Loving Worship Series: SENT
Sixth Sunday in Easter - May 26, 2019
Sent by a Loving God
Key words: Home, Advocate, teach, peace
“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’” (v. 23).
The intimacy of God is shown here with the idea of Jesus and the person of God “making a home” with the disciples. The theological idea of making a home with God doesn’t seem to get as much attention as verse 27. Sammy G. Alfaro describes it as “the spiritual indwelling of the Father and the Son in the life of the believer.”  This is more than just a convenient model to be used by Trinitarians; this process of making a home is a communal experience with God, which is “available to those who love and keep God’s His [sic] commandments.” 
“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. I have said these things to you while I am still with you” (verses 24-25).
A literal reading of verses 23-24 might imply that those who do not keep God’s words are therefore not loved by God. Yet the focus here for John is consistent with his message throughout the gospel: love necessitates action. Love enables us to be sent into the world. Jesus is using some of his precious remaining time to be explicit about what he hopes for them.
“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” (v. 26).
The Holy Spirit here serves a greater function than simply to remind us. As one of my seminary professors once quipped, “God is not your Blackberry!” The Holy Spirit serves as a teacher to the disciples. But lest the disciples think it is just about their comfort, the Holy Spirit helps the disciples truly understand and live out of that understanding as a blessing to God.  However, we do an injustice to those who experience mental illness or limited intellectual capacity if we suggest the primary role of the Spirit is to impart knowledge or true wisdom that must be articulated and fully processed. The grace of God is abundantly present in a multitude of Spirit experiences. The disciples cannot yet perceive the value of the gift they will be given.
“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” (v. 27).
We often hear this read at funerals for those grieving. Perhaps you have read those words many times at yet another funeral for a parishioner, praying for God’s shalom to surround the hearts of those grieving. And yet, I can’t help but wonder: Is Jesus implying that we have a choice about whether our hearts are troubled? That we have a choice about whether we are afraid? Is that really fair, Jesus?
As disciples, we are all sent into the world to live out the love we have experienced. Embracing the reality that we are all “sent” in some way helps us keep perspective when are tempted to let our hearts be troubled or when we are tempted to give in to fear. There is intentionality in our efforts to keep God’s commandments.
“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” (v. 28).
I wonder if the disciples felt some measure of guilt for their own sadness at losing the physical form of Jesus. How could they not? But Jesus is not trying to manipulate their emotions; rather, he is trying to draw out the parts of them that are able to rejoice despite their confusion or sadness. Jesus is drawing out the truest parts of the disciples, so that they are able to claim the love of God on their lives and willingly be sent into the world.
“And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe” (v. 29).
Again, John is making the connection between Jesus’ words and the admonition to believe. The disciples are being called to look past their own emotions in the moment before Jesus leaves and be reminded of the promises of God.
Questions/prompts for further reflection:
- What does it mean to you to be sent by the Holy Spirit? How do you recognize the Spirit’s promptings?
- What practices do you use to help when your heart is feeling troubled?
- Describe a time when you were able to rejoice in the midst of your sadness. What did you learn from that experience?
 Sammy G. Alfaro. Ed. Cynthia A. Jarvis & E. Elizabeth Johnson. Feasting on the Gospels. John, Volume 2: Chapters 10-21. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015). 163.
 Alfaro, Feasting.
 Richard Ward. Feasting, 167.
Rev. Adrienne Stricker graduated from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2009 and has been in full-time ministry since 2010, serving in Christian education and administration in Evanston and Chicago in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and The United Methodist Church. Her primary appointment as an ordained deacon in the Northern Illinois Conference is to The Connectional Table of the UMC, an organization that works to articulate vision and stewardship for the denomination with its 64 elected board members from across the UMC. Her secondary appointment as a deacon is to Central UMC in Skokie, a diverse, multicultural congregation. She is involved in Native American ministries in the conference, serves on the conference board of ordained ministry, and is the co-chair of the Northern Illinois Order of Deacons.