Saturday, May 13, 2017

Comfort for This Time

John 14:15-21, the gospel text appointed for the 6th Sunday of Easter in the year of Matthew, is a continuation of the text from last week, where Jesus is assuring his disciples that he will provide for them.  In the first part of that chapter Jesus assured them that he had made provision for them in the age to come, and in this text he assures them that they are provided for in this present life as well.  All of this is good news!

(The following questions attempt to answer some of the basic concerns for Law and Gospel preachers.  They are not meant to be exhaustive.  They are part of a method of exegesis I have developed for Law and Gospel preachers.  To learn more about this way of preaching, please see my brief guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from or amazon.)

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  Like the first fourteen verses of this chapter, these verses function as gospel.  They comfort, they assure, they give hope.  The final verse, where we read of the assurance of the Father's love, the assurance of Christ's love, and the promise that Christ will reveal himself to us, is remarkable.  What a gracious God we have!

2.  How is the Word not functioning in the text?  Again, like the preceding verses, there is little evidence of Law in these verses.  A hint in this text of our need for Christ are the references to "the world":  "The world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him."  "In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me."

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We are, of course, those who are addressed by the Word.  We are the ones who are troubled (vs. 1), the ones who are afraid and doubtful (vs. 5), and the ones who want to control what Christ will reveal to us (vs. 8).  Because we are troubled in so many ways, we are the ones most in need of the Advocate, most in need of the Father's assurances, and most in need of Christ's love.

4.  What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text?  There is an unmistakable call to love in this text.  This love is the fulfillment of the law, even as Christ said:  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt 22:37-40)

5.  Exegetical work:  John Chrysostom, 4th century bishop, offers the following insights:  "Earlier [Jesus] had said, 'Where I go you shall come' and 'In my Father's house there are many mansions.'  But since this was a long time off, he gives them the Spirit in the intervening time.  They did not know what that [Spirit] was, however, and so they derived little comfort from what he said... And so he promises them what they required most: his own presence.  (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT, Vol. IVb, p. 142).  Luther, in his sermons on these texts, is careful to note the source of our love of neighbor:  "[Christ] says, 'I impose [these commandments] on you only if you love Me and gladly keep them for My sake.  For I do not want to be a Moses, who drives and plagues you with menace and terror; but I give you commands which you can and will surely observe without coercion if you love Me at all.  If love is wanting, it is useless for Me to give you many commandments; for they would not be observed anyhow.'"(Luther's Works, vol. 24, p. 102)

6.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  Paul Jaster, in his analysis of this text, centers in the prognosis, on the workings of the Spirit amongst us, and in his diagnosis, on the divisive spirits amongst us .  His concern arises, undoubtedly, from the call to love, which we find so difficult to obey.  This analysis, archived under 2011 Year A Gospel, can be found by going to study.

7.  Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic?  David Buttrick was masterful in his understanding of the moves and structures needed in a sermon.  He always advised us to limit the number of moves we make in a sermon.  Good advice, to be sure.

Blessings on your proclamation!

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