Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sermon; Easter 6A; John 14:15-21

Easter is a long season.  It begins with Easter day and lasts seven weeks, 49 days, and culminates on the 50th day, the Day of Pentecost.  It is also, in the opinion of many, the most important season of the year.  There is no doubt that Easter Day is special.  The starkness of Lent is obviously over as we decorate the church with all kinds of flowers.  The Vigil begins with the new fire and moves from darkness to light.  The principle service is generally full of people as we joyfully sing and Alleluias ring out.  There is also the brunch and Easter egg hunt.  No doubt about it, Easter Day is exciting and special as we announce the good news of the empty tomb.

The following Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, we hear the story of the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit and of Thomas.  This year, the Third Sunday of Easter gave us the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  In short, over the first three Sundays of Easter we hear stories of the resurrected Christ and it is relatively easy to express the excitement of the season.  But then we get into Easter 4, 5, 6 & 7 where we hear readings from John about sheep, departure, love and protection; and it becomes harder to maintain the excitement of those first three Sundays.

The final four Sundays of Easter could very well be labeled Preparation Sundays.  Last week Jesus told us that he was going to prepare a place for us.  Today we hear that Jesus will send another Advocate to be with us forever.  Next week we will hear that our time with Jesus is over and we are being sent out into the world.  Over the course of the final four Sundays we are being prepared for the departure of Jesus and the arrival of the Holy Spirit into our lives.

What the final four Sundays of Easter try to teach us is how to live in a post-resurrection world.  For as important as the resurrection is to Christianity, and for as much meaning as it gives to our lives, the resurrection is not the be all and end all of our faith.

The resurrection of Jesus tells the disciples and us that love and life win out over hate and death.  That is good news.  That is part of the Good News.  But it leaves one very large question looming over us, and that is, “Now what?”

The tomb is empty.  Now what?  Jesus is not here.  Now what?  We saw Jesus in the upper room or on the road to Emmaus or cooking fish on the shore.  Now what?

The answer to, “Now what?” is found over these final four Sundays of Easter.  The answer to, “Now what?” is found in the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The answer to, “Now what?” is understanding that there is more to being a disciple than simply being raised from the dead.  And the answer to, “Now what?” lives in the Holy Spirit.

While Jesus walked the earth, he laid out for his disciples a new way of being.  He advocated for a system that healed the sick, cared for the underprivileged and welcomed the Other.  His ultimate and lasting commandment to us was to love others as he loved us.  One of the reasons Jesus was killed was because he loved others, giving them access to God that they had previously been denied.

If Jesus was our first Advocate, then the Holy Spirit is that other Advocate who is with us forever.

Just as the world could not receive Jesus, the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit.  Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is concerned with love, justice, the care of the poor, the welcoming of Others.  The world is unable to receive this Spirit because the world is concerned with power, domination, control, exploitation and the labeling of Us and Them.  But for those of us who claim to follow Christ, for those of us who strive to pursue love and justice, we are able to receive the Spirit.

Now what?  Jesus was crucified, died and is risen.  The resurrection that points to eternal life is not the end of the story; it is the beginning of our story.

Now, on this Sixth Sunday of Easter, is a good time to begin looking forward.  Now is a good time to recognize that the Spirit of God lives within us.  Now is a good time to remember that the God who created the world in an act of love and called it very good calls us to abide in him and he in us.  Now is a good time to begin reflecting God's spirit of love to others and seeking out a spirit of love in them.

The resurrection of Christ was not, is not, the end of the story – it is the beginning.  The answer to the “now what” question is this: Now is the time to keep the commandment of Christ, loving others as he loved us; and now is the time to begin living in such a way that the Spirit of God will be revealed through us to those whom we meet.

Jesus is preparing us for his departure.  Now what?

Now let us go forth in peace, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.  Alleluia, alleluia!


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