Posted on Sat, May 21, 2016
April 30, 2016
6th Sunday of Easter
Gospel Text: John 14:23-29
23 Jesus answered him, ‘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. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
Can you imagine what it must have been like being a disciple of Jesus? While they were in the north of Palestine, there seemed to be a routine; They would enter a town and announce that Jesus was coming, Jesus would enter and teach, Jesus would confront the religious leaders, Jesus would dine and make friends with the outcasts even the Roman Soldiers making the religious leaders angry, Jesus would heal someone, feed a crowd, or raise someone from the dead, and then they would move on…
And if you were one of the special twelve, NOT Judas Iscariot I suppose, it all began with a simple call from Jesus saying, “Follow Me.”
Following Jesus was not a typical job compared to the village carpenter, shepherd, tent maker etc, but at least as long as you were with Jesus, you knew you were going somewhere! Presumably you understood that the final destination was Jerusalem. And once in Jerusalem according to your plans, you had high hopes and expectations for this rock-star rabbi because YOU are one of His disciples. … Or, so you thought, because after you did arrive in Jerusalem, Jesus announces to you and the troop that He is going somewhere you ‘cannot follow.’
How can this be? The whole idea of being a disciple is to walk in the discipline of Jesus, TO FOLLOW JESUS AND LISTEN AND SEE! But oh, if they could know what was really going to happen after they arrived in Jerusalem. We know what Jesus is talking about because we just celebrated Easter and we know the REST OF THE STORY. Jesus is on His way to the cross, and it is only through Jesus giving His own body can we be saved and the relationship between the cosmos and God can be made whole, made shalom, made pono, again.
But isn’t that the way life seems to be all the time? Whether it is the disciples following Jesus everyday and seeing and hearing some amazing things, or you and I just trying to live out our days, taking care of our responsibilities as best we can and preparing for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or even further? Things end up always being a little different than we planned…
But my experience seems to be that no matter how well I plan my days or even weeks, there is always a surprise that causes me to change plans. No matter how well we make our plans, life is not about anything definite or nailed down. Plans do not guarantee that our expectations will be fulfilled.
My experiences are full of what I call, “God Things,” and these are the interruptions or surprises, and we would call unexpected occurrences. As a person of faith, I have learned over and over, that the unexpected occurrences in our lives are not always bad, evil, or even disturbing. It is not that I am an optimist or anything, but Paul reminds us over and over that when there is an inadequacy, or an unexpected occurrence that may even shatter us, it is an opportunity to live in the moment with God.
We are called to live IN THE NOW, and not be distracted with the future, so that we can see, hear, or learn what God is teaching us, RIGHT NOW.
If we look back on recent texts, we realize that it was not just Thomas who need to be reassured by Jesus about Jesus’ mission, First Peter (John 13:36), then Thomas (14:5), then Phillip (14:8), and then Judas (not Iscariot) (14:22) ask for clarification about what Jesus is telling them.
As the song in Jesus Christ Superstar so eloquently states, “the disciples had too much heaven on their minds.”
The purpose of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was so outside of what the disciples hoped and planned. Where he was going, was to the Cross, and the Tomb, so that he could rise again before their eyes. This is the place where His disciples “could not go.” But this had to occur because this is the message they would be called to preach and teach after Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit. We preach Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with our Creator God. If they would have understood this, they would have rejoiced, but their hearts and minds were filled fear, doubt, personal expectations, and confusion as they wondered about this place “they cannot go.”
This is a story of faith. Does the church decide on doing things because we are sure the data says we can do things and be sure we will not be disappointed, held liable, or even fail? Do we only do things that WE know we can do, and there will be minimal deviance or unexpected occurrences?
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, there is no way we can try to decide for God what the right path we will choose might be. The Holy Spirit will blow us to where it Wills. Sometimes God shows us very clearly the path we must travel, the outreach program we must attempt, and especially the means in which we can be the Body of Christ, in a world filled with the same amount of fear, greed, hunger, pain, unknowing and doubt as was in the time of Jesus.
Many years ago in our congregation, making the commitment to feed and assist people in need through an organization like Angel Network did not require planning and data gathering, it required faith. Faith to open our hearts and minds to the needs of our neighbors, and faith to give us the courage to just do what Jesus commanded us to do.
Making the commitment to train our members how to care for someone who is hurting and being Jesus for them in the time of need, did not require a strong budget to guarantee “success,” again it required faith to open our hearts and minds to recognize the needs of those hurting in our community and faith to get people on the plane to become Stephen Ministry leaders.
Making the commitment to welcome ALL people into our community of faith didn't require kind hearts and an attempt at being Politically Correct, it required faith to hear the Command of Jesus to welcome, love and serve one another, especially the “widow, orphan and stranger,” because in so doing we become the True Church, the Body of Christ.
Making the commitment to create and attend a worship service that is grace based, centered in the Cross of Christ, didn't require a marketing department, but required faith that recognized the true need of all people, the need to know for certain, we are forgiven, loved and accepted by an Awesome God that is always leading us into places we may feel we cannot go… places we cannot go, unless we have faith.
The apostle Paul went down to a place near the river to worship and a “worshiper of God” came close to hear him share the story of Jesus. Her heart was opened and all the members of her household were baptized. Do you think Paul could have expected such an outcome when we was walking down to the river to worship. He probably had plans in the afternoon to stitch tents and the sort, instead the Holy Spirit entered Lydia’s heart, and Paul had to change his plans and partake in one of the greatest gifts we can ever do, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… A story of faith opening Lydia’s heart to hearing the Gospel, and then rebirth through the gift of baptism… and none of these things were listed in Paul’s iPhone! Amen.
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