The Pas Pentecost Sunday
15 May 2016
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b pg 844
John 14:8-17, 25-27
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire: strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our gospel for today shows us some very compelling images.
In today’s gospel, Jesus shows us the Father.
He shows us the Father in the same way that by looking in a mirror, I’m able to connect with my mother, in the same way that I drive like my father, in the same way that I hear my grandfather’s words of wisdom come from my lips or I try to reproduce my grandmothers brown sugar cocoanut frosting.
We see God the Father through Jesus actions, through Jesus’ teachings, through Jesus’ instruction to each one of us to “do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things… because I am going to the Father.” (Jn 14: 12)
Greater things that are possible with the blessing and the gift of the Holy Spirit that arrives for the first time, today, in the lives of the believers in Jerusalem. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4)
But that’s not all. Today we see and hear Jesus instructions to each one of us. Jesus tells us “if you love me, keep my commands,” and this harder than it looks, really, because Jesus only gives us two commands. (Jn 14:15)
Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Jesus tells us to make the love of God something that fills our every waking moment, something that is able to be a part of every molecule of our existence, but not only each of us, but also our relations between us and everyone, every part of creation that we have the opportunity to interact with every day.
I know that this sounds like a tall order, after all there are parts of creation that we have little to no respect for because of the interaction of humanity, the way humanity has or hasn’t been responsible stewards toward the environment, or each other, but keeping that in mind Jesus second command is even taller. Jesus also commands us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
And this is basic, but it’s also the most difficult command that Jesus gives us – to love our neighbours as we love our selves – which actually means that we have to love ourselves.
And we know that this can be difficult, even on good days.
I know that in my life this is something that I have to work on, every day. After all there is ‘personal body image,’ how I feel about the shape and fitness level of my body. There are the decisions and the results of the decisions that I’ve made in my life. Yes, included in that are the decisions that have brought me to be here with you, today, but if even one of those decisions was made differently, it could have just as easily led my life in another direction.
And what about the advice, the intuition, the information that has guided me, led me, and formed the person I am, today, and how I respond to situations, even those to whom I gravitate to as friends.
There are so many parts of myself, of what makes me, me. And Jesus tells me, as he tells each one of us, as he tells the disciples, to love our neighbours as we love ourselves; and this starts with loving ourselves.
But the thing is the love of God, the love Jesus spouses in his every word, and action has the ability to fill our lives, fill our past, and fill our future. God’s love in Jesus teachings surrounds us, today, and tomorrow, and has the ability to fill our every molecule.
We are able to love ourselves because God first loves us.
We are able to love our neighbour as we love ourselves because we are beloved of God, because we are a part of God’s creation and “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son that whoever believes in God shall not perish but have eternal life. For God didn’t send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16-17)
We can love because we are made of love; and from such a divine gift, we are able to live in the love and peace of God.
And this brings us to the third image for today – Peace!
Jesus tells us “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I don’t give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t be afraid.” (Jn 14:27)
Jesus gives us Peace, and not just any peace. Jesus gives us his peace, God’s peace.
This isn’t just any ordinary sense of peace.
This is the sense of peace that doesn’t allow us to put ourselves or any one else down. It doesn’t leave any room for fear, it doesn’t even encourage us to draw lines between ourselves and others because we are all loved as a part of God’s creation.
We are all included in this sense of God’s peace, and we are all a part of the creation in which we live and move and have our being. Many times we find that sense of peace when we meditate on God’s creation, but in doing that we often leave ourselves out of the mix. We contemplate creation, but we leave out humanity, we leave out all who are stewards of creation.
When we have that peace in our hearts, in our lives, is an incredible sensation where we know that although we don’t have the answers, all will be well. Our gospel passage for today comes to us when Jesus is describing that he will ascend to heaven and that we know where he’s going. At the same time, our fears of losing Jesus, he promises us the helper, the Holy Spirit who will come and help us in the way that Jesus never can. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we can do so much more in the world than Jesus ever could.
Yes, Jesus ascended to heaven, to God, but today, today we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit amongst us in the most dramatic way possible.
We see the followers of Jesus, the disciples and apostles huddled in the upper room, still afraid of what reprisals might come from the Jews and the Romans. We see them receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as we see the spark of a fire begin – a fire that spreads amongst all of these people and just eliminates their fears in the joy of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, an enthusiasm that seems to resemble an all-night party with much reveling and much drinking.
We see the gifts of the Holy Spirit resembling tongues of flame over the heads of everyone in the room. We see the work of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the words of Jesus in today’s gospel. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can continue the works of Jesus in the world.
Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, today, we can see the fulfillment of Jesus words to the disciples. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” (Jn 14:12)
The result of the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the world, the followers of Jesus spill out of their room, no longer hiding behind closed and locked doors, but spill out into the world, and each person hears them speaking in their own language. The enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit fulfills the words of the prophet Joel, when God pours out God’s spirit on us, the people.
A spirit that is first named in our lives when we are baptized, a spirit that guides us and helps us to fulfill God’s will, Jesus teachings in the world around us. A spirit that is stirred up in the rite of confirmation that we celebrate next week. A spirit that is part of our lives from the time we come into the world, to the time we rejoin God in the next.
Peter reminds us of the words of the prophet Joel, who says “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Jn 14:17-18)
So, I want to look at this again. Jesus gives us God’s peace because we are asked to keep Jesus commands.
Jesus commands us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Jesus commands us to embrace love of God in and for our lives, in and for each other.
Because when we can love as we are loved by God, then we can do the works that Jesus has left us to do in and for the world, for the benefit of creation all around us.
And when that happens, when we can realize that it is Jesus teachings that bring us to God’s love for us, for each other for all of creation, then we will see God, the Father, through our actions, our deeds, our words of wisdom benefiting the world and all of creation.
And what a beautiful world it is that we live in when we see the love of God in each other’s faces, the beauty of the Holy Spirit in each other’s eyes, and the wisdom of Jesus in each other’s voice. We can see this all because we’ve found the love of God in and for each one of us in our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our very strength.