Have you ever found that it was only in looking back at a conversation that you began to see the true gifts that were present there for you?

You know, I wonder if the disciples found themselves looking back to Jesus’ words - from that last night that Jesus was with them - there at the Last Supper and that night on which Jesus was betrayed; I wonder if the disciples found themselves looking back after Jesus was crucified and was resurrected, realizing that there was more importance to what was being said than they even realized when Jesus was first saying it?

In the portion of our gospel text that we heard today, what is referred to by theologians as the Farewell Discourse, Jesus talks about how he will be leaving, but that the disciples should 1) hold fast to loving God and 2) trust that a peace more than the world can provide will be given to them and 3) that God will send the Holy Spirit to guide them in all things – and she will be awesome.

Pretty profound words to look back on, for the disciples and for us. In fact, these are words upon which to build our resurrected striving to be present-in-our-days life practice.

Loving God. What does this mean? Well, loving God with all our heart and mind and soul and body leaves no room for shame or guilt or regret. No shame, not about the really bad stuff we’ve done or thought and not even about the pack of gum we stole in 5th grade, or the time we spit in that jerk’s food or drink when they weren’t looking at the lunch table. No shame, only devotion to the God who forgave and forgives everything we’ve ever done badly or neglected to do.

And while God is helping us hold fast to loving God and letting go of our shame and guilt and regret God is also busy trying to give us the gift of peace. Peace such as the world cannot give. What does this mean? This means that when we feel that we are at the end of our rope or our hope, God is waiting to catch us with the kind word of a friend or a five-minute nap (when a real and longer nap isn’t possible). God is seeking to give us the knowledge that even when everything goes wrong, like when someone we care about is stuck in the throes of addiction or struggling with life-threatening illness, or we stand face to face with racism or other forms of unspeakable hatred there is someone (God) who sees you and me and believes in the rightness of your existence and your striving; a God who desires to give us a peace such as the world will never provide, a peace that no circumstance can take away. This is a gift of deep roots – roots first given to us in the waters of baptism as we were grafted onto Christ – attached with love and grace and mercy – and attached to this peace.

And then there’s this promise of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word here is paraclete, which means “called alongside.” And there’s no doubt that the Holy Spirit, called alongside us and this world, she is a force to be reckoned with. Because just as author CS Lewis pointed out with regards to the Christ figure of Aslan in his books, that Aslan was not a tame lion, there is nothing tame about the Holy Spirit. We really do not know how the Holy Spirit will work.

One day she might be all soothing and comforting and the next day the Holy Spirit might just upend the apple cart of your life. You thought you were going to teach until you were seventy years old - surprise! Early retirement for you. Or you thought you were going to retire early – surprise! I need you to keep teaching a few years longer. You thought you were done raising kids – surprise again! Foster children for you. Did you think the church you attend would always stay the same? Surprise! God has been re-working the Church ever since God created the Church – and that work of new creation is not done yet!

Love God with all of who you are.
Trust in the peace of God that transcends circumstance.
Watch for the Holy Spirit.

Today, here and now – in light of the Easter reality of Christ’s resurrection to new life - we know again that because Christ died to wipe away our broken actions and thoughts - our sins - we have been given the keys to this day. Keys to the kingdom of living in the resurrected present - free of shame or guilt or fear of what has been or might be. We are, by Christ’s resurrection, here now.

We have been freed from our broken yesterdays in order that we might hold fast to loving God today, this day.

Years ago, I was talking with my godmother, and I said, “I’d like to live every day as though it’s my last, so as to really make it count.” And she responded, “Yes, I can see that. Hmmm…though sometimes I’ve thought to myself that I’d like to live as though every day is my first day.” “What difference would that make?” I asked. “Well,” she replied, “If every day is my first day, then there is a clean slate. No baggage, no yesterdays of regret. Today, this day, gets to be filled with my very best effort carried out with God’s help. This is my very first day.”

I know I appreciated these words when my godmother first shared them with me, but in the years and decades since then I have come to appreciate them even more. I wonder if the disciples, as they went out in the world sharing the good news of what God had done in love through Jesus’ death and resurrection looked back on that night and Jesus’ words, and drew strength and courage and direction for the journey. I wonder if they found that these words meant even more to them in retrospect than they did at the time. We certainly can draw strength and courage and direction from Jesus’ words for our journeys.

Love God with all of who you are.
Trust in the peace of God that transcends circumstance.
Watch for the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes the true gifts in the things we hear only shine forth in retrospect. Yet whether we are hearing this good news for the very first time today, or understanding it on a deeper level, today is the very first day of our resurrected lives in Jesus. And this means that all shame and regret is wiped clean. And everything is possible.