Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here this day to get through this thing called life.” Prince
Let’s admit it, life can get pretty rough. We are confronted with situations in our lives that are not what we expected and we have to learn how to handle them. We gather together in family and communities to love one another through those trying times as the lyrics of Prince’s song Let’s Go Crazy state.
As we listen to the gospel lesson this morning, there has to be a part of us that is left reeling from the words Jesus speaks to Judas and the other disciples. A word of accusation for those that do not keep Jesus’ words. Those that do not keep his word, do not love him! In this we are accused anytime that we do not keep Jesus’ words, and should be compelled to seek repentance of the things that we know we have done wrong and those that we are not fully aware.
The scary thing is the realization that we know we have personally been there at one time or another not following the words of Jesus and his instruction that he has left for us. While the disciples may be feeling much of what we feel when we here Jesus’ first words here, they are also scared for an additional reason. Life in ministry as they have known it since Jesus called them roughly three years earlier is one where Jesus has been beside them, guiding them, and correcting them when they make many of their mistakes. They are now confronted with the reality that Jesus is leaving them. They are scared and unsure of what will happen next. They are in denial that Jesus is going to leave them and they are not quite ready to accept this news.
I am sure that we can all think of a time when we have been left feeling empty and abandoned in our own lives. Thus, another reason for us to come together with family and community. Anytime you move to somewhere new there is a sense of abandonment as you leave behind the familiar. Anytime you have a friend move is also a time where you are felt feeling empty. Leaving an old job can bring about these feelings, whether it was your choice or not. Death is by far one of the times that we are left feeling empty and abandoned. This is what is striking to the disciples, Jesus is not only talking about leaving, he is foretelling his own death. It is in his death that we experience resurrection and in that promise of resurrection he brings hope.
Jesus has an antidote to the disciples and our empty feeling and sense of being abandoned. He not only promises to send the Holy Spirit, in this he leaves his peace. And as he tells us, he does not give peace as the world gives. We may look for things that give ourselves peace in times of conflict, such as running, knitting or crocheting, reading, or the newest thing to rise in popularity, coloring. Now, don’t get me wrong, you may very well find Jesus in these moments of calm and relaxation. These very well may be where you can at times find Jesus, willing to listen and giving a word of advice. Without Jesus, these activities are simply just that. Activities to keep us occupied in our daily lives.
David Lose in his commentary on this gospel shares how, “Jesus gives differently than the world. Jesus gives freely, with no expectation of return, only the hope that transformed by this peace, we might pass it on, giving others the gift we have received.” Too often we have accepted what the world offers as peace only to discover it was a counterfeit promise. The peace of Jesus is not something we can go looking for or grasp, it is something that we receive in our own time. That peace of Jesus comes right into our communities, families, and right into our own hearts.
On occasion I like to see how Eugene Peterson has translated the Bible in The Message. Quite often it will speak to us in terms that may make more sense than what we hear in our usual translations. Here is John 14:22-24:
Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?” “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him–we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.”
Using the gospel, Peterson speaks to our place in time as we look around and see a lack of love in all that transpires over the course of a week. It is the peace of Jesus that moves right into our own neighborhood. It is the peace of Jesus that speaks into our lives when we feel empty and abandoned. Nothing can replace the peace of Jesus as we gather to get through the thing called life.
The peace that Jesus brings us does not require anything from us. Like God’s grace it is given freely. May you always be open to receiving that peace. And as you receive it, may you share it.