When I last preached I was meditating on remembering, on making something part of our lives here today as we live them. Remembering that last week of Christ’s life. Making the crucifixion part of our living. The New Resurrected Life of Christ as part and parcel of our bodies today. Remembering Christ in the way we live. And today we remember some of Christ’s teaching on that last night before the crucifixion. As the disciples and Jesus eat and make their way up to the mount of Olives, Jesus says, “anyone who loves me will keep my word.” Or ‘anyone who loves me obeys my commands’, as it is sometimes translated and rightly so, yet it’s much more than that. Anyone who loves Jesus will keep His word, and if you do not keep His word then you do not love Him. But what does it mean to keep? And what is His word?
Well, I’ll ask the question, what have you kept? And what have I kept? Digging around in my old box, I found a bag I made in grade 8, with a brass spoon Great Gran gave me, and a wooden spoon I won as last place on a quiz night. I’ve kept both these spoons for over 10 years, safe in a bag in a box, guarded from hands that might want to clean up and throw things out, I’ve kept them safe and haven’t used them. Perhaps that should change.
I’ve also kept in touch with an old school friend, catching up over the phone and face to face maybe ten or so times over the last ten years. Perhaps the friendship would keep better if we were in closer contact, yet we are still good enough friends.
And I’ve also kept some words in mind over the years. My dad told me, “It takes two to tango” a bit vague, especially because I don’t really dance, but it means all parties involved need to take responsibility for it to work, at work, in relationships, in all sorts of things. I’ve kept that word in mind and it’s sort of changed the way I see the world, it guides the way I might interact, and I suppose you could say it shows my love for my father. To keep something well, you guard it and keep it safe, you don’t forget about it or refuse to use it, and your life in some ways revolve around what is kept.
Anyone who loves Jesus will keep His word. And what is that word? His first sermon, “Repent and believe the Good News, for the Kingdom of Heaven is here!” His last sermon on the cross, “It is finished, complete!” And His sermon before the Ascension, “Go and make disciples of all nations, by baptising and teaching them to keep everything I have commanded you; and surely I will be with you to the very end of the age.” In the word He left, Jesus promises the Kingdom of Heaven; that His mission, the defeat of sin, death and the devil, and full reconciliation between God and humanity is complete; and that He is with you always. In the word He left, Jesus commands us to repent, turn toward Him, and to go and make disciples, teaching them to keep all His commands. This is Law and Gospel, promise and command, and yet Jesus doesn’t separate them. When He declares your sins are forgiven, He promises that He has dealt with your sins and they need not burden you anymore, and He commands that you reject your sinful habits and live free from sin and it’s burden just as He has already freed you. In one word, ‘I forgive you’ He promises and He commands. In one word, ‘You are my beloved child’ God Almighty promises His fatherly love and commands obedience to His family culture. In a word Jesus gives and commands, as He says to you, ‘Peace’.
Peace as the world cannot give, peace which surpasses all understanding, the peace of God, of Jesus Christ our Righteousness. “Peace I leave for you, my peace I give you.” If you love Jesus you will keep this good word, treasure it, guard it, and share it to the glory of God. Yet it’s not simply only this word of Divine Peace, you can hear all the depths of His word, and for that you need others to teach you, that is your pastor, your parents, your Christian brothers and sisters; and Jesus commands you to teach those He gives to you. To keep all His word, and part of that word is for when you fail, ‘repent, I forgive you.’ Though His Word is not a burden for you to be crushed by, it is a command to hear and to do; yet more than a command it is a promise and a gift of love, life and peace. And so our loving Lord and Saviour says, those who love me keep my word.
And hear that word again: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Go in peace! Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.