a sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter
Jesus promised the disciples that after he was gone, God would send them someone to teach them everything they needed. But he also promised them true abiding peace.
But what kind of peace did he mean?
In the movie, “Miss Congeniality,” Sandra Bullock plays a hard nosed police detective who has to go undercover at a beauty pageant. She has to pose as one of the contestants. At one point, the emcee asks each contestant to answer the question, “If there is one thing in the world you would wish for, what would it be?” Predictably, each contestant, in turn, answers “World Peace” and the crowd smiles and cheers.
Then, when Sandra Bullock’s character gets up she smiles a beauty pageant smile and says, “Stronger laws against parole violators…” the crowd is shocked. “….and World Peace.”
Who could be against world peace? It’s the safe and obvious answer to everything. We pray for peace here every Sunday. But what kind of peace do we we really wish for?
During Jesus’ day, they actually had world peace; it was called Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. Rome’s idea of peace was that they make the laws and everybody else in the world followed them. If they didn’t, they would have to contend with the Roman army.
Or consider modern Syria today. Syria has long been a peaceful country, not bothering anybody. It was ruled by a dictator. Law and order was achieved at the expense of freedom.
Or consider your neighborhood. Most of us have pretty peaceful neighbors. As long as they mow the grass, and the house looks in good repair, and the kids are clean and get to school, we think it must be a pretty peaceful home. But what we don’t see is that they may be dealing with other issues: struggles to make ends meet, or alcohol or drug addictions, or domestic abuse.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples peace. But not the kind of peace the world gives, he adds.
Jesus tells his disciples that he will be going away soon. Naturally, they are pretty worried about this. After all, if Jesus leaves, what are they supposed to do? How will they continue on? But Jesus promises them that God will send someone else to follow him, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate. And she will teach them everything they need to continue is ministry in the world. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” he says. “Do not be afraid.”
Jesus promise to us is that the Holy Spirit will teach us EVERYTHING we need to continue living as Christ taught us. That’s not a promise of some kind of half hearted stand-in for Jesus, not some kind of copy or cardboard cut out. But a real, living, being – just as much God and Jesus is himself. God the Son exits, and God the Holy Spirit comes into the world to continue God’s work.
This is the same Holy Spirit that filled our souls when we were baptised. The same Holy Spirit who lives inside of each and every one of us here and not. It is the same Holy Spirit that blew over the waters at creation, and that soared like a dove at the baptism of Jesus. Jesus promises us peace which the world can never give or even understand, and that peace will come to us through the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit will give us everything we need to continue. EVERYTHING.
And the Holy Spirit IS GOD, just as much Jesus ever was. We will not have to be content with a half-hearted peace: not just a day at the spa, a nice long vacation, or a day with the smartphone blissfully switched off. But a deep, abiding peace that fills the very core of our being. A peace which comes from a man who had way more reason to be afraid than any of us here today.
I know that there are a lot of us here who have had promises broken. I know there are a few who have had to break promises they have made. The world is full of all kinds of promises: Contracts, vows, promises to take our kids to the movies.
But Jesus’ promise to us is unlike any promise we’ve ever been given. It’s unlike any promise we have ever made. It is the promise of God.
Jesus tells us he is going away but leaving his Peace with us. He will come back, but that is less important than us loving Jesus and being apart of the divine community, through the Holy Spirit. For in living and loving in the divine community not only keeps us close to Jesus but helps us to see Jesus and the Father revealed. This essential love of one another within the community is what brings the peace that Christ has promised us. And it is our witness of the Spirit of Truth into the world.
Jesus knew that if his followers would live in the Holy Spirit and lived in a loving community with one another, then he would be revealed in glory to the world and that the world would in turn have a revelation of God.
The Holy Spirit is alive and is present here in this room. We know this because we are here, united through the Spirit by our love for one another. It is the Holy Spirit who taught us what it means to live as Jesus lived, and to love and our serve others in the world, so that Christ may be revealed through our love for the world.
Jesus promised us that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in his name, will teach us everything, and remind us of all that he has said to us.
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, or afraid.
Thanks be to God.