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Sermon for May 22, 2022 – Sixth Sunday of Easter

Speaking Of Life 4026 | Don’t Settle for Less

Have you ever settled for less in your relationships? Healthy relationships are not easy to maintain and require intentional hard work. David reminds us in the Psalms that our loving Father is inviting us into a relationship with him. Even when we’re tired and ready to give up, he continues to pursue us with love and compassion.

Program Transcript


Speaking Of Life 4026 | Don’t Settle for Less
Greg Williams

Have you ever settled for less in your relationships? Healthy relationships don’t come easy and there is always a temptation to avoid the hard work they require. So, when there’s conflict, we may opt to settle for “agreeing to disagree” instead of working through the painful process that leads to reconciliation and peace. Or, we might opt to settle for shallow relationships that do not require the continual investment that deep ones demand. Whenever we settle for less in our relationships, we rob ourselves of the joy they can bring.

What about our relationship with God? How much joy do we abandon when we settle for less in our relationship with the Lord? Why would we settle when there is so much to gain?

C.S. Lewis provides some insight to answer that question. He says, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Thankfully, our Lord is not so easily pleased when it comes to relationships. He aims to continually bring us into the deeper waters of our relationship with him. He has already done the hard work of reconciliation so we can now, by the Spirit, participate in the joyous relationship the Son and his Father share. And when we are tempted to settle, Jesus never will. Because of his strong and unshakable desire to be with us, we can continually seek to know him with all our heart, soul, and strength.

Listen to this Psalm and the joy expressed that comes in knowing the Lord, not just for us, but for the entire world.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us,
Selah
that your way may be known upon earth,
    your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth.
Selah

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth revere him.”

 Psalm 67:1-7 (NRSV)

The word “selah” is like an intermission – a pause to consider what was just said or sang. David wants you and I to pause and consider the truth that the Lord’s face is shining on you today, bringing more joy and blessing than you can possibly imagine. I encourage you to turn to him to enjoy the relationship he desires to give you. Why settle for anything less?

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 67:1-7 • Acts 16:9-15 • Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 • John 14:23-29

This week’s theme is the Lord’s hospitality. The call to worship Psalm is a song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, which includes a prayer that all people of all nations will join in. The selection from Acts records the hospitality of Lydia as a response to having her heart opened by the Lord. The Gospel text from John records Jesus’ words regarding those who are at home in the Father’s love. A reading from Revelation presents an inviting vision of the New Jerusalem whose gates are always open.

Significant Peace

John 14:23-29 (NRSV)

This week we enter the Sixth Sunday of Easter, with only one more Sunday left to celebrate. But this Sunday will precede Ascension Thursday, with the story of Jesus departing from the disciples and returning to his Father. Many churches may choose next Sunday to close out their Easter season celebration with this story, if they do not hold a special Thursday service. So today gives us an opportunity to prepare for that event. Hopefully our journey through the Easter season has been one of encouragement and hope. Recounting the appearances of Jesus to his disciples has given us an encounter with the risen Lord as well. But with Ascension Thursday around the corner, along with the close of the Easter season, it’s sometimes easy to think, “Well, that was good, what now?” Have you ever faced a time when you wondered if your encounters with the Lord were over? It seems to happen right after a spiritual high – a time you know God has been present in your life. These highs can sometimes be followed by a perceived spiritual low – when we question if God is still present.

You wonder if Jesus’ disciples saw his ascension as a sudden and unexpected end to their celebration of his resurrection. Very much like we can feel during those times we question God’s personal presence in our lives.

Jesus knew his disciples would not understand his departure with his ascension any more than they understood his departure at the cross. So, he takes time to comfort and encourage his disciples by helping them understand what he is doing. Our text for today revisits Jesus spending time with his disciples before his departure to encourage them. In his words to them, we also can hear him speaking comfort and encouragement to us for those times we question what he is doing.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23-24 NRSV)

The passage begins with “Jesus replied.” So, we should look back to see what he is replying to before moving forward. The context of this passage is the conversation Jesus is having with the disciples at the Lord’s table. He has told them that he is going away, and Judas (not Iscariot) is puzzled. He, along with the other disciples, thought Jesus was going to reveal himself as the champion of Israel, restoring the Jews to power. Judas’ question is, “Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Have you ever had that question? If we know the Lord, we know what truth and freedom really is. We know the love of the Father for the whole world. We also know what the world puts forth as “love” is a sad substitute, and often even a justification for hate.

When we know him personally, for who he truly has revealed himself to be, we are set free to live in faith, hope, and love. But when we look around, it is painfully clear most do not see this reality. Most are still caught in the bondage of sin, where knowing God is the last thing desired. The manipulation, the lies, the endless violence and exploitation that plays out day in and day out in our world may drive us to ask the same question: “Lord, why have you shown yourself to me but not to everyone else? Wouldn’t it be better if the whole world could see you for who you are as well?” We want everyone to see what we are seeing, and to believe what we believe.

Have you ever wondered how people make it through the really tragic times of suffering without knowing Christ? Sometimes, we are shocked why everyone wouldn’t see the beauty of the gospel when so much is wrong in the world. But then we remember our own darkness that we were called out of. We know the Spirit must open their eyes like he did ours. So, we ask, “Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

We may also identify with the disciples who had gathered around the table with Jesus in this way. They thought they had signed up for something bigger than themselves. They thought they were going to be part of Jesus overthrowing Roman rule and setting Israel free. But, if Jesus was talking about leaving, then their dreams of being part of this historic movement were coming to an end.

Like every other human on the planet, we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We desire to be part of something that is significant. We don’t want to just live mediocre lives, we want significance. So, we search for significance in all kinds of ways that typically just leave us empty and hollow. But when we meet the Lord, we know we have encountered the most significant person and purpose in all human history. And it is an exciting privilege to be included in what he is doing. So when Jesus doesn’t move as fast as we would like, or worse, when he moves in a direction that seems like he is done, or at least done including us, we may feel like he is letting us down. The original disciples must have been feeling much the same way when Jesus told them he was going away.

Thankfully, Jesus does answer our question. And he does so in a way to remind us of a much bigger picture. Like the disciples around the table with Jesus, what they were excited about fell short of what Jesus was actually doing. How often do we think that we have now finally arrived at something really significant? We may think, “now, I’m part of something that will give my life meaning, something that others will have to take note of.” Maybe it’s landing that job you have dreamed of your whole life. Or, maybe it’s finally having a family of your own, or attaining a level of independence that was once beyond your reach. It can be any number of things we see as giving us significance. And they may be very good things, or it could even be something not so good. But, whatever level of significance we rise to, it doesn’t take long to realize we still have a desire for more. Deep down we know we are made for more. Our souls continue to long for an elusive significance we seem unable to give ourselves. Jesus’ response to Judas may be a good reminder for us as well.

Jesus responds with a picture of his relationship of belonging to the Father. A relationship of obedience grounded in love and not duty. Then he goes on to say that this is the relationship the Father wants to share with the whole world. The disciples wanted Jesus to give Israel a place in the world. But Jesus was up to something far greater. He is giving the world a place in Israel, a place in himself as the Son of God who is in relationship with Father and Spirit.

The disciples may have felt their significance was at risk, but in truth they were settling for far less than what Jesus had in mind. Often, we do the same. We see Jesus as a way to fulfill our dreams and goals and miss the fact the Jesus is our dream and goal. We overlook the relationship Jesus brings us into and then set our sights far short of the goal. In knowing Jesus and his Father by the Spirit, we will find a significance that we cannot give ourselves. It is a significance, a relationship of love, that is to be received as a gift of grace. Only, it is so wonderful, so beautiful, that we find it hard to believe and difficult to grasp.

Jesus’ departure is a gift that provides the means of growing into and receiving more of the relationship he has brought us into. Jesus’ leaving is his way of being more fully with us. Jesus locates this gift as the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26 NRSV)

Notice the Holy Spirit is not bringing something new or different than what Jesus has already given. Jesus is the Word of God already spoken to us. But the Spirit will continue to teach us, to help us unpack the significance of who this Word, Jesus, is to us and who we are in relationship to him. The Spirit not only teaches, but also reminds us of what Jesus has already said. The picture here is a significance we never move from. The Spirit aims to move us deeper into this truth, but he is not moving beyond it, as if there was something more that Jesus held back. Sometimes we may be tempted to think of Jesus in this way.

We may think to ourselves that now that we know who Jesus is, we can move on to deeper waters. Now, perhaps that we got our theology right, we can get to the real business of doing ministry, doing something significant with our lives. But when we think like that, we are revealing that we don’t fully know who Jesus is. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit is sent to help us know him more. We will discover that there is nothing more to move on to, nothing more significant than what we have in Christ. Note that I did not say that we have nothing more significant than what we already experience. Our experience of Christ has a lot of room for growth, in this life and in the next, and we will find it the most significant thing in the universe! The Son’s relationship with his Father is the most significant and eternal relationship there is, and we are invited to participate in that relationship.

In that relationship we will find that our longing has been answered, fully satisfied in Jesus. The striving for significance will cease. In light of the great significance our inclusion in the Trinity gives us, we can trust that what the Spirit is doing in our present lives is of great value and significance. Even the mundane is majestic.

On top of this, Jesus also shares with us his peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:27-29 NRSV)

Jesus contrasted this peace with the peace the world offers. The best the world has to offer is a “cease-fire” or temporary peace of conflict avoidance. But Jesus gives us a peace that continues even in the middle of our conflict and chaos. The significance we gain in belonging to Jesus is one that is accompanied with peace, because nothing will ever separate us from the Father.

Jesus knows the disciples are discouraged and afraid because he had told them he was going away and coming back. He seems to indicate that their fear and discouragement has something to do with their love for him. If they loved him, Jesus says, they would be glad that he is returning to the Father. It appears that the love the disciples have for Jesus is a possessive love. They can’t think of him going away as a good thing because they want to keep him around for their own purposes. But love for Jesus means we trust him in what he tells us. If he needs to go away, we can even be glad about it, even if we don’t fully understand why, because we know in the end it will be for our good. This doesn’t mean we are not sad at his departure, but it is a sadness that is fitting to the undergirding peace and joy that comes in trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus and his Father don’t do anything to our harm.

To love Jesus and his Father is a peace and freedom on a scale the world can never offer. And even this love is a gift of God’s grace. And notice how Jesus ends this passage. He is telling the disciples that he is leaving for a good purpose. He intends to build their faith. How often do we hold back telling someone some news they don’t want to hear, but need to hear for their own good, simply because we do not want to upset them or hurt their feelings? Thankfully, our Lord loves us enough to upset our feelings, which are fleeting, in order to build our faith in that which is permanent. Jesus is committed to bringing us into his significant peace with his Father, that he shares with us by the Spirit.

Resurrection Fish Fry w/ Jeff McSwain W4

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May 22 – 6th Sunday of Easter
John 14:23-29 “Peace Be With You”

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Program Transcript


Resurrection Fish Fry w/ Jeff McSwain W4

Anthony: John 14:23 – 29 is our next passage from the lectionary. It’s for the 6th Sunday of Easter, May the 22nd. And it reads:

Jesus answered him, “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. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 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. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. [NRSV]

 

And Jesus said that those who love him will keep his word. Okay. But on this side of the veil, new heaven, a new earth, all of us are falling short at keeping his word fully, subjectively, based on the way we see it. Though, you’ve already addressed that we are living to the Lord faithfully on the green side.

When we look at the depths of who we are, sometimes it feels like we’re not very pious. Paul talked about this thing that’s raging within him, that which he wants to do, he doesn’t do. And that, which he doesn’t want to do, he does. So what else is there to say about this, as we think through this particular passage?

Jeff: First of all, that Roman 7 passage is key. I do as the red self what I, as the green self, do not want to do. It’s the single subject there. You can’t lose the single subject of the two selves. My true self doesn’t need to repent, but my false self can’t repent. So, who has to repent? Jeff.

That’s the basic, bottom line. You can’t let the two selves fall apart into abstractions. They’re always considered within the one self, the one person of the two selves, the two selves of the one person.

And I think that Jesus is saying in these passages and John, like I said, is so nuanced here, but this is throughout scripture. Whoever does not love me does not obey my commandments. That’s exactly what we’ve been saying. Flesh gives birth to flesh. Flesh doesn’t love God. My red self doesn’t love God. My red self actually hates God. My red self is evil. My red self is the antichrist. So of course, that’s the case: whoever does not love me does not keep my commandments.

Whoever loves me, keeps my commandments. In other words, that’s the true self that we have. That is the person who obeys because Christ is obeying for us and therefore, whatever Christ is doing for us, we are doing with him. It’s not a hypothetical. It’s not a de jure, de facto. It’s not an objective that needs a subjective.

It’s not, let’s add the Spirit to it to make it actual. No, it’s all happening. It’s all happening in Jesus Christ. It’s all happening in ourselves as united with Jesus Christ. Those two things are going on. So what Jesus said there is imminently the case. What that means is when we go to war against somebody, we are killing our friends.

We are killing our friends. We are therefore also killing ourselves because to do violence against the economy of Jesus Christ in his vicarious humanity, is not just hurting Christ or breaking his laws. Because we are so intimately involved, we’re actually doing violence to our very self. We wouldn’t be able to say we were doing violence to ourself unless we were already intimately involved.

But because we’re so woven into it, and as Jillian of Norwich says, because we’re so knit in this knot with Christ, that anything we do with him is from him sourced in the vine, through the branches. Anything we do against him is the branches that are cut off and burned and thrown into the fire and destroyed. But Jesus Christ comprehends all of those aspects in his one person.

So, to go to war and to kill other people out of an “us versus them” mentality is to hurt Jesus Christ but is to hurt ourselves and is to kill our friends. If we started thinking of it in that direction, what it means to live in this world—and of course, Christ said, you’re gonna hear wars and rumors of war for a while. It’s gonna happen.

In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, be encouraged for, I have overcome the world. [John 16:33]

Past tense. These two things have already been settled. They were settled in Genesis. They were revealed in Jesus Christ and now they’re being played out on the world stage and in the world stage of my home at 309.

But these things are being played out in such a way that we have a better framework to address just how bad sin and evil are. And also, to be able to address the brokenness of those who have been subjected by other people’s antichrist agency to lives of pain and oppression.

Anthony: Yeah, as you’re saying this, Jeff, we’re talking about war and rumor of war. And of course, right now, as we record this, there’s a war going on. And you’ve addressed this, that in war, nobody wins. Harm is done to the victim and the victimizer because we’re doing damage to ourselves.

So, what does that say about the peace that Jesus talks about in this pericope? He says he gives us his peace. What do we make of it? When it doesn’t look anything like peace right now, what do we do with it?

Jeff: Yeah. And when you think about just war doctrine, is there such a thing? You have to ask that question? Is there a way to get to the peace that is the reality? Again, we start with the fact that everybody knows God in Jesus Christ. And nobody knows God in the flesh. No one knows God.

And Jeremiah 31 points to the fact that they will all know me because the reality will be made manifest. They all know him in Jeremiah 31. They will all know him because they do all know him, but nobody knows the Father except the Son. Nobody knows the Son except the Father.

This is the baseline. And therefore, as Christ shares his knowledge of the Father with us, and we also with each other are sharing that knowledge. We can, as believers recognize that there is peace in that God is keeping truth with humanity. Humanity is keeping in the Son and the Son as humanity is keeping truth with the Father, there is Shalom.

There is peace and there is truth. There is truth and there’s grace and truth there. It’s not that Moses brought truth, and then Jesus brought grace. Moses brought the law, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. That’s the mutual relationship of knowing one another in Christ, the mutual representation. The mutuality of loving one another in Christ and the mutuality of peace with one another are all rooted in the fact of what is real.

We live in a world where no matter how unreal, anti-real, and tragically manifest the events are, that we can live in the knowledge that it has not displaced or replaced the reality. The kingdom of God is still a dimension that’s in us and with us and that we are in. And that Hebraic understanding of holistic worldview has to be maintained in order to recognize that these are dimensions, as contrary as they are to one another and as painful as they are, they are dimensions.

And there is a reality, a winner in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord of all, the one who is peace personified.

Anthony: Yes, that’s good. Thank you for that.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Can you think of a time that you settled for less?
  • What examples can you share of settling for less in a relationship?
  • How did hearing that Jesus never settles for anything less in his relationship with us strike you?

From the Sermon

  • Do you ever ask the question that Judas asked, “Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Why do you think we ask this question?
  • The sermon said we often try to find significance in many different ways that only leave us empty and hollow. Can you think of ways we seek significance in the wrong places?
  • Can you think of times where you felt significant in your walk with Christ but then circumstances changed that threatened your significance? What can these experiences tell us about where we are looking for significance and importance?
  • Jesus had to lead the disciples to see that what he was doing was even bigger than they had imagined. Can you relate experiences in your walk with Jesus that he led you to see a bigger picture of what he was doing than what you were originally thinking? How do these experiences affect our trust in Jesus?
  • The sermon stated that Jesus’ relationship with his Father is the most significant and eternal relationship there is, and we are invited to participate in that relationship. Are there times when you think knowing Jesus and his Father is not enough? Are you tempted at times to think there must be something more significant than just knowing the Son and his Father by the Spirit?
  • Contrast the peace Jesus gives us with the peace offered by the world! What are some differences?
  • Can you think of times or examples that kept you or someone from sharing something important with another to keep from hurting their feelings? Can you think of some examples in the Gospels where Jesus hurt someone’s feelings because they needed to hear something important? What do these examples tell us about Jesus’ love for others?

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