The Feast of Pentecost is loaded with profound and fantastical readings of scripture. I am so captivated by the imagery in Acts, a violent wind with tongues like fire kicking off what I imagine to be a wild and chaotic scene, that it is easy to overlook the appointed Gospel reading from John 14. Afterall, the option includes part of the Gospel reading from Easter 6, just a couple weeks ago. It feels a little redundant. Haven’t we been talking about the Holy Spirit for a few weeks now?
The Gospel narrative has its own drama. Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet. He is teaching and offering them assurance and comfort. Philip seems to me to be a little exasperated. He spouts off, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” In responding to Philip’s pleading, Jesus explicitly connects the dots for Philip. In the midst of articulating his relationship with God, Jesus reminds the disciples that to know and love God requires movement, action. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
In our society, these words spoken by Jesus can sound very transactional. Instead, what Jesus is teaching is relational. He speaks like a guidepost, pointing us towards something akin to the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The people who follow Jesus, the people who love God, are known to live life in particular ways.
I sort of have a gut reaction. “Where are these commandments? Where is my checklist? Do we have the class notes from that day?” But clearly, that would be missing the point. In addition, we need to make sure we don’t confuse this with the 10 Commandments. So then, what does Jesus command?
Love one another. Break bread. Share the cup. Wash feet. Love one another.
Be in communion. Give thanks. Serve others. Love one another.
These are the habits and postures reflected in a life marked by the love of God. When the light of the Holy Spirit burns within a person, grace spills out into the world and lives around them. The work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart and soul provokes them to live love in equally profound and simple ways. When someone loves Jesus, his commandments come to life and shine bright.
Throughout my years in youth ministry, when kids would pick their confirmation mentors, I would tell them to think about the people in their lives who display God’s love to them. Who are the people in the church who love and serve others in quiet and humble ways?
My wife and I asked this question of ourselves prior to our children’s baptisms. My two kids are blessed to have wonderful godparents. We chose each of them for a variety of reasons. Truly, each one of them is a wonderful example of God’s love lived out in remarkable ways, and our kids have experienced the grace of God over and over again through these relationships. The key is naming the connections, helping kids to reflect on how they see God’s love in these relationships, in these people. How is the life and love of God reflected in this person?
Take time this Pentecost with your kids to reflect on what it means to love Jesus and keep his commands. Over a snack or dinner, talk about their godparents, or other significant adults in their life, and how they see God’s love in them. Share why you chose their godparents for them. Discuss who else stands out to them as living a life of love and service. Who are the people you set aside time for to share meals and have celebrations with? What is special about those relationships?
From these discussions, my hope and prayer is that the people we see as shining the light of the Holy Spirit will inspire us continually to live more fully into the way of life that is found in Jesus.