Easter 6C An Improvisation on Love in Three Acts, John 14:23-29, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Little Rock, May 26, 2019

Easter 6C May 26, 2019 St. Mark’s

John 14:23-29

An Improvisation on Love in 3 Acts

Act I The Present: this Sunday

‘“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.’”

A Little Rock police officer pulls over a car on Cantrell just as the car approaches Mississippi. He asks the driver for his license and registration. “What’s wrong, officer?” the driver asks. “I certainly was not speeding.”

“No, you weren’t” says the officer, “but I saw you giving that obscene gesture as you swerved around the woman driving in the left lane. Then I saw your flushed and angry face as you shouted at the driver in the Hummer who cut you off.”

“Is that a crime, officer?”

“No, but when I saw the St. Mark’s sticker and the ‘Love Lives Here’ bumper sticker on your car, I decided, “This car must be stolen!”

Act II

The Past: Almost 20 centuries ago

‘“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.”’

The last supper is over. Everyone’s feet are clean. Jesus’ hands are still wrinkled from washing all of them when he begins what is called his Farewell Discourse. Jesus’ family is gathered around him and he begins reading the traditional dramatic last testament given by the head of a household just before he dies. “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. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’”

Jesus goes on like this for three more chapters, telling his disciples at least 15 times in total that he is leaving them. It sounds like he is heading off to a family reunion with his father and is leaving them in charge while he is gone. He will be back, but meanwhile his director’s cut raises anxiety in his disciples about how long he will be away and how are they going to manage without him. /

Jesus continues: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 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.’”

Jesus does make an earth shattering, unbelievable return engagement on Easter Day, but then he again exits stage right!

Act III Scene one

The Present and the Past

“’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.’”

A little while becomes a long while. A long while becomes a lifetime, a hundred years, two thousand years. From our seats in the nosebleed section of the balcony, we are so distanced from this scene that we wonder if we have NOT been abandoned after all.

We know heart wrenching dramas about children left in charge of their families when their parents are absent. They become responsible individuals before they are ready. They grow up sooner than they planned. This may be how the disciples are feeling. /

That night Jesus keeps rehearsing them (and us) for just this kind of separation by talking about love, a new kind of love, not the ethical demand to love one’s neighbor, or to love one’s enemies, but to move off center stage to a love like his that brings a peace which the world cannot give. Loving is the only commandment that Jesus explicitly insists his disciples keep. Ignoring it is not an option./

We cry out! “Jesus, this commandment, this role we are assigned is too broad, too difficult, impossible! If the people of your own community who lived intimately beside you two thousand years ago have difficulty following your direction, how do you expect us today to know how to love each other as you do?” We continually fail, forget our lines, fail the audition for the part. Jesus, we need help. How can we possibly perform this role?”/

Act III Scene 2 today 2019

“’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.’”

The house lights come all the way up!!

Jesus stands up from his director’s chair and looks straight at each of us: “OK, OK, I see you still need more help. Little company, the Father and I will make our home with you. I will also ask the Father to send in my name, a personal manager, an agent who will come and stay and prompt you and remind you of all your lines.

“I am going away, and I am coming to you.” / Not a Sunday matinee visit. Not a weekend pass. Not a one-night stand. The father and I and the Holy Spirit will come to you and make our home within you.

John is telling us about a permanent home. In fact, John refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit at least 26 times in these four chapters making up Jesus’ final discourse. Unfortunately, John is a little fuzzy on the details as he often is. He does suggest that we will know the presence of the Spirit of love within us when we know a peace that is different from the peace the world gives. We later learn that it is a peace that is a fruit of the Spirit associated with love, joy, patience,, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23)/

We begin to digest what we are hearing.

So THIS is how we learn to love the way Jesus loves, because he is now inside of us and he is promising to send the Holy Spirit also to be inside of us. We can only follow through on this otherwise impossible new role to love as Christ loves when we are directed, managed by the Holy Spirit and Christ within, inside of us. /

Jesus doesn’t say to his disciples and us, “I’m going to leave you, but I want you to remember everything I’ve ever taught you by getting up each morning and going over the Sermon on the Mount, word for word, so you won’t forget it, so you will have all my teachings at your fingertips when you need them./

Jesus doesn’t say to John, “John, now I want you to get busy and write a book. Call it the Gospel According to John. That way, everyone will have all my words, just as I spoke them to you. Anytime anyone is in trouble, he or she can just open that book, turn and point to just the right verse, and the answer will be right there. Just look it up!”/

Jesus doesn’t say to his disciples, “Now I’m going to appoint Peter as disciple number one. John, you are disciple number two. The rest of you will need to submit to and follow number one and two. They’re in charge when I leave. Anytime you have some tough question, just go ask number one and he will make a ruling on the matter.”

Jesus does not say any of this. What he tells his disciples and us is that he is leaving himself and the Holy Spirit within us. We now have to learn a whole new way of communicating since God is not only outside of us but now inside us. If we want to talk with Jesus, now we may have to sit down some place quiet, off stage, and listen very carefully for the sound of the wind blowing through us, for the sound of the still small voice that speaks in silence more often than it speaks in those soliloquies that just blurt out of us. Listen for that still small voice that will not go away, no matter how hard we try to ignore it, especially when we hear it in community./ Look for a peace that is very different from the peace the world gives, a peace that develops from relationships, not fear.

That night before Christ dies is the dress rehearsal for the guest appearance of the Holy Spirit, the Father, and Christ within us. Look and listen for them in the quiet places of our mind and body and soul. Connect to them, listen to them, nurture them, share them. KEEP the love they bring to our head and our heart and our soul. When we connect to the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit within,/ then we keep that love by getting up/ out of our reserved seat/ and GIVING it away.

Joanna joannaseibert.com

Barbara Taylor Brown, “Good News for Orphans,” Gospel Medicine (Cowley 1995) pp. 79-83.

“Fear and Driving,” Homilectics, May 2004, pp; 26-30.

Richard Donovan, Sermonwriter for Easter 5C, 2004.

Eugene Peterson, “The Story Behind the Story,” Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2003, pp. 4-8.

William Willimon, “The Living Reminder,” Pulpit Resources, vol. 32, May 2004, p. 31.