John 14:23-29 (Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67)

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord (Zechariah 2:10).

The concept of God dwelling – making his home – amongst his people, is a familiar Old Testament promise. Indeed, God’s dwelling place was in the sanctum sanctorum (the Holy of Holies) at the heart of the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, in John’s Gospel Jesus, in the midst of his Farewell Discourse, tells his confused disciples that, “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 14:23b). So, the Gospel message is that the dwelling place of God will be in the community of believers, not in a temple or building, no matter how magnificent that structure is.
We learn this in Jesus’ reply to a question from Judas (no, not that Judas, another one!). The question – missing from this Sunday’s text – is simple: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” (John 14:22). Judas’ question is understandable, given the confusion of the disciples, and context of John’s community (expelled from the synagogues, and struggling to understand their new community in contrast to their old community – in other words, where are the boundaries?)  Jesus’ response seems a wee bit off the point (a familiar situation in this gospel). This “off-ness” serves to make clear the distinction between the disciples’ worldly viewpoint, and Jesus’ spiritual one.
In other words, this isn’t about boundaries, but about loving Jesus. Those that love Jesus hear his word (believe) and keep his word (live their lives accordingly). Those who do not love him, simply do not hear or keep his word.  However, this is a farewell, a leave-taking, and those of us who have said goodbyes – and that’s all of us! – know the emptiness in our lives and hearts that comes next. Jesus knows that, and so fills the emptiness he otherwise leaves behind:

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 (vs. 25- 27b).

So, the Holy Spirit is the indwelling of God (Father and Son) in the community of faith, which teaches the community not through a lesson plan or clever curriculum, but through remembering.  I can’t help but think of the wonderful old hymn:

I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love; I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true, it satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.

Remembering comes in the retelling of the story; in the pattern of worship and prayer; through the familiar rituals; in the passing of the faith seasons of the year. Remembering also comes in the practice of faith – the living out of one’s faith – in good works. (As Luther once said, “God doesn’t need my good works, but my neighbor does!”) When faith is active in love, we remember the Lord:

Truly I tell you, just as you did/did not do it to one of the least of these who are members        of my family, you did it/did not do it to me (Matthew 25-40, 45).

When a community of faith (us!) deeply and powerfully recognizes that God’s home is with us, how could we possibly act and react except with great love and trust. How dare we fear for tomorrow; or withhold God’s grace from others; or draw boundaries between peoples; or spread distrust; or live with an attitude of scarcity leading to hoarding or time, talent or treasure? The community of faith can be transformative, when it lives out its faith secure in the knowledge that when Jesus was reunited with the Father, the Holy Spirit was united with the Beloved Community.
Pr. Ken +