Summary: A short homily given at a mid-week communion service. We need to be ready in advance for the changes which will come our way. Jesus prepared the disciples for his departure with the promise of the Spirit. The same Holy Spirit lives in us.
John 14: 23 to 29
What follows is not a party political broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party! Tony Blair has now announced that he is leaving his post as Prime Minister. Now I am no expert but I guess that within the Labour Party there will be a mixture of concern, excitement, nervousness and expectation. Those who are closest to and love Tony Blair dearly will perhaps be a little pessimistic. Those who can’t wait to see the back of him may have a mixture of optimism and uncertainty all at the same time.
As a team of Churches we have faced two interregnums (or is that interregna?) in the last 18 months and they can be times of uncertainty. Whilst West Ham (soccer) fans will be delighted at their survival in the Premiership (some reduced to tears I observed), Southend United fans are experiencing a mixture of despondency and uncertainty following their relegation back to Division One.
Bereavement, redundancy, moving house, changing jobs and becoming a parent are some of the major examples of times of change which can cause people to be stressed, concerned, uncertain and pessimistic.
In our gospel reading the disciples had in many ways been riding on the crest of a wave in their time spent with Jesus. Three years of intensive learning, experiencing, teaching and community living. They had witnessed healings and they had come to realise through a variety of miraculous signs that Jesus was no ordinary man. Expectations were very high and in Matthew’s gospel we get an indication of the expectation that Jesus was on the verge of restoring the Kingdom. (Matthew 20: 20-21) The mother of James and John asks if her sons can sit to the left and right of Jesus in his kingdom. Good times were just around the corner! Life was about to get better! Being around Jesus was as good as it got! He was the one to be with. What a time to be alive!
Do you ever look back at the past with slightly misty eyes to times gone-by? I’m thinking right now of friends, places, churches and (Christian Rock)bands that I have played in. I wonder what past events and past experiences you are thinking of.
When good times and good friendships and experiences of fellowship come to an end it is perfectly natural to be left feeling somewhat bereft. Jesus was meticulous in the way that he sought to prepare his disciples for his bodily departure from this world (14:28). He was also careful to encourage them to look forward and be ready for the gift of his Holy Spirit (14:26). Things were not ever going to be the same again. Change was coming. Indeed, change was here to stay. Verse 29 encourages me because Jesus wanted his disciples to be prepared, to be ready: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” During this - his departure speech -Jesus promised to leave his peace WITH his disciples.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (14:27). During the next 12 months God alone knows what new circumstances we will face as Churches, as a town, as a nation, as individuals and in our families. Some of us will suffer unexpected bereavements. Good friends or relatives may have to move a great distance for their new job. People that we currently rely upon may no longer be here to be relied upon.
Earlier in John 14:18, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus was going! He wanted his disciples to be happy for him for that through his death, resurrection and ascension he was returning to His father (14:28). However, he was also promising the Holy Spirit to come and live within them as “Counsellor”, comforter, encourager, advocate and helper. To be his witnesses we need the same Holy Spirit. Let’s pray that we will be open to His Spirit.
Lord, whatever our futures may hold, please can each one of us know your peace, and please can each one of us be filled afresh with your Spirit; may we know you as our “Counsellor”, comforter, encourager, advocate and helper. Amen!