The title for this morning’s message emerges from this week’s Experiencing God session. The sermon seeks to walk along side our of small group encounters. But, if I were dealing with this same focal text in another context I probably would have entitled the message, “At Home with God.”
Our text emerges from one of Jesus’ conversations with his disciples where he was trying to help them understand what their life and faith would be like on the other side of the resurrection. We hear their struggle. We feel their fears. We stand on this side of the story. We know how the story ends. They stood in the days before – the days when the words of promise must have felt more like mystery than certainty. John would place these words in the hours before Gethsemane –Upper Room words designed to comfort his disciples and to prepare them for what waited just ahead for them. Come, and listen in on the conversation with me. In John 14:19-24 we hear Jesus saying; 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." 22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He 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.
Jesus wanted the disciples to understand that even when he was no longer with them in body that they would be at home with God – that God would be present with them. They are invited into a unique love relationship. Jesus is inviting them to become a part of his love relationship with the Father. But, the invitation comes with the expectation that they will love God, be obedient to the word and way of God, abide in their relationship with God – to BELONG to God.
Jesus understood the doubts of his disciples. He also understood that their doubts are the doubts many deal with every day. Her name is Helen, but she us not quite sure where she fits. She made some bad decisions early in her life. She deals with a quiet discomfort every time she comes to church. She wonders if anyone knows about her past. She wonders if someone around her sits in silent judgment. She wants to belong – to feel like she belongs to the church – and to feel like she belongs to God. She goes through the church motions. She sits and wonders if she will ever really belong.
His name is Keith and he finds himself frustrated. He wants to believe all this Jesus stuff, but he wonders if it is like his father said, that religion is a sign of weakness. He longs to know if God is real. He longs to feel God’s love. He sings the hymns and dresses in his best. He sits and wonders if he will ever really belong.
Jesus wants the disciples to understand that their relationship with God is born in obedience. We hear Jesus say; 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. It seems that as soon as we hear the word “obey” and “commands” we make the rapid jump to the Ten Commandments and leap into a faith driven by rules and regulations. When Jesus talks about obeying his commands we need to let go of our preconceptions and listen to Jesus. We hear Jesus tell us that the great commandment is to love our God with all our heart, our soul, and our might and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We hear Jesus to come to the table and to claim the images of the broken body and shed blood in remembrance of him. The kind of commands that Jesus drives us toward are relational. They push us toward giving ourselves wholly to God and meaningfully to each other. It measures us not in how we follow the rules – but how we act out in love. Jesus tells us; He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." I wish those that call themselves Christian would spend less time trying to erect monuments to the Ten Commandments and spend more times focused on the living out of the greatest commandment….loving God and loving their neighbor because of their love of God.
The kind of obedience Jesus speaks of beckons us to a different kind of relationship with God than one built on rules and regulations. He will model it with the ultimate act of love and sacrifice. Back to the conversation; 22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" 23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Jesus was inviting them into the kind of relationship with God where God is at home in our lives – in our hearts – in our souls. It calls us the kind of relationship with God where we do not stand at a distance in fear of what God do to us, but rather where we are drawn so close to God that where the will and way of God ends and ours begins is inseparable. It is the kind of relationship where we can allow ourselves to experience the love of God – to see God stir in our lives. It is about allow ourselves to linger in God’s love – to hang around in the midst of God presence. It is about slowing down long enough – to put the distractions aside – to still the cell phone – to turn off the television – to pause our hectic schedules - and allow ourselves to experience what it means to have God at home within us. If we are willing to believe and obey then we will discover that God has been taking the initiative all along – that God has been making the way – and that God will come and make His home with us.
The passage closes with strong words from Jesus; 24He 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. Jesus wanted them to understand that their lives would be defined in how they lived out the call to love God and to love others. He wanted them to understand that these words were not just his words – but were unapologetically given by the Father. He wanted them to understand that these words belonged to the Father – the Father that sent him – and would soon send them. I bring you good news – because of God’s great love – and because of God’s initiative that call us to him – we are invited to be at home with God. You belong. You have a place. You fit. God invites you to a relationship that is up close and personal.