The following homily was preached on May 14, 2023, being the Sixth Sunday of Easter, at the 9:00am Rite II Eucharist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Lappans Road), Boonsboro, Maryland.
Readings: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Collect of the Day: “O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.“
Key Verse: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.”–John 14:18
In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.
We heard several minutes ago the opening line of the Prayer Book’s appointed Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter: “O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding….” After this we ask God “that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire.” The root action in the phrases “those who love” and “that we, loving” is choosing God. This is an act of the will. In choosing God, we pray that He will pour into our hearts the affect of His love for us, that we may obtain His everlasting promises. We can see in today’s Collect the words of 1 John 4:19, in that we choose to love God because of how He first loved us.
This circular notion of love as choice and action both by God and His people is shown throughout the appointed Gospel. There is a question which Jude, one of the Twelve, poses to Jesus one verse following the Gospel’s conclusion that helps bring context to the overall scene. Jude asks Jesus, “How is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”(John 14:22) This question and the entire scene take place during the Last Supper in the Upper Room. Jesus is anticipating the Easter event. His words about departing and separation, reunion and spiritual fellowship will see their first iteration in Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and death, followed by His resurrection and physical appearances to His early disciples. All these things reinforce God’s promise made throughout the ages that a Redeemer will come and defeat all evil forces. God, out of His great love, chose not to leave us desolate but to redeem us. The action of God’s choice was in the Incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus. And the proof of it all is in Easter, where “as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Yet, there is now a further context to today’s Gospel. Four days from now will be the Feast of the Ascension, wherein Jesus will ascend to God’s right hand in Heaven. And ten days from then will be the Feast of Pentecost, the day that Jesus’ promise of “another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth” comes down to Earth and upon His followers. Hearing today’s Gospel during Eastertide still bring up feelings of departing and separation, reunion and spiritual fellowship, but within a different reality. The risen Christ will ascend to Heaven, being physically separated from us, but He will spiritually return via the Holy Spirit’s descent upon all who believe in and confess Him. Furthermore, the Day will come when Jesus will physically return in power and great glory and His Kingdom will have no end. So, Jesus’ promise to not leave us alone but to come to us manifests itself time and time and time again. Christ manifests Himself in this time by way of the actions of those who convict His Word into their hearts and strive to keep it (cf. John 14:21).
Here again we go forward to Jude’s question to see what is today presented to us. “How is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Eastertide is not only a time of joy and inspiration, but a call to serve and commit to Him who died and rose again for us, that we may be raised with Him and be His visible Body in a world in much need of Him. To all who accept Him and believe in His Name, Jesus bestows power to become God’s children (cf. John 1:12). But God does not force His love upon anyone. He wants our love for Him to be by our own choice, that the service we offer to God because of His first love for us will produce those great works that point to His greater work. And because God provides us the agency to choose Him, there are those who choose to live their life as they so please and not accept Christ who reveals God’s desire for us and to be better. The Resurrection of Jesus, as triumphant an event it is, does not stop humanity’s proclivities to exclude, steal from, kill, and destroy others. We must not be aloof to the reality that there are forces and people in this world, even within the Church, who are at war with God.
Hence, we get to the heart of what we hear Jesus today tell us. When we choose to love Jesus, we choose to obey His Word. By following Jesus’ Word, God manifests Himself to us and through us to others. And through God’s love for us Jesus comes and, with the Holy Spirit, dwells within us. The Counselor, that Spirit of truth who the Father sends equips us with what we need to stay in God’s love and love others in the way He commands. By setting our minds on Jesus, putting our wills in His complete control, God guides us in doing those things we are called to do. Thus, why Jesus only reveals Himself to us and those who believe and not to the entire world. He makes Himself known to those who actively look for and accept Him.
How appropriate it is that we hear the words Jesus today brings us on this the start of our new ministry together. Unlike the disciples in today’s Gospel, we have not physically seen nor audibly heard Jesus, yet we are here because we chose to love Jesus or something is drawing us to Him. Jesus’ Word and actions have come to us through the testimony of those throughout the ages who have believed in Him despite any sort of persecution and adversity. They helped encourage us to put our whole trust in Jesus and commit to His mission. We stand upon their testimony, its very foundation being God’s proven promises.
The challenges you have faced these past few years have surely produced some anxiety and discouragement. There have been times in which you have felt desolate. But, again, Jesus has promised us, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” I believe Jesus because of how His Word has been proven true time and time and time again. Because of Jesus’ promise, I am convinced that there are possibilities ahead for this parish that outnumber the challenges of the past. In the spirit of the Psalmist, I encourage all here to come along and hear what God has in store. God will listen to us; He will heed the voice of our prayers (cf. Psalm 66:16, 19).
I have faith that good things lie ahead because of your love for our Lord and each other as a parish community. Furthermore, the faith that we profess—Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again—is the best news we have to offer for every person. Christ is alive, His Church still stands, and people are still being saved. Because of these three things, we still have good work ahead of us. St. Mark’s Church, Lappans Road still has a crucial role to play in the lives of many people throughout the Boonsboro community and beyond. Therefore, be faithful to Jesus Christ as He remains faithful to you. Jesus promised, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” Let us all firmly stand on that promise.
In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (Seabury Press, 1980), p. 182.
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