Jesus answered, “Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.Whoever doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word that you hear isn’t mine. It is the word of the Father who sent me.
“I have spoken these things to you while I am with you. The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. You have heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away and returning to you.’ If you loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than me. I have told you before it happens so that when it happens you will believe. (John 14:23-29)
A little boy was sitting with his mother in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. He was four years old and full of questions. He was asking lots of questions of his mom like why am I here at the doctor’s office; and where is the doctor now; and why are these other people here?
Then he started with questions about God, like what does God eat; what is God doing right now; does God ever sleep? He had lots and lots of questions.
And finally the little boy said to his mother, why doesn’t God just get tired and stop. His mother thought for a moment and then said, because God is love and love never gets tired.
In a devotion we read at our staff meeting this past week from the Upper Room Disciplines, the author wrote about the idea of leading with love. He said he tries to be intentional about leading with love in what he says and how he says it, whether at home or at work or at church.
Then he wrote, “By remembering to put love first—and leaning on God’s word to find a way back to love when we don’t feel loving—God comes to us, transforms us, and makes God’s home with us.”
Jesus said, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and God will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Jesus also promises that a peace that surpasses our understanding will be with us. And it is also a peace that the world cannot give…it is a kind of peace that gives us the strength and comfort and hope to endure through any adversity.
There are certainly events and situations in our human life that nothing can prepare us for. Just seeing or listening to the news each day we get a sense of how life can be changed in an instant and we wonder how people have the strength to carry on.
It is in the times that we cannot seem to wrap our heads around that Jesus promises two gifts in their fullness…the same gifts he gave his first disciples…the presence of the Holy Spirit and the peace of Christ.
The presence of the Holy Spirit means we will never be completely alone. And the peace of Christ offers us the strength and courage to put one foot in front of the other and go on.
I used to enjoy the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes when it was in the newspaper. In one of the cartoons I clipped out once, Calvin comes marching into the living room early in the morning. His mother is sitting in her favorite chair sipping her morning coffee.
She looks up at young Calvin and is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet and he has a cape draped around him and flowing to the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.
“What’s up today?” asks his mother.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off saying, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
The last frame of the cartoon is Calvin’s mother looking out at the reading audience saying, “I need a suit like that!”
That’s the way we can often feel as we deal with the ebbs and flows of daily life, and the all too frequent reality in life of violence, tragedy, and hardship. A suit like that would help, so we could say with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Well, most of us don’t have a suit like Calvin’s, but we do have powerful words of Scripture to hold with us. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I give to you not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
I read those words at the graveside of nearly every burial I do. But they are so much more than words to be heard only after a loved one has died. They are words to hold with us in daily life and to put on like a protective suit.
There is a defining phrase in this verse that tells us what kind of peace it is that Christ gives us and it is a phrase that can give us hope.
Listen to it again and see if you can pick it out. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
The defining phrase is, “I give to you not as the world gives.”
Think for a moment about how and what the world gives.
The world gives us the ongoing wonders and beauties of God’s creation that we celebrated in worship last weekend and that are celebrated in Scripture…the sun and moon and stars. The mountains and seas and sky. The birds and trees and wildlife.
The world gives us strong coffee to start the day and chocolate to make it through.
The world gives us people willing to work for justice and reach out to others with care and compassion.
But, we also know the world gives us troubles, disappointments, broken relationships, illness, hurt, and grief.
We live in a world of violence, terror, war, addictions, homelessness, poverty, and hunger.
We live in a world where racism still provokes violence, and superiority.
We live in a world where difference is often feared and those who are different are treated as less-than.
We live in a world that says who’s in and who’s out. Even though we are part of a faith community that has made a formal declaration to be open and affirming to all people regardless of race, ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity; we are still part of The UMC, which excludes LGBT persons from serving in the full life of the church as ordained clergy…all of which will be debated for the 44th year at General Conference later this month.
Yet, even in the midst of this world in which we live, Jesus speaks peace…”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
The world promises peace through the rule of law and aggressive force that keeps others in their place. Christ gives us peace through obedience to the word of God; which is love; and Christ gives us peace through God’s constant presence with us, which is the Holy Spirit.
This is the kind of ‘peace’ that is brought on by choice, not by force. The world’s peace is peace through aggressive power. God’s peace is peace through surrender and loving witness…which means acknowledging God’s constant abiding Holy Spirit and living our lives in such a way that we witness to the presence of God’s love and Spirit within us.
The peace Jesus promises is from the Hebrew word ‘shalom,’ meaning ‘wholeness,’ or a complete peace that is the presence of God.
What Jesus has given us is a deep peace so that no matter what our lives look like and no matter what the world gives, we can hold to the Easter promise that love is stronger than hate, that hope is stronger than fear, that light will always break through the darkness, and that God’s grace is stronger than anything the world can throw at us.
In a very real way, Jesus tried to wake up his disciples and us to knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit with us and in us. And so often Jesus tried to teach about the presence of God in the ordinary things of life.
As Easter people, when we take the bread and cup of Communion today, may we use it as a way of knowing the peace that Christ is offering us that is so very different from what the world offers.
May the bread and cup be for us the Bread of Life and the Cup of Blessing and Peace.
Thanks be to God. Amen.