The 6th Sunday of Easter (C)
There was a 16 years old boy named Johnny who learned an interesting lesson one day. It wasn’t a big deal really, just one of those little unpleasant interactions with a stranger that takes you off guard at first…and then sticks in your craw. A situation that you just try to learn from I guess. It had probably been his mother who had sent him down town with a parcel to be mailed at the post office. With a bright disposition, and generally a happy kid, Johnny was in a particularly fine mood that day. No particular reason, it was just one of those days when a person has a sort of peace within him and a spring in the step. Johnny was whistling as he strolled across the Post Office parking lot, and just as he was getting ready to go inside, he noticed a woman approaching the building at high speed. Having seen her reflection in the glass door, he did…I don’t know if it was the natural thing…I guess he did what his mother taught him to do…something that was apparently quite insulting to the woman…He held the door open for her. With a dark scowl, the lady pierced Johnny through with one look. Angry and cold, she asked him, “Do you think I can’t open a door for myself!?”
Now, for a moment he considered a witty reply, but something held back his tongue…Oddly enough, as the woman stormed off ahead to get her mail, his thoughts were turned toward Jesus.
The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus, the son of God, who came into the world, in order to shed light into the darkness. In order to bring peace in a way that is incomprehensible to the world (Here “world” is used to mean humanity in general. The population at large which does not understand what makes for peace). Jesus’ reason for shining his light: Pure and simple--all of this is done out of love.
Listen to some selected quotes from the Gospel of John:
John 15:12 -- “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (From this we learn that Jesus loved his people and commanded them to love each other).
John 14:31 --…”I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know my love for the Father.” (This tells us the reason for Christ to come into the world—the reason that he lived his life—and this was so that the world (humanity in general) might know his love for the Father).
So, here we have a familiar theme: Love for God and love for neighbor…this is the goal and this is the struggle that we face. Yet this is also the command that God gives to us through Jesus Christ—to love God and to love neighbors as ourselves.
Yet we all know how difficult it is. In a way we can all relate to the entire story of Jesus as presented in John…In a way, we live the struggle every day…For we have each face situations, like Johnny’s visit to the post office, when we come into the world, trying to bring love/trying to bring peace—trying to care—trying to be the person that God wants us to be; trying to honor the gift of life by living it well; trying to be true to the creation that God has given us.
Yet, inevitably we are greeted by distrust and disappointments. Again and again, we learn that love of God and love of neighbor is much harder than it looks. Just like Jesus’ original love, our love can so easily be rejected by a world that does not trust…a world that simply does not believe in love as a motivation—a world that didn’t trust Jesus Christ and is surely not going to trust you. Jesus warns us of this in the Book of John, saying, “Remember, the world hated me first (John 15:18).”
Yet Jesus encourages us still, saying “do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
And he promises that, although he is going to be with the Father, that doesn’t mean that the Spirit of God will not come to us. In fact, that is precisely the promise. With us, there is the Spirit of God…the Holy Spirit. Called the Advocate, or the mediator, or intercessor—a Spirit that is sent from God to give us help. Jesus says that the Spirit will be here, with his disciples, teaching us, and calling to our minds—reminding us—the things that Jesus taught us.
Perhaps the best name of all for the Holy Spirit is this one: Counselor—one who listens, knows, draws out and advises, reminds you & guides you- points you out towards the neighbor and up towards Jesus.
So why does the Counselor teach and remind us? Because we need to hear the word of promise over and over, to remind us who we are and what God has called and equipped us to do & be. Like an older sibling, who has a new baby brother or sister come home, and the parent hears the older brother whisper to his baby sister in the crib , "Do you remember what God is like, because I'm starting to forget!" In the face of all the goodbyes (especially during this season of graduation), the changes and transitions in life, even death , the Holy spirit tells us the truth about ourselves, about God and about Jesus, and assures us , “I am with you, be at peace. Peace be with you.” "Rev. Caroline Kelly, I quote "Letting go is hard, in the midst of all our goodbyes, when life seems fractured, when everything around us seems to be changing, remember that God promises to be in us and with us forever. We don't even have to reach out for God; God has already claimed us..."
And the Spirit does not abandon us. The very living presence of a loving God, will give us peace—peace that the world at large does not understand.
Jesus’ peace: It happens in the midst of all this turmoil—Remember, this whole conversation between him and his disciples happens immediately before his arrest. This is the kind of peace God gives. Peace in the midst of Chaos. Perhaps this is not the calming of the storms of life, but peace in the midst. Perhaps this is what held Johnny’s tongue that day. Even though he was hurt by the anger of a stranger, he had peace within him…You know, I’d like to think Johnny was never, ever deterred from opening doors for folks. I think he probably went right on opening them, not for anything in return…certainly not to upset anyone. No, simply to be kind—
And what could our world use more than a little more kindness?
Brothers and sisters, you are inheritors of that promise. That’s who we are. Christ promised to accompany us through life, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. So that we might not be discouraged when the kindness of God—the only real hope for the world—is rejected for us, just as it was for him. That love, which has been poured out into our hearts must prevail…for we are the light of the world, in Jesus’ name.
Joshua W. Magyar,
Pella Lutheran Church
418 W. Main Street
Sidney, MT 59270