Pastor John Kerr
Theme: “It Doesn’t Get Much Better” Text: John 14:15-21 Date: May 17, 2020
After two months of staying at home and social distancing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, people have gotten down in the dumps and discouraged. I can’t go to a movie, can’t go out to eat, can’t go to church, and can’t go to a concert or ball game. I’ve lost my job or been furloughed. No income. No sports on TV! Stop the world I want to get off!
I feel that way too. I don’t like to be down and discouraged. So Itried to do something to perk up my spirits. Pick up the novel I started three weeks ago. Go to the local nursery and pick out some pansies to plant in our flower garden. Paint the wicker flower box stand. Add a little zip to our life by going to the local Culver’s drive-thru, and ordering some food to take home and live it up for our evening meal. No dishes to wash!
Once the country opens up you can perk up your life by doing some of these things we’ve been deprived of, or you could splurge andtake a trip to a special place like Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital. Take the kids or grandkids. Visit the Capitol, White House, Smithsonian museums, Lincoln memorial and Washington monument and Capitol Reflecting Pool and hear the kids say, “Cool.” There are quiet places like Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot, the Holocaust Museum, Vietnam Wall, Arlington National Cemetery and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Going to visit places where history was made and happens lifts our spirits. These places are special, holy and sacred.
I know some of you are worried about who’s going to feed and take care of the dog and mow the lawn. I don’t think I could take that trip.
Okay, I have another holy place we can visit to perk up our spirits. It’s not overseas or to a national site. We’ll rent buses and visit the churches where you were brought up. The church where you were baptized, went to Sunday school, and learned Bible stories. The church where you learned from teachers the Lord’s Prayer and songs of the church, where you took your first communion and were confirmed. Wouldn’t that be special?
It would be good for you to go there to reclaim your religious heritage and be refreshed in your Christian faith. It would be good for all of us to go with you to help us know you and appreciate from where you came. What we have of our Christian faith, we brought with us from some place else. We affirm and applaud that, and we want to understand it better. The church of our childhood is a holy place and can lift our spirits.
Some of you will say, “I don’t think I could make that trip either.” All right, I have another plan. We could just come to Faith, to this holy place—not to a worship service, but just to gather here for conversation and exchanging stories and enjoying some coffee, tea, soda, and a variety of desserts. We are a remarkable group of people. We come from different backgrounds and places. We blend together in song, worship, service, study, helping and enjoying each other. We could just come here and share and enjoy one another. That would be a great trip to holy ground.
But maybe an even better trip to a holy place would be for you this afternoon to take your Bible and go to some quiet place and sit alone and read our text from John 14:15-24. Better yet, begin at verse 1.
Why? Well, Jesus is leaving his disciples. Our text is part of Jesus’ farewell speech to his followers.
“Trust God, trust me. In my Father house are many dwelling places.. . . I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus was leaving. His disciples were down and depressed over his leaving. What would life be like without him? When he’s gone, there would be no Jesus, no holy land.
One thing that bothered the readers of John’s gospel was “We aren’t living at that time and place of Jesus, so that we could experience him in person. What about us? We only have a second hand report, a second hand faith. How do we keep our faith alive? Do we keep our faith alive by reading the Bible? Do we have to live on memories of what used to be, and spend our time wishing we lived back then and there with Jesus instead of here and now?” They worried about that.
So, Jesus gave them this: “Wherever you are, that is holy ground, a holy place. The Father will send you another helper, a comforter, the Holy Spirit who will never leave you. I must leave you, but the Holy Spirit will be with you as I have been with you. There will be no less presence and power of God with you. Wherever you are, the Holy Spirit will be with you always.”
And Jesus goes on to say, “If you love me and keep my commandments and live in me, my Father and I will come and live in you. I’m going to leave and prepare a dwelling place for you, and my Father and I will come and take up residence with you and live with you and in you.”
God, Jesus, Holy Spirit will come and live in us and with us and among us. Wherever we are—here, there, anywhere—that becomes sacred ground for us, our holy land. What else could we ask for?
Take some time to enjoy and appreciate that promise of Jesus and claim it for yourself. Live your faith. Some of us aren’t getting all of the nutrition from our faith, because we live such complicated, busy, hurried lives. Perhaps we should live more simply. Get rid of some of the junk in our lives. We don’t need a lot of stuff. We don’t need to be entertained all the time. Spend some time enlarging the inner world of your life. How can God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit live in us if there’s no room? Make some room. Clean out a bunch of stuff from your life, and live your faith.
But there’s a lot of work to be done in living out our faith by serving others, making masks for others, seeing that others don’t catch the coronavirus from us, making someone’s life a little happier, easier, more enjoyable because we came by and left a note, a card or gift.
It all seems so easy to do, but it’s so difficult to do. We’ve got a long way to go to live out our faith by getting at the root causes of war, terrorism, violence, poverty, ageism, and sexism. We’ve got a long way to go in living faithfully, so the day will come when people don’t have to worry about having quality health care. We’ve got a long way to go in living out our faith, so that there will be equal justice for women and children, rich and poor, people employed and unemployed, people of all nationalities and sexual orientation.
Jesus said, “If you obey my commandments and serve faithfully and speak truthfully, I will come and take up residence in you.”
We don’t have to catch a plane and fly to the Holy Land in the Middle East, or hop on a bus or get in the car and go to some holy, sacred place to enliven our faith and lift up our spirits. What we have to do is claim the promise of Jesus—“I will come and take up residence in your life and live in you, and give you abundant life, joy, strength and stamina.”
We are that holy ground! Our bodies are that sacred ground! Our lives are holy places! And it doesn’t get any better than that!