Peace be with you, T.S. Eliot.

Signpost for Sunday 1st May 2016 (Easter 6): Acts 16:9-15; Ps 67; Rev 21:10,22–22:5; John 14:23-29 or John 5:1-9.

 

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time

 

I don’t know why I thought of these words from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding (Four Quartets) when I was reading Revelations this week. But they do seem to sum up the echo that reverberates between Revelation 22:22 and our other reading: John 14:23-29.

Those first two verses in John may mean different things to each of us. But if we were first century Jews, they would have seemed particularly important. That’s because in Jesus’ time, people had believed that God’s literal “dwelling place” was the Temple. But the writer of John’s Gospel is telling us that the Temple has been replaced by Jesus himself who makes his “dwelling place” with those who love and follow him. When this gospel was written that was very good news indeed, as the Romans had sacked the Temple in AD 70.

The same Temple point is made again at the end of the New Testament in Revelations new Earth and new Heaven. Here (Rev 21:22) we’re told specifically that the city needs no temple because God dwells there.

The second big deal about this week’s passage from John is that it introduces its readers and listeners to the idea of Holy Spirit (V25). John 7:37-39 later tells us that “as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In fact, in this gospel, up until the actual crucifixion and resurrection, the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist. The spirit here is a specific consequence of Jesus’ actions. It’s not the one we find mentioned elsewhere throughout the Bible.

Then Jesus leaves his disciples with his peace (John 14:27). If, like me, you’re used to passing the Peace in church or you first think of some of my favourite words from Philippians– the peace that passes all understanding – you and I might miss the political point Jesus is making. There were two types of peace in the first century. One was “peace through victory,” which was the Pax Romanus of the all-conquering Romans. The other was “peace through justice,” which is the way Jesus does things.

Paul

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