Meditation on John 14:15-27
Jan. 12, 2017
Merrit Island Presbyterian Church
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
One day last October, I was working in the church office when there was a knock at my back door. I opened it and was surprised to find Stan and Dorcas come to visit, unannounced, bearing gifts. The occasion was my one-year anniversary at MIPC. The gifts–and the kindness of those who brought them to me– gave me a warm feeling inside. One of the gifts was a beautiful, peaceful, snowy scene Dorcas had painted, complete with a little white, country church. Moving from rural Minnesota, I felt welcomed and appreciated. The other gift was for the church; their daughter, Faye Margaret, who had brought it back from Italy for them. It was a wooden statue of St. Frances, a friar and founder of religious orders, a peacemaker and animal lover who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries. He took a vow of poverty and led a humble, simple life. The statue of St. Frances features him lovingly holding a bird in his hand; he was known to occasionally preach sermons to the birds.
Stan carried the gifts and helped Dorcas out of their car and up the tricky step into my office. He was gentle and patient, not in a rush. He was apologetic that they had come unannounced and that the gifts had come a couple weeks after the Sunday that was my official anniversary. They had been unable to make it to church that day. They weren’t feeling well.
I knew of Dorcas’ battle with cancer. I didn’t know about Stan’s persistent hip pain and his sciatica. But I knew the pew where they always sat together in church for the 11 o’clock service, week after week, in spite of their health challenges.
He, Dorcas, and 9-year-old Faye moved to Merritt Island in 1972 after Stan retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service. They joined MIPC in 1973. Stan was ordained an elder in our church and served on session from 1974-77. He and Dorcas taught Sunday school.
Stan was stationed in Newfoundland in the Air Force when he met and fell in love with Dorcas, a Newfoundland native. She wasn’t interested in American men, she says, especially those serving in the military. Her parents didn’t approve. He managed to charm her, picking her up in his black Ford and taking her to the Paramount Theater, then dancing at the clubs–the Piccadilly, Crystal Palace, Old Mill, Old Colony–and at the base, though he didn’t like to dance. Oh, he could manage the Fox Trot and the Waltz, but really it was just about being with Dorcas. He persisted. Finally, she agreed to marry a man who would, inevitably, take her away from her family and all that was familiar and comfortable. They married in 1955 at the oldest church in North America–the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As Stan continued to serve in the Air Force, they lived in California, Pennsylvania, Japan, and Patrick Air Force Base on Merritt Island. Dorcas lived in base housing at Patrick when Stan went to Vietnam, earning a gold medal in ‘69 and a bronze star in 1970.
With all that Stan endured in his years of military service and with the years of persistent pain in his hips and legs, the most difficult trial of his life was still the loss of Faye Margaret, their only child, in 2014. She was 51. Nothing hurts us more than the suffering and loss of our loved ones. But surely nothing in this world prepares us for the loss of our own child! It is only by trusting in God’s loving, everlasting presence with us in the Body of Christ that we are able to deal with the pain of such a loss and continue on, walking with the Lord, clinging to Him! Moment by moment. Day by day.
Jesus’ disciples are confused and more than a little distressed when Jesus tries to explain in the gospel of John, chapter 13 what will happen to him and to them. He is leaving them, he says. Where he’s going, they cannot come. He’s talking about the cross and the work of salvation that only he can accomplish for our sakes. He will later assure them of the dwelling places he will prepare for his disciples in His father’s house in the world to come. But first He gives them a “new commandment” to live by. Really, it’s just a new twist on an old commandment. For “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as your self” are Old Testament laws. The new thing is for the disciples to love one another as Christ has loved them. The love Jesus has for the world is revealed by his obedience to God and willingness to give up his own will and his own life so that others who believe on Him may have everlasting life. This self-giving love is how the world will recognize Christ’s followers–and more will come to know Him and His salvation.
So now, in John 14:15, when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” he is talking primarily about the new commandment –this self-giving love in what the Apostle Paul will call the Body of Christ. The problem is that it isn’t humanly possible for us to love that way. Not without God’s help. So what does Jesus do? He promises to send help–the “Advocate,” the “Spirit of Truth” to His disciples. When the Spirit comes, Christ Himself will live in them and they, Christ says, will be able to see Him and know He is with them FOREVER.
“I will not leave you orphaned,” he says to them. “I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.”
Not only will Christ’s followers be able to see Him, they are promised resurrection –eternal life with Him. “Because I live,” Jesus adds, “you also will live.”
Friends, the world is crying out in fear and sorrow for help and hope. The answer is almost too simple and straightforward for some. God is ready to give the gift of Himself–His loving Spirit–to all who desire to receive Him. We are obedient to God when we love one another, putting others’ needs before our own. Christ is revealed to the world by our love. When we seek to be obedient to the Lord and live in love, the Spirit will guide and strengthen us to carry on, persevering through trials and suffering, trusting in His everlasting, loving presence with us in the Body of Christ. Walking with the Lord. Clinging to Him! Moment by moment, day by day.
Trust in the One who has made his home with us. The One whom we will see, someday, face to face.
Jesus says, “The … Holy Spirit… will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. … Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.”
Let us pray.
Holy One, thank you for sending your Son to take all our sin upon Himself so that we may be forgiven not by our works, but by your love, mercy and grace. Thank you for your Word that reveals our Savior and shows us how you want us to live, trusting in you and persevering through trials, moment by moment, day by day. Thank you for Your loving Spirit that dwells in and with us, the Church, the Body of Christ, empowering us to love one another in a way not humanly possible and be strong–and not afraid. Help us to keep your commands and be obedient to your Word. Thank you, Lord, for granting us your peace that is so unlike what the world gives. Lord, we long to see you, face to face. In Your son’s name we pray. Amen.