Travel Itinerary For A Round Trip
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 14:23–14:29
Travel Itinerary For A Round Trip
A Sermon delivered at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia
On 8/9 May 2010 – Sixth Sunday of Easter (EAST6C-10)
By the Rev. Dr. B. F. Nass, Pastor Emeritus
Dear Members and welcome guests of St. John’s Lutheran Church:
Today’s appointed scripture lessons contain travel itineraries by several means of transportation. In our First Lesson we find St. Paul’s travel itinerary that took him by ship from Asia Minor to the European continent and the city of Philippi. In our Second Lesson, the seer flies with the angel to the heavenly city of Jerusalem. And in today’s Gospel, which forms the basis for today’s sermon text, Jesus announces his travel itinerary to his disciples in the upper room. So, are you ready to travel?
As summer rapidly approaches, many people are finalizing vacation plans which may include travel. In fact, with today being “Mother’s Day,” perhaps some of you have already or will shortly travel to visit that noble lady who gave you birth. Today is the day to atone for some of you childhood misdeeds that tried her patience and some of those reckless decisions that grayed her hair and made her wonder if you’d ever made it in life. Even Sears is selling “Mother’s Day Indulgences” in the form of items that will make mom’s daily chores a bit easier. To all mothers who have modeled their Christian faith for their children by teaching and example, the Lord’s richest blessing to you as you bask in the reward of giving your children life to its fullest measure. And to those who cannot be with your mother either because of distance or death, give her a call or say a prayer of thanks in her name for who you are today.
When it comes to travel, some of you have jobs that require a lot of it and I’ve been there too. Somewhere, someone, at some time has taken the fun out of traveling. It strains our patience coping with crowds, whether it be road traffic, finding a parking place, or stuffed in an airplane seat designed for no one over 5 feet tall, surrounded by crabby people, crying babies, poor air circulation, tacked on fees, and late arrivals. Traveling means that one important item you inevitably forget, separation from your friends and neighbors, and the comfort of dealing with things that are familiar. WOW!! After that litany, I may just cancel my travel plans, and maybe you have second thoughts as well.
As the itinerary of our travel down the post-Easter worship road continues, after six weeks we begin to transition as the empty tomb fades in our rear view mirror and we begin to look forward to coming events. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus gives his first disciples and us a “heads up” that he has some travel plans of his own. But these plans involve travel only for him which means, sadly, that where he is going, we cannot. His departure – referring to his Ascension – is imminent, in just a little while. This trip doesn’t seem to be a hassle for him; rather something he is looking forward to with great anticipation. But what a bombshell announcement for his dependent disciples! What are they going to do? Where are they supposed to go? How can they make it on their own? They are devastated and confused. So to reassure them and us and to compensate for while he is gone, Jesus bestows four wonderful gifts that will more than suffice during his absence.
A couple weeks ago I spoke about Peter and Paul under the topic, “Two Peas in a Pod.” I assure you I do not have a fixation with the letter “P”. But these four gifts all begin with the letter “P.” Let’s see what they are, remember them, and find out how they apply in our lives.
The first “P” stands for his continued presence. Now, wait a minute, you say. He just said he was leaving. If he’s gone, how can he be present? This is how Jesus puts it. "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.” Love is not only the identifier of a disciple, as we hear last Sunday – “By this will everyone know you are my disciple, if you have love for one another.” But today we learn that love is also the connector that couples us to the living presence of God like a train car coupled to the steam engine which provides the power to pull our load. Jesus promised that, if we abide in that love, the same kind of love he demonstrated toward us, then he is absolutely living and present in us and with us. If we need a reminder of that presence, we discover it once again in the meal of his presence where under the physical forms of bread and wine, his body once sacrificed and his blood so lovingly poured out, is really present and comes to us in an extra measure and expression of his love.
That brings us to the second promised gift which we see looming on the horizon of our travel itinerary at the Plaza of Pentecost. “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.” Now, if you are still concentrating, you’re saying to yourself. “Jesus promised to send the Advocate who is the Holy Spirit. Advocate doesn’t begin with a “P.” And you are very correct. That’s because I’m using the Greek for that word translated “Advocate,” which is “paraklhtos” or “paraclete” which is another translation. It comes from two Greek words which means, “one who calls or speaks to.” A paraclete is that broadband connector between God and humans that gives us the password to tune into the correct faith frequency that allows two-way communication. Now we can be in constant conversation with God and receive his instructions. More will be said on this subject in two weeks when we celebrate the Pentecost event.
The next “P” after “presence” and “Paraclete” is “Peace.” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Peace! That’s one of those positive words we all relish -- the absence of war and strife, contentment, and calm. Sometimes we beg, “Oh, for just a little peace and quiet.” As great a gift as that is, it is not the kind of peace Jesus promises. His peace, his shalom refers to the restoration of a harmonious relationship with God by overcoming the chaos in our lives caused by sin. Jesus made that kind of peace possible when he clobbered the cause of sin with his cross and with the empty tomb as the symbol of that victory Jesus makes that kind of peace possible. Remember his first words to his disciples after his resurrection were “Peace be with you.” So now when you share the peace during a worship service, you are offering to that person our harmonious relationship of sins forgiven, of life restored. We not only receive that gift, but we share it with others.
If that were not enough, Jesus adds a fourth gift in addition to his abiding presence, his interceding Paraclete, and his harmony restoring peace. That is his promise to return. “You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.” The itinerary for Jesus travel includes a round trip. Return he shall and of that you can be sure. So with all of his gifts at our disposal, we can rejoice that God’s plan of salvation is successful and on schedule as we enjoy and demonstrate to others his presence in us each day, as we allow the Paraclete to guide and instruct us, and as we share and spread the harmony of peaceful relationships with God and with one another. That will suffice until that day of his promised return when we are able with him to make the return trip to our real home to be with him forever.
Remember to use the gifts of his presence, the Paraclete, his peace and his promise to return -- your four “P”s daily --because the next letter of the alphabet after “P” is “Q.” And you know what that means: It alerts us to the fact that he is coming quickly. Amen! Come Lord Jesus.