ALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: God’s rainbow arches over us; we fear nothing anymore
For what can conquer God?
ALL: Before the beginning, and after the end, God will be.
ONE: Everything works together for God’s goals.
ALL: If God is with us, nothing we do is wasted.
ONE: Like sunbeams dancing on a lake, even our weakest
efforts will gather into the glory of God.
ALL: Gales may buffet, and storms clouds may shadow,
but God will never give up on us.
ONE: A new day has dawned.
ALL: This is the day God gave us-- we will rejoice and be glad in it.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH John 14: 15-21
We all know the deeper the bond with people the MORE PAINFUL THE SEPARATION.
Think how mothers feel that first day of daycare-leaving your little bundle of joy with others for the first time—then there’s the first day of school—left in the hands of the school bus driver and the teachers--another separation.
How about when friends move:
Two little girls have been friends, next-door neighbors, since they were three. They played together, slept each other's beds, ate at each others’ tables. Now they were nine, and they are still tight. And the father of one of the girls is TRANSFERRED TO VANCOUVER. Suddenly there is the ugliest thing in the world, a big old moving van is hauling them away. The deeper the bond, the more painfully is separation --it's a terrible thing.
***And there is one SEPARATION that is always waiting in the wings—DEATH!!
Just think, death is seen on the highway everyday—death can take away your lifetime partner -- Death can even slip into a nursery and claim a little child. You read in the newspaper or watch on TV - she was just 16 years old--he was 17 years old -- they're just teenagers. You see those wreaths and the flowers by the side of the road. You see those students embracing each other how long will it take them to lose pain of separation?
*** Once in God’s time, there was a man in the little country of Galilee from the town Nazareth named Jesus-who was DIFFERENT! There was just something about him--He didn't shine in the night-- he didn't dress in unusual clothes -- he didn't go around saying a lot of religious things all the time. It was the way he related to people caused them to say, “he is a revelation of God and in him we have seen God!” He had charisma that attracted people to follow him.
***The painful side of it however, is he had to LEAVE this world. During his brief life a here on earth, he bonded with a lot of people —the poor –the sick—some religious leaders but especially his disciples.
It seems Jesus’ earthly Ministry was quickly coming to a close he knew the depth of pain his death would cause. In the Gospel of John, we find him talking to the disciples. He's trying to soften the blow-- trying to get them ready for their pending separation.
Picture Jesus sitting on a huge rock surrounded by his disciples—he is attempting to put their minds at ease:--- let’s listen in on their conversation:
—Jesus tells them-“don ‘t be troubled, I am going away but I will be back—just remember the WAY to God that I showed you.”
—Thomas answers “Where are you going? We don’t know the WAY?
Jesus says “Follow my teachings that is the WAY to know God.”
Philip asks, “Show us God---then we will be satisfied.”
Jesus responds, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father-- BELIEVE ME--I AM IN THE FATHER AND THE FATHER IS IN ME.” –but that didn’t work.
Then Jesus says, “Look, if you can’t believe my WORDS, then believe me because of my WORKS. “ you saw me feeding the hungry -- healing the sick –teachings about God’s love---and treating women, children and men with equal compassion.
By this time I imagine Jesus is getting a little frustrated, but He wants them to know that He will always be with them no matter what happens. He ends the conversation with an even more amazing proposition!
He says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.—Love God & do to others as you would like them to do to you.” If you keep these commandments I WILL BE “IN” YOU AND YOU “IN” ME hangs out.
--This morning I would like us to think about this “IN US” for a few minute!
”IN” is such a tiny word. It doesn’t seem too important. Nonetheless Jesus is promising to be “IN” the people who keep his commandments.
Now that doesn’t sound too complicated after all Jesus gave us just two commandments; Love God and do unto other and if we follow his teachings—do we will feel his SPIRIT working IN us.
And today--we who think ourselves as the heirs to those disciples some are wondering is Jesus actually “IN” us? How would we know?
That “IN” Jesus talked about is “the Spirit of Truth, Jesus has promised would be with us. regardless what happens to him. It's easy for most of us when we hear talk of the “Spirit” we immediately think of warm, personal feelings, feelings of security, of connection with God.
It’s like SINGING THOSE OLD GOSPEL HYMNS especially with the Franklin Assemble they give us a good feeling and a sense of security as we come together to sing our hearts out. Many of our hymns seem to focus on the Spirit offering us comfort especially when the world around us seems to be spinning out of control.
The scripture tells us having the SPIRIT IN US is not always a warm cozy feeling—but, Jesus tells us the spirit can be easily recognized when we put “LOVE OF GOD AND SERVING OTHERS” into practice. Not thinking about how we feel.
In her diary, Mother Teresa of Calcutta recorded her lifetime of struggle, with the darkness that plagued her because, FOR MORE THAN HALF HER LIFE SHE DID NOT FEEL THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST’S SPIRIT. Some consider her even greater saint because in spite of the dark, she continued to be faithful, she steadfastly pursued the mission to which she believed she had been called. She did as she pictured what JESUS would DO!!
Her story suggests that the presence of the Spirit doesn’t necessarily have to do with how one feels.
Some like to think the Spirit “IN” us is some kind of mystical cosmic union?-- An abstract notion? And I can understand this--sometimes the feelings of the Spirit can be allusive.
--The IN- house-love Jesus wants his hearers to embrace is not an abstract philosophical concept but LIVED REALITY.
This LIVED REALITY is revealed in his life—his actions—and his relationship with the people he lived among.
Think of the meals with outcasts and sinners-- Think of the money changers in the Temple-- Think of the healing and the preaching-- the travels between Galilee and Jerusalem. Jesus was certainly a force on the move!
We will come to understand the “LIVE REALITY” of the SPIRIT when it moves us to a life of Loving God and serving others.
Jesus knew it is hard to understand such a strange teaching So Jesus gave us an example we will all remember his point about love when he took up a basin of water-a towel and he washed the feet of those who called him teacher and Lord
There's a scene in Alan Paton's novel AH, BUT YOUR LAND IS BEAUTIFUL, that may illustrate this life-giving power of love and the assurance that God's love discloses what is most true.
Paton describes a situation in South Africa during apartheid, when laws prevented blacks South Africans from mixing with the whites. A white OFFICIAL JUDGE who had worked with the blacks to achieve a better life died. The white judge’s family invited members of the black community to his funeral, but the black were turned away from the funeral by the white officials. It was a terrible insult!
Sometime later, Isaiah Buti a black pastor, visited a white justice of peace, a friend of the dead judge, and a friend of the black South Africans.
He invited the judge to participate in the Good Friday service where the congregation would observe. Jesus’ practice of WASHING THE DISCIPLES FEET. He asked the chief justice to wash the feet of the member who had been a servant in the dead judge's home and at cared for his children. The justice chief readily agreed.
When the time came for the judge to wash Martha Fortuin’s feet, the judge came forward and washed and dried her feet. Before he rose to return to his seat, he took her feet and gently kissed them both. It was a gesture that set healing in motion, because in that simple extra expression of care, he disclosed that truthfulness and the life-giving power of God's love.
This was the SPIRIT OF TRUTH living within the very fiber of his being-- the judge's career was adversely affected, but he had no regrets, because he too experienced the life-giving power of love helping us recognize we are all equal in the eyes of God.
This may seem rather radical for most of us but there is another interpretation to the words IN YOU which might give each of us a way to begin trusting THE SPIRIT THAT DWELLS IN US.
** The Greek words usually translated “IN YOU” can be also translated “AMONG YOU.” How might it affect our ability to receive Jesus promise-- if we put less emphasis on our individual lives and more on the COMMUNAL LIFE OF OUR CONGREGATION
Look around in our community, our church community as well as the greater community in which we live and serve-- see where we can recognize the picture --of Jesus on the move. See where, in the familiar life of our community, we can detect the presence of the Spirit of Truth and have it captivate our very hearts and draw us into acts of love.
It might reduce our anxiety whether we are really right with God? It might in fact, lead us to focus our energy on an active life of faithful service.
AND THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE!!