by Pastor Cherie Dearth
Our Scripture passage for today in John is the next part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, which we began last week. It takes place during the evening of the Last Supper. Jesus has already done some strange things. He has washed the disciples’ feet. He has told them that one of their company is going to betray him. He has given them a new commandment, basically the only one that he gives in whole Gospel of John, to love one another as he has loved them … But most significantly, he has told them that he is going away, and they cannot go with him.
Who is Jesus talking to? The disciples, yes, but after spending practically every day with him for the last three years, who are they? They are his dearest friends on earth. During this Farewell Discourse he is preparing them for his departure. He know that it will wound them. He knows what is going to happen, and he wants to leave them strong and encouraged. He wants them to remember this at the appropriate time.
What was Jesus telling them? In last week’s passage, he was telling them in the most explicit way thus far that he was God. In John 14:8, Phillip says, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” And Jesus replies, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
As Jesus, he has provided the way for humans to have a personal relationship with God in a way that has not been possible since the fall of humanity in the Garden. But now, at the proper time, God has provided the path through Jesus. He has been in a personal relationship with these disciples for three years. Now, he is getting ready to leave this earthly existence and handing off the baton to these people who he has been teaching for three years, the people that he is closest to on earth.
But this is just the beginning. Jesus continues his discourse by promising that they will not be abandoned.
John 14:15-21 NIV
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Have you ever thought, If only I could have Jesus physically with me, like he was with the disciples during his earthly ministry. It would be so much easier. I could sit at Jesus’ feet like we hear Mary and the other disciples and listen to Jesus tell his parables and stories? If only I could have been there when Jesus healed the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) or when that woman touched the edge of his robe and the bleeding she had been suffering with for twelve years instantly stopped (Mt 9:20-22). These people who were ostracized by society were able to resume a normal life because of him. If I could just hear him teach, would it be so much easier to understand?
Jesus tells us that it would not have been easier. We can see it for ourselves if we really look at it. All through the Gospels we have so many opportunities to see how dense the disciples are. They are hanging out with Jesus practically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and yet, they bicker about which one of them is the greatest, which one of them will be sitting at Jesus’ right and left hand in his royal court. They tell people to quit bothering Jesus. Even now, they are not sure of who he is. Having Jesus there did not make it easier for them.
However, Jesus does tell us how they are going to be a helper. It will be better because he is going away. The Holy Spirit will come. In just a few verses Jesus is even clearer about it. “… It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
Jesus tells us that he will not abandon the disciples. In fact, it will be better because he will not be limited by the human form. He can be in them and with them in everything through the Holy Spirit.
This is where Jesus is really talking to us about The Trinity. The One God, Father, Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. In John 14:9, Jesus tells Phillip (and the disciples) that he and the Father are one. In today’s passage, he says that the Spirit will be with them and in them, and through this he will never leave them (cf. 14:17-18). Then he says that “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. These different ways that God exists but still one cohesive God.
Though the Spirit, God can connect with far more people than he ever could in a human body. The reach is wider, and the connection is closer. It is one that goes worldwide and can even connect directly with us in a way that another human cannot.
Jesus says that he will send another advocate or paraclete. The meaning of the word that is translated in our Bibles as “advocate” is so much richer and deeper. In some translations you will see counselor, helper, or comforter. The true meaning of the word includes all of those things. Jesus was the first paraclete and creator of direct access to God. Soon, he will be sending another, who will do all of the things Jesus has done up to the is point, and more. How can this advocate, paraclete, Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God do this? Because he is in us.
As all believers have the Holy Spirit in them, we are all transporters of God wherever we go. Last week we talked about how the Israelites considered The Temple, in the Holy of Holies (or the Most Holy Place), the place where heaven and earth met. The Holy of Holies was where the glory of the Lord dwelt. With the Holy Spirit we each become a moveable place where heaven and earth meet. (Heaven being defined as the place where God is.) The Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, is near. It is with us wherever we go.
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the world was torn. God left the building. We have become that building. We are the living stones that Peter talks about in the letter we heard earlier. When we come together, we building a Spiritual house. We build that house with Jesus as our cornerstone, as our guide, so we will be properly aligned. We come together to worship. As we come together, the Spirit in me meets the Spirit in you, and we worship the Living God.
We come together in Jesus name, the bearers of Jesus to do things on his behalf, whether it is to praise God, pray to God, or do the work of God both within the community and out in the world. Sharing God’s love, by telling people about it, or demonstrating it. No matter your age, we all have the capacity to do something, of course always with the help and support of God, of the Holy Spirit inside us, dwelling with us. It might include being a mighty prayer warrior. It might be serving a meal. It might be putting up or tearing down a building. Our gifts and abilities differ, but there is something for everyone.
Of course, as the dwelling place of God, we have a responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of it. I could be talking about your body’s physical health, but what I really mean is your personal spiritual health.
Do you think that coming to worship once a week or 2-3 times a month is enough to maintain your spiritual health? Do you eat more than once a week, breathe more than once a week? The Lord breathes his Spirit into us. The Hebrew word for the Spirit is ruach, which means breath or wind. God literally gives us life. Once in a while is not sufficient. It’s not like the gas tank in your vehicle that needs to get topped off. If we are building a relationship with God, a close meaningful relationship, we need daily interaction with the Lord. That means things like prayer, daily. Talking to God, reverently but honestly. We really can talk to God about anything. The Psalms are full of people talking to God about all sorts of things, good, bad, and mad. If you don’t know what to say, you could say the Lord’s Prayer, but slowly, thoughtfully. Or, you could use this prayer in the bulletin, again thoughtfully and carefully.
There is also reading your Bible. You think listening to me once a week here at worship is enough? No, prayer and Scripture is part of the two way communication between you and God. You cannot expect to maintain a relationship if you never talk to the other person. God is always there, waiting. How can you expect to hear or to be aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit (who is with you all the time) if you are not in dialogue with God? It is like we talked about a couple of weeks ago. Some things have to be believed to be seen. You have to be aware that something is possible before you will even consider noticing it.
For some of us, sitting still with the Bible is difficult. I will use my mother and my best friend from Texas as examples. They both are people that cannot sit still for more than five minutes. They have to be up doing things. They have a gift for multitasking. (Interesting that both my mother and my best friend would share several traits, but that is another story.) The point is that this characteristic make it difficult for sustained time reading the Bible.
Did you know that you can listen to the Bible? That means that you could be doing something else at the same time, and still be engaging with the Word of God. I know people who go to sleep each night listening to Scripture. I sometimes do that too. Maybe our sight isn’t as good as it used to be, so listening to God, literally, can be a wonderful thing. And, it is not so strange Biblically speaking. In the Early Church and before, all copies of Scripture had to be handwritten. Things that passed for paper (parchment, papyrus) were expensive, and most people didn’t know how to read. So, Scripture was read aloud and … gasp … memorized. That is more difficult for us today in this written word world.
Maybe reading is just plain more difficult for whatever reason. You could listen. If you would like more information about how to do that, indicate it on your survey, or talk to me after the service. There are more options for doing this than ever, and I am sure that we could find something that would word for you. I listen to Scripture all the time, especially if there is a tricky word in that week’s passage for worship. The bottom line is that however you can do it, do it. It is vital for building or maintaining your relationship with God. You could start small.
One of the most motivating ways that I have found to read Scripture consistently is by being in a Bible study. I will also be putting the coming weeks’ Scripture passage in the bulletin, so you can read ahead if you want. See if you think that I get it right. It could make for some interesting discussions after worship. Or, perhaps the Living Word is saying something different to you. I know that I have mentioned before reading Isaiah 61 in one season of my life, and it saved my life. I was so broken hearted that I did not know how I could live. It is a passage that Jesus quotes, and it says, “[God] has send me to heal the brokenhearted.” It was so meaningful to me. Some years later, I encountered the passage again, and it was good, but it didn’t have the same impact on me. This is likely because that wound was healed. The words were the same, but I was not the same. God was saying something different to me, but I remembered. In addition, I was grateful for the healing that God did in my life.
One way to help us all in our focus on Scripture is an idea that I was given by Catherine DeBoie, Bible Nuggets. One a month, on the third Sunday of the month, we will get a new Bible Nugget on a card. You should have received it with your bulletin. Let’s get out our cards and say it together. If you can’t locate it this moment, it is also printed in your bulletin.
Bible Nugget – Psalm 119:105 NIV
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
We will say our verse together in worship, and you will be able to take it home with you. You can put it in your wallet. You can tape it to your bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, or on the dash of your car, anyplace you will see it on a regular basis. You could look it up in your Bible and see what is said in the verses around it. Consider it a step that we are taking together to get closer to God, the One who loves us with an everlasting love, our Savior.
We are the people of God, perhaps more literally than you have considered before. Maybe you haven’t accepted Jesus. You are not sure of all of this. This Holy Spirit thing, it sounds a bit strange. What is at the center of all of this is a promise. If you accept Jesus, he will never leave you or forsake you. He will be with you always, not promising a charmed life, but helping you, teaching you, showing you, loving you. In this crazy world if we can hold onto that, we can have hope.
Praise be to God!
Let me pray for you.
Lord, the world is indeed crazy. It can look stranger every day, so much so that we can be overwhelmed by it. Our own lives often look like chaos, too. We can be so distracted by the noise that we do not hear Your voice. Help us. Help us to turn down the volume on our TVs, our radios, our computers, our own inner voice that is constantly assaulting us about what we need to do, where we need to be, how we’re supposed to look and feel. Help us hear Your voice. Help us to seek you out every day. You tell us that you will be our best friend if we seek you out.
Some of us Lord, have a hard time understanding how that can be possible. We may even want to believe, but we are not sure. Grant us your grace. Help us to see the truth. Give us your wisdom. Help us to grasp how much you love us and want to be in relationship with us. Help us to see how all together we can make Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.