The presence of peace
John 14:23-29

No matter how many times you sit and read today’s text, you find something extra in there to challenge you or enlighten you or just flat out excite you.  It isn’t the easiest of text to read, hear or understand, but like all of scripture, is divinely inspired word of God, written down for our instruction, edification and growth. 

Today of course as we hear the text we are here knowing that the world around us and in fact most or us are celebrating Mother’s Day in some way, shape or form.  We have several mothers who are visiting today, many children have come to be with their mothers for the day, and of course many of our congregation have headed off to visit their mothers.  I won’t visit mine because she lives 800 kilometres away, but she knows that I am thinking of her, praying for her and appreciate her.  Importantly though, it is not just on this one day of the year that we do that, it is pretty much every day. 

The other side of the coin is that many of you will be grieving in some way today because your mothers have passed away either recently or some years ago, and days like today accentuate that for you.  Still others are grieving because their desire to be a mother has never been fulfilled or has been frustrated in some way.

So I think it is important to hear Jesus’ words to his disciples and to us, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  This is the peace of God that surpasses human understanding, it is a peace that only God can give and has been given to us to remain with us throughout our lives, in all circumstances.

Then we reach a point in the text where it gets confusing, Jesus told his disciples, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.”  Is that a sequence of events, is he going away now and coming back later, has he been and gone already looking back on the text from our context?  And then how could the disciples possibly rejoice if Jesus is going to be with the Father and leave them here by themselves?

I interpret this as being a bit like when we reach that time in life when our children are ready to leave home.  We discussed this at church council on Thursday night and one of our esteemed members mentioned that we spend our time with our children bringing them up to be responsible and independent and then when they leave home and want to be responsible and independent we aren’t quite ready for it.  We dream of the time in our lives when our children will leave home and we will no longer be paying school fees and running them around everywhere, but then we are distressed because of the change that brings about in our lives.  There is a big gap left in our lives.

All this week at my house and I know in a number of other houses there has been a child missing, out in the wilderness on the ‘Luther journey’.  Our routines have been disrupted; it has been quieter around the place.  There have been less mouths to feed and less disagreements about what to watch on TV and when.  But something just wasn’t right, there was a year nine child sized gap in our house (some of them are larger than others).  Some people might have been rejoicing, but I was missing my child, and she was only gone for five days and four nights.

When we consider that God the Father sent his Son to live a life as a human being, he must have been suffering a little too, missing the usual normality of life in the Trinity, now it is time for the Son to go to be with the Father it is reunion time.  The Father would no doubt be happy about this, but what about the friends of the Son, how will they cope without him.

Well this father is organised, he will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to come alongside the disciples, the believers and make a home with them.  In normal circumstances for us mere mortals that might seem a little weird, why send in a surrogate when we could keep the real thing? But if we understand anything of the Triune God and God’s Trinitarian nature we might realise that if the Holy Spirit is present with us, making a home with us then the one in three and three in one means that the Father and the Son are here with us also.   They are dwelling with us here in this home as we wait to be taken to our heavenly home with them.

It’s a little bit like having a permanent connection to your mother or father with you at all times.  Not just an every now and then connection like on facebook or skype or on the phone when we can find the time, but having them connected 24/7, right there with you in everything you are doing, saying or being.

We mightn’t even be aware of their presence, just like I don’t know when my mum is praying for me, but I know she does on a regular basis and especially when she thinks I might be writing a sermon.  I don’t have to know she is doing it, but sometimes she lets me know by sending me an SMS, what is important is that she is there being an advocate for me before our heavenly Father.  So too the Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying for you as you go about your life.  Even though you might not be able to see them, hear them, smell them or taste them they are there.  How do we know that?  Because the promise was made by Jesus, and because we have read and heard the story of Pentecost, a story we will hear again in a fortnight as we celebrate the festival of Pentecost.

Our triune God has promised to come to us and make a home with us, not a building or a church, but a dwelling place, a living home as part of our household.  In the process Jesus told us not to be troubled, but to live in peace.  He went away for a short time, about three days, on that first Easter, and has been with us ever since, even though he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, he is still with us.  We may not feel that presence but know that he is there, rejoice in it, be at peace because of it, and keep this word close to your heart.

It was suggested to me this week to have someone else read the text aloud to enable me to hear it in the way it was meant to be used.  It was suggested that by hearing it read rather than reading it for myself it might speak to me in a different way.  Most weeks I read the Gospel reading for you to hear, many of you read along with me.  I wonder if you were to just listen rather than read along would you hear something new?

Let me read it again for you: John 14:23-29