The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Breathe — An Audience-Participation-Required Sermon on Peace

Grace and peace from God our Creator, Hope in our Redeemer Jesus the Christ, and the promised gifts of the Holy Spirit are with you, always.

Let’s all take a few deep breaths. A few counts in through your nose and then out again. And again. It’s May, y’all. Can you believe it? Don’t let that heart rate jump back up! Another deep breath.

You probably have a lot to worry about. Whether it’s school—we’re nearing the end of the year! Or work—finding a job, keeping your job, doing your job well. Or money—earning money, saving money, spending money smartly. Or your relationships—good ones with friends or significant others, not-so-good ones with maybe soon-to-be not friends or significant others, roommates, classmates, coworkers. Or your future—what’s next for you? What does the summer hold? Or your family—if they’re nearby or far away, healthy or struggling, supportive of you or a little more challenging. I can understand why we need to sit here, tonight, and take deep breaths together.

And, you know, Jesus knew about a few of those things. No, he was not a UC Davis student or a LEVNeer, but he was a human person. He had parents and siblings and friends. He had politics to lament about and looming wars to furrow his brow. He had a community whose livelihood concerned him. And he lived his adult life with a bunch of dudes who never stopped asking nervous questions. One declarative sentence could hardly escape Jesus’ mouth before Peter’s hand shot into the air with whowhatwhenwherewhyhow tumbling out of his mouth. You can just see Jesus' nostrils flare, eyes close, deep breath in and out before he replies.

This week, the question-asker is Judas. No, not that Judas. There are two, apparently. Just before the text for this week’s lectionary, this other Judas asks “But Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us?” Jesus gives a classic response—not exactly answering the question, and pivoting back to his important talking points about the constancy of God. “Those who love me will keep my word,” he says, “and my father will love them.”

Easy! Love and be loved! Now, I don’t want to mislead you. I don’t want you to think that what I’m saying is that, if you are a Christian, you will never have to worry about anything ever again. If only! But what I can tell you, is that, as a beloved child of God, you do not ever have to worry about your beloved-ness. You are always beloved by God. About that, my dear ones, do not let your hearts be troubled.

A professor from PLTS wrote a book about the Gospel According to John, and he had this to say about today’s gospel lesson:

“The teaching of Jesus is certainly not a self-help program, a path to a tranquil inner life immune to the ills and cares of a troubled world….Jesus is surely a teacher of powerful truth and transformative knowledge, but his teaching and life focus relentlessly on God’s astonishing agape enacted on the cross.”

There are a few weeks each year where I prepare a sermon on a text that is speaking right at me. You who have known me for a little while have noticed that I spend a lot of time planning, anxiously anticipating, playing through worst-case scenarios in my mind. Today, I stand before you and repeat the words of Jesus I so often forget to hear—”do not let your heart be troubled” and “do not be afraid.” Every week, I proclaim “the peace of the Lord be with you, always” and you obediently reply “and also with you.” We say that because right here, in the 14th chapter of the Gospel According to John, Jesus says, “peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”

So let’s take him seriously today. We’re going to do something a little unusual. I have these papers for you, and we’re going to take five minutes, silently, and I want you to write down—not for the group, just for me to read—all the things that trouble your heart. All the things that you’re carrying around right now that make you afraid. You can write your name on it if you want me to know, but you can also stay anonymous. They can be small things, big things, personal things, global things, anything. I’m going trade you. I’m going to take these pieces of paper from you, on which you’ve written things I can pray about, things you want to just get out of your head. Things you want to hand over. And I’m going to give you a different piece of paper, in exchange. One that reminds you that the peace of the risen Christ is with you, always. So everybody get a paper and a pen, excellent. Five minutes starts now.
I bought this image from WordsxWatercolor; you can, too!

And now, here. As you go in peace, take this with you. Stick it to your bulletin board, put it by your desk, put it in your planner or binder or wherever you spend the most time forgetting that the peace of the risen Christ is always with you.

Belong—A Sermon of Promises

Get Up—A Sermon Decidedly Not About Sheep