It is preparation time in the reading from John 14:15-21. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his imminent departure.
This is a letter of preparation, but it is also a love letter because it begins and ends with a call for them to love: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever”.
Jesus was calling his disciples to live the love he showed them during their time together.
Jesus was preparing them for the hate; the betrayal of his love they will soon encounter, and which they would be complicit in betraying: Judas would betray him; Peter would deny him and all would abandon him to die on the cross.
Jesus knew their obedience to love the way he commanded would be hard to do after his departure. He was asking them to make love the center of their discipleship and faithful witness.
They had been with Jesus for three long and intense years. They saw him in action, heard his words of authority; they saw the miracles he performed; thousands fed with a few loaves of bread/fishes; water turned into wine; they saw the sick healed and Lazarus raised from the dead, all was about to end.
It is hard to say goodbye to someone you love. Separation is hard, many of us are having a hard time being separated from our friends, our loved ones and our routines as a result of the global pandemic.
Jesus knew the love he commanded them to live, combined with his separation would be hard, so he promised them help, a gift from God the Father, God the Son, to them and now to us.
Jesus said in John 14:18,“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” Jesus was going but would be present with them and us in a brand new way. We will see the shape of this new way on the day of Pentecost that we will mark in a few weeks.
The help was the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the spirit of Truth, that would accompany them, dwell in them, enabling them to love and live as Jesus commanded.
The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person in the Holy Trinity which we confess our belief in at our baptism and in the Creed that is part of our weekly liturgy: “I believe in God the Father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit”
The Holy Spirit brings the truth of God’s love and life to us, enabling the possibility of faith because it is hard to believe what is not visible to our natural eyes.
Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus comes from God, they reveal the truth of God, the way of God, so we can become more like God and share the divine life of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit works in holy partnership to fulfill the purpose and mission of Jesus, enabling the disciples then, and us now, to carry on the mission of Jesus in our time.
This preparation love letter has been gifted to us to help us prepare to live out the love of Jesus in our time, during a global pandemic.
Loving the way God command was hard then. We know how the story ended: Jesus was betrayed; denied 3 times; tortured and executed after these words.
But death would not have the last word, Jesus was resurrected on the 3rd day and invited his disciples back to love and a new life of faith.
This 6th week of Easter, 9th week of lockdown, this love letter has been gifted to us. Jesus is risen and continues to invite us to love in the way of Jesus. There is always room and space to grow to love in the way of Jesus.
In recent weeks, we have seen the face of hate and the denial of the kind of love Jesus commands.
In the US, young black lives are being cut short by hate: 26 year-old Austry Ahmed, was brutally shot dead while jogging and 26 year-old Breonna Taylor, a nurse working on the front line of the coronavirus, was shot in her apartment. These hateful acts are a betrayal of the love Jesus commanded
Closer to home, agencies serving abused women and children have reported a surge in domestic violence. There is also a surge in hate crimes targeting Asians, who are the scapegoats for the coronavirus, thanks to our Southern hate-monger in chief president.
These are examples of hate that grieves the heart of Jesus and denial of the love of neighbour we are called to live as Christians.
Loving the way God commands is hard, it is counter-cultural and may not be shaped by our culture of birth or by popular culture.
Like the indigenous people of Canada, many of us were colonized, we were taught to hate ourselves. As a woman of African descent, born in colonial Jamaica, I have had to learn to love myself in the way of Jesus. Equally so, I have had to learn to love others in the same way. This work to love never ends.
As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to love in the way of Jesus. This requires vigilance and alertness to resist ignorance and fear. The scripture tells us the shape this love must take:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37)
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1Corinthians 13)
We reveal God to others when we love as Jesus commands.
So may we be renewed to love the way Jesus commands us to love. May the wonderful love of Jesus, the presence of the Holy Spirit, our advocate, strengthen us to overcome our fears, doubts, heal our blindness and anxieties, as we face this global pandemic rooted in the love of Jesus.
Rev. Jacqueline Daley