Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bishop’s Note: May 03, 2018 – Conditions and Promises

Bishop Eric Menees
        Last Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, in the gospel lesson from John chapter 15 Jesus makes terrific promises:
  • I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper
  • to be with you forever
  • even the Spirit of truth
  • I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  
  • Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live

        Are the promises of Jesus conditional? Sometimes, YES. 
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20 ESV) Is that conditional? Yes, his presence is conditioned upon two or three gathering in his name.

        Most of the conditional promises of Jesus are based upon Faith and Belief.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1 ESV) Now, our belief doesn’t make things happen in the sense of what psychologist call “magical thinking.” A child will think that if they just think, “I will be a professional baseball player,” that it will come to pass. Instead, our belief is in what Jesus has already done!

       Jesus rose from the dead on that first Easter Sunday.  It happened whether I believe it or not.  But my belief in that resurrection means that I am able to receive the benefit of his resurrection: eternal life. 
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

        My belief in Jesus leads to a commitment to the relationship with Jesus and the benefits thereof. One might argue, in a simple way, that it is like a can be married but not believe in the marriage. These are the folks who go through the motions; they are technically married, but their relationship does not bear any fruit or passion. But when they believe in the marriage and they work for the success of the marriage, there is joy and fulfillment in the marriage. I look at my marriage: I believe in Florence and she believes in me - and our marriage bears much fruit.

       So what are the conditions that Jesus asks of us in today’s scripture? Well, Jesus gives us the condition first: 
“If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) In a way, that sounds so very obvious... but is it? So often, people will say, “Oh, I love the Lord” on Sunday, but their lives bear no witness to that love Monday through Saturday. Love, true love, means that we reflect that love everyday of the week - and with Jesus that means obedience to his commandments:
  • “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
  • “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; [38] give, and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:37-38a)

        Of course, not only are there conditions in this scripture, there are also promises! First, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper...” Here, Jesus is of course speaking of the Holy Spirit; none of the conditions can be met on our own – on my own I cannot truly believe; on my own I cannot truly love – but with the help of the Holy Spirit, everything is possible!

       I pray you all a blessed week, full of promise and the Holy Spirit!

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