Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 26th, 2019 – MEMORIAL DAY SUNDAY

Text: John 14:15-29 (The Message)

The Spirit of Truth

15-17 “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

18-20 “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”

23-24 “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.

25-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

28 “You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.

29-31 “I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. I’ll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me. But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail.

“Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.”

In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.

“Peace I leave with you.” In a sermon he preached back in 2001, Pastor Robert Rasmus had this to say about “peace”:

“From as far back as I can remember as a child I was in church every Sunday. Now, I imagine there were times when I was sick or something came up, but I don’t recall them. What I remember is that I was in church every Sunday for 18 years. That means I probably was present at a thousand sermons. And I am sorry to say, I don’t recall a one of them. All that time spent by these diligent and earnest preachers . . . I don’t remember a word. But what I do remember as far back as I can recall, is waiting for the end of the sermon when the pastor would say to us in conclusion, ‘and now may the peace which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Christ
Jesus.’ That blew my mind, ‘the peace which passes all understanding.’ I was taught at the earliest of ages that as a baptized child of God, I rubbed up against a peace so profound that I couldn’t comprehend it totally. For me, it was sort of like looking out at the sky and wondering where the universe would end. That used to scare me. But this peace made me feel excited. I’m not even sure why. I was a kid.”[1]

I also love that phrase: “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). There are many others, too; phrases like: “Inner peace,” “Peace, perfect peace,” and even the one beleaguered parents have used since the beginning of time: “Peace and quiet.”

So “peace” is a word that really is near and dear to our hearts. I think that’s true, because so often in our lives, peace is elusive. We value it so highly because we don’t get enough of it.

Yet, as Pastor Rasmus tells us, we “rub up” against that profound peace that only God can give; in fact, I would go even farther and say that God’s peace surrounds us on the outside and dwells with us on the inside, even though it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. I think that, at least partly, is why we understand ourselves as those “new creations” the Bible talks about.

There are many elements that contribute to a sense of peace. One of them is a sense of belonging, of not being alone. Human beings are creatures of community; even hermits have a certain degree of human contact. That’s why one of the cruelest and most feared forms of punishment in any justice system is solitary confinement. We need each other. Jesus understood this, so he tells his frightened followers: “I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you.” A little further on in the passage, we read: ““I will not leave you orphaned.”

The Greek word used in this passage is ὀρφανός, (“orphanos”), which, not surprisingly, is where our word “orphan” comes from. Jesus tells his friends that he is not going to make them orphans – in this context, the word also “was also used of disciples and students bereft of the presence and the teaching of a beloved master.”[2]

But, Jesus says, this will not happen to them, because they will have the Holy Spirit, the Counselor sent to them by God, to guide them and teach them, to remind them of what Jesus has told them, and to accompany them in their mission.

And that mission would be very hard indeed. For some of the disciples, it would prove fatal. Simon Peter would end his days in Rome, crucified upside down at his own request, since he didn’t think himself worthy to die in the same way Jesus had. James, the Son of Zebedee, was beheaded in 44 A.D. by order of Herod Antipas. Andrew was crucified, possibly in Patras, Greece, on a cross made in the shape of an “X”, which to this day is called the “St. Andrew’s Cross.” Bartholomew was either put into a sack and thrown into the sea or was otherwise martyred in Albana, which is now the city of Derbend in the present-day Russian Confederation. And Paul, although not one of the original Twelve, was also beheaded, in Rome.

Even though the disciples could not have known what their eventual fates were to be, they could certainly guess that their lives would be no walk in the park once Jesus had left; and so his words to them that he was not going to just leave them to their own devices had to have been welcome news.

Peace, within and without. The Peace of God. “Shalom,” to use the Hebrew word. That word, שָׁלוֹם “shalom” (translated as εἰρήνη – “eiréné” in Greek) meant much more than absence of turmoil or noise or even war. “Shalom” is a state of being. It means harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, contentment, tranquility, and even “rightness” down to the depths of your very soul.

That’s exactly what this peace Jesus talks about is. It is basking in God’s pleasure, basking in the light and warmth of God’s grace.

And that is the peace Jesus gives to his friends. More than that, even: He says “my peace I give to you.” It’s a part of him. It’s part of his very nature, part of the very nature of God, in other words, that he transfers to them.

And – again – remember that Jesus does this on the very night before he is handed over to cruelty, and suffering, and death. Yet, even in that moment, he shows the majestic grace of God and the bottomless depth of God’s love.

As the good old RSV puts it, Jesus gives his disciples exactly that: “Peace I give to you; my peace I give to you…let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Last week, we talked about love. Well, outside of the crucifixion itself, what more profound act of love is there than what Jesus does for his friends on this horrible night?

And yet there’s even more! In Luke 17:21, Jesus tells us, “The Kingdom of God is within you;” and here, with the gift if his own peace, and the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, we see it happening. Another commentary attributes the following words to Jesus: “[God] speaks within the human heart as a still, small voice, saying, ‘This is the way; walk therein.’ Do you not comprehend that God dwells within you, that he has become what you are that he may make you what he is!”[3]

And finally, again, Jesus says to these unhappy men the words of comfort that have echoed through the centuries and given hope and strength and courage to countless people: “Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.” In other words, “Don’t worry! I’ve got your back!”

What a gift! No matter what happens in this world to us, God will not abandon us. God is always at work for our good. Through us, God is always at work for the good of our neighbors and our world.

“My peace I give to you.” “Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.” These words resonate with us today.

But, on this Memorial Day Sunday, I think these words resonate especially with those among us who served our country to keep it free and so that we might enjoy temporal, as well as spiritual, peace.

The Rev. Robert Dawnson, in his sermon “Truths to Remember and Never Forget,” writes: “I don’t know how many of you realize it but since America’s fight for freedom from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror over 1,000,000 men and women have given their lives for this nation. They have given their lives for freedom. They have fought for me and for you. It is because of their sacrifice and that of their families that we are here today. It is because of their sacrifice that we have the privilege of being a part of the greatest nation on the face of the earth. It is because of their sacrifice we are free to raise our families to know Christ and [free to] worship Him without fear.

“Today we give thanks to God for them and for their families. We are humbled and forever grateful as we consider their extraordinary sacrifice. Today is a day to remember and give thanks. Without sacrifice freedom is not possible.

“It is good for us to remember. There are things in life that we should never forget. As a nation we should have days and monuments that serve as touch stones and memorials so that we never forget those things that are most important and valuable and those who died to make them available to us.”[4]

We honor their sacrifice, as we honor those among us today who have served. We can never repay the debt we owe you. As trite as those words might sound – I’m sure you’ve heard them a thousand times before – they are sincere; but, in the end, no words, no services, no memorials can ever compensate for what you have endured. Only those who also served and know what you experienced understand. For the rest of us, it’s all second-, third-, or one-thousandth-hand. Yet I say again, “thank you for your service and sacrifice, so that I can stand here, a free man.” For though it is a cliché, it is nonetheless true: Freedom is not free.

Moreover, I have never met a single veteran who claimed that he or she was a hero. Every one of them has said, “No, no, not me. I’m no hero,” or words to that effect; and most of them have said that the real heroes are the ones who, in the words of Lincoln, “gave the last full measure of devotion” for the cause of liberty. But I dare to say, anyway, that you are heroes.

So, today, let us all give thanks for those who have served the cause of freedom, and let us all feel the encouragement of that “peace which passes all understanding” that strengthens us, day by day!

In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.


[1] Rasmus, Pastor Robert, “Sermon – May 20, 2001 – My Peace I Leave You,”

[2] Barclay, William, The Gospel of John, Vol. Two, Louisville, Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001

[3] Jesus, The Urantia Book, (148:6.10)

[4] Dawnson, Robert, “Truths to Remember and Never Forget,”