Trust and obey, part 1Where's the Faith? Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
Guest writer, Rev. Mark Beckett, recently shared this with The Met. It’s a two-part series. It will be worth your time to read the rest of the story next week. Pastor Dan
It’s a Thursday night. The week of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As was their custom, Jesus and the disciples have eaten supper together. During the meal some extraordinary things happened: First, Jesus stood, and taking off his outer robe, tied a towel around himself and began to wash their feet. This man, who they had seen turn water into wine was washing their dirty feet. Jesus told them he was going away to a place they could not come. And, John tells us that Jesus was troubled in spirit, most unlike him. Well, he had every right to be; Jesus knew this was to be their last supper together.
Then Jesus made a startling announcement: “One of you will betray me.” They had no clue, and looked at each other, and asked themselves, “Could it be me?” Judas, the one trusted enough to handle the purse strings was identified privately by Jesus as the one, and he got up and fled. Jesus then predicts that Simon Peter will deny him three times no less, and soon.
After the unusual events during the meal, Jesus sits in the center of the room, as I picture it, surrounded by the drowsy, confused apostles, and continues to teach, but for the last time. They don’t know it, but Jesus is saying goodbye.
This goodbye, called the “Farewell Discourse,” is only found in John’s Gospel. It begins in chapter 14 and ends with Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and us in chapter 17. The opening words of Jesus’ farewell are, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” But let me focus on verses 15 through 21, a passage speaking of loving, trusting and obeying Jesus.
In verse 15, when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”, he is calling first, of course, the disciples to obedience.
What are Jesus’ commandments? In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus taught, “You shall love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And here in John, just a few verses earlier, right after the foot washing, only one of these commandments has been stressed: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”
“Commandments” is also not a word we are terribly comfortable with, even as we know they are important. No one likes to be commanded to do anything. I once worked for someone who every time she wanted me or anyone else to do something, she would begin, “I need you to (I command you!) It was really grating! I need you to rephrase your requests, I thought, and later stated. I wasn’t there much longer!
Even if you accept Jesus’ commands, and want to obey them, you can’t command someone to love God or another person, can you? But Jesus is commanding us to love others not by seeing them as objects of our affection, but viewing them as our brothers and sisters.
In verse 16, Jesus, knowing he is leaving the earth, promises them, after asking our “loving God,” that “you will be given another Advocate to be with you forever.” “Advocate” is the Latin translation of the word “paraclete,” which itself is a variation from the original Greek. Paraclete means “one who is called to the side of another to help or assist.” Paraclete also can mean Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Truth.
When I was in seminary, I wrote a paper for a class and I used the word “paraclete” in referring to the Holy Spirit. Using my spell-check on my paper, it suggested “Para—KEET” for “Para-CLETE” and you can guess where this is going. I accidently selected “change” instead of “ignore” and, boom, there it was. My professor, when grading, circled the glaring error and made a margin note that God sent us the Holy Spirit and not a pet bird.
After promising the Advocate, Jesus continues: “This is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees her nor knows her. You know her because she abides with you, and she will be in you.” Jesus knows, as the disciples continue their journey without him, they would have difficulties as they faced an indifferent at best, and hostile at worst, society.
Jesus isn’t judging the world here; he simply notes that the world can’t recognize the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. The world likes shiny things. The world is interested in American Idol and royal weddings and 4G networks The world in itself isn’t bad, because God created it and pronounced it “good.” And we know, as John proclaimed, that “For God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus, the only begotten son into the world so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” The world, and its so many people are just distracted, and very busy!
On that deep note, I am going to pause and complete the look at Jesus’ prayer in his “Farewell Discourse” next week. While I know you will be thinking about parakeets, I trust you will also be reflecting on what God may be saying to you and the ways the Holy Spirit has touched your life and is present today. Next issue, we will also delve more deeply into that.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org.
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