The first words of Jesus in today’s gospel are, “Whoever loves me will keep my word.” One might think that Jesus is making “keeping his word,” meaning doing what He says, a condition of love.
There are people who do that, “if you love me, you will do what I want.” I think we need to look at what Jesus says differently. We need to pay attention to the order of the words. He first speaks of loving him and then speaks of keeping his word. If we love Jesus, which we do based on the love He shows us, we know we can count on him. We “keep his word” because we love him and trust him. We know we can count on him. “Love” involves what we feel on the inside.
Likewise, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” What is the “peace” that Jesus speaks of?
If you follow the news, when they speak of “peace,” it is generally in the context of countries or groups not being at war with each other. This is something we need to seek. We need to work to get along with each other but the “peace” of which Jesus speaks is something different.
Sometimes, we keep quiet, meaning we don’t say what is really on our minds, to keep from arguing with others around us. Sometimes that is the best thing we can do but is it really “peace”? Are we at peace within ourselves?
Jesus’ peace refers to the peace that we seek in our souls. We learn to state our opinion when appropriate when we disagree but then we trust in God. We hand our worries over to Jesus mindful of his words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
This doesn’t mean things are the way we want them to be. It doesn’t mean they are the way that Jesus wants them to be. It does mean that we trust that God will walk with us and lead us through all adversity.
This is the “peace” of which Jesus speaks. It gives us the joy that only God can give. In turn, the joy makes our souls gleam “with the splendor of God” and radiant like jasper. This is routed in the hope we have knowing Jesus’ love for us on the Cross.
This is what Jesus calls us to be. When we come together in trust, hope, and love in Jesus, we become the Church that Jesus wants us to be. Here, when I speak of “Church”, I speak is not about the building or a single community. It is about our fundamental identity, coming together as Christian disciples united in a vision of hope.
With there be disagreements within the church as an institution? Yes. We see that in the Acts of the Apostles. There was “no little dissension and debate” concerning whether or not Gentile converts needed to follow the Mosaic practices regarding things like circumcision and the food laws.
They could have let that dissension be their undoing but they didn’t. They could have let it tear them apart but they didn’t.
What did they do? They came together with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to discuss it and come to an agreement, to be in “one accord” offering the “same message.”
Who gets to decide what the message is?
Living in a democracy, one would say the people vote and majority makes the decision.
That is not what we are talking about here. Did they dialogue? Yes. Did they each offer their own opinions? Yes, but the goal of each person is not to be rooted in getting their way.
It is to discern what God’s way, what God’s will is. When they come to agreement, they do not begin by speaking of their decision. No, they say, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit.” It is essential that we let the Holy Spirit guide us to the truth.
This is the same Holy Spirit our regional planning group tried to listen to for the last eighteen months to come up with a plan. We learned last week that we will be implementing the plan at the end of June. It will come with challenges. The temptation can be to get our own way, to think we have all the answers.
The Holy Spirit does not speak through just one person. That’s why we need to listen to one another calmly and peacefully. We need to be willing to speak up when called but in accord with the Spirit. We need to let our love for Jesus be at the heart of who we are.
We need to hand our worries over to God. We need to mean what we say when, in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “thy will be done.”