Text: John 14:23-29
The Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel
May 1, 2016
“I have said these things while I am yet with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have taught you.
Life is full of transitions. Healthy persons accept this and deal with them so that life can go forward in a positive way. Unhealthy people fight, put off, even deny transitions. But changes come whether we choose them or not. Children are born, relationships change, jobs come to an end, roofs leak, people die. No permission is sought; transitions simply happen.
Transitions bring us face to face with the death of something. So often in our desire to deny death, we forget the possibility of resurrection. Each of us lives with the reality of death. We shudder as we put our child on the school bus for the first time. Something dies within us when our children leave home for college or take their first job. Something happens to us when we turn 50 or 65. In each case we bid farewell to a past that will inform our future. We must take off in order to put on. We must let go in order to grow.
The Easter season, the time from when our Lord died on the cross – until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, is such a time of transition. The trauma of His passion is behind us. The joy of his resurrection is sinking in. Christ is not dead. He is alive. We have seen him.
But there is also the realization that this season cannot last. This fact is never completely removed from the back of our minds. Yet a little while and he must leave. So he will be gone. What will happen then? We wait and we wonder.
Today’s Gospel reaches back to before the crucifixion, back to Maundy Thursday. It was on that evening that Jesus delivered his farewell address to his disciples. On that night he told them he must leave. He told them that they could not go where he was going. In essence, he told them good-bye.
This was a transition which brought the disciples face to face with death. They had to let Jesus die so that he could live in another way. No longer could they be dependent on the fellowship that that had known with him at the center during the sheltered time of their instruction. Now they would have to seize the life that he had promised them. It would be a life that would challenge their faith beyond anything they had ever dreamed that they could know.
His death enabled them to claim resources for growth in a way that his life among them had prevented. In his farewell address he told them, “I will unto leave you desolate, I will pray the Father and he will send the Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth. There on Maundy Thursday, Jesus revealed to his disciples that only in memory would real intimacy with him be possible. Only in memory would they experience the full meaning of what they had witnessed.
They had listened to his words. They had heard him speak about his death. But their ears and eyes remained closed. They did not understand. The Spirit, his spirit, had not yet come. Although they saw and heard him, although they smelled and touched him, they remained distant. But in his absence a new and more intimate Presence would become possible. A Presence that would nurture and sustain in the midst of any trouble.
They would now pray on their own for his prayers were now beyond their hearing. His death would force them into a deeper maturity than they had known before. The great mystery of Divine Revelation is that God entered into intimacy with his people not only by Christ’s coming but also by his leaving.
During the Easter season, our Lord encountered two of his disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. He had come to say good-bye. He met them as they stumbled through their shattered world of broken dreams. “We had hoped that He was the one who would redeem Israel,” they confided. Our Lord did not condemn them, nor did he indulge their self-pity.
Instead he drew them back to what they had already known. He brought to their remembrance those things which he had told them before he died. The disciples’ hearts were strangely warmed in their hour of empty coldness
Then at table they recognized their Risen Lord. There they said good-bye to one dream and began to embrace the possibility of a more profound reality. Aware of resources, which in their anguish they had forgotten, they began to claim the Resurrection, first his, then theirs. Then they began the task which would change the world.
Let us pray. Father, as we come toward the end of this, another Easter season, we pray that your Holy Spirit will reveal to us the Risen Christ. May we be transformed into his image and be empowered to do his will. Amen.