5/21/2017 Sixth Sunday of Easter The text is John 14:15-21.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Love – what is it? Where does it come from? There is no subject more written about and no subject more confusing – than love. Tough love causes parents to react to children in ways that the children would not call love at all. For love of country, young men lose lives on battlefields. Puppy love is rarely enduring, and true love is a gift beyond measure.
But if we really want to get a down-to-earth look at love, then we need to go no further than the wisdom of a college football coach, a formidable man who would tell things like they were. Well, one day, during football practice, the quarterback on the coach’s team was messing up play after play. Frustrated by the young man’s lack of concentration the coach asked him, “Meeks, where is your mind, boy?” Meeks flushed red as the coach put his nose into his face, blurted out, “I guess I’m in love.” “Well, if you are that much in love then tell us all about her, since it’s our time you’re wasting.” With a sheepish grin, Meeks blurted out, “She’s 38, 26, 36.” “By geez, boy,” the coach replied. “You’re not in love with a girl. You’re in love with a pile of statistics!”
So, love can mean just about anything. Too often we think of love as an emotion which passively binds us blindly to one another. Yet when love is used in the scriptures, Old Testament or New, it is never that. Love is more than a good feeling, a strong liking, or a bunch of statistics. Love is a word of action that empowers a person to move things in a positive direction. Love is a gift from God. It is a motivator. So, when Jesus is saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” he is telling us that God’s intense love of and for us shown in the sacrifice of his Son will enable us to show love in tangible ways. Love will keep us headed on the right track.
But love, alone, never seems to be enough – for our memories of love fade. Life gets in the way. We need more than a verbal reminder of Jesus goodness and compassion toward us. We need more than an example from the past. We need a relationship to keep us motivated to love God, others and self. So, before Jesus parts from this world, he lets us know that we will not face the challenge of remembering God’s love and keeping the commandments alone. We will never be God-forsaken as an Advocate will be sent to stand beside us, in us, and with us to lend us a hand. And we know that we all need a little help every now and then.
A Texas student named Steve Winger knew he needed help. He was taking a challenging class in Logic from a teacher known for exacting and demanding exams. The final exam was looming, and the professor mercifully told the class that each student would be permitted to bring in a single 8½ x 11-inch sheet with as much information as they could put on that one sheet for help during the test. On exam day, each student came to class clutching their precious pieces of paper with as much information as possible. Some students had crammed lines and lines of font so tiny and so numerous onto that single sheet that you had to wonder how they could read it. But Steve walked in with a single blank sheet and a friend who was a senior student and who had an ‘A’ in Logic. Steve bent down and placed that single, blank sheet of paper on the floor next to his desk. His expert friend stood on the paper.
The professor noticed the extra body in the room and asked what he was doing. Steve piped up, “You said we could bring in whatever we could fit on a single piece of paper for help on this test, well, this is my help and he can fit on the paper!” He had followed the instructions to the letter and was the only student in class to score an ‘A’ since he had his expert friend standing alongside him.
The Holy Spirit is like that expert friend, standing alongside us, supporting us, and guiding us. This gift of God’s presence is Jesus’ parting gift to the disciples who will need to carry on without him. “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You now him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
This Spirit takes up residence in us to remind of God’s love for us. This Spirit guides, teaches and motivates us. We are nurtured by the Spirit so that we might grow in faith and trust of God. And it is this Spirit that keeps us connected to Jesus Christ and each other. The Spirit comes from God’s love for us and it is the gift of God’s love to us – so that we may love as we have first been loved by God.
So, my friends, although love can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, love is the essence of our relationship with God. It is the creative force. It is our beginning and our ending. It is what it means to be a disciple and a child of God. And it is the continuation of what God has in mind for us as we live out our faith each day.
Love one another, my friends, as God has loved you. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.