By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
May 22, 2022
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John 14:23–29 (ESV)
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
This week I have done something I do not often do. I have literally spent most the week sitting around watching TV. I am not completely guilty of sloth though, because it is important. You see there is a new Star Wars show coming out and I as the complete nerd that I am, am required to rewatch everything so that I can be prepared to adequately enjoy the new release. Ok that is the excuse, the real reason I have binge watched Star Wars besides the fact that its amazing, is that Albert has been sick. And when Albert is sick, I feel about as helpless as anyone could. I try to put on a brave face and act like I know what I am doing but the truth is that my mind is going through every potential disease, disorder, infection, pathogen, poison, and pretty much anything else you could imagine trying to figure out what is going on. I have ruled out potential KGB assassination attempt.
When a child is sick, we often feel helpless. We want to take away the pain. We want to make everything better, but we can’t. We do things to help them feel better, we get medicines, we make soup, we make sure they stay hydrated. And we let them do the things they want to do. I even drove to the complete other side of town to get him something to eat, because we bend over backwards for our children.
This is really where Star Wars comes in. I do actually love Star Wars. The problem is that my sister did not like robot movies, so if she was around, it was a dramatic ordeal to be able to watch anything related to Star Wars. My brother had a similar problem because he was a Star Trek fan, and yeah Star Trek is ok. My sister is an extremely strong-willed woman. If she sets her mind to something, it will happen. I love my sister a great deal. I would do anything for her. Usually, it was just so we could make it to school on time, but there is more to it. But she hated Star Wars. I could not win the argument no matter how hard it tried, that is unless I was sick. If I was sick things changed, when I was sick no one complained. And I could watch as much as I would like. Star Wars became a comfort to me. I could wrap up in a blanket, sip on chicken soup, and become one with the Force. Now as an adult I still tend to retreat to things like Star Wars when I feel bad, and I have come to realize that when a child is sick so am I. When Albert was awake, I act strong and in control. But when he was asleep, I would allow him to curl up beside me as I watched Star Wars.
I am not going to make any illustrations about how Star Wars and Jesus relate, I could but that is not the point. The point is that that is where I often find myself in times of distress. That is a place where I feel secure, at home, even comfortable when everything else seems to be wrong. I feel that way because when the family saw that I was not at my best, there was not an argument over the movie instead we all just watched Star Wars together. In theory this works great, but only if you were the only one sick. We only had one TV so if everyone watched together eventually everyone was sick and then we were back to normal.
We all have those safe places in our minds. The activities we do, the books we read, the movies or music we consume that allow us to restore and reset. It is something that is pretty specific to you, others might not understand but it is your place. And when someone loves you, they recognize the importance of it, and if they are smart, they allow you to the space. If you love others, you will also recognize that place yourself and realize that you have withdrawn and need to reemerge once again.
That is what love is. It is giving and receiving and receiving and giving. It is a step forward, to the side, back and forward again. Love is like a dance, where each involved has a part and a role, and it only really works if we work together. To truly love it is not looking only at what you can get out of things, but each is working to make the other shine brighter.
I want us to think about this dance. The dance that honors and highlights the other. Constantly spinning in turning so that your partner illuminated to the greatest degree. This dance, this love. Close your eyes and just imagine it. That is God, that is the word of God; that is the light of God that created everything around us. The triune God was in this dance and out of it light. Then there was evening and morning the first day. You can almost see the steps and the turns. It’s a waltz of light, oceans, land, and plants. Flowers, insects, and birds join in the music as the dance continues. Each step along the way in this dance of life greater and more beautiful things emerge. Animals with vibrant coats and voices, joining in the dance and then when the excitement can hardly be contained, “Let us make man in our image.” And it was very good.
There is a reason why love is such a powerful emotion. When love is pure and freely given and received without regard to personal benefit, we join in the dance that began before time existed. The dance whose steps created the world around us.
Humanity was created in that dance of life. And there is poetry and art in this. As much as I would love to be an artist, or creative I am not. I studied science and even in science I find that the dance of life is beautifully present. The core of our being, the center of every one of our cells is a beautiful molecule we call DNA. And the form of this molecule is a helix, it spins and loops, it divides and comes together. Even the nuclei of our cells join in this dance of life.
I know this in my mind. I see the pictures and I stand amazed. From the spiral of a galaxy around a black hole to the spiral of our genetic material all of creation is a participant in this dance of life. Each contributing its part. One could say that that is like the Force that Star Wars speaks about, “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.” But the force is energy, and out of energy comes life, and we again are brought back to this dance. The dance reminds us of love, and love causes us to exert energy once again and the cycle continues.
I bring this up because that is the picture, I want us to have when we think of God. Often when people of faith speak of God there is a distance. A God of wrath, vengeance, jealousy. A God that is cold and judgmental. God does not want us to have a good time but has given us rules and laws and if we do not measure up, we are cast into the outer darkness.
But if that is God, why did He create beauty? Why would he bother creating amazing galaxies in the sky which would not even be seen for millions of years? Why would he bother making flowers aromatic, and honey sweet? God dances, God spins and twirls. God blesses and God directs. It is not judgement but a dance. It is not wrath but love. The problem is that we so often do not want to join in the dance. I know this well because I was one of those wall flowers that would go to the dance and be so concerned with looking foolish that I never enjoyed. (Yes, the faith and practice does say that we should not dance but even pastors were once a rebellious youth and if you want more information, please come talk to me.)
God does not cast us out; we refuse to dance.
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Does that sound like a vengeful God? Between episodes of Star Wars cartoons I did manage to do some research this week. And as I read, I found in one of the driest commentaries I own, some of the most poetic imagery. “He insists that the theophany of which he has been speaking occurs within the circle of love that displays itself in obedience to the Son’s teaching…Of the person who so loves and obeys Jesus, Jesus himself promises, My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” You might not find it that poetic, but for me I began to hear music. Love, Obey, dwell. Love, pray, serve. One, two, three. One, two, three. The dance. But the dance expands and grows. We begin with the incarnate word, Jesus and Jesus brings in the Father and they do not just join but they dwell.
We were once just wall flowers, out in the darkness. But we heard the words and we took a set. And Jesus comes and meets us where we are. At first, we do not understand and we step on toes, or we move forward instead of to the side. Maybe we even trip and fall. But Jesus continues to whisper the words to us, and soon we begin to keep step. One, two, three. Then he does something surprising. Maybe He spins us around. What do we do now?
One, two, three. One, two, three. We keep step we keep his word. As we continue in this dance, we find that we are no longer counting or even thinking of the steps; we just moving in sync with Jesus. We abide, we dwell. We keep step and we find that we are right where we need to be, and then the music changes. We look up and we see a wall flower take a step, and we come along beside them and encourage them; one, two, three. And they turn away. And we just keep moving, spinning and another sees us, and we count the steps for them and they come along beside us. We laugh as they join and they laugh, we cry as they step on our foot and they apologize, and we continue to keep step and point them to Jesus. And they listen to the words, and they join in the step and the dance. And we all keep moving together.
This is the poetry I was speaking of this is the theophany, or the vision of God that Jesus speaks of. It is not a vision of the vengeful God, but a community encircled in love and joy. We were created in this dance; we once knew the steps and were encouraged to take this dance of life out into the world. But we got distracted, we began to listen to a different voice and two became one and one became three. And suddenly what was once a dance of life, is now chaos.
When the dancing DNA within our cells get out of step and fail to dance to their created tune, we call it cancer. When a pathogen enters our body disrupting the rhythm of our life we get a fever, an infection. These things pull life away, they strip us of what should have been. But God is still around. The life is still around us if we can see. There is a dance between the flowers and the bees. Each living according to their directed steps, and the result is honey. Honey is one of natures greatest medicines. Even within the chaos the dance continues and God provided a way to direct us back.
“And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” Jesus says these things to his disciples. He says it because at the time they only knew God through the history of their people. And the preexistence of Jesus before time began would have been to much for them to grasp. What he means is the words he says the steps to the dance he is calling out to us are the same words that have always been there. One, Two, Three. Love, Obey, Dwell. Love, Pray, Serve. Eat, Pray, Love…Wait that is a different movie.
God told our first parent to go out into the world and subdue it. This was before the fall, so the command is to bring all of creation into his kingdom. To encircle every aspect of life with the love of God. Why? “We will come to him and make our home with him.” Creation comes to God, God comes to creation, the dance continues. Eden’s mission is still valid today.
Eden’s mission remains, but so does the voice of distraction. The voice of distraction continues to speak into our world, saying two when God says one or saying one when God says three. Close but just out of sync. We struggle on our own trying to keep up with the words of Christ. We keep trying in our own strength to continue to dance even when we have lost track of the rhythm and cannot hear the music.
We try and we fail. We strive and it appears to be in vain. We see people trying to join the dance and they are quickly distracted and we ourselves get discouraged. Jesus does not leave us to dance alone. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
One, two, three…one, two, three. Love, obey, dwell, … love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, live the love of Christ with others. The whispers of the Holy Spirit remain speaking into the distraction, encouraging through the chaos. We lose sight of the goal and the mission and the spirit through the words of someone around us or through the pages of scripture direct us to move, reminding us of the rhythm. Our mind again drifts… what about the bills, what about my weight, my reputation. What will people think… one, two, three…Love, obey, dwell is again whispered deep to the core of who you are reminding you even to the cellular level that you are beautifully made, created to bear the image of God, in this dance of life.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world give do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”
Peace, this word of greeting and farewell. This hope that all will be good and right among you. Is spoke to us and over us. The disciples at this time will soon see Jesus wrongfully accused, crucified, and killed. They will see him face the very worst that humanity can inflict. And their world will be shaken, turned upside down, and everything they once thought they knew will be dashed upon the rocks like a ship in a storm. He is telling them that they will see things that will cause them to fear.
We see this all around us. I have spoken about how this conflict in Ukraine has shaken in ways that I really cannot explain. It has caused me to question my own life and my own direction. It causes me to wonder. Yet in the midst of the chaos, a still small voice reminds me of something greater. The rhythm is felt once again and my feet again begin to move.
Our attention can be drawn away. War, immorality, plagues, and famine are seen and we begin to wonder if this might be the end. The Spirit whispers again, that is not for us to know, only the Father knows… peace be with you. This reminds us that we cannot be all. We can only be here. Right here in this place at this moment. This is where God has brought you and this is where God wants you to be. And it is here that he wants you to live and join in his dance of life. It is here in this community, your community, the place you dwell. It is here, in this place where he wants you to love, obey, and dwell… to love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, and live the love of Christ with others. It is here. In this place God is calling us to bring the earth into submission or under his dominion. He wants us to build his kingdom here, by encircling those around us with his love. So that they to can begin to hear the voice of Christ and feel the rhythm. They see and hear through our words and our deeds as we live Christ love among them. And invite them to the dance of live that was created by God, encoded in our DNA, and mapped out in the Galaxies, and now beats within your heart.
Sometimes we need to retreat to those quiet places. Sometimes we need to sit around watching Star Wars. Sometimes we need to go on a walk. But there are also times we need to dance. And as we enter this time of holy expectancy, I pray that we will encounter the peace of Christ, and once again hear the rhythm and be reminded of the steps so that we can be encouraged once again to move into his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
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