This sermon was given by our Reader, Christine, on Sunday 21 May
Today’s gospel is a continuation from last week’s when Jesus told his disciples “not to worry” and Sue led us through the passage.
Jesus is continuing to speak to his disciples, before his arrest, after Judas has left the last supper.
This particular passage strikes a chord in me, as it is reminiscent of Moses speaking to the Israelites before they cross the Jordan into the land that God has promised to them.
Moses is instructing them to follow the commandments and statutes that God had given to him.
Deuteronomy 4: 1-2 Moses Commands Obedience
“So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.”
In the same way that Moses was preparing the Israelites to live after he has gone, because he was not allowed to enter the “Promised Land”.
Jesus in turn is instructing his disciples on how to live their lives after he has gone, but He promises something different he promises to send an advocate, who is the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit who will be their guide and through him Jesus will live in all.
Jesus knows and understands the persecution that his disciples are likely to face. A persecution that many Christians today face in places where they are not allowed to practice their faith openly.
Just as Moses prepared his people for their journey to a new life, Jesus is preparing his disciples and us. The main difference is that Moses was speaking to a nation, whereas Jesus is speaking to his disciples.
He is preparing them for life without him leading them, from now on they must be the leaders and they must journey on the path set before them.
They didn’t know where those paths would take them, but one thing Jesus told them was that they would see him again when he revealed himself to them.
By this time the disciples, must have begun to get very worried, even though Jesus had told them not too. They had seen Jesus predict his own betrayal, they had heard the words he had spoken to Peter about denying him and now he is hinting very strongly that something life changing is about to happen and mainly to him.
‘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.”
There must have been lots of discussion going on between all the disciples, wondering what was going to happen to them.
They didn’t know where their paths lay or what sort of journey they were going to go on in the same way that we never know where God is going to lead us as we are all on different journeys.
Paul was one of those disciples that grabbed the chance to spread the Gospel and tell the story of Jesus to everyone he met. He took chances, many of them, he suffered persecution, betrayal, imprisonment and probably beatings, but he still stayed faithful to God. He wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stop him spreading the good news.
I’m sure there are many of us that have had the chance to spread some good news, be it a friend’s wedding, a special birthday, congratulations on a new job or the birth of a child. We have many things that we can rejoice in and sometimes celebrate with others who are not in our family circle and for this we thank God that we are given the opportunities to celebrate joyous occasions with others.
Paul was celebrating his story with others that he did not know and we, like the disciples and Paul are on a journey and sometimes discerning the path that God wants us to follow is not always easy and we take lots of different routes to finally get to our destination.
If any of you know my son and ask him about different paths, he will probably tell you the story of our dog walk this weekend.
He (rather than me) decided we wouldn’t go in Heaton Park, somewhere we are both familiar with, for a change we would go on a new ‘adventure’ down Prestwich Forest Park, which leads into different parks and there are lots of woodland paths. So being someone who likes anywhere quiet and being among nature, I went along with him – we were limiting ourselves to an hour as it had forecast rain. We set off, no problem, James venturing down embankments (he likes to do dangerous things) to see the remnants left behind from the flooding a couple of years ago. We were walking along a path next to the Irwell. Anyway, we decided it was time to head back. The rain had started to fall gently and I pointed out a small path we had passed and said I thought it might lead back to the car. Big mistake! It took us on a circle back to the point where we had decided to head back, so you can imagine the laughter it caused and of course, mum has no sense of direction! It was a good walk though.
Paul’s journey wasn’t quite as sedate and steady as ours was; his was one of leadership and delegation. He took Jesus’ words and he spread them as far and as broad as he could and he then left others in charge of those churches he had established. He truly believed, Jesus’ words, “In him we live and move and have our being.”
He spoke openly to all he met and he knew how to reach the people of his time. He was passionate, enthusiastic and eager to tell everyone about the good news that Jesus had died for all of us. He followed the path that God had set before him and he journeyed to the end.
Jesus also followed the path set out for him, he knew where his journey was leading to. He told his disciples, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live” and 20”on that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
We all have a journey to make and we all have paths set out before us, discerning those paths can be one of the most difficult things for us as Christians, because of the teachings of Jesus and the temptations in the world around us.
We know we should always follow the examples of Jesus and I would now like to ask those of you who have been given something from me to bring it out to the front.
Can I just emphasise at this point, that I had no idea there is now some sort of TV programme based on Babushka dolls.
(In each of the dolls were the following words in speech marks)
(Smallest doesn’t open) God came to us in the form of Jesus Christ and began his journey as a human child, teaching us how to live through parables and miracles
He taught us “Hope” – hope for the future, for forgiveness, for sins forgiven
He showed us his “Healing” touch with those who suffered, he healed with lepers, Peter’s mother-in-law and many others.
He talked about “Peace” and gave it to us through his Spirit
He showed and gave everyone his “Love” – Love your neighbour as yourself.
He practised “Equality” by sharing a meal with sinners and mixing with all people
And he gave “Forgiveness” to those who asked
All these dolls fit into the last doll, all these words are in us, as all that Jesus taught us is in us.
As Jesus says, “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Amen.
Christine Hardy – Reader – St. Margaret’s & St. George’s ©