The Rev. Alwyn Hall served as a supply priest at St. Hilda St. Patrick. Fr. Alwyn attended the United Theological College of the West Indies and has been licensed to officiate in the diocese of Olympia since 2016. He has previously served as the associate priest at St. Elizabeth’s, Burien. His sermon was a response to John 14.23-29. The sermon was based on the manuscript below.
What does it mean to be the church? Most church members just attend worship without making a commitment or doing something tangible for Christian education/formation, mission, evangelism, or outreach. Most come to church only to warm the chairs and the benches rather than taking their faith more seriously. “God does not call us to go to church, but to be the church.” To be the church is to love Jesus and keep his commandment. This love is more than lovely words. It is commitment and conduct. John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” If you love Christ, you will prove it by obeying his words.
In our Gospel for today Jesus says “If (anyone) loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words. The word which you hear is not mine, but the Father who sent me.” To make His home with us means to abide or to dwell with us. Our faithfulness to the God’s Word and our love of each other is a sign to the world, to ourselves and to God, that we are Christians. As the song writer wrote, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” When we be, the church people will look at us and know we are Christians by our love and our work. Christians are the church. If people look at us and we are not exemplifying Christ, they have a valid reason for not wanting to join us. I am sure we have all heard several varied reasons why people avoid church. This aversion to the church is understandable when we in the church do not live by example. But people sometimes find trivial excuses for avoiding church. Eg. some people want change while others do not like change, do not like the priest, service is not inspiring, personality clashes, claim full of hypocrites, old wounds/hurts not mending, and lastly most people prefer to stay home and roll over in bed on a Sunday morning(vacation since father is on leave). If we love got we will find a church of worship. If there is a church that caters to your spiritual and liturgical tastes, then go and show your obedience to the Lord and let his word abide in you.
Divisions prevents people from believing and belonging. We do not know why people leave the church or stay but it is sometimes a serious charge against the church. Christians are supposed to love each other, but there seem to be always some kind of infighting. People on the outside looking on will wonder what kind of witness that is, if we cannot even get on with each other. They will not want to be part of that kind of church. Mark you, there was infighting in the early church as well. We would be wrong to fantasize that the early church Christians were all fired up with love for Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and lived a faultless, flawless, prefect Christian life. That church was made up of human beings, like us, with all the flaws, failings, and limitations. The good news is that God remains present in his church despite its limitations! God uses us despite our limitations! Jesus has entrusted to us the ministry he started and so to be the church we must receive the advocate (HS) and continue His ministry. We might feel inadequate when it comes to such grave and great a task. We might not know what to do, where to start or how to obtain the necessary resources. But when God places you on a mission the advocate will be with you. He will provide the purse, extra tunic, and the staff for the journey.
In John 14:25 Jesus promised the disciples that the HS will help them to remember his teaching. He said, I go but I will not leave you comfortless because the HS the advocate whom the father will sends in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all I have told you.” When we keep God’s Word and commandments, we abide in this most wonderful promise that “God will come to us” and show us the way. The song writer wrote “When we walk with the lord in the light of his word what a glory he sheds on our way. While we do his good will he abides with us still and with all who will trust and obey.” When you follow the Word of God, rather than your own notions or concepts, God is going to dwell with you. Christ will come into your life, home and live with you. Oh, how beautiful and wonderful it is not only to think about it but to know that Christ is dwelling in you in our homes and with your families.
When he abides in us, the result of the advocate’s work in our lives is deep, and lasting peace and the confident assurance that we have no need to fear the present or the future. Sin fear, uncertainty, doubt, and several other forces are at war within us. But, when God dwells within us the peace of God restrains these hostile forces and bring us comfort.
Through our personal imperfections and struggles as well as the struggle and imperfections present in the church let us keep our eyes fixed on the prize, the ultimate destiny of the church, and the ultimate dignity that God has invested us with. We are not our troubles. We are not our shortcomings. We are not our failings. We are better than that. God has made for eternity. Let the promised HS fill you with the peace of Christ so that your personal and corporate life as believers may express your faith in your Christian dignity and destiny of the church.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.