming what GOD always intended humans to be. Which is what Jesus displays in how he lived his life.

Further, and to help us understand the humanness of Jesus, we have repeatedly placed under this idea of the Jesus-way of living an active obedience toward two rubrics:
Sacrificial Love -- the daily practice of loving the other -- the one like us and the one not like us -- with a love beyond the selfish confines of the sinful heart’s self-interest and false-self 
Reconciling Forgiveness -- the daily absorption, without retaliation, of the hurts and hates of a world at war with itself, and a world decidedly against any obedience to the King of Kings, who is Jesus, the LORD.
Living with these two ideas as the guide for our discipleship, which both chronicle and communicate the reality of Jesus humanness, takes us a long way down the road toward what Jesus means when he demands that we hear, heed and practice his words.

TRUTH BEYOND EXPERIENCE
Finally, then, we look through the lens of the text and find here a Truth Beyond Experience. Here the text reads:
“You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.’”
Think especially about the words: 
“I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
Of course, this is Jesus telling his disciples of his execution before it happens as preparation so that they would not be shocked at what occurs when he is betrayed. He wants them to know that what seems to be the truth -- that he is dead and gone, is not the whole truth. 

He is dead, but he is not gone! Thus, when he is taken from them, he will actually be with the Father. And further, he wants them to know, before he is taken, that
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
This Advocate, this Holy Comforter, guides those on the Jesus-way to the true reality of the world, a world where Jesus can no longer be seen. It is the Spirit’s work, therefore, in the absence of Jesus of Nazareth, to remind us of his words and his works, and to lead us beyond the experience of the human condition, where death and heartache seem to reign supreme. In fact, the Comforter leads us to the mystery that is the Almighty, the mystery that is only found in the heart and sacrifice of the Son, who is the Christ:
GOD is light and in him is no darkness at all... 
and 
GOD is love, found in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial love and reconciling forgiveness.
And, what then is the response of this understanding of true truth that is beyond the experience of the human predicament? It is faith:
“I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
We see that there is a ruggedness to the disciple’s faith. There is a tough response to this calling that leads us through the hurts and griefs and loss that we all experience. Never does Jesus promise we will find life without suffering. Instead, he promises life, peace, hope, meaning, purpose, direction in the midst of suffering. Or, as he says elsewhere, but still in the Upper Room Discourse:
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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John 14:23-29
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.”