Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter 

Text: John 14:23

Jesus answered, "Those who love me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and my Father and I will come to them and live with them."

At home with us

In a campaign speech, Winston Churchill poked fun at the jargon creeping into government. "There is a lovely one about houses and homes," Churchill said. "In the future they are to be called accommodation units. I don't know how we are going to sing the old song ‘Home Sweet Home’. It would go like this, "Accommodation Unit, sweet, Accommodation Unit, there’s no place like our Accommodation Unit."

While the statesman was having a bit of fun, there is a certain truth in what he said - there are a lot of homes that are merely accommodation units.

We read and hear stories of children who have a home that is sheer hell. For them, home is a place of sorrow, insecurity, hurt, pain and abuse. For some, home is the place where they suffer to the point of death.

Home! What is a home?
A home is a place of joy, security, comfort and love.
For a child, home is a safe place;
it’s the place where they grow and learn;
it’s where they are loved and in return give love.
Home is the place we like to be;
the place we like to come ‘home’ to.
It’s our resting place after a hard day.
Home is the place where we live.

Jesus and his disciples are sharing together a meal on the day before Good Friday. Jesus tells them that he will soon go away.
They ask him if they can go with him, but Jesus replies, "You cannot go where I am going" (13:33).
"But we will be left alone," the disciples replied.
"When I go, you will not be left alone". And then Jesus goes on to tell the disciples, "Those who love me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and my Father and I will come to them and live with them." The words "My Father and I will come and live with them" can also be translated as, "We will make our home with them"
(1)

These words give all faithful followers of Jesus a wonderful promise. This special home that Jesus is referring to here, provides us with everything we need —everything necessary to be happy and secure, to receive comfort and love.

At this point, it is clear Jesus isn’t only talking about being safe and secure in our heavenly home after our death. He is especially talking about the here and now. His disciples were afraid of what would happen to them during their life in this world. And there fears were very real. It was as if they knew that being a disciple after Jesus left was not going to be easy. They were living in a world that was hostile to the grace and love of God. All of them would face every kind of hardship and suffering imaginable as they went about telling others about Jesus, their Saviour. Almost all them would face death at the hands of the enemies of Christ.

And let’s not forget the fear and confusion that filled their hearts when Jesus was arrested, sentenced and crucified. Jesus knew all this and now reassures them that they can be secure and safe at home with the Father and the Son. This picture of "home" would have warmed their spirits.
Home with God is the place of shelter and protection; being nurtured and comforted.
Home with God is being able to retreat from the day’s problems and worries; being loved in spite of all our weaknesses.
The picture of being at home with God would have been particularly encouraging and strengthening for the disciples when they were anxious and stressed about how they would face so much hostility in the world.

Jesus is also saying to us, "We will come and make our home with you". He is making us a very wonderful promise.
He is promising to be present with us;
to live with us and provide for our needs; as we journey through this life.
As we live in this world, he is dwelling with us; we are able to enjoy his closeness in the same way that he is close to the Father.
We get an idea of just how close Jesus is to us when he describes his relationship with the Father.
In fact, in one place he says, "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30). Now that’s close – real close. It says something about how close Jesus is with us.
In another place, he says, "As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me" (John 10:14,15). Again that tells us something of the intimate way Jesus knows and cares for us in much the same way that our parents knew everything about us when we were young.
And today we hear Jesus say to us, "We will come and make our home with you".

By the way, this isn’t a new idea that God makes his home with us. The Old Testament is full of pictures describing God as our dwelling place (our home), or God’s people living in the house of the Lord. Psalm 27 says, "One thing that I ask of the Lord, … that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling" (v 4,5).
And Psalm 90, "Lord you have been our dwelling place (our home) through all generations" (v1).
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In the midst of our limited, insecure world; Jesus is our source of true security. It can be said that he gives us small portions of eternity right now, as we journey through this life. This happens whenever he gives us the physical as well as the spiritual strength to meet the challenges that confront us.
He gives us rest when we are weary of life so that we can experience the freshness and newness of another day.
He is our centre of retreat when the world’s pain, problems and demands are closing in on us.
In an often hostile, dangerous world, his hospitality is so wonderful and inviting. What a marvellous promise that Jesus and the Father have made their home with us!

Jesus then adds to this picture of the security of home by saying that the Father will send a Helper, a Counsellor, namely the Holy Spirit.
He will teach us what Jesus has said;
he will nurture our faith and trust;
and he will help us remember that we belong to God, we are members of his household and so are protected and cared for. Then he goes on,
"Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid."

Christ's peace is a settled state of the heart, which is not affected by the outward circumstances, and which outward conflicts cannot destroy. The peace that Christ gives comes from knowing that whatever may happen, you and I have a Saviour who will never forsake us. Even in the face of our worst sin, he will not forsake us. He died for us. Even when our life is in danger, we are at peace, because he has conquered death and he will never leave us.

Sometimes peace is described as the absence of conflict, fear, trouble and suffering. Peace is more than the absence of something. Peace, true peace, is the presence of someone – and that someone is Jesus. He has come to make his home with us and that brings true peace into our lives. His love, forgiveness, protection, help, comfort – brings the peace we so much need in our troubled life. Peace is knowing that Jesus will stand by us and that nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39), to use the words of St Paul.

All this builds up to a wonderful picture of being at home – home with God; secure and safe, nurtured and cared for. We do not have to be paralyzed by our fears and troubles. God makes a home within our lives—a home of love, security, joy, peace, confidence and hope.

This word from Jesus today is truly a great one, especially when we are being harassed and feel helpless in the face of life’s difficulties. But there is a danger that this warm cosy picture will send us to sleep. Instead of getting out there and showing our love, sharing our faith, using our abilities to serve God and our fellowman, helping in the many tasks that arise in a congregation such as ours, we feel so comfortable and secure at home with God, that we see no reason to do anything else.

If that happens, be sure that is Satan’s way of stopping God’s work in the world. This is Satan’s way of tricking Jesus’ disciples into inactivity. This kind of inactivity is the greatest danger that faces the church today. It is this kind of inactivity that has caused the demise of congregations and is always a threat to this congregation. The church is the place where we are made to feel at peace and loved and forgiven, but God gives us that peace and love to enable us to cope with the challenges of doing his work, speaking his Word, loving others, helping in the Church or whatever may come our way. His peace and love are not given to send us to sleep, but to send us out to do his work. His peace and love are given to move us to pass on that same peace and love to others. He gives us security in his home so that we can make a difference in the world and in the church, and in the lives of others.

May our prayer be "Lord, forgive us for our cosiness and sleepiness, and activate us for you work". We have a Saviour who has died for us, who gave his life to forgive us, who has claimed us as members of his own family in baptism, and given us his peace. He has given us peace that surpasses all human understanding.

An old man who had suffered a great deal in his life wrote just before his death, "When I look back upon the 70 years of my life, I see quite clearly that I owe my present inner happiness, my peace, and my joy essentially to one fact: I am certain that I am infinitely loved by God. (2)

May we, like this man, know the peace and presence of God in our lives. Let us hold dear the words of Jesus, "Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. … My Father loves you, and we will come to you and make our home with you."

 

(1) The New International Version © 1973, 1978 by International Bible Society
(2) Abbot Damasus Winzen who died July, 1971.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
20th May, 2001
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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