An earlier version of the first sermon, follows..

Sunday, 1 May 2016: Easter 6 John 14:23-29

John 14:23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 "You heard me say, `I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.

The Vicar was talking to a group of young children about being a Christian and going to heaven. At the end of his talk, he asked, "Where do you want to go?" "Heaven!" Suzy cried out.
"And what do you have to be to get there?" asked the Vicar.  "Six feet under!", yelled Little Johnny.

Today we are considering what it means to be a Christian. Some people would say that it is about living life according to a moral code, like the Ten Commandments. They may even think that they keep this code! I would like to suggest three Ps which are linked to being a Christian.

The Proof of Faith.

Jesus starts off our reading today by saying that obedience of his teaching is evidence of love for him. 23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”
Note that God doesn’t love us because we obey him. We cannot earn His love. But our obedience shows that we realise that God loves us, and shows that we love him in return. If we, and people in the church, claim to be Christians we should show it by living lives that follow the life and teaching of Jesus. This should be a witness to our faith. It is also crucial because God requires his people to be holy, the word means 'set apart for him'. If we compromise and follow the way of the world rather than the way of the word then we can prejudice our salvation and that of others.

We should obey the teaching of Jesus. Being humble and not judgemental. Loving and serving one another. Praying for people to be healed and to come to faith. Worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Using our possessions and gifts for God. Sharing the gospel in word and deed. Living holy lives. We cannot do this in our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit to give us the power, the guidance, the fruit and the gifts we need to live for God.

Frank Sinatra's most famous song was probably my way. This is the most popular secular music for funerals at the crematorium. But as Christians we should not live life my way, but Thy way.

The Presence of God.
Where does God live? In church? In heaven?

Jesus had just told the disciples, in verse 4 that he was going to leave them. Now he says, 23 "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Those who love and obey him will have Jesus and God the Father come and live with them. An intimate, close relationship. If you are a Christian you are God's home. He lives in you!! Jesus was leaving the disciples. The legacy he leaves is the Holy Spirit who lives within all believers, all of the time. He is a marker of what it means to be a true Christian.

The Holy Spirit does many things in the lives of believers. In verse 26 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will ‘teach you all things and will remind you of everything that I have said to you.’ In our Acts reading God, the Holy Spirit, opened Lydia's heart to trust in Jesus. He also opened our hearts to trust in Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives in us and is at work in us. He is like the water of life in the new Jerusalem, giving life, sustaining that life.

The Acts of the Apostles, especially, show that it is the Holy Spirit that makes someone a Christian. He is the free and undeserved gift that God gives to everyone who trusts in him. That trust is, of itself free and undeserved and brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. So we need to be open to God's Spirit and to rely on Him in everything we do and say and think.

The Presence of God, The Proof of Faith, The Peace of God.

A priest and a rabbi are in a car crash and it's a bad one. Both of their cars are demolished but amazingly neither one of them is hurt. After they crawl out of their cars, the rabbi says, "So you're a priest. That's interesting; I'm a rabbi. Wow, just look at our cars! There's nothing left, but we're unhurt. This must be a sign from God that we should meet and be friends and live together in peace." The priest replies, "Oh, yes, I agree. It's a miracle that we survived and are here together."

"And here's another miracle," says the rabbi. "My car is destroyed but this bottle of wine in it didn't break. Surely God wants us to drink the wine and celebrate our good fortune," he says, handing the bottle to the priest. The priest nods in agreement, opens the wine, drinks half of it, and hands it back to the rabbi.
The rabbi takes it and puts the cap back on. "Aren't you going to have any? asks the priest. "Not right now," says the rabbi. "I think I'll wait until after the police make their report."

Jesus said, 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jesus peace is not the peace as some would understand it, or perhaps, even, want it. It is not a tranquil, trouble-free existence. It is not an individual one, as our Revelation reading shows, because heaven is a social place.

Christians have peace with God because Jesus has removed the cause of the hostility between man and God when he took the punishment for our sins on the cross. We can, therefore, have confidence in God and his care for us, whatever our circumstances.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid, said Jesus, verse 27. Jesus was speaking to disciples who would see him crucified the next day, and who would hide themselves away from the authorities immediately afterwards.

But God turned things around. He raised Jesus from the dead. He gave the power of the Holy Spirit to them so they would boldly proclaim what God has done for humankind in Jesus. They would stand in front of the religious leaders and accuse them of killing Jesus but declare that God had raised him from death. Not only that, they refused to stop speaking about Jesus, even though they were whipped 39 times and told not to! They had Jesus' peace and presence, even, especially when things were tough.

There are times when things are difficult and we will be concerned. But it can be at those times that our faith is most real, and that we realise that everything else is temporary.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was in the Gulag Archipelago when, having been robbed of virtually everything, he deliberately let himself sink to the bottom, and he found it to be firm. He talked of Jesus’ words from the cross, entrusting his spirit to God. Even though he was at his lowest point he could still, and perhaps only, trust in God.

Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t let anything overwhelm us. We can trust in the rule and the purposes of God in everything, especially in the difficulties of life that are not associated with peace. Even and especially when we hit rock bottom. We can know the peace of God through the presence of God in our hearts by His Spirit. We can prove that this is real as we live for Him.