Pentecost – Sunday, June 2, 2019

June 10, 2019  

John 14: 15-17

“Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
“Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”
“Have you welcomed Jesus into your heart?”

Someone at some point may have asked you a question something like these…

My questions are kind-of sort-of like the concern the disciples had after Jesus left them. They were wondering if they would still be able to love Jesus the way they did when he was with them, when their relationship with him WAS personal. They were wondering if the next generation of believers would be able to love Jesus without having a personal relationship with him, as they had had…

In the 21st century we cannot claim to having ever had a personal—as in, in person—relationship with Jesus. But, in the 21st century, there are still followers of Jesus who believe the primary relationship they have with Jesus must be personal—as in, in their own hearts. They believe their relationship with Jesus is based on THEIR acceptance of Jesus in their own lives and hearts.

Not so, say we Lutherans. Our relationships with Jesus are solely based on what Jesus has done and is doing for us. Our relationship with Jesus is based on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, wherein he saved us and he saved the world. This relationship is not personal, in the sense of it being something that Jesus and I have in my heart where I cling to his love, keeping my focus inward on him (and me). This love is communal. This love is public. This love is “second-person plural” (“John 14:12-24 commentary” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9, p. 749).

According to the gospel of John Jesus said “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15).
Jesus did not say “if you accept me into your heart I will be there loving you forever.” Jesus did not say “I love you because you love me.” Jesus said “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

Lest we get caught up in the question of which commandments Jesus is speaking of—he made it quite clear when he was asked what the greatest commandment of all time was. Remember? He said “You shall love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And 2nd, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22).

One of my family members was explaining to another family member the difference between Our Savior’s (this person has visited here) and his home church. He said “They (us) focus on serving their community. We (his church) focus on taking care of ourselves.”

Let me be clear. The whole reason we have this day we call Pentecost is because Jesus made a promise to his followers that he would give us another “Advocate” that would be with us. That Advocate (better translated “Paraclete”) would be and IS in this world taking care of us. We do not have to worry about ourselves.
A Paraclete is “one who comforts;” a Paraclete is “one who helps;” a Paraclete is “the one who makes appeals on one’s behalf” (TNIB, vol. 9, p. 747). The Paraclete, aka the Holy Spirit, has been with us, the Paraclete is with us, the Paraclete will be with us taking care of us forever. This allows our focus to be outward. This allows our focus to be where Jesus placed his focus. This allows our focus to be on loving others as Jesus loves us.

Biblical scholar Gail O’Day wrote

Jesus lived out God’s love for him by keeping God’s commandments, by making God known to the world, by offering God’s promise of salvation to the world, by loving fully, even to the extent of laying down his own life… the love of God and Jesus was a public love, first revealed to the world in the incarnation and repeatedly revealed in Jesus’ words and works… The love of God is present whenever those who love Jesus keep his commandments, when they continued to live out the love that Jesus showed them… (TNIB, vol. 9, pp. 749-750).

We can do this!
We can love others as we have been and are loved.

We can love others because we have the Spirit of God empowering us.
We can love others because the Paraclete comforts us.
We can love others because the Advocate Jesus promised to give helps us.

The Spirit has come.
The Spirit is here so that we can be there—out—in the world—loving others as we have been and are loved.

Amen.