Reaching Out

Sunday May 22, 2022 The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Keeping Unity

Psalm 67Acts 15:1-2;22-29Revelation 21:10-14;22-23John 14:23-29

It all started out so great with a guy and a gal in a garden. Then, everything went to hell in a hand basket. Starting with eating the forbidden fruit and paradise lost, which lead to murder and evil, then more and more evil, until finally, the whole earth had to be wiped clean with a flood in a divine restart. The Tower of Babel rebellion pushed God to fragment the human race by language and send them to the four winds. What’s a heavenly Father supposed to do with a bunch of kids that won’t listen? You pick a favorite. It could have been anybody, but God chose to work through Abram (Abraham) to begin His process to bless His human family and bring it back to Him (Gen 12:3,18:18, 22:18). By the time of the Psalms and King David, the plan was well under way. Psalm 67 looks forward to God completing His salvage operation where the nations come back together to praise the Almighty and live under His guidance. The trick is once you gather them, how are you going to overcome sin’s separating influence and keep everyone together? Jesus is the lynchpin of the whole strategy. During the Last Supper portion of our gospel reading in John 14, He lays out a blueprint for the church to stay unified as they bring the world back to the Father through the gospel. It’s a unity that springs from a personal relationship with the Trinity.

First, Jesus says, love Me and keep My commandments (John 14: 23). This is not a legalistic list of rules of do’s and don’ts to follow. That would be coercion, not love. Love makes its own rules. Reread it as: Fall in love with Me, as I am already in love with you, then you will want to be like Me… please Me… follow Me. Jesus is aiming at freedom here. It’s the cause-and-effect relationship captured by Augustine, “Love God and do whatever you want.” If each person in the Church determines to love the Lord with all their heart, then they will be choosing to live for God. When people live for a common purpose bigger than themselves; unity follows.

Second, God will live in you with an infinite abiding presence (John 14:23). Your body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Through prayer and scripture, He will help you learn all that you’ll need to know and recall it at the right time. All believers receive a common celestial GPS that will give guidance into the Father’s will. God’s mind will develop in you. Philippians 2:5-8 says that this will lead to humility and the unity of the church will be its fruit.  

Third, you will have peace (John 14:27). You will have a special peace with God through Jesus. You will know peace and forgiveness within yourself. It is the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding and guards your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7). It’s a courageous peace that allows the vulnerability you’ll need to forgive others as well as giving the strength to face the uncertainty of that necessary reconciliation. In the peace of Christ, we can all hold hands.

Tying love to obedience, abiding with guidance, and peace with courage, the Apostles will be ready to spread the gospel and fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all men, as will all of us. God’s family, the Church, will reach the ends of the earth. His children have everything they need to hold the family together if they let themselves be led by their Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It was never going to be an easy endeavor. There were a lot of foundational questions to be sorted out as Jews and Gentiles with their clashing cultural and religious backgrounds try to meld together into this new belief called “The Way” (Christianity). An early point of contention pops up in Acts 15:1-2 with the Judaizers. They held that since salvation was from a Jewish Messiah, the Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism by circumcision first before becoming Christian. Paul and Barnabas passionately disagreed. Because this issue was so vital, the Church met at Jerusalem for a council. They concluded that the Gentiles believed and received the Holy Spirit just as they did. Circumcision was not needed. The Old Testament was still God’s eternal word, however, and so the Gentiles were to abstain from pagan practices such as: things sacrificed to idols, drinking blood, eating things strangled, and fornication (Leviticus 17 & 18). Here’s our John 14:23-29 reading in action, where obedience to Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit led to a peaceful outcome…for a time.

From Pentecost to now and until the Second Coming, it has and will always be a challenge for our family to “be of one mind” as people join her from varied backgrounds, points of view, and visions for the Church. We know that sparks will fly! Let’s keep John 14 at the forefront of our thinking and hold it together when things get hot because we, the Church are loved by God. Not only loved, but Revelation 21 illustrates her glory built upon these principles. If you are out of fellowship with God or other believers, know this: the Father wants you back. He wants to have a gloriously intimate relationship with you. He wants you for everyone’s sake to seek forgiveness and for you to also forgive others seven times seventy. Togetherness and harmony are near and dear to the heart of Jesus. His Spirit calls to you. Come back. Be part of the Father’s plan.

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