Sixth Sunday of Easter
TEXTS: Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 and John 14:23-29
“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.” (John 14:23)
What a beautiful Scripture! We are invited to love Jesus, and the Gospel says that the best way to do this is to keep his Word. So I encourage you to read a little of the Bible every day—to become familiar with the Word, so you can keep it!
We know what the Word of Jesus is. It’s a specific message: “Love one another, love your neighbours, be as compassionate as God, do not judge anyone, put down the sword, forgive seventy times seven times, seek first God’s reign and God’s justice, love your enemies.”
That’s the Word. If we are to keep his Word, we have to disregard all the false words of the world, all the lies and hypocrisy of our culture.
The Gospel says: if we love him, if we keep his Word, and live according to it, over time, the Word will shape us and we will live like Jesus and really follow him, and God will come to us and dwell inside us. So our job is to be “keepers of the Word” and to let God live in us!
More than that, the Gospel calls us not only to be keepers of the Word of Jesus, but keepers of the peace of Jesus. “Peace I leave with you,” he says, “my peace I give you.” He says this at the last supper, on the night before he dies. And then again when he rises from the dead, he says, “Peace be with you.”
This peace is the most important thing Jesus wants to give us. The world knows nothing of his peace, and we too may have a hard time living in peace. We are busy, we have many worries, we’re sick or we have problems with our families or at work or at school, but we do have moments when we are at peace … don’t we?
If you take up my challenge to read some of the Bible every day—maybe at the start of the day—and meditate upon it, and ask God to show you what it means for you … then I think you’ll come to know that time as peaceful.
If we make time to be centred and at peace in communion with Jesus, he says that he will come to dwell with us. I think when Jesus says he gives us his peace, that he wants us to live all our days like that—centred in that moment of communion with him. Of course, that’s easier said than done in the complicated lives we all lead. But that’s the ideal.
Perhaps by way of encouragement, today’s reading from the Book of Revelation holds out the promise of the fulfillment of that ideal when it says:
… in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God … I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light … (Rev. 21:10; 22:22-23a)
As I considered that passage this past week—and wondered how I could weave a blog post out of it—I remembered something that I had read once. It’s by a Roman Catholic writer—an American priest named Tom Mannebach—and I think it casts some holy light on the themes of this day. It speaks about memory and hope, about why churches are important, and about motherly love and childhood memories.* It goes like this:
It’s Sunday morning, and Mom and I walk into the church of my childhood. I was only about six or seven at the time, but I was old enough to know what awaited me. Namely, it was about an hour of daydreaming, staring, squirming, and just waiting for an hour to pass in order for freedom to return. And so the question naturally sprung into mind. “Mom,” I asked, “why do we have to come here?” Without batting an eye she responded, “because God lives here.” (Moms have built-in catechisms that are made for situations like this.) Her response didn’t thrill me one iota, but it did content me—after all, it’s hard to argue about coming to see God. So we enter the side-door of the church, where I begin another hour-long squirm session with the Source of all life.
She was right. Church is where God lives. Word and sacrament, priest and assembly—we’ve learned it all before. God is alive and well as we gather together. But the Easter season doesn’t leave us in the here and now. Not if we take our cue from the book of Revelation. Here we can find a daydream about the future. And if we stare through the church windows long enough, we’ll see what John sees: not simply an outside world, but a transformed world! A holy city! A new Jerusalem!
Turns out, we’re not the only ones who daydream in church. God’s pretty good at it too. In fact, God stares so intently at the church walls that eventually they break down. God’s dream will make church overcrowding a thing of the past. The worship space is expanding, we are told. And once it’s finished, the new Jerusalem will accommodate even the largest Easter assembly.
Maybe John’s description of holy city sounds more like a description of the emerald city. Flashing lights and jewels galore. But God’s dream is no eight-hour snooze. It’s a living reality. As a people of faith, we are called to do our daydreaming wide awake. The message God speaks has nothing to do with the land of Oz, but our land and our world. It’s the dream God shares with us, and for good reason.
We need this dream—for we all see headlines about war and terror, about sickness and scandal. We wonder if we’re living more in a nightmare than a daydream. But God is faithful—to us, and to the plan that is now unfolding. We await the fulfillment of the dream. We yearn for the day when church capacity will match city capacity, and today’s headlines will melt into tomorrow’s footnotes.
So why do we have to come here? One day we will say that we don’t. One day we will not have to go to church. We’ll already be there.
If only I could have told my Mom that.
* Found on the website of the Athenaeum of Ohio (http://www.mtsm.org/Preaching/h-easter6c.htm)