How many of you read the comics in the newspaper? How many of you turn to the comics first? I love the comics. And although they’re not the first thing I turn to, they do bring a moment of light-heartedness into my day.
My favorites are Pickles, Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft – the new one called Spectickles – and anyone who has ever had a teenager in the house has to love Zits – the comic strip, not – you know – the things that pop up on your face. I really love Pearls Before Swine – anyone want to guess where the name comes from? Yeah, it’s from the Bible. Jesus warned us about casting our pearls before swine, but that’s a subject for another day. No, I love the comic strip Pearls Before Swine because of – well – even though it can often be a little – shall we say – irreverent – but the cartoonist comes up with some great puns. And anybody who loves puns is okay with me.
But there are a couple of comic strips I miss. Anyone here remember The Far Side? Bazaar humor, but it was always good for a laugh. And then there was Calvin and Hobbes. How many of you remember Calvin and Hobbes?
One day Calvin comes marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair, sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.
“What’s up today?” asks his mom.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she asks.“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Calvin’s mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suit like that!”
With all the kind of news – much of it not so good – that hear about or read about in the newspapers – I find that the comic strips offer a break from all the bad news that’s out there. But wouldn’t you like a suit like Calvin’s suit, so you would be able to say, “Whatever happens today, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I can give you something else. What I want to give you is from our Gospel reading today. What’s happening here is that Jesus is with his disciples just before his arrest, trial and execution. So, he is saying good bye to them. Now, what those disciples don’t know – or at least don’t understand yet – is that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion. He is raised from the dead – reveals himself to his disciples – and is with them for forty day before ascending into heaven.
But before all of that happens – Jesus leaves his disciples with certain promises. It is these promises I want to give to you today. There are at least five promises Jesus is making to his disciples – and by extension to us – right here in these 13 verses from our gospel reading in John today.
First Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth…he abides in you, and he will be in you.” Just so we’re clear – the Advocate – the Spirit of Truth – are simply other names for the Holy Spirit. So the promise to send the Holy Spirit is the first promise.
A second promise is just like the first one. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”
What Jesus is saying to his disciples in these two promises – is that even though he will be going away, he will not leave them orphaned. In other words, he will not abandon them. Even after he has ascended into heaven, he will continue to be with them. Does this sound familiar to anybody? Where have we heard this before?
Well, I hope you’ve heard it right here in this place. One of the most well-known promises of Jesus can be found in the book of Matthew – Matthew chapter 28 – where we find Jesus just about to ascend into heaven – and what does he say to his disciples? Yes, that’s right. “Remember – I am with you –” what? – always.” Always.
SO we hear that promise in Matthew’s gospel, and we hear it here in John’s gospel. After Jesus is risen from the dead – and after he has ascended back into heaven – he promises to come back to them through – as I like to say – he will come back to them through the person and the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. We’ll hear more about the coming of the Holy Spirit in two weeks when we celebrate the birthday of the church on Pentecost.
And as if to underscore his promise to be with us always – Jesus describes this promise to be with us in yet another way. Let’s call this the third promise. Jesus says that both he and the Father will come and make their home with us. In other words – not only does Jesus promise to be with us always – not only does he promise to send the Holy Spirit – but the promise includes God the Father setting up shop – to come and live with us too! Father – Son – Holy Spirit. Is that awesome, or what?
Let me tell you about another awesome promise. This fourth promise if one of my favorite promises. Listen to this one! “Because I live, you will live also.” I love to quote Jesus here in these simple seven words. In almost every funeral sermon I have ever given. It’s a wonderful promise – so simple – and so easy to understand. A promise from our Lord who say, “Because I live, you will live also.” Simple – and yet powerful. It is an awesome, powerful promise.
Because I live, you will live also!
Let’s look at one more promise. Promise number five in verse 27. “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.”
The word that Jesus would have used here for peace is the word “Shalom.” And as I’ve told you before, shalom means more than peace. It means, “May everything – absolutely everything – be well with you.”
Why am I spending so much time on these promises? Glad you asked. There are times when I need to hear these promises from our Lord, and I suspect there are times when you do too. And if you don’t – well – I want you to hear them anyway.
As wonderful as I think life is – there are times when life is hard. I have experienced loneliness. I have felt neglected and abandoned. I have experienced grief. I have been misunderstood. These things pop up from time to time – sometimes much more often than we would like. I know.
But when they occur, I want to be ready for them. And that’s why – those are the times – when I need to hear – when I need to be reminded of these promises form our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There’s not a one among us here today who hasn’t felt some of those same feelings that I have just acknowledged to you that I sometimes feel. Just that feeling of helplessness. Hopelessness. Fear. Anxiety. You know what I’m talking about.
Even Jesus himself knows what it feels like to be abandoned. Do you remember what he said – from the cross – just before he died? He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Which in English is, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Even Jesus knows what it feels like. And because he knows – he knows what you are going through.
There is power in believing that you are not alone in this world. So I need to hear these words – these promises from our gospel reading today. And you need to hear them too! Let me tell you – that these words of Jesus that you are hearing today are words of comfort – and they are words of comfort for you. Especially when you’re feeling like – all hope is gone. Or you’re afraid. For yourself or for someone else.
Listen! In all of your anxious moments – when the Shalom of God – the peace of God – the presence of God seems so far away. And you feel empty – orphaned – abandoned. I want you to hear – and I want to remember these promises – the good news from Jesus today.
He promises to walk with you – and when necessary to carry you – and in all circumstances of your life to help you to rise above whatever it is that is dragging you down. I can’t give you a protective suit like Calvin’s in the comic strip. But what I can, I give to you. Listen to his promises one more time. These are the promises that overcome fear. So focus on these promises – not your fears. Listen!
- I send the Holy Spirit to be with you forever.
- I will not abandon you – I am coming to you.
- Because I live, you will live also.
- The Father and I will come to you and make our home with you.
- Peace – Shalom – I leave with you.
- Because we have these five promises – therefore – and always pay close attention when a preacher says therefore – therefore – Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
- Remember these words of Jesus, who says, I am with you always.