Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s Second Reading carries some detail from a vision from the last book of the Bible regarding the heavenly city that, at the end of time, will come down out of heaven from God. Interestingly, this account reports that there will be no temple or church in that city.
Getting God’s people to move outside the walls of the church will not be an issue then, simply because there will be no church; there will be no need of one, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ, will live right there in the midst of the city (Revelation 21:22-25).
And our Gospel text today shows us that this very real presence of God in our midst begins even now. In the verse just prior to this Gospel passage, the “other” Judas – not Judas Iscariot, who is at that moment in the process of betraying Jesus, but another disciple with the same first name – says to Jesus, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world? (John 14:22)”
I think this Judas’ question is our question as much as it is his. Unlike him, we do not have Jesus here in the flesh with us. And yet Jesus is with us. Jesus is, perhaps even more so now than then, present in the world.
And Jesus, whom God sent into the world because God loves the world, intends to reveal himself to the world in the same way that he first revealed himself to his disciples. Jesus will be present in the world in the same way that he was present among his disciples. This is the only way that the goal of the salvation of the world can be accomplished.
So in Jesus’ answer to this Judas is contained the why, the how, and the where of Jesus’ presence in the world.
In Jesus’ answer, we see the beginning and the first fruit of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, the city of God that will eventually flower right here in the world, and in whose midst God will dwell. Jesus’ answer outlines a divine-human relationship. This relationship is the means by which God is and will be present in the world.
This relationship has three partners. There is Jesus. There is God. And there are those who love Jesus. “Those who love me,” Jesus says, “will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).
When we get to know Jesus, through study, worship and prayer, we are moved by love for him. Our growing love for Jesus moves us to keep his words and to follow his example. And in response to this love of ours, Jesus and the Father come to us and make their home with us and among us.
As Jesus is giving this teaching to the other Judas and to the rest of the disciples, Jesus knows that Judas Iscariot is, even then, in the midst of betraying him to those who, for various reasons, want him dead. Jesus knows that the moment is right on top of them when he will no longer be physically present among them.
And so he is telling them now of spiritual things (for want of a better word). He is assuring them that he will be, actually, fully present among them, even though he will soon be physically gone. In Jesus’ absence, God will send what in Greek is called the Paraclete, the Advocate – “a defense attorney,” as paraclete literally means” – what we have come to call the Holy Spirit.
When we love Jesus and hold to his teachings, the presence of God is truly among us in the Holy Spirit. When we truly love Jesus and commit ourselves to keeping his word, Jesus and God the Father come to reside among us and give us strength and courage.
In this final teaching to his disciples, just before his death, Jesus is assuring them that he leaves them above all with peace: real, physical, actual peace, and not the distress and trouble that generally happen in the world when one we love and have come to rely on permanently departs.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says (John 14:27). Don’t be afraid. Yes, I am going away; I am going to be handed over to the enemy and be killed! But I am going to take my place in the presence of God, forever, and because I am going to do this, I will be able to be present among you all again, in a way that is not possible now.
This is going to happen among you shortly. I am telling you this now, so that you will know what’s going on when it does happen. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give [with one hand and take away with the other] as the world [does]. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Just as the question of the other Judas – “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” – is our question, so too are Jesus’ words for us – parting words from the Lord, who has not really departed.
Now, as then, Jesus leaves us with peace. We today can have access even now not only to some vaguely defined “peace” – the sugary “Have a nice day!” complete with smiley face that the world offers more times than we can count – but real peace, God’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that can carry us through any storm life throws at us.
Jesus stands at the door and knocks, ready to hand us peace and to live right here among us and help us live that peace. But Jesus does not give as the world gives.
The peace that Jesus gives does not lift us gently over and above the storms. The peace which Jesus offers gets in the boat with us and sails right into the midst of life’s storms.
Across the nation, more and more people are growing up outside the church and apart from Christian values. The community around us, the world around us, is changing -- changing faster and faster.
The people around us now more and more are “not like us”; they have different needs, different expectations of life. And, of course, we still have the “usual suspects” of crime, war, terrorism, poverty, racism, hatred, incivility, plain old meanness in our faces every day.
All of this is a scratching of the surface of what we are up against. Is there any wonder why our hearts are troubled? And yet, Jesus promises us peace. He promised it to the other Judas, who faced circumstances even more dire than ours, and he promises it to us.
How do we activate that peace? By loving one another as Jesus loves us. We begin with the simple fact that, for mysterious reasons that we can’t fully understand and don’t really need to, we have been drawn at some point in our lives to love Jesus. Likely most of us here today is moved in one way or another by love for Jesus. We need to love one another as Jesus loves us.
How have you experienced the love of Jesus in your life? Look around – these are the first people Jesus is calling you to love. It starts right here, right now.
We need to let that love for Jesus carry us into keeping his word. We need to spend a part of each day studying Jesus’ life and teachings — the words about him that have been handed down to us in Scripture. We need to spend a part of each day in prayer and meditation, allowing his presence among us to come alive in us more and more every day.
And we need to let our love for him carry us out of ourselves, out of our homes, out of our church building and out into the world, just as the love of Jesus Christ for us carried him out of his home, out of his religious community and out into the Gentile world, the world of foreigners, outsiders, the “profane,” and the “unclean.”
We’re called to reach out to strangers and outsiders just as Jesus did and let them know the love of God and Jesus Christ that we know.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Let the peace of Jesus Christ that we have come to know so well carry us out of here – not around the storms; we can’t get around the storms; they are all around us! Let the peace offered by the presence of Jesus carry us, without fear, straight into the heart of them. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus forever. Amen.