Gospel: John 14:23-29 23Jesus answered [Judas (not Iscariot),] “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. 24Whoever 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. 26But 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. 27Peace 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. 28You 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. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In today’s reading, we hear Jesus promising peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,” he says. This time, these words come to us on Memorial Day Weekend, a time some people critique as a glorification of war, but that’s not what we’re about here.
While we are not glorifying war, we also are not exactly living in peace. Our legislative and executive branches of our government are jostling with one another. In an article apparently updated on May 16 of this year, it was reported that there were already 23 different people vying for the Democratic nomination for the presidential race in 2020, and 2 for the Republican. There were two more of each in the category of “Might Run.” I’d not describe the political climate in this country as peaceful.
In recent weeks, I’ve also noticed more articles on reasons why people who are female should not be preachers, and one by a female evangelical who stands at odds with her denomination because there is no path for her preaching position within it. Then there is the article on whether a female presidential candidate would survive putting her haircut on social media. The article refers to a live-stream haircut for Beto O’Rourke, and suggests we try a Google search, promising we’d find images at least as far back as then Vice President Richard M. Nixon wrapped in a cape for a trim at the barber. However, it seems that what makes a guy more down-to-earth actually makes a woman more vain. Go figure. I saw “Aladdin” Friday evening. There, too, the princess was urged—or maybe she was ordered—and expected to be silent.
“My peace I leave with you,” Jesus says, but life does not seem very peaceful.
There is technology today that can insert captured video of a person into another video that is completely different. It’s been used to make it look like politicians are saying something that they never actually said. And now, it’s being used to show people—even regular people like you and me—doing things they’d never actually done. It might be fun to make it look like you’ve taken a space-walk, or even a trip to Italy. But now they’re putting ordinary people into pornographic movies as a way to degrade them.
Jesus says, “I do not give to you as the world gives.” THANKS BE TO GOD!
The world gives as competition. The world gives as revenge against even imagined slights. The world gives like a stingy Scrooge McDuck.
We live in the world, a world that bites and scratches and steals and cheats and hates and kills and spurns and mocks.
Our high school used to match the students with songs. One of my friends was matched with the song, “Rag Doll,” because her fluid joint movements. She thought the editors were looking down their noses at her clothing. We live in a world that pushes people down.
Today’s Gospel Time was about “Keeping Words.” It was about promises, and hope, yearning for a world not identified so closely with the biting and scratching, the hatred and the mockery, the killing and the cheating, the stealing and the snobbery.
How does this happen?
It happens first to know that while we have failed to live well at bearing the promises of God to our neighbors, God washes us clean, giving us the ability to start fresh, without being completely defined by our past mistakes.
This does not mean that people will easily forget or forgive as God does. People might refuse our offers because of what we have done in the past. How many times must Charlie trust Lucy to hold the football in place? How many times can we treat someone badly before they give up on us? How many times must we behave well in order to re-earn their trust? Will we ever?
We do not need to earn God’s trust, because God’s love is unconditional. God knows, though, what the world is like. God knows that the world is more likely to pull the football away than to let Charlie know the thrill of kicking that ball. God knows that the world is more likely to kill Jesus than to emulate his love, even today.
What does it take for us to live in the love of God? What does it take to share that love with others, rather than merely counting on it for ourselves? We see the beauty of the depiction of the cross in our churches and in art all over the world. We might see the face of Jesus dying on that cross, begging forgiveness for the sin that put him there, mourning the lack of love among people of the world.
We see God’s love as Jesus dies on the cross. We see God’s love in the reported and proclaimed resurrection. Where else?
Today, we see God’s love where people work together, as they strive to assist victims of disaster, as they care for others and for all creation. We see God’s love where people of all varieties sit down with one another and share with one another. We see God’s love wherever God’s Holy Spirit enters in to assist us to withstand the unloving ways of the world and to act out God’s love instead.
It isn’t easy. Sometimes we step on people’s toes, even without intending to do so. We might have been following the lead of someone we trusted, of someone who should have been trustworthy.
And now we must move forward. We must move beyond what was into what is better for the community.
See what is depicted on the wall. See these people working together. Imagine other ways that community comes together.
In the announcement loop, you may have noticed pictures from the tornadoes this past week, with Lutheran Disaster Response as a way that you can come together with assistance for those affected. Recently, a postal worker retired—I believe it was in Virginia, and he was so well-loved by those on his route that they and those who noticed the twitter blog about his final route have raised money to send him on a long-desired vacation to Hawaii which he could never afford.
What ways can we come together as community? What ways can we be neighbor? What ways can we live the peace that is promised and left to us by Jesus, gifted to us in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit? Let us walk with Jesus.