Homily preached at Winmalee on Sunday 25th May 2014:
SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER. Year A.
Gospel: John 14: 15-21
“ If you love Me”.
Almighty God, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed. Guide and strengthen us for Your service, that we may live this day in love for You and one another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Language is a funny thing. When you look at words, how they're formed, what they mean, it is interesting to see how they came to be. There are words that are long and words that are short. We have words that are easy to pronounce and words that are not easy to pronounce. One word in the English language is 28 letters long, antidisestablishmentarianism. It's a word that you won't hear a lot. There's even a 45
letter word, but I won't go there to begin to try to pronounce that word. But there is one word that is not a long word; rather it is only 2 letters long. The word is “if”. It is conditional. It indicates that should you do this, then you will receive that. It requires action, usually on our part, to receive the intended results that we desire.
That is how Jesus begins His discourse here. He says, “ If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we don't love Jesus. Because of our sinful nature, we want absolutely nothing to do with God. We utterly despise Him and everything that He stands for. We can't love Jesus on our merits or work, and we surely can't keep His commandments. That should be the end of it all. We don't want God, we hate God, and we despise God. So in turn, God should not want us. God should hate us. God should despise us.
Bur that is not the way it is. God chose to love us when we were unlovable in our sin. Through His great love and mercy, He gave to us His only-begotten Son. By the work of Jesus Christ, we have been given the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness, won for us on the cross.
Jesus knows that we cannot love Him. God knows that we cannot love Him, yet that doesn't stop them loving us. God love us when we were unlovable and promised Jesus. Jesus loved us when we were unlovable and gave Himself to us and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have been promised , “ I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Here, Jesus tells us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”.
Really? God would promise us a Saviour for breaking His one command of not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Jesus would give to us Himself even when we are incapable of doing what He says, “ You therefore must be perfect,
as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Speaking for myself, I know that I’m not perfect. And speaking for all of you, I know that you're not perfect either. None of us are perfect, nor has there been anyone who is perfect, except for Jesus Christ. He is the on and only who has ever been or ever will be perfect. You and I are far from perfect.
In fact, we are so far beyond perfect that the only thing you and I should receive is death and damnation. Yet, despite all of that, God still loves us. Despite our grievous sins, God still loves us enough to send us a Saviour. Despite our grievous sins, Jesus still loves us to send us the gift of the Holy Spirit for the building up of our faith.
Through the gifts of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, Jesus continues to come to us, just as He says He would. Through these simple and ordinary means of water, bread and wine, Jesus gives to us that which we need most – His forgiveness, His life, His salvation. He gives to us freely and gives out of His great and abundant mercy.
Test We are His disciples, and because we are His disciples, He promises to keep us in His care and does so through the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, there is one problem with that as well. On account of our sin, we fall short of keeping God's gifts as we should. We neglect to be in God's Word, both privately and corporately. We do not hunger and thirst for the Sacrament which Christ gives of His own body and blood.
We do not love our neighbour as we should.
There is a reason for this: “ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
From the greatest to the least, we all have sinned; we all have missed the mark. But the Lord knows that the only way we can even begin to keep His gifts holy and sacred is if we receive help, so He sends another Helper, another Advocate. The Holy Spirit is our second advocate. He helps us in our weakness. He especially helps us by taking what is Jesus' and showing it to us. He helps us by giving us the truth, the true knowledge of God, and by actually remaining not only alongside us, but in us, for “ He dwells with you and will be in you.”
It is through this Helper, through the Holy Spirit, that you and I are given the miraculous gift of faith, faith not in ourselves, but in God who is the One who makes promises and keeps them.
Christ promises to keep His disciples in His care by coming to them directly. How does He come to us? He comes in the ways that He has promised – through His Word and through His Sacraments. The writer to the Hebrews says, “ In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old through the prophets. But now, in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.” He comes to us through His body and His blood, in a meal that we feast upon for the strengthening and nourishing of our faith.
To have Christ means that we have the victory over sin, death and the power of the devil. Having Christ, then, is to live in faith. And when we have Christ, we also have the Father.
Jesus didn't just say that He loved us; He showed His love to us. He kept us. He kept us from being destroyed by sin when He died for you and for me. He kept us from being destroyed by death when He rose for us, and He keeps us today in His Word and in His Spirit.
By Christ and His actions for you and me, He has shown the love of God to us, and because God has loved us, now we are able to love Jesus, because He has removed from us all of our sins and made us holy by His blood.
Br. Luke EFO