Sustaining Peace: Dwelling in the Word November 29, 2020

Advent Candles by lapenn on flickr.com

Bible Reading:  John 14:22-31 NRSV

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to [Jesus], “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.  25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.  This is the Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to You, O Christ.

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?  What do I have questions about?

2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why? 

3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  How does this story intersect with my life? 

4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?

Dwelling in the Word

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Since the very beginning of the pandemic, Patrick has been leading Morning Prayer online three days per week with a small group of regulars.  Each time, we pray, listen to music, and dive deep into study of the Word of God and what it means in our lives.  My favorite part of these times together, however, comes at the very end.  We end by wishing peace to one another, and then someone always says, “Blessings for your day.”  Wishing peace can be a powerful thing, can’t it?  It can bring calm to a storm, healing to relationships, and a firm anchor to which we can tether our lives.  And that is exactly what Jesus is giving to his disciples in our text for today.

         This section is not usually read during the first Sunday in Advent, but it does go with the Advent theme of peace, and perhaps especially peace in our time.  It comes from a section of John called “The Farewell Discourse,” and is basically Jesus’ final sermon on Maundy Thursday, meant to strengthen the disciples and give them direction after he is gone. 

One of the disciples asks why it is that they, the disciples, get to see Jesus as he really is, and not the whole world.  Jesus answers them by reminding them of the commandment to love.  This mutual love, which the disciples have for Jesus, for one another, and for the world, will result in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  God will abide, make a home, in the disciples.  They will always be with God, and God will always be with them.  The Holy Spirit will teach, remind, and empower them to do God’s work in the world.

         Then, Jesus gives the disciples the gift of peace.  It is more than a standard greeting, or a signature sign off phrase.  It is the peace of Christ, the type of peace which Paul describes in Philippians 4 as “the peace of God, which passes all understanding,” which will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  It is a deep abiding peace, a peace which, as I said before, provides an anchor to tether to, even amidst the roughest storms of life.

         The disciples don’t realize it yet, but they are really about to go through some times of storm.  Jesus is going to be arrested, tried, and killed as an enemy of state.  They will scatter, and hide, and be faithless.  They will see the miracle of Easter, and still not understand.  The going is about to get incredibly rough.  And these words will sustain them.  These words will get them through.  The abiding peace of God in Christ, dwelling in and among them, will lead them out the other side and give them the courage to found a Christian Community of Care which abides, even to this day.

         So what does this have to do with you and me, with our lives in this time and place?  This gift of peace in Christ is ours to claim as well.  It is the Holy Spirit working in and though us, to bring calm into the storms of our lives, and the lives of those whom God puts in our path.  This gift of peace in Christ has the power to heal our relationships, to help us to put aside combative words, to reach out to one another in love, maybe especially when we cannot do it by our own power or might.  And this peace holds us fast to Christ, so that the waves do not overwhelm us, the sting of death does not overtake us, and we are able to look up, and out, in hope of a brighter tomorrow.

         Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  Peace be with you, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, now and in every tomorrow.  I promise to hold you, in prayer and in love.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

In Christ, Pastor Breen

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