Sunday, May 21, 2017

Father Riley's sermon from May 21, 2017....and more...

[Notes: (1) Sunday, May 28, John Godfrey will be baptized in Christ Episcopal Church at the 10am service.  A reception will follow.  (2) Our Vacation Bible School Team from St. Barnabas and led by The Rev. Mitzi George will join us May 28 and conduct VBS May 29 thru June 2. (3) Also, UTO Spring Ingathering will be May 28, 2017.  Please make checks payable to: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society with UTO on the memo line.]
EASTER VI - A - 17                JOHN 14. 15-21

St. John’s gospel is often referred to as the “love” gospel because of the many references to the word love that come from the lips of Jesus contained in the Apostle’s writing. Today’s passage is but one example, however, an important one.
It is because he loves them, Jesus tells his friends, that he will ask the Father to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them into all truth, and it is love that will make his presence known to them after he has returned to the Father to prepare a place for them.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus is speaking of love and promise to his disciples in the upper room on the eve of his arrest. He has given them the 11th commandment, to love one another as He has loved them. All of this talk of love comes after Judas, the betrayer, has left the room. It is but the tip of the iceberg of his final teaching of his earthly ministry, also known as his final discourse.
His words are punctuated with promises; “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you; because I live you will live. “ His words were meant to bring comfort to them, but he can tell by the look on their faces that they are confused and are in doubt. It isn’t that they don’t want to believe what he is saying, but that they don’t understand what he is saying.
In the beginning of his final discourse, Jesus talked about his going away and coming again and the fact that it was to the disciple’s advantage that he did go away. How can this be? They wondered. It was for the disciples, as we say, both good news and bad news.
Like most of us, they dwelt on the bad news. Love, however, is the key to their understanding what Jesus is saying. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Those who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me and will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
We show our love for Jesus by keeping his commandments, most importantly the one to love as he loves us. In turn, He sends the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to lead and guide us. The gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence is not a substitute for Christ, but only makes Christ’ presence and the Father’s presence in Him, more real.
This is something new. In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God was given to the prophets to inspire them to speak God’s words. However, in the New Testament teaching the Holy Spirit is poured forth not only on specific chosen witnesses but also on all the faithful believers in Christ.
It was a lot for the disciples to take in all at once. There was no way they could possibly try to absorb all of what Jesus was saying in such a short period. It did not come together for them until the Day of Pentecost, when Jesus’ promise of sending another “Advocate,” even the “Spirit of Truth” who would be with them forever, descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire.
In doing so, the Holy Spirit loosed their tongues to speak in languages understood by all who witnessed it. Then, like the two on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Day, their hearts burned as they realized all that Jesus had said and done. Empowered, then, by the indwelling of the Spirit, and with this gift of knowledge, the disciples boldly proclaimed the gospel throughout the empire.
The Spirit of Truth comes to give God’s people the strength and energy to do what they have to do, to endure what they have to endure, to live to God and witness to His love in the world. As St. Peter writes “…even if you suffer for doing what is right,” you are blessed “…if suffering should be God’s will…for Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”
To be in God is to live in Love. Love and obedience are gifts of grace that come from the Spirit. If we do not understand anything else from today’s gospel lesson, we need to understand this.
This Thursday the Church celebrates the Ascension of Christ. Were it not for the Ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father, where He continues to intercede for us, as one of us, the coming of the Holy Spirit would not have occurred.
It was to our benefit, as it was to the disciples’ that He went away. Yet His presence was made known to them after His resurrection and continues to be made known to us today. A condition of the realization of the presence, however, is love’s obedience. In that, nothing has changed. Love reveals Christ.
His Ascension assures his omnipresence to his own wherever they may be and forever. The Holy Spirit comes from the Father in Jesus’ name and dwells with his followers. He is in fact the presence of God in Christ continuing with his faithful servants and witnesses. After the Ascension of Jesus, the Spirit fulfilled and perfected Christ’ work and still does.
Only those who love Jesus and keep his commandments will know him, for the world cannot receive him. The work of the Spirit is two-fold: he guides and teaches God’s truth and brings to remembrance what Jesus said and reveals those things that are to come by virtue of what Jesus accomplished.
The last three verses present a circle of promises that are ours because of Jesus’ being with us by the Spirit. We will “see” him, plain to the eye of faith; a seeing that is also a knowing. We will live with his new life because He lives. We will know that He and the Father are “in” each other, and that we are “in” Him and He “in” us. In addition, we will be joined to Jesus and the Father by an unbreakable bond of love.
Those who love Jesus will be loved by the Father and by Himself, and both will dwell with the believer with a “spiritual” presence, which the world cannot understand. Love of Christ creates a community of love.
“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding; Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things; may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Amen+

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