Sixth Sunday of Easter: May 26, 2019
Year C, Acts 16:9-15; Psalm67; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29
There is no recording available for this sermon. Please read the text below.
On Friday, I attended an event that I will attend only once in my lifetime, I am sure: a graduation at the United States Naval Academy. A flyover by the Blue Angels that the program said would be at 10:04 and at exactly 10:04 according to the Jumbotron clock that flyover happened, even if it wasn’t at 10:04:00.
From the military precision that began that ceremony to the chaos that reigned on the field after it ended, people knew what to expect. They knew what was going to happen. I think there’s comfort in that sense of security.
Often our lectionary doesn’t give us that sense of security. It jumps around – it isn’t always orderly. After Easter Sunday, shouldn’t we be focused on post-crucifixion and Resurrection stories? We seem to be – at least for a while. There are post-Resurrection stories of a group of defeated fishermen who end up going back to their lives of fishing, only to discover the risen Jesus meeting them for breakfast. There are the travelers walking to Emmaus encountering a stranger who turns out to be Jesus, who breaks bread with them. They discover their hearts gladdened. These are experiences opened to us, too.
But back to that sense of order, that sense of security. After those post-resurrection experiences here we are – the Sixth Sunday of Easter and we’re back at The Last Supper. Jesus is telling his disciples that he will not be physically with them much longer, that he is going to his Father’s to prepare a place for them. He is preparing his disciples for his coming death. Clearly, they need preparation, like many of us, facing the impending loss of a loved one.
Jesus knows that his words will make the disciples anxious. His physical absence from them will change everything they think they know. Now they will be the bearers of the Gospel in the world. This will be hard and strange for them, so Jesus tells them he will not leave them desolate, nor will God. He tells them God will send to them the Holy Spirit, who will teach them and help them remember all the things that Jesus has taught and shown them. God will send an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will do two things: teach and remind.
It sounds reassuring. Because the reality for the apostles and disciples two thousand years ago is that following Christ wasn’t about being comfortable or safe. “Take up your cross and follow me,” says Jesus. But it is the way for those disciples and for billions who followed in the faith.
The early Christians learned they could face persecution, possible arrest, trial, and even execution because of the power of the resurrection they found in the Easter community. They also learned that what happened to them was of little account, because they placed themselves under the gracious God who delivered them from the pall of darkness in their lives.
Today, we also heard about Lydia, a woman of obvious wealth – purple cloth was used for high officials and nobility – and how she embraces Paul and invites him to come and stay in her house. She knows something is missing in her otherwise successful life, and when she hears about Jesus, she discovers an abundant God who fills the empty place in her heart, and she invites God in.
What today’s Gospel tells us is that the Spirit will teach us how God desires and gives us the good things we need, even when we don’t know what they are or how to ask for them.
The Spirit will also remind us, especially when things are not going well, what really matters and to whom we belong. The faith community is the place where we are restored, not in just a feel-good way, but in the depths of our hearts. The sign of the cross, the breaking of the bread at communion, the hymns (read the words even if you don’t sing), and the Scriptures are all reminders of how much we are loved and cherished and redeemed. A wise bishop once said, “Human beings solve problems; God redeems messes.” All of us think we can fix things, but often messes overwhelm us. We are reminded, as the disciples were after the death of Jesus, that God redeems messes – and that includes each of us.
The “good things [that] surpass our understanding” are waiting to be claimed and celebrated by all of us. Awaken to their presence, claim them as your spiritual inheritance, and live them in witness to the risen Lord.
We really don’t know what the future holds. We shouldn’t confuse our imagination or our aspirations with knowing the future. Our faith assures us that God is here and will ultimately be even more present, with richness beyond all imagining. Our images of heaven, or the afterlife, or the end of this world are only metaphors for the love of God. Those who look pore through the text of the book of Revelation and claim to have discovered exact events that are going to happen have usually gotten it wrong.
We do not know what the future holds for any of us in our families, our communities or our nation. We often plan, based on what we know about the present and likely patterns of things that will occur, like the sun coming up in the morning, and setting at night. But with all the glorious and varied possibilities in this world, the things that we expect are going to happen, are most often guesses that either need to be adjusted or are often totally wrong. Let me tell you one more thing. A kindergarten teacher once said something completely and wildly inaccurate about a little boy: “he’s remarkably average”. Said average student is now a rocket scientist.
When envisioning our future, it’s important to incorporate God’s love, and the human love and good things that are there to share. In today’s Gospel, we hear a promise from Jesus that God will send the Holy Spirit, an advocate.
The reality of that promise is more important than anything. Pay attention. Listen. Be alert to the ways God moves in your own life. Have the courage to follow where the Spirit beckons you. The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter is there: and she will change everything. Amen.
 Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34
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