You will see me...
15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
Wendy and I lived in a remote First Nations community. Her Pitjantjatjara name is Yipati. After our daughter was born in the big hospital in Alice Springs, Wendy—Yipati—was placed in a room on a corridor which seemed to stretch the entire length of the hospital.
She was told by the nurse in charge not to use the toilet and the salt baths just next to her room because they "were for the aboriginal girls." …. She should use the ones further down the corridor. Now… those of you who know Yipati... know that a racist, apartheid instruction like that was never going to be well received. Yipati used the toilets next to her room.
The staff, not to be outdone... immediately shifted her to a room at the far end of that long corridor so that she would have a long way to walk, and so that she would have to walk past the "white" toilets and salt baths. Well... she did. Wendy walked all the way down to the so-called aboriginal bathroom on principle.
It rather backfired on the hospital, because a couple of other young women from our community had just had a baby as well, and were in rooms in the same corridor. One afternoon, seven or eight excited and noisy little girls came in to visit their aunties and see the new babies. One of the aunties said, "Yipati is in here somewhere, and she's got a baby, too!" So: two little girls about 5 or 6 years old, went into the room next door: "Yipati? Nyuntu nyinanyi?" And then the next room: "Hullo… Yipati, are you in here?" And they visited all the new mums, and everyone else, all the way down that very long corridor until they found Wendy at the end.
And Wendy told me that, after an excited visit, they raced back down the corridor yelling, "Hey! You kids! Yipati's got a baby and…. it's a white one!"
One of the little girls left the hospital, and ran back to the motel where her family were staying, to tell her mother Tjikalyi that Yipati had had the baby. Tjikalyi ran all the way back to the hospital to see her new grand daughter. Another white baby born on aboriginal land, and yet this woman ran to celebrate and rejoice with the baby's mother.
This is one illustration of the words in Ephesians 2.14, which say of Jesus,
he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
And we were delighted that Tjikalyi allowed us to use her name as a part of our new daughter's name.
A few weeks later we took the long drive back to Pukatja for a visit. It was a time of ceremonies and people were camped far out in the bush. We were given permission to drive out to the camp, and Tjikalyi took her new grand daughter and carried her all through the camp, where people hugged her, blessed her, held her up to the sky and celebrated a new life.
She left us dressed in a little pale green jump suit. When she came back to us she was all red dust and ochre smudged. She was covered in love.
Jesus is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Why am I telling you this story to introduce a reading from the Gospel of John?
Perhaps you have noticed how different John is from the other gospels. It feels different, reads different. And he has some different ideas to the other three. One such idea is that we don't go to heaven when we die, but that instead, eternal life starts NOW. If we entrust our lives to Jesus, new life, eternal life, starts now. We can begin to see, learn to see, the very same world, exactly the same things, the same events, with new eyes.
Do you see how all those years ago in Alice Springs there were two completely different ways of seeing the same things? There was a racist, apartheid way of seeing things, full of fear and disdain and hatred, and yet there was a world of love, and family, and celebration, occurring in exactly the same events. The difference was in what people could see and so in where and how they could live.
John asks us, "Which way will you choose, which life? Jesus or the world? Light or darkness... life or death... freedom or slavery… and, by extension, racial division or humanity? I suspect the hospital staff who tried to control Yipayi had no idea they were being racist. They could not see what was clear to see if there eyes had been opened.
John is clear. If we choose Jesus, there are things we will see. If we don't, we will not see those things in exactly the same world and exactly the same circumstances.
In our text today Jesus says
15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, (that is; another Helper) to be with you for ever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
Unless we trust him, unless we give our lives to him, we will not see the Spirit of truth.
There are two things to understand here. One is that where ever it says you in this text, it means you plural. You the congregation. If you the congregation will keep my commandments… This is not simply about private faith.
And second: It is not that the Holy Spirit is somewhere far distant and will not be given to us until we give our lives to Jesus. Neither is it the case that the Spirit of God was somewhere far distant until Pentecost and then God sent the Spirit—even though it felt like that. As it says at the very beginning of the bible:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The Spirit of God is always here and always has been. The Spirit of God holds us in life. Without the Spirit of God we would not exist.
The only question is this: Will we see a hard, unfair, violent world… full of suffering and injustice… a world without God, a world without hope… "dog eat dog," as they say… survival of the fittest… with only death at the end?
Or in this same world, in exactly this same world, will we together, this congregation, see and experience together, love, joy, peace? Will we find purpose? Will we come to see that we are loved and cherished… loved and cherished so much that God would even die for us? Will we feel all this as a real, live thing, and hold our infant children up to the sky in delight?
Or will we live in grim fear, doing the best we can, struggling along on our own until the inevitable end?
John is telling us that if we will love Jesus and keep his commandments, we will see the Spirit along side. We will know, we will feel, that the Spirit is alongside us. Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you."
If we keep the commandments.
In the next chapter to this one he says
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ... You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15)
Seeking to love each other… remember all the yous in this text are you-plural… if we do this together, our eyes will be opened. We will see we have been given the Spirit. We will see that God is with us. And the whole, same, world will be a different place, a place of blessing. Amen.
For more on John 14:15-21 see:
The Mundane Spirit of God
Being Open to See Life
Just Love Each Other
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
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