Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. (Jn 14:23-29, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I remember this old movie (the way things are going these days, I expect it to be remade), a man accidentally gets locked in a bank vault for the weekend. When the doors automatically open he and comes to the street everybody is gone. Something terrible has happened and the whole population of the earth, every man woman and child, is gone. “Where is everybody?” he shouts at the empty buildings of the Manhattan skyline. He’s been left utterly alone.
It’s scary to be alone. It’s not the way we were created. When God breathed the breath of life into the very first man, Adam, He created for him, a helper, a woman, to be his life companion. Because even though God said the man was “very good” He also said that it was “not good that the man should be alone;” (Ge 2:18, ESV) We were created with the ability and the need to be in relationships. We were created to be in relationship with one another, but we were especially created to be in relationship with God. No one really likes to be alone, that is having no relationships of any kind. Nobody wants to be left alone forever.
In our Gospel lesson for today we see that the disciples, too, were afraid of being left alone. That’s exactly what Jesus has just told them. “I am going away and you cannot follow me, yet.” And you can understand the disciple’s feelings of fear. Jesus was drawing the attention of everyone. He spoke against the religious leaders of the day saying they were misleading the people. It made the religious leaders angry. Jesus stormed into Jerusalem and drove the money changers out of the temple. The situation seemed to be getting worse every day. So as the disciples gathered around Jesus in the Upper Room the night that He was arrested, they were all sitting in the shadow of fear. In the midst of all of this Jesus tells them He is going to leave them. They didn’t know what was going to happen. (Jesus did) They didn’t want to be left alone, especially now, with Jesus’ enemies breathing out threats and hatred against them. Jesus knew about their fear and spoke to them promises of God’s continued presence through the Holy Spirit. Just look at the strong words of promise found here: “will come to him and make our home with him”; “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you”; “I am going away, and I will come to you.” All of this is to assure the disciples that “I will not leave you as orphans.” (Jn 14:18, ESV)
Being abandoned and alone is a terrible experience. It just isn’t the way we were created to be. We’ve all seen News stories about abandoned children. We see people leaving one another all around us as the excuses for divorce continue to climb. In spite of how we were created we continue to make a mess of our relationships. We continually push people away from us. We are constantly pushed away by other people. We all know what it’s like to be alone. We’ve all been alone. The quiet emptiness can be relieving at first, but it quickly wears thin. We need noise, or people around.
Sometimes we are alone because we leave. We get angry and stomp out of the house. We feel threatened so we run away. We become uncomfortable with someone who is different from us, so we walk on the other side of the street. We separate ourselves from other people out of fear, or anger, or hate, or even bigotry. Sometimes we even separate ourselves from God. We ignore His desire to gather us together to hear His Word. We think we have good excuses. There is always work to do. There is always more sleep that is needed. There is always something that seems more important and immediate. “God will be there next week.” We separate ourselves from God by not speaking to Him in prayer. I’m not talking about getting down on your knees before bed time (although that’s a good thing to do). I’m talking about speaking with God during the busy moments of the day. We fail to remember that God wants to be a part of every part of our life. He wants us to speak to Him about everything that is happening, all the time. It’s not that He doesn’t know already what’s going on it’s just that God wants active communication. But we forget, or worse, pass up on the opportunities to speak. We push God from our minds during the day. We abandon Him, through our lack of prayer, our lack of communication and through our own actions we feel alone, and apart from Him.
Sometimes we feel alone because we are real victims of other people sinful actions, their rejection or hatred of us. You know what it is like to try to repair a broken relationship, but no matter what you do, nothing works. Families are often lonely places, where people are isolated instead of being full of the loving relationships that should thrive there. We don’t have much cause to feel alone because of racial prejudice, but class prejudice is certainly alive and well in Creston, Iowa. Many people are on the outside, and won’t ever be let in.
Well, it really doesn’t matter weather we are at fault or not. All of us have at times felt alone and abandoned. All of us have been alone. That is when God tells us that even if we are responsible for our being alone He is still with us. Weather we push ourselves away from Him, or weather we are rejected by other people; God promises to be with us always. Jesus words to the disciples speak the promise this way… “we will come to [you] and make our home with [you.]”
That promise was backed up by the very fact that Jesus was there with them in flesh and blood. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14, ESV) The word became flesh and pitched His tent with us. The Word became flesh and made His home with us. He became one of us, a living and breathing person. The sin of Adam and Eve, the sin of the disciples, the sin of you and me, pushes God away. But Jesus closes the gap by becoming a person. Right there in Jesus is God and man without any separation. "What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?" Joan Osbourne's song says. That’s Jesus, taking on everything it means to be human; breathing and eating, sleeping and laughing, crying and walking and dying. Jesus closes the gap, the separation between God and man, in the only way that really makes a difference, by living and dying to bring an end to the wages of sin by taking on himself the punishment we all deserve. Sin is what separates us from God, and sin is what Jesus destroys in his life death and resurrection. When God promises to be near, He makes it true… in Jesus. His Word of promise is true because He is God’s Word Made Flesh that “dwelt among us.”
That’s what’s really important to remember about the words that Jesus spoke to the disciples. They are a promise. And all the promises of God, in Jesus, are true. They are made true by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. The one who gives his life on the cross and rises again from the dead can make any promises he makes true. And here He promises the Holy Spirit as an advocate and comforter, who stands with us. To… teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s Word, God makes His presence known and felt. He brings peace even to people who are troubled and feeling alone. That peace comes from knowing that we are not alone and abandoned. And that’s not peace as the world gives but God’s sure peace that can only come through His presence and through His Word. Just think about it, the very same Word that was spoken in the beginning “let there light… and let us create man in our own image”… the very same Word that brought life to Adam, brings life to you. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Those Words of God bring life and give you identify you as a Child of God. And those words give to you all the promises of God. So no matter what you think separates you from God… how ever far away God feels is really just an illusion. God’s work in you doesn’t have anything to do with how you feel how you think. God’s work is true because it comes to us through His Word, through Jesus Christ and His life, death and resurrection, and through the promised comforter, the Holy Spirit, sent to you and me just as Jesus promised.
God’s presence with you makes all the difference. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to shape and form you. As you go about your life, even when you feel alone, God’s Word works to comfort you. God’s Word works to tell you how to live your life in service to other people. Yea, that’s talking about not being separated from them, that’s talking about not being alone. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit’s work right here, as He puts God’s Word into you from right there. You and I live and show God’s love to one another. Because even when we feel separated from each other we know that God, in Jesus, is where “two or three are gathered in my name.” Anger and trouble among Christians doesn’t need to separate, doesn’t need to make us feel alone. And The Holy Spirit also works to show us ways to share God’s love out there, with people who are not members of this church, even people who don’t know about God’s love for them in Jesus.
We can freely love other people, that is be with them and end our separation from them because the Holy Spirit makes our lives His home. Because God is always with us through the Holy Spirit, our lives are really a place of refuge, a place where we aren’t ever alone. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.