The Rev’d Penny Body
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Reflection 23rd May 2022
The Gospel John 15.26-16.4
26 ‘When the Advocate* comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
16‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
In Jesus’s discourse to the disciples recorded in the chapters and verses leading up to our reading today, he has told the disciples many things.
He has comforted them with the understanding that in His Father’s house there are many rooms – and that he goes before them to prepare a place for each of them and us – and he has told them that he himself is the way – the truth and the life – that we come to the Father through him.
He has given them his peace – encouraged them not to be afraid and told them about the Holy Spirit who is still to come and given them the amazing revelation that he is in the Father, the Father is in Him, and that they – and by extension we – are in him and he is in us – we are all one in the unity of the Spirit.
He has given them the teaching of the vine – that He is the vine, His Father is the gardener, and we are the branches and how we must remain in him, as part of the vine, if we are to bear fruit in our lives and for his kingdom.
And then in our reading today he says “I have said these things to keep you from stumbling”.
I thought about how we come to stumble in normal life and how we mitigate the risk. In my house and garden I have hand rails everywhere – something to hold on to when going up and down steps and stairs. In the dark, we might take a torch so that the way for our feet is lighted and we need not stumble over a tree root. We might make sure we haven’t too many trip hazards around – in my case what seems like a million plant pots to fall over in my yard!
And it’s the same in our spiritual and mental lives. When grief comes, if God seems far away, when we are sad, perplexed or in turmoil we can feel like we are stumbling around in the dark. Some steps seem too big to manage on our own – we need support – we need something to help us navigate life’s trip hazards – we need something to hold on to. We need God’s lantern for our path.
Jesus gave his disciples all his teaching so that they would not stumble. So that they would have his words of comfort and peace, his assurance that they and we are one in him and that the Holy Spirit will come and lead us into all truth. He gave them teaching and understanding to hold on to when they would be persecuted for his namesake.
I wonder what are the touchstones – the words – the understandings – the teachings – the guidance – that God has given you over the years? Words to hold on to – to lighten your paths – to help you navigate the way?
If I had to pick only one passage I hold on to, it would be Philippians chapter 4 verses 4 to 9. Words we use in our Sunday blessing – words of gentleness – words that exhort us to seek out the good and noble and beautiful – and an assurance of the presence of the peace of God which passes all understanding.
In reality, thankfully, we don’t need to choose only one – and I’m sure we all have many words from God that sustain us.
Perhaps this week, you might like to let the word of God dwell in you particularly richly – and choose one of the “words” that you have found you hold onto – and spend time with them – praying the words as you have received them. And may the God of peace be with you. Amen.
The Collect for the 6th Sunday of Easter
God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.