Sunday, May 5, 2013
A Guiding Presence
As the Easter season winds down and Pentecost approaches, it is appropriate to begin to shift the emphasis from the empty tomb to the coming of the Holy Spirit. So, for the next 4 weeks, we'll be considering various aspects of the "Spirit of the living God".
We are beginning with this text from John, which is part of what has been called the "Farewell Discourse" (John 14-16). Here John shares an extended discussion between Jesus and his closest disciples following the Last Supper - most likely on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane. It doesn't take a wizard to realize what Jesus was doing. He was well aware of the events which were unfolding - his arrest, trial and ultimate fate on the cross. He also knew that he would resurrect and then ascend to the Father. The real question was how to prepare these faithful ones for what was about to occur.
I have told the story of my mother's stroke many times. Coming home from school, as I was walking up the driveway of our house, medics wheeled my mom past me on a gurney to a waiting ambulance. She was conscious and could speak, though her words were slurred. It was an anxious time - what was wrong, would she recover or might there be another stroke which would take her from us? In her usual way, my mom simply formed the words, "read the note on the table". My mom was a serious note writer. There'd be notes on the table for us in the morning and when we got home from school. Notes would be in our school bags (these were the days before "backpacks") and notes on our dressers. So, getting a note from her at a time like this was totally in her character. Why this moment has been so meaningful to me is that she was caring for us even when she was the one in need. Jesus was doing the same for the disciples, and ultimately for us.
Words, at times like these, carry greater meaning and importance. They reveal what really matters to the person who is bidding others farewell - whether they are heading to a hospital and rehabilitation center, or to their grave. Therefore, we should consider those words carefully. What did Jesus want the disciples to know for certain? Based on the verses for this Sunday, he wanted them to know two things.
First, in a very few words he laid out the path to the Father. Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. When the decision is made to love Christ, you can't help but to live in his example which brings you closer to God and God is with you. Seems simple and clear enough - but is it? There is a temptation built into this idea which can lead one astray. It does not say that by doing good, you will be saved. Rather, what Jesus means is that loving means a relationship which leads to a changed life through which we are in closer communion with God. It may seem like a subtle difference, but it is a crucial one. If someone were to confess that they "love" another person because that person has a lot of money, there would be red flags about whether this was love or not. If on the other hand, one person was in love with another and began to make choices that were pleasing to them, their actions would simply validate their affections. Loving Christ brings us closer to God, which is exactly what God desires.
The second "take home" from Jesus at this point in the Farewell Discourse relates to the Holy Spirit. Jesus understood the adage, "out of sight, out of mind". He knew how we operate. Unless we are reminded and nudged, we tend to forget, get distracted, lose interest. So, he promised a Companion, the Advocate, Counselor, Holy Spirit will remain with them and us. The sole purpose of the Spirit is to teach you everything and remind you of everything I told you. To "teach" and "remind",
not to save or necessarily to protect us. Jesus is showing confidence in those who love him. He is promising an ongoing presence which will keep that which is truly important, his word, at the forefront of our minds. The result of which is peace - not "peace and quiet", but the true inner peace which comes only from experiencing the love of God.
Looking back, I really don't remember what my mom wrote in her note, but I think about that afternoon occasionally and feel strangely comforted. Far more comforting, however, is the reality of the Holy Spirit. Thinking of my mom's note puts my mind at ease, while sensing the Spirit fills my soul with peace.
Grace and peace to you,
You can download previous bibletok messages by clicking on the title below:
"Emergence" - April 28, 2013
"An Eye-Opener" - April 21, 2013
"An Explanation" - April 14, 2013
"An Encounter" - April 7, 2013
"I Have Seen the Lord" - March 31, 2013
"A Shout Out to the Lord" - March 24, 2013
"Priorities" - March 17, 2013
"Lost and Found" - March 10, 2013
"Turn-A-Bout" - March 3, 2013
"A Fox in the Henhouse" - February 24, 2013
"I Dare You" - February 17, 2013
"Who Are You? - II - February 10, 2013
"Who Are You?" - February 3, 2013
"Why God's Love Prevails" - January 27, 2013
"Why Can't I See God's Will in My Life?" - January 20, 2013
"Why Do My Prayers Go Unanswered? - January 13, 2013
"Why Do the Innocent Suffer?" - January 6, 2013