Text: John 14:15-21
Peace and Grace to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
We are in the season of Easter, in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the life that he gives all of us. Now, today's Gospel come from the book of John. I really like John's Gospel, because it focuses more on the spiritual side of Jesus's ministry. This particular story actually comes at a time before Jesus's death on the cross and resurrection, which might seem odd, given the church season that we are in. But what we are talking about this morning is the way that God speaks to us today, even without Jesus being here himself. So let's look at our text.
So, today's lesson may seem a little jumbled and confusing, so let me break it down. Jesus is talking to his disciples, and already, he knows what's going to happen. Jesus knows even though his disciples have a relationship with him while he was on earth, that they would need something to connect them to God after he died and then went to heaven. Imagine it like this: God is the source of power, like a battery, and Jesus is the extension cord that brings God to world, and all it's people. Now, Jesus knows that he was going to soon be betrayed and would he die on the cross before being resurrected from the dead and coming back. So, Jesus tells his disciples that “in a little while, the world will not see me, but you will see me, and because I live, you will live also.” Jesus knows that there will be a period of time where he will not be in the world, and so Jesus reassures them: I will not leave you orphaned.” That is to say, I will not abandon you. So Jesus asks God for another person to step in when Jesus is gone from the world, and that is the Holy Spirit. Now, remember the God as a battery from earlier? Without Jesus, God still provides the Holy Spirit, so that even though Jesus is not here physically, God is still here with all of us!
Now, on the Spirit, Jesus says that the world does not know the Spirit. Jesus recognizes that the world is a broken and hurting place, and that we are a broken and hurting people. But Jesus says that we are able to know this spirit, because it abides in us. Well, wait. How does that make any sense? It's because God chose us to have the Holy Spirit work through us that we are able to overcome the sin and brokenness of the world.
Okay, great! We have the Spirit. So what now? Well, this is the part the most Lutherans might cringe at when I say “go do good works.” “But wait!” I hear the voices say: “We're justified by faith, not works!” This is true. But while we don't have to do good works in order to earn salvation, we CAN still do good works to show that the spirit is at work in us. Take a look at the first and last verse of today's Gospel reading: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.” Well, what commandment are those? Simply put, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Let me put this in another way: “because we have been shown such great love, we are able to show great love for others.” (Ephesians 2:4, James 2:13).
God loved us first, so much that God sent Jesus to be with us and then to die on the cross. And then, God continues that love for us today through the Holy Spirit. Growing in faith is like falling in love. You cannot do it from what you read alone. Faith and love come from contact with It's love that changes us and how we behave. Over my lifetime, I have seen a number of people who have changed me and my faith. I learned faith, love, trust, patience, determination, and a number of other qualities because of what God was doing through other people. And now, I am able to help take those traits, and give them to others, just as they have been given to me. Faith works through relationship. Because of what God has done for all of us through Jesus, and now through the Holy Spirit, we are free to be God's people in the world, and are able to do good works for the rest of the world.
I'd like to close on a story this morning. I used to run on the Cross-Country and Track teams for my high school and college. We had one girl, named Brittany, who was usually negative about practice every day that we gathered. “This sucks! I don't want to do this!” she would whine. Well, after a while, some of my teammates and I got tired of her attitude. So we got together, prayed about it, and decided that we were going to change her perspective through love and positivity. So, the next day, as Brittany was walking to the gym for practice, one of our friends held the door open for her, smiled and said “today is a great day for a great run.” She looked at him with disgust, and went in. Over the next few days, we repeated the process, holding the door open for her and the other teammates and saying “Today is a great day for a great run,” and it started catching on. Brittany, wanting to show how silly we looked, came over and stood by us while we were holding the door open. “This is a great day for a great run!” She would say in a sarcastic tone. She kept trying to mock us, but soon her tone changed from (Sarcastic) “This is a great day” to (sincere) “This is a great day.” Later on, Brittany became a team captain for the girls, ran on varsity, and was one of the biggest motivators that our team had.
Love changes us. Because of what God has done for you, and you, and you, and all of us, we are able to be connected to God, the source of all good, through the Holy Spirit. And because of this connection, we are able to spread that good to others, anywhere we go. So, my prayer for you this week is that you would let God abide in you through the Holy Spirit, and that you would let that light shine before others, that you may give glory to your father, who is in heaven. Today is a great day for a great run.
Thanks be to God. Amen!