The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Two days a week, I wake up to the same words. Two days a week, I hear, “Hi there, I’m Tom Moreley from Exercise TV. And I hope you’re ready for twenty minutes of yoga for hips, your buns, and your thighs.” Now before you start thinking this is about Maggie, think again. It’s yours truly doing hip, bun, and thigh yoga with Tom Moreley.
Now, I don’t buy into any of the fake Hindu spirituality that goes with yoga, but wow, it’s a great workout. I stretch muscles I didn’t know I had. I sweat like a pig. And while I’m stretching, standing, and doing all sorts of strange poses in the living room, our two dogs look at me very, very strangely.
Every time I’m doing this routine, there comes a time when Tom Moreley really tries to kill me. My legs are spread far apart in some crazy lunge, my head is bent over to my knee, my hands are clasped and raised backwards above my head. Let me say this – it’s not very easy.
And there’s Tom Moreley, cool as a cucumber. He has this surfer-dude attitude. And while he’s in this insane yoga pose, Tom Moreley says this: “Remember, at challenging times like this, make sure you keep breathing. Just on the yoga mat, so in life. When you come to a challenging moment, just keep breathing.” Usually at this point I’m saying to myself, “Cram it, Tom! I don’t need your philosophy right now.” But the more I think about it, I have to admit, Tom is right. Keep breathing.
Because it’s not if we hit a rough patch, it’s when we hit a rough patch. Our worlds are grow dark. We are saddened by news. Our hearts are troubled. Our hearts are afraid.
I know you know what I’m talking about. When a problem festers in our minds. When grief overcomes us. When we want something so bad to work out, and it just doesn’t. When our hearts are troubled. When are our hearts are afraid. And it seems that we are alone.
This morning, Jesus reminds us that we are not alone. In speaking with the disciples at the last supper, Jesus makes a promise: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The Advocate. The Holy Spirit. Another translation is – The Comforter.
That word – “comforter” – has a specific connotation. It’s the same word used in the first century for lawyers. When an individual was being tried, he might have a “comforter.” A helper, a legal aide, an advocate. Someone to stand alongside you. When times are tough, when the world is dark, when our legs are aching and the sweat is pouring onto the yoga mat, when our hearts are troubled – the Father gives a helper. An aide. An advocate. A comforter.
And we are given a peace, the peace of our Lord. A peace which the world cannot give. A peace that cannot be manufactured through more stuff. A peace that only comes from Jesus. The Lord makes good on his promise. And on the day of Pentecost, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit comes upon the followers of Jesus to give them the peace which they so desperately want. A peace which surpasses understanding.
It’s easy enough to stand here in a pulpit and talk about the peace of God; and how wonderful, beautiful, and lovely it all is. But I’ve been on the yoga mat. I’ve been through life, just as you have. And the peace of God can seem distant or absent. I struggle with anxiety and worry. I let my heart be troubled and afraid. The real trick is finding the peace of God. And then, I feel guilty about not knowing the peace of God. And in a weird, cyclical way, I struggle with even more anxiety and more worry because I feel guilty. It’s easy enough to talk about the peace of God, but what about actually living with the peace of God?
The first thing to do is to breathe. Even though I hate admitting that Tom Moreley and his silly yoga philosophy is right, we have to breathe. When your hearts are troubled and afraid, the first thing you need to do is to be open to the Spirit of God. And breathe. This is why the Holy Spirit is so often associated with wind, and breath, and air.
Next, I have an exercise for you. Now, it’s not for your hips, buns, and thighs. It’s for your soul. When my heart is troubled and afraid, I do the “and then” exercise. It goes like this: I have diabetes. Over time, due to poor circulation, I’m afraid that my feet will eventually have to be amputated and that I’ll go blind. My heart is troubled and fearful for my future. So when my mind festers with this problem, I do the “and then” exercise. So I’ll lose my feet and my eyes. And then? And then I won’t be able to walk. And then? And then I will need other people to help me around. And then? And then God will break down my pride. And then? And then I’ll learn that this life is not about me. And then? And then I’ll learn how to depend on God, and not myself.
In the “and then” exercise, God is always the final answer. Because it is in God that all things live and move and have their being. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And, in a way, God did his own “and then” exercise when he sent his Son to the world. The Father sends Jesus in order to reclaim the people of God. And then? And then the world despises and rejects Jesus And then? And then Jesus is executed by the very people he was sent to rescue. And then? And then Jesus is buried in the tomb. And then? And then God raises Jesus up on Easter day. And then? And then God reclaimed his people.
God refuses to let a story have a bad ending. It may not be the ending we want, but it is the ending that God is preparing for us. When our hearts are troubled; when we find ourselves doing the most difficult yoga pose in our life, we are tempted to put a period. To end the story. To call it quits. But where we want to put a period, God puts a semi-colon. God breathes deeply, and comforts us. And God says, “and then.”