Fifth Sunday of Easter, 5.10.20

In today’s gospel, someone has just left the room. Judas. I realize that there’s no mention of him in today’s gospel, but it’s important to include the preceding chapter, ch 13, the one in which Jesus washes the apostles’ feet. We need to know what prompts today’s words from Jesus.

He KNOWS his disciples are shaken, and there will be MORE tragedy to come. Judas has left, and the apostles are shaken. It’s as if the room they are in is filling with a poisonous gas.  The sense of evil is palpable. Jesus has just said to Judas, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Then verse 30 ominously states, “And it was night.” To let us know the forces of darkness and evil are closing in.

Satan enters Judas. Jesus washes the apostles’ feet and speaks of the coming betrayal.

A deep foreboding takes over the Passover meal. And this is when Jesus speaks into that sense of foreboding and into that darkness the words of today’s gospel.

So what words do you say when EVIL has gone out to finish the task of destruction?  

What do you say when your betrayer, Judas a trusted apostle – one who holds the purse – conspires with evil? Jesus is here to confront the Powers of evil that hold a grip on our world.  The Powers of evil are pervasive. The clock is ticking down on his life. Time stands still as Jesus speaks his final words. Today we hear Jesus’ final discourse.

The apostles are huddled together around the Passover Table. Things are falling apart.

The unthinkable has happened a betrayer in their midst. What does Jesus say? What DO you say when time is running out? Do you say, “go after him, guys!” Do you say, “let’s take a sword to him right now.” “Let’s head him off while we still have time.” “Let’s stop Judas.”

No. Instead Jesus speaks the words of today’s gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” How can Jesus speak words of comfort NOW? How can Jesus NOT speak words of comfort NOW? Jesus reveals his HEART in this moment when things are falling apart. He encourages his apostles to BELIEVE – BELIEVE in him and the Father while things are starting to shut down. BELIEVE and TRUST while the enemies creep closer to kill him. Believe and TRUST because they are going to need every shred of trust in the hours ahead. You could have probably cut the anxiety with a knife, yet Jesus is counseling them to TRUST.

In John’s gospel, the word BELIEVE is translated as trust. The difference is important.

Believe has more to do with the head. TRUST has more to do with the GUT. There is almost a physicality to TRUSTING when it comes from the gut. Our gut SPEAKS to us and lets us know who and what we can trust. Jesus is telling the apostles that TRUSTING him and the Father is going to see them through a very tough situation that is about to unfold. Do you remember when you began to trust Jesus?

I remember when I started trusting him, I had to make a conscious choice to stop entertaining my doubts. It’s as if I would throw my doubts a party, and sit them at the table and let them speak. I finally realized it was just too exhausting, I had to choose either being a person of faith or letting my doubts run the show.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” Have any of you learned TRUST in your GUT?  In your Sunday School classes was the emphasis on learning with the brain, or learning to trust Christ in your gut?

With his death just hours away, Jesus puts himself once again in the role of the Teacher.

“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” While the forces of evil are closing in on him, Jesus, tenderly, painstakingly, reteaches them that he and the Father are ONE. He has just finished bathing their feet, on his knees before them, to demonstrate this THIS is what they should do. This is what a disciple looks like. He is on his knees like a mother to them – washing the feet of his children. To leave an indelible memory with them – THIS THIS is what it looks like. REMEMBER this and DO it for each other. In the middle of a gathering storm, Jesus gives them a last lesson, and tells them to TRUST, TRUST, TRUST in him.

In some ways, our present moment is similar to the Last Supper. Doing simple things have become complicated and terribly fraught with anxiety. Going to buy groceries, wondering if it’s safe to go to the post office, handling the mail have become anxious moments. There’s now a new phrase, “covid brain”; we know it means anxiety can fog our brains and make us forgetful. We could cut the anxiety of our times with a knife, too. Yet, in this time of the virus, Jesus’ words to us are to find PEACE with him and the FATHER.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

Have you been able to find peace?

Where can we find peace?

Can we trust a God who is so often silent?

What we crave is to find Christ’s peace despite the anxieties of the present moment.

In today’s psalm, we are promised that God is a REFUGE. We know we have to shelter in place, but we do it with anxiety, not peace. In Christ, we can find the peace and refuge that we need even in the middle of a pandemic. We find SHELTER within the relationship that Christ offers us with the Father. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you.” When Jesus speaks of dwelling places, he talks of God’s DESIRE for an intimate relationship with US. It’s often been interpreted as God has an ecumenical embrace of all denominations, but really it speaks to God’s DESIRE to live CLOSELY with God’s people. When Jesus speaks of returning to the Father, to prepare an “abiding” place it is a place of greater closeness. And Jesus lets them know that whatever happens, the relationship will ABIDE. It will continue.

 The peace from these troubles are an interior peace, and we PRAY for that peace. The peace of Christ is the “peace beyond all understanding,” is a profound gift. Jesus offers himself and the Father as a place of refuge. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” The proof of that promise is that we have eternal life NOW, we find LIFE and solace and peace in his WORDS, NOW. Eternal life begins NOW in a relationship with Him which extends outward to include more people to form a community. We find peace gathering together even if it’s in cyberspace. Do you find any comfort or solace in our gatherings in Zoom?

In today’s gospel, while the forces of evil are planning to put to DEATH the SOURCE of ALL LIFE, Jesus offers the apostles and US the very same kind of relationship he has with the Father. Jesus is the living embodiment of God’ DESIRE to LIVE with God’s people. This relationship of God the Father with Jesus is so profound, it makes us sisters and brothers to each other. How has Christian community made a difference in your life? How has Christian community made a difference during the pandemic?

Christ’s peace is lifegiving. It is what we look for in our relationships with other people. Christ is the SOURCE of life, even now.

I thank you living Christ for desiring to have a close relationship with us. Thank you, Lord of Life, that you desire to give us your relationship with the Father. You wish that we ABIDE with you and find a REFUGE in you.

You are life-giving to the core.

We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.