The Gospel of John is not the easiest gospel to read. Having been written a generation after the synoptic Gospels, it contains theology and mysticism that is not found in the other three Gospels and is harder to decipher. Where the other Gospels tell the where and when of the story, John tries to explain why and how. But at first glance this morning’s lectionary reading sounds strangely straight-forward and concrete for John…. or is it?
Listen now for God’s message found in John 14:15-21.
15 “If you love me, you will keep[a] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[b] 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[c] 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.” (The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.)
Jesus starts out with the statement that ‘Loving God equals keeping God’s commandments’. That is simple enough.
BUT…..He then says that although he is an advocate to God for us, he is just temporary and when he leaves he will be sending another that will be with us forever.
This Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of Truth and although non-believers cannot see or understand it, we will have a personal relationship with the Spirit as it will abide within us. And it is through this Spirit of Truth abiding within us that will allow us to experience God and the living Christ. Wow! That is difficult to comprehend but John is not asking us to understand as much as to feel it. We will feel God within us.
Jesus here equates love with action. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. We are asked to love one another no less than Jesus loved us. Yes…. it sounds concrete, but it is also complicated and difficult.
And hearing that, we can dwell on the negative. We can count the ways that we, who claim to follow God, do not love one another. The news is full of it.
In a time when we should be rallying together as a nation and uniting to protect each other, we have found that even the decision as to whether or not to wear a face mask is divisive and threatening.
We are told to love one another no less than Jesus loved us. Fighting for personal gain over the good of the planet certainly does not sound like that.
In the 1990s a movement was rekindled by a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland Michigan from a slogan from a century before which asked ‘What Would Jesus Do?’. Bracelets were made with WWJD printed on the, to help the youth remember the phrase, and eventually, they were worn by youth worldwide. What would Jesus do???? Jesus loved us all and asks that we do the same. Jesus tells us to love one another, no less that Jesus loved us.
This morning we are celebrating our graduates.
Lexie, Ethan, and Jackie are moving into Middle School which is a big transition. Congratulations!
Morgan and Jakk both are graduating from Middle School and entering High School. Another huge transition. Congratulations to you!
Dylan has graduated High School and Robert graduated from UM’s Law School. We are proud of your accomplishments!
And at graduations, the speakers usually talk about aspirations and goals.
So, this morning’s scripture is, for you all, just that. It is a statement of the faithful person’s goals and aspirations. What it takes in life to be a disciple of God.
Perhaps the greatest thing the church can equip you with as you move into your next chapters of life in the security and self-confidence that comes when you know that God is and always will be with you.
Perhaps the greatest hope ad aspiration we should hold for you is that you follow Jesus’ command to love others as Jesus loves you.
And perhaps the truth we hope you will find is to realize that in that love you share with others, you will find your happiness and joy.
Our prayers are for your happiness, your fulfillment, and your joy. Amen.