Sermon 5/1/2016: “The Frontier of Peace”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Church of the Resurrection
Text: John 14:23-29
Day: 6Easter, Year C

“The Frontier of Peace”

Hermano Leon free clipart

Perhaps some of you are of an age where you have attended a parent who had just learned that they were terminally ill. Do you remember such a time, what was said, and how you felt?

Maybe you have, as yet, been spared this ordeal. So let’s envision such a situation. Here’s how I picture a parent telling you “good-bye.”

You mother has summoned you and all her children to visit her. And, after a fine meal together which she lovingly prepared, she begins to tell you that her life has entered a new phase, to tell you that she is now actively dying.

What you would feel at hearing such news might depend on the nature of your relationship with her. Perhaps you would be devastated, or sad, or angry, or indifferent, or relieved, or even secretly gleeful. But let’s assume your mother was a good woman, an attentive and loving mother who had taught you much, and that you will grieve her loss.

That’s how YOU might feel. But your MOTHER is the one dying. And she has a new-urgent need: to reassure her children that all would be well, and to reinforce the major lessons she had taught you during your time together.

As for the reassurance, she might just come right out and tell you, “All will be well. You’ll see me again, in heaven. I’ll even greet you at the gates! And I’ll never really leave you. I’ll be with you always.”

Do these words sound familiar? This scene I have envisioned is exactly what’s going on in today’s gospel lesson. Jesus knew his days on earth were nearing an end. He had just shared a meal with his beloved friends. And now he was both reassuring them that all would be well and reinforcing the lessons he them to remember.

Jesus’ reassurance is very famous, so reassuring that millions and millions of people since then have used his farewell blessing as a life-raft in time of great trouble. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”

Graphic by Ecumenical Women at the United Nations

By all accounts, Jesus was a very centered person. He was so internally peaceful that his inner calm drew people to him. Jesus was internally peaceful that he had room for others, not inside his own world where they had to play his game to enter, but neither inside their world, either. The attractiveness of Jesus’ peace is that he created space between himself and others, and then invited them to dare to venture into this new frontier. Little bubbles of frontier, where we cease to fear, where we dare to be ourselves, where we invite others to delight in being themselves, and where we play together in joy and harmony. I call this space that we can created between us the Frontier of Peace.

Jesus was the master of the peace frontier, so much so that his reassurance of peace also was the capstone, the pinnacle, of his teaching. “Remember my words,” Jesus said, “remember all that I have taught you.” And lest we let that teaching slip out of our memory, Jesus also said, “I’m going to give you The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in my name.”

I know some people (not naming names; certainly not HERE at Resurrection) who don’t reaaaaaallllly believe in this “Holy Spirit stuff,” to use their words. “Aren’t we each,” they have said, “individuals responsible for making our own way in life, responsible for accepting or rejecting God?”

“Maybe,” I would answer. “But don’t we channel, live, express the spirit of others all the time?”

Take, for example, your mother. Whom I left with you and your siblings around a table after a fine meal together where she has told you she is actively dying. Let’s fast forward that scene a few decades. Have you forgotten your mother and what life-lessons she taught you? Doesn’t her voice, her values, her encouragement, and her admonitions ring in your head even to this day?

I tried this logic on a Holy Spirit skeptic once, who declared that his mother’s spirit lived in him because he knew his mother, but that he didn’t know Jesus. And that was the problem. As Jesus said in our lesson today, “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.” The converse is true also. Those who do not accept and love Jesus deny the Christ and God the Father from abiding within them and working through them in the Spirit of God. They close off their own access to the Frontier of Peace.

But I’m talking about other people, people who deny God and close themselves off to the work of peace. Surely we all here at Resurrection have long ago accepted and love Jesus the Christ? Surely we all here at Resurrection are intimately familiar with the Spirit who God sent in Christ Jesus’ name? Surely we—each and every one of us—have surrendered ourselves to be a gateway to the Frontier of Peace, also known as the Kingdom of God?

The Spirit that God sent, in Christ Jesus’ name, led the very people at Jesus’ farewell meal in today’s lesson to establish the church, a place where for 2,000-plus years the Frontier of Peace has been nurtured and has grown. The church has been and is where we learn about and are reminded of the words and teaching of Jesus. The church has been where we have been led, time and time again, out of error into truth. Sometimes we get things wrong, but somehow, guided by the Spirit and channeling Christ Jesus, we often get things very right when we cultivate new space between us in which we can practice bringing the Frontier of Peace to the world.

Many are mourning the so-called “death of the church” that seems to be going on all around us. Surely the Spirit of God is at work in and through this, as in all things? Can’t you just hear Christ Jesus telling us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

The questions for us today are very simple (and there are two of them):

  • Do we love Jesus? If so, keep his words. Abide in his peace and extend the Frontier of Peace beyond the church and into a public square that is desolate of peace. If not, ask Jesus to help you love him.
  • Have we made ourselves a home for God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? If so, how will we use our God-home to create and extend the Frontier of Peace beyond ourselves? If not, ask the Holy Spirit to blow change in and through you, in Christ Jesus’ name.
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