The 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, May 2, 2021
Morning Prayer @Nara Christ Church
Rev. Misa Furumoto
When do you feel that Jesus is being with you, in other words, abiding with you? Some of you may say it is at times of daily devotion. For some, maybe when you are feeling scared or terrified and in need of protection. Maybe when you are so happy about something and feeling blessed. Or possibly when you feel very angry and furious at someone and ask God for revenge. Or maybe after you overcome some difficulties and realize that Jesus had always been walking by you, and he had been even carrying you at the most troublesome times of your life, as you recall the famous poem “Footprints”.
Each one of us feels that Jesus abides with us at different times, at different hours of a day, but that time is usually when something either good or bad occurred. It is quite difficult for us to feel His presence all the time even when nothing happens. It can be said that Jesus is like oxygen in the air. You know in your mind that He is always with you and that He is essential to live your life. But at the same time, it is too natural to feel Him all the time.
This uncertainty and ambiguity about Jesus’ presence we feel now was probably held in the same way also by the disciples two thousand years ago. After the last supper, Jesus gave a long “Farewell Discourse” to his disciples. “I will be gone from this world soon, but don’t worry and don’t let your heart be troubled because I will always be with you.” This was what Jesus really wanted to tell them. But I doubt that the disciples could take it seriously. If a person you love and admire so much is dying in front of you, no matter what he or she says about your life after that person’s death, it wouldn’t come into your ears. We don’t want to hear it; we don’t want to know or even imagine what a life after he is gone is going to be like.
Knowing such feelings of ours, Jesus still gives us a discourse gently and comfortingly. Just as the disciples who were actually there to listen to Jesus felt, for us too, it is difficult to digest it. We need some patience to understand what each of His words truly mean. But if you read it again and again, you will see that what He says is quite simple and specific.
In the very beginning and the end of today’s passage, Jesus says the same thing, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.” Here we see that loving Jesus and keeping His commandments are synonyms. Keeping either one without another is impossible. If you love Jesus, you automatically obey His commandments, and if you obey them, it means you love Jesus.
So, what are His commandments? The answer is in today’s second reading, the 1st Letter of John. Chapter 3, verse 23. “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”
Therefore, keeping the commandment “Love one another” actually means to love Jesus. In this way, we abide in Jesus, and at the same time He abides in us.
But as we all know, it is more difficult than we think to keep this commandment. That is why He promises to send us the Spirit of truth, translated as “Advocate” in our Bible. The word originally in Greek, “Parakletos” can mean many different things and translated in different Bibles as “Helper”, “Comforter”, “Advocate” and “Counselor”. For me, “Helper” sounds the easiest to understand. The spirit “Helper” is sent to us and it abides in us so that we can love one another. Even if we don’t like each other, we can love each other with a support of this Spirit “Helper”. Love means to acknowledge each other’s differences and respect them. It is to know that every person is important, precious, and invaluable in God’s eyes. But we can’t do it on our own. We need God’s help.
We are distributing a booklet today called “Thy Kingdom Come”. It is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray from Ascension to Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus. It is the time to ask for the Holy Spirit to come into us so that we can love more people and let them come into loving relationship with Jesus.
Remember, when and where we love one another, Jesus is with us. And where Jesus is, there the Kingdom of God appears. Let us help God make this kingdom bigger and bigger.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.