Have you ever found yourself part of a group that might be gathering or meeting for the first time and someone says let’s do an ice breaker to help to get to know each other. I don’t know about you but I always cringe a bit when that happens. Although I actually enjoy listening to the antics of others as they struggle to play along. It’s surprising what some people want to share. Apparently if the ice breaker question was what music do you listen to the most or the loudest there are a surprising number of people who would answer – country music. At least many have confessed that to me this past week. If you weren’t here last week go online and read last week’s sermon that will make everything clearer. And yes I did just slip in an ad for the web page.
This past week I was at a gathering where we all had to participate in a get to know each other better exercise. There were two questions we were to answer. One was – what energizes you and the second was what troubles you. Everyone had something to say for each question. In fact I don’t think people found the questions difficult to answer at all. We might not like to take time to reflect upon what troubles us but from time to time we are all troubled about something. The last line of our gospel reading today reports Jesus saying – “do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” That actually gets reported in a number of spots in the gospel. It was very likely something Jesus repeatedly said. It’s certainly something we need to hear. But it does not simply stand on its own. It is always anchored to a larger picture.
Today’s reading started with Phillip saying to Jesus – “Lord show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Philip at this point is seeing Jesus simply as a teacher or as an example and he is asking his teacher to get to the point. Jesus you are constantly talking about God and the reality of God now just reveal God to us or help us to know and see what you see and we will be satisfied. Give us the ultimate proof of God and we will be satisfied. The desire of Philip’s heart has not gone away. It’s prevalent throughout the world today. People want God to be a reality. People want there to be meaning and purpose to life. If God does not exist then we are a freak accident of a massive and basically destructive universe. Life is thriving on this planet but things are pretty hostile to life when you leave the safety of the planet. Not to mention the reality that we know life on this planet has a shelf life. It might be a few million or billions of years but once the sun is done we are done. Without God being a reality survival becomes the logical driving force of life not the celebration of beauty and wonder and love. “Jesus show us the Father and we will be satisfied”. Prove the reality of God to us and we will know that all is well and we will know how to go about life. What is Jesus’ response to Phillips request? “Have I been with you all this time Phillip and you still do not know me?” Jesus revealed who he was to the disciples. They were slow to accept who he was. They were slow to believe who he was. They are just like us. They wanted proof of the reality of God. A god that would make sense to them which was not a god who would become a human and live among them. Not a god who would know their name and call them by name. They were looking for a God more powerful than the forces in the universe that destroy life. They experienced a god more tender and loving then they could possible imagine. A god who willingly became weak. A god of great power and glory who embraced the humility of entering the fragility of human life.
Jesus says to them, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Philip if you have seen me you have seen God. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” I am in God and God is in me. We are inseparable. “The words that I speak I do not speak on my own but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” When I speak to you Philip it is God speaking to you. You want to know what God is like. I am the work of God Philip. “The Father who dwells in me does his works.” “Believe me that I am in the Father” Jesus knew who he was; the proclamation that Jesus is God came from Jesus not from the disciples. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” If you are having trouble believing the incredible tenderness and grace and mercy and love of God. A God so loving and tender that he became human and calls you by name Philip. If you are having trouble believing such glorious news then look beyond the words, look beyond that proclamation to the works themselves. Look at the acts of power that you have witnessed Philip. Storms stopped and seas calmed by my command. People born blind given eyesight. People born unable to walk given healthy strong limbs. People born unable to hear being able to hear the wonders of the sounds of life. People who have died being called back to life. Philip I have and displayed power over the world you are living in. Believe because you have seen the very source of power at work nurturing and giving life.
Then Jesus says to him, says to us – “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” If you love me. What we love becomes a priority in our lives. What we anchor our hearts to becomes a priority in our lives. What we open our hearts to, what we let into the deepest part of our lives becomes a priority. Jesus says to us, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. If we truly love someone we want to please them. We think about them. We enjoy being with them. We want to spend time with them. Jesus says if you love me you will want to please me. If you love me.
There are many people in history that did amazing things that we can read about, that we can learn from that we can maybe even be inspired by their actions. We may even say we love the things that they did or what they stood for. But to truly love someone you actually need to have a relationship with them. Otherwise you are loving ideas, or stories or perhaps the results of their influence, but without a relationship with them you can’t truly know them and you can’t love them. Jesus says to Philip and his disciples if you love me. Jesus is saying to us we can have the same relationship with Him that the disciples had. We can have a loving relationship with him. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.”……. “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 you hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
Today we are celebrating that what the disciples had and experienced, a loving and intimate relationship with Jesus, which is a loving and intimate relationship with God, we can also have. God the author of life itself, entered our human existence, walked with us in our pain, our suffering, meets us in our fearful and troubled hearts, loves us with tenderness and mercy and grace. He did not crush us with his power and glory but loved us in humility and grace. The ultimate destructive force, death, could not defeat him, could not hold him or destroy him, he rose from the dead and in the face of the hatred that put him in the grave he offered love and forgiveness and more mercy and grace. To those of us who are far removed from the actual event of God entering history and living among us we have another comforter, another Advocate, we have the Holy Spirit. The spirit of the living God not to lead us off on some spiritual quest but to bring us to the glory of what God has done in Christ.
In the reading we had from the Acts of the Apostles of the account of the day of Pentecost, if we had kept reading we would have heard Peter’s sermon that told the story of what God has done in Christ. It reports to us that when those who were there listening heard the proclamation of God coming to live among us in Christ and how humanity rejected such tenderness and humility and mercy, it says that “when the words came to their ears their hearts were troubled.” Their hearts were not troubled because of the struggles of life. Their hearts were troubled because of their rejecting of the grace of God. They asked Peter what shall they do. Open your hearts to the love and the grace of God in Christ. Receive him and the Holy Spirit will come to you and affirm the glory of God in Christ to you. Receive God’s peace because of who Christ is and what Christ has done. And then “do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” because in Christ is life, in Christ is love, in Christ is security for now and all eternity.