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The Resurrection Life: Promise

The Resurrection Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  17:55
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Revised Common Lectionary Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14:15–21

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Intro

In this season of Easter we’ve been looking at the ways that Jesus imparts the Resurrection Life on those who follow him, sending us out into the world as people who have come to know that Life for ourselves. We are sent to share it, to live it. The Resurrection Life is not far off, it is not a distant horizon to be a reached “some day”. The Resurrection Life is what we live in now. We are given the Resurrection Life as people set free from the pain of death’s finality. Death no longer holds the victory.
In the Resurrection Life, we’ve found Abundance, Vision, Welcome, and Home. These are foundations we stand upon — the way of Jesus that we live invites us into a radical security and peace that we can find nowhere else.
But then why are we weary? Why do we struggle? Why does death still seem to reign? Why do we feel orphaned?
We have to be honest — the world does not seem much aligned to The Resurrection Life a lot of the time. People die and we don’t know why. We lose what we’ve longed for, our security, our jobs, our hopes, and instead face the seemingly inescapable sorrow of a world spinning madly on.
It is directly to this anxiety that Jesus speaks into in our passage today.

The Promise

Jesus shares this promise with his disciples before his death. He is foretelling how they are to be sustained when he is gone.
Remember last week, that Jesus promised in the preceding verses, to make a home and a place for us. Let’s pick up where we left off there and imagine that we have settled in to that home with him. There is safety and security in that place amidst the Resurrection Life.
But then he starts talking about how he’s going away. Wait, hold on one second?!!
I’m reminded of the times my parents left me and my sister home alone. I remember the thrill of independence, certainly. But I also remember the dread and wonder at who was going to take care of me if an emergency occurred. My parents, however, were thorough and thoughtful and always left me with instructions and phone numbers and people to call. “Remember, you can always call Beverly next door. And here’s the numbers for Grandma and Grandpa (who lived only a couple of miles away) and your best friends’ parents numbers too.” Don’t worry — they said — if you need it, there are others, other Advocates, people who care about you, who we promise will lend a hand.
This feels like how Jesus addresses the anxieties of his followers: Don’t worry, I’ll talk with God and we’ll make sure you’re cared for, in fact, more than cared for, you’ll be given a gift of an Advocate, a Paracletos, a Helper with you always.
This promise was meant to sustain the disciples and all of us who have followed in the way of Jesus with a peace and power that we carry into the world with us. As people formed in the loving way of Jesus and his commandments, we hold this Promised One in us. Like the image of God we were reminded about last week, we carry with us the Spirit.
Actually, a better way to put it is that the Spirit carries us. The Spirit is given to the followers of Jesus’ Way as an Advocate, Helper, and Guide — not a passive force, but an Active Presence of Quickening, Empowering Love.

Feeling Orphaned Still

You may say, “Sure, this promise sounds great, but we feel pretty orphaned still these days. A promise left unfulfilled is not the greatest promise. Sounds more like lip service.”
Yes, that is totally fair. We do feel orphaned and abandoned. We feel loneliness and pain, sorrow and heartache.
And it’s also totally fair to recognize that we feel the joy and hope and exhilaration of the Spirit’s presence at other times.
I am comforted by the way Jesus explains how this is all going to work in verses 18-21. He explains that he will not leave us orphaned and is coming. “In a little while” he’ll be gone, but we will see him living in us, living in each other. “On that day” we will know Jesus is with the Father.
I say I’m comforted because the tense here speaks to a time yet to come. Sure, removed from these words by 2000 years, we’d like to say, well shouldn’t Jesus have come already and shouldn’t we feel this active presence of the Spirit all the time? We feel orphaned still, thank you very much. But the tense here speaks of a “yet to come” sense to this promised.
The Christian way has always wrestled with this promise that is “yet to come.” We are a people of hope and long for a day of Christ’s promise to be realized.
And yet, we are also a people who come to understand how God works in this very moment. The Spirit does arrive, we do encounter the joyful and quickening Presence. So what are we to make of this?
Is it a promise for the future or a promise for today? Is Jesus with us, like he promised, or do we await his arrival still?
The faithful answer to those either/or questions is: Yes.

Already, Not Yet.

Yes. The Spirit already is with us, as promised. And we yet await the arrival of the God’s presence in its fullest form.
People of God — we are a people of the Already, and the Not Yet. We have been a people who wrestle with the tension of the Promise of Resurrection Life and how it is both with us and not yet realized.
This is a mark of the Christian way. We embrace the tension of life which lacks permanence and yet promises eternity. We are a people who hold joy with sorrow — not one for the exclusion of the other. We are a people who abide in the in between.
This can become a philosophical conundrum — how do we reconcile the promises of God if they are not fulfilled yet? How are we supposed to make sense of this if we’re just sitting here waiting.

Beautiful Tension

The beauty here is that because of the tension at the heart of our participation in the Resurrection Life, we are a people equipped to live in the complexities and tensions of the world.
You’ve probably noticed: each week I am trying to find ways for us to map these aspects of the Resurrection Life onto the trouble of global pandemic and all its impact.
Here’s what I’m thinking this week, especially in the light of the Promise of the Resurrection Life: Because we have this tension of the already and the not yet built into our way of life, into our following in Jesus’ way — we are all the more equipped to hold the terrible tension of living in this pandemic.
We see the hope of a vaccine somewhere on the horizon, but not yet. And we live in the hopeful reality of healing and the impact of quarantine measures on the stabilizing of life in the here and now.
As followers of Jesus, when we embrace the tension of the already and the not yet or the promises, we are formed, in our hearts and minds, in a way that allows us to hold the tension of the joy and sorrow of our world, as well. We are prepared for this, even when what we are engaging in can never truly be prepared for.
We are a people equipped to hold the beautiful tension.

Closing: The Commandments

Jesus closes this teaching on the promise of the Holy Spirit with a further fleshed out promise. He says:
The New Revised Standard Version The Promise of the Holy Spirit

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. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

The final word I want to leave us with is the reminder of living in the commandments and way of Jesus. When we practice the love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and justice of Jesus, it forms us. When we practice the commandments, they tune our hearts. They bring comfort amidst the tension and madly spinning world.
We practice our faith together, not to achieve something, but to be people who can live in relationship with the tension, with the sorrow, with the words, “how long O Lord.”
And so my friends, we continue meeting together, praying together, following Jesus’ command to love our neighbor and our enemy. And we do this with the Help of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who accompanies us into this tension.
What grace this is! Amen.
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