"Let It Go"

Scripture:  John 14:23-29

Introduction to the Scripture Passage

The reading from the gospel of John takes us back in time a little bit to the last evening that Jesus shared with his disciples before his betrayal and death.  We are back in the Upper Room, where Jesus is sharing his Last Supper with the disciples.  John’s gospel is unique in that Jesus offers an extended speech to the disciples during their meal together, often referred to as the “Farewell Discourse,” in which he tries to reassure the disciples that even after his death, he will still be with them.

This particular section of the discourse begins with a question from one of the disciples about how Jesus will reveal himself to his followers after he is gone, and how it is that they will recognize him when he does.  In John chapter 14, verses 23-29 we get Jesus’ answer.  Listen for the Word of God:

Jesus answered him, “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. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 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. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

To Be A Disciple…

Imagine, for a moment, what it must have been like to be one of those disciples, following and living with Jesus day in and day out for the years of his ministry.  Jesus comforted and soothed them, even while he was busy stirring things up across Judea.  Though he was always challenging them, he also supported and encouraged them.

And as much as the disciples tried to remain in denial, Jesus knew that he was about to leave them.  So this was an important speech.  In it, he made a number of promises meant to encourage and sustain the disciples as they faced life in the absence of his physical presence.  Jesus promises the disciples that God will send the Paraclete – translated variously as the Advocate, the Comforter, the Helper, and the Spirit.  He promises that they will be continually reminded of his teachings.  He promises that they will be forever in the presence of God.  And he promises that he leaves them with his peace.

Not Just Any Peace

I think that Jesus’ promise of peace is one of the most comforting passages in all of the New Testament.  Listen to this again: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Notice, though, that this isn’t just any old, everyday, run-of-the-mill offering of peace.  Jesus says, “MY peace I give to you.”  “The peace that Jesus offers is not the world’s peace – neither the false promise of security nor the end of conflict.  [Rather,] the peace that Jesus gives is his peace, a peace that derives from the heart of Jesus’ life, his love, [and] his joy.”[1]  John Wesley points out that this peace isn’t what Wesley calls the “unsatisfying, unsettling, [and] transient” feelings of peacefulness that the world offers, but peace as it is understood through the Hebrew idea of shalom – wholeness, wellness, and soundness of body, mind, and soul.[2]

Jesus is talking about a peace that is better than any peace that we could ever receive from the world.  Wholeness more complete than we have ever known or imagined.  And this isn’t just something that Jesus gently wishes for his disciples or hopes that they will come to find on their own.  It is a gift, given freely to all of his disciples – then and now.

We Want That!

All of that sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, I know that most of us struggle to find that peace in our daily lives.  So, what is it that is keeping us from the peace that Christ has offered? What are the things that keep us from trusting that God has sent us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us and to give us peace and that keeps our hearts from being troubled and keeps us from fear as we live and serve Jesus’ disciples?

[HOLD BALLOON BY RIBBON]  We all have things that we carry with us that keep us from being able to fully accept and live out the peace of Christ.  Sometimes it feels like these things are following us around, looming over our heads, our unwanted constant companion as we try to live out our lives of discipleship.

Pretend with me that this balloon is full of those things that hold us hostage and keep us away from experiencing the fullness of the Peace of Christ.  What sorts of things, in your own life, fill this balloon?  If you are comfortable, I invite you to share some of those things out loud.  [TIME FOR RESPONSES]  (Examples:  Time Management, Striving for “Success,” Financial Hardship, Wanting Control, Fear, Conflict w/Others)

We have all felt the burden of carrying many of these things with us, stumbling over them as we seek wholeness and fullness in Christ.  The easy answer, of course, is to let them go.  [LET BALLOON GO]

Has anybody ever tried that?  I would be surprised if we haven’t all tried, at least a time or two or ten, to simply “give up” the things that keep us from inner peace and wholeness.  But as we all know, even after we have let them go, the next thing we know – we’re holding onto them again.  [PULL BALLOON BACK DOWN BY FISHING LINE]  Those habits, those worries, those burdens that we all carry come back again and again.

In his reflections on this passage, John Wesley offered a prayer, which I have translated into contemporary English.  He prayed:

“Lord, forever give us this peace!  How serenely we pass through the most difficult and turbulent moments of life when all is quiet and harmonious within.  May we diligently safeguard this immeasurable and righteous gift, till everlasting peace springs forth among all people!”[3]

Wesley’s prayer reflects the reality that we all live with, every day – Though we all desire that peace, living into it daily is incredibly difficult.  As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we have a hard time giving up the things that keep us from inner peace.  Sometimes, even the longing for peace gets in the way of our ability to actually experience peace.

Letting go isn’t a “one and done” sort of thing.  It requires a constant effort on our part to acknowledge the things that get in the way, and then intentionally let go of them.  It requires self-examination – we have to actually look at the things that get in the way [BALLOON] and then choose to let them go and set ourselves free to accept God’s gift of peace [RELEASE BALLOON].

Conclusion

Sounds hard, doesn’t it?  That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.  Remember, Jesus said to the disciples, “The Advocate, the Comforter, the Helper, 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.”

Luckily, we’re not on our own.  The Peace of Christ isn’t a wish that Christ left with his followers, but a gift and a promise, freely given by God through the Spirit, which empowers us to receive the gift.  Today and every day.  Amen.



[1] Gail O’Day, “The Gospel of John” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Textual Commentary on John 14:27)

[2] John Wesley, Notes: John 14:27. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes.i.v.xv.html

[3] John Wesley, Notes: John 14:27. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes.i.v.xv.html

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