John 14:15-21

May 25, 2014 by Ken Dale

I have long believed that in worship the Spirit of God is at work. That?s what makes preaching so interesting and at times, even fun. Because the Spirit is at work what the preacher actually says and what is actually heard may be quite different. I also cherish a reflection about worship I once read when a congregant came through the line after worship and said to the preacher, ?I didn?t get anything out of the sermon this morning.? The preacher replied, ?Well, maybe this wasn?t your Sunday and someone else worshipping here did.? All of this is to say that if you are looking for an in depth theological refection on this passage from John this morning ? well, this may not be your Sunday. I love the gospel of John and this morning I am thankful for some reflection from a Rev. Dr. Wesley Taylor of Oregon ? and of course with a name like Wesley you know he?s a Methodist.

As I mentioned in this week?s Snippets it?s intriguing that in the short 6 verses before us we see a lot of the word ?will?. It begins with ?If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. ? As we continue reading we find that that Spirit ?will be in you? and that Jesus ?will not leave you orphaned? and though the ?world will no longer see? Jesus, because he lives, ?you also will live.? And it goes on and in verse 21 we read that those who have his commandments and keep them are those who love him and will be loved by God. There?s a lot of certainty and an implied obedience.

When I think of obedience I immediately think of dogs. I think of my yellow lab Cooper. He learned to be obedient but I didn?t understand it totally. If he was feeling a lack of attention he?d grab a towel in the kitchen and come to me and show me what he had, knowing he wasn?t supposed to have it. I?d jump out of the chair, chase him into the dining room and we play this ?you can?t get me? game around the circular table which only angered and frustrated me. Then one day I tried something different ? I said, ?good boy, bring it here? – and he came right over. ?WE learned a lot about love together and I discovered the learning was on both our parts and it improved and enhanced our quality of life together.

An important part of health care today is therapy dogs. I?m reminded of a visit John Price had from a greyhound one day when I was visiting him at Miles. John was a dog lover and the visit just made a great difference in his day. ?Just one of countless instances where someone was blessed by a canine companion. Therpy Dogs International screens dogs for personality, obedience and training for more than 4,500 pet partners who provide comfort and a sense of well-being for 350,000 patients in this country. Dogs demonstrate loyalty and obedience.

We have heard the words of Jesus ?If you love me, you will keep my commandments? and two weeks ago back in John 13 verse 34 we heard ?I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.? And today we hear the promise that we?re not in that alone ? there is help ? the presence of the Holy Spirit with and within us is at work in our actions. The unconditional love exemplified in sharing life with a dog provides an example worth noting. So I propose we may be called to be dogly as well as godly. To keep it simple I share 10 dog-truths that guide us in being obedient followers of Christ:

  1. Greet loved ones with wagging tail. Nothing is more important than feeling loved, and there’s no creature on the planet that does it better than a dog. The wagging tail affirms that this is where we belong, our home, where we live, where we’re safe and where we’re loved.
  2. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Dogs know that eating is a celebration of life. Breaking bread together is holy. To nourish the body is not a chore, but a sacrament. Animosities are dissipated at meals, barriers broken down, friendships renewed and strengthened. So, eat with gusto. Enjoy all the flavors and spices of creation.
  3. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree. Relax, slow down and enjoy. Give yourself a time out. Opt out, unplug, and get lazy.
  4. Run, romp and play daily. Physical exercise is as important for the soul as it is for the body. No disciple of Christ can be as faithful and effective when the body is run down and health is unnecessarily poor. When we learn how to play and stretch and get in some exercise we’ll feel better from the inside out.
  5. Be loyal. Loyalty is a good thing, and if your dog is nothing else, he is loyal to fault. Loyalty has fallen on hard times. Loyalty is a critical element of discipleship, for it speaks to our relationship with others: our spouse, our vocation, our community and our friends.
  6. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your tail. Thankfulness and celebration are powerful dynamics for successful and healthy living. Gratitude is a gift we give ourselves that enables us to affirm the essential goodness of life. Even when adversity strikes, gratitude helps us maintain our perspective and carries us through the low moments.
  7. If someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle gently. We all have bad days. That’s why we need encouragement and affirmation. When we are depressed, we know that it takes only a quiet word, a gentle touch to bring us around. A dog has this instinct that tells it when to be dancing and jumping around and when to just be there beside you. Words are not always needed, or even helpful, to convey empathy. A gentle nuzzle will do.
  8. No matter how harshly you’re scolded, don’t pout – run back and make friends. Carrying grudges makes life a drudgery. Make friends and keep them. Overlook faults and assume the best. Don’t keep a scorecard of rights and wrongs. Don’t take offense.
  9. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do. We do not need to injure others by what we say or do. We can be strong with love; firm with kindness.
  10. Bark with your buddies. Barking is an act of commonality. Barking says we belong in this together. ?We are one.

The disciples traveled with Jesus three years and shared a lot and learned a lot about love, faith, affirmation, friendship, ministry, eating together, acceptance and about patience and humility. As Jesus prepares to leave them he places value on obedience and assures them of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. Pet owners will tell you that dogs have masters and cats have staff. I don?t think we need to think of ourselves as dogs to God as master. ?But isn?t it true that perhaps God put dogs on earth to remind us of some important truths and we are obedient to the commandment to love as we have been loved in Christ when we follow a dogs example? If we follow our lives are apt to be more humble, loving, grateful, joyful, kindhearted ? Christ-like.