Closer And Closer – The Air We Breathe

Grace Lindvall
(John 14: 15-21) 

This morning we continue our sermon series entitled “Closer and Closer” a look at the lectionary passages that follow the Easter story. We look at these passages and the ways they draw us closer to knowing God, draw us nearer to experience and relationship with God. Today’s scripture reading invites us to do just that yet again. Our scripture reading today comes from the 14th chapter of John’s gospel. The setting is one we talk of often, it is the night before Jesus’ arrest, the night when he gathered in an upper room with his disciples. We are most familiar with this night as the night Jesus first instituted the Lord’s Supper but it also is – quite importantly –  the night when Jesus washed his disciples feet, the night when he gave them a new commandment to love, to radically love one another. And it is also the night when he delivered his farewell discourse. These 3 chapters in the gospel of John 14-17 are dedicated to Jesus’ saying goodbye, reassuring, and praying for his disciples. Listen now to this scripture passage, remembering all the context of the night which surrounds it:

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

The word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

Will you pray with me? God of love you are present with us always, open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to your work in the world, to the words you share with us each day. Stir your presence among us all as we discern your word to us this day. And now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you, O Lord my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Relationships. Entanglement. Love.

John here talks about all these things – the relationship between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ). The relationship between Jesus and his disciples. The relationship between the disciples and the Paraclete. It all starts to weave together into a complicated sort of family tree. But rest assured my friends, its not a complicated web we must fully understand to fully experience. There is no need to draw all the right lines to all the right places in order to experience God’s love and to experience the Paraclete. These are promises that are made no matter our understanding.

Entanglement.

There is a theory, a theory that I admittedly don’t fully understand, but nonetheless stand in awe of. The theory is entanglement theory, a quantum physics theory. Entanglement theory is nearly 100 years in the making – first worked on by the likes of Albert Einstein and his colleagues. And most recently in 2015 a theory that has become widely supported and proven. It’s a theory that Einstein himself declared “spooky.” It is totally spooky in its mystery.

To break it down into the sparknotes version: Quantum Entanglement theory states, and has PROVEN, that two particles which are entangled when separated will still in some way be connected. Not just connected though, the “spooky” part is that the two particles will have an effect on one another. For example, if there are two entangled particles you could separate them by the distance of the galaxy, yes, the galaxy, and they would still affect one another. Separated by a great distance, so great that it cannot be explained by coincidence or common surroundings, the two particles will act together so that if you spin one in a clockwise direction the particle all the way across the galaxy will respond and change the direction of its spinning too.

Spooky, right?

Relationships. Entanglement. Love.

A few years ago I went to the funeral of the father of one of my seminary friends. Her father was killed tragically and suddenly the week before. I did not know her Dad, I only know his daughter. The service painted a picture of a man of abundant and tenacious faith, a simple man whose greatest joy was in God and sharing the good news of Jesus. A man that the children described as slightly quirky in that he was so incredibly humble and simple in his needs. The time for remembrances came and his three children shared their memories of their father, a huge challenge for three children who recently lost their father. My friend’s remembrance will always stick with me, the words she spoke of her father were so beautiful and honest. My friend closed her remembrance by saying “I never knew how you were able to love us so much but I think it was because you loved God so much”

Entanglement. Relationship. Love.

Quantum entanglement theory and the words my friend shared about her father draw a picture of this relationship that Jesus speaks of here in his farewell discourse. Jesus reminds us and his disciples that separated by whatever we may be – time, space, doubt, confusion, hurt, loss, or pain – the paraclete still is present in our lives. But not just present in our lives, affecting our lives. Like in quantum entanglement theory – distance cannot keep those who are entangled from affecting one another.

And like my friend’s father – his deep abiding love of God affected the way he lived his life, the way he loved his children, the way he cared for the world, the very person he was made different because of his deep love of God.

That is what I think of when I think of Jesus describing the relationship – the paraclete living in us, with us. The paraclete is so deeply entangled in our lives that its movements affect our, ours affect it, we are connected.

The paraclete. Some of you may have whipped out a smartphone by know to look up this ancient Greek word that I have intentionally avoided defining until now. I opted not to use the English translation in our reading as well because I don’t think any one word can or should summarize the paraclete. It’s a word that would have been a bit unfamiliar or jarring even to Jesus’ disciples at the time.

The paraclete can be described as the advocate, counselor, broker, friend, spirit, comforter, helper. It’s the Spirit of God.

But to describe the paraclete by just one word, I think, is missing the point. The paraclete is the very air we breathe, its existence is all around us, it is within us and among us and even in us. The paraclete is in all of these things.

Paraclete, the presence of the one who will advocate, the one who will counsel, the one who will be a friend, the one who will help, the one who will comfort.

I wonder if we have ever had these experiences?

Have you ever had the experience of someone advocating for you – standing up for you, being on your side, accompanying you? Have you ever had the experience of someone comforting you? Perhaps crying with you during a loss or sitting near you as you questioned life’s harshness? Have you ever had the experience of someone helping you? Helping you to cope, helping you to figure life out, helping you to discern your next steps? Have you ever had a friend who laughed you back to life? Who laughed with you as you put the pieces of life back together? That my friends is the paraclete.

That, all of that, that is paraclete life. It is the life Christ promises us through his love and it is the life he calls us to through his commandments. We are called as Karoline Lewis professor at Luther Seminary calls it to “paraclete discipleship, paraclete ministry, paraclete leadership.”

Ram Dass, a prominent American spiritual guide, said of the faith journey, that when it’s all said and done “we’re all just walking each other home.” We’re all just walking each other home.

I think that’s paraclete faith – all of us walking each other home. Walking along the road with one another, crying with one another, advocating for one another, crying out for one another. We’re all just walking each other home.

The paraclete is made known to us when we entangle ourselves in God’s love – when we are so wrapped up in loving God, that God’s love starts to affect the way we act, it calls us to be the advocate, the friend, the helper. And to spin it on its head – when we are the advocate the friend, the helper, we come to know God’s love better.

So let us entangle ourselves in this beautiful story of relationship – becoming so wrapped up in loving God that God’s love overflows into our neighbors. And let us become so wrapped up in loving our neighbors that it begins to reveal God’s love to us.

Winnie Varghese the priest at Trinity Episcopal Church of Wall Street writes, “What would our community and our world look like if we saw every breath we took as immersing ourselves in God, and every exhaling as an opportunity to breathe God’s liberating love back out into the world?”

What if?

Let’s imagine it together, why don’t we? Let’s imagine what it would be like and let’s practice breathing in God’s love deep into our souls, and with each exhale we breathe out God’s love and redemption.

Will you close your eyes with me and imagine it.

Close your eyes

Steady your breathing

Find stillness in your movement

Breathe in deeply.

Breathe out deeply.

Breathe in, take a long breath – we need it. Breathe in God’s love, for it is all around you. Breathe in the goodness of God’s promises. And hold it and savor it.

Breathe out. Breathe out your hopes for the world..

Breathe in again, and as you breathe in remember the moments when you have witnessed the advocate, the friend, the helper.

Breathe out, breathe out God’s love into the world, the love you have experienced, breathe it out into the world.

Breathe in deeply the love of God. Let it sit within you, encourage you, comfort you.

Breathe out that love and share your experiences of love with the world. Share your experiences of comfort by advocating for peace for others, share your experiences of love by ensuring everyone knows that they are loved.

Breathe in God’s love to inspire and comfort and encourage your soul. And breathe out, breathe out onto the world the love you have experienced, breathe out and give the world the love of God.

For we are promised the goodness of God’s love and we are called to share it with the world through Paraclete discipleship.

In the name of God, our paraclete – the Creator, Sustainer and redeemer. Amen.