The Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A, St. George’s Church, Nashville

“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do” (Jo. 14:12).

Our society is prone to euphemism, to finding new and more obscure ways of describing fairly straightforward things. I heard one the other day that was new to me, “kinetic military operations”. I suspect this euphemism has its origin in the Department of Defense, who are veteran producers of euphemism, but it’s been used by President Obama and President Trump, by Secretary of State John Kerry and by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “Kinetic” is an old Greek word pertaining to motion, and probably the last time I encountered it was in Physics class as “kinetic energy”, the sort of energy possessed by an object as a result of its motion.

The way the word’s being used currently, however, is unique, in contrast to non-kinetic or non-lethal actions. These could be “cyber warfare”, the bloodless hack or attack on a nation’s digital infrastructure that we’ve heard more and more about; or it could be intelligence gathering by satellite, or providing hospital facilities in a conflict situation (an example of what we once would have called humanitarian aid). A non-kinetic action, like providing advisors to train an ally’s soldiers, could become kinetic, as the advisers move from the camp into the field of battle. Sending meals to rebels is non-kinetic, but sending Special Forces to support them is kinetic.

Our Gospel today has little to do with all of this, on the face of it, but it’s not so far removed as you might think. Jesus’ word to his disciples are an encouragement for Christians to get in the game, to be involved “kinetically” in the life of discipleship. In other words, Jesus is calling us to go forward, to get moving, and to expend in action the energy we’ve stored up. If God the Holy Spirit is the animating force of Christian discipleship, that force needs to be released.

“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do” (Jo. 14:12). Our Gospel is a clarion call to action, to doing the works that Jesus himself does. Jesus is showing us the way. Jesus calls for the disciples to “abide” in him (Jo. 15:4) but this does not mean that they are meant to be stationary. “Abide” is all about being rooted in the Gospel of Jesus’ death and Resurrection, and has nothing to do with standing still. Discipleship is more kinetic than that. Jesus gathers the disciples so that the work can go forward, so that the mission may advance. They’re not sitting on the sidelines but are in the field. The disciples become apostles, those who are sent by God, followers put into play by the Lord of the church. In the life of discipleship you need to get moving, to “get kinetic”.

Here’s where we come to the most outrageous claim contained in our Gospel today; an outrageous claim made by Our Lord himself. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jo. 14:12). That’s right, “greater works”. Jesus’ ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit gives a worldwide scope to the Gospel, a missional imperative that goes beyond Judea and Samaria; a missional imperative that is extended in time as well beyond the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We ourselves, Jesus’ disciples gathered here for worship, are the fruit of that “greater work” done by the church in time and space. That work is rooted in Jesus’ death and Resurrection, but is carried out in Word and Sacrament. The work of St. George’s Church, in particular the missional communities’ initiative, is part of that “greater work” that Jesus calls us to.

I said earlier that our Gospel today didn’t have much to do with the modern Department of Defense euphemism. On the other hand, our first reading, the account of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, is a reminder that the kinetic work that disciples are called to is risky business, requiring putting our lives on the line. It’s a life and death business. Stephen’s response to the call of the Risen Lord was costly, requiring him to commit himself in an ultimate sense. He did not sit on the sidelines, cheering others on. Instead, he got involved in the life of discipleship even at the cost of his life.

Those who are being confirmed and received and reaffirmed today are stepping forward in faith, reminding all of us that discipleship means we have to get moving, that we have to get “kinetic” in the life of faith. Remember Jesus’ words, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jo. 14:12). Belief has brought us this far and now impels us forward into the work of the Gospel. God is at work in us. It’s time to get moving.

  • The Rt. Rev'd John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee