Monday, May 22, 2017

The Spirit of Truth

John 14: 8-17
May 21, 2017
Pentecost Sunday

This is the second part of Jesus farewell discourse,
the speech that Jesus gives to his disciples at the last supper
which is only in the book of John.
We won’t get to hear the whole thing
because it goes from chapter 14-17.
But these are some good parts.

Jesus is preparing the disciples for life after him.
How his ministry will continue
with his followers after he’s
no longer with them physically.

All through John, Jesus is telling his disciples
that he has to die, but the reason is
not like we have often thought,
to cure God’s cosmic rage against humanity,
and get God to forgive our sins.
Jesus explains that he needs to die
and go away in order to let us do his work in his place.

In chapter 12, Jesus says:
“I tell you, unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

We are that fruit.
Just like we heard last week,
God has built a room inside each one of us,
we will be God’s dwelling place,
and we will continue the work that Jesus started.

And today, Jesus promises that we will not
be doing that work alone,
the Holy Spirit will come and live in that room forever.
Pentecost
by Purple Whirlpool

The Spirit that Jesus promises is 
still mysterious to this day.
Christian theologians have 
lots of theories and books about
God, and about Jesus, 
but there’s not much written
about the Holy Spirit.

One big time theologian suggested that it was because we always go
Father, Son, Holy Spirit in our statement, creeds and such
So when people write about the Trinity,
they write about the Spirit last.

But it might be much more than that.
Maybe we don’t know a lot about the Spirit
because it refuses to be tied down.
We know the Spirit as a dove, a beam of light,
a violent wind, the breath that moved over the waters,
Wisdom that dances in the entrance gates,
We know the Spirit through images and notions and feelings
An encounter with the Spirit is like a dream that you
can only remember bits of when you wake up.

But we know the work of the Spirit well.
It is the thing that touches us,
That moves us, wakes us in the night,
inspires us, nudges us, it drives us crazy, and keeps us calm
it gives us peace, and agitates us to action.
The Spirit is the force that keeps
God’s word and will alive in each one of us
it is the light that overcomes the darkness.

Now Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate,
and the Spirit of Truth
and that gives us more insight into the Spirit’s activity.

Remember that Satan is called “the accuser”
and in John, Jesus calls Satan “the father of lies”.
Satan is the force in the world that creates
animosity, that makes us accuse each other,
that insights anger and suspicion between people,
that divides individuals and nations,
that makes people hate, and hoard things,
and protect what they have from others.
The best outcome for Satan is violence.
Satan’s favorite project is war.

In contrast to that, Jesus calls the Spirit the Advocate.
An advocate is a defender, a supporter,
When we talk about advocates we
think of someone who walks with another person,
one that that brings peace through justice.
It’s the force of reason, calmness, reconciliation,
compassion, understanding, forgiveness.

Jesus also calls the Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
It’s the one who keeps telling us, contrary to Satan’s lies,
that we are all tied together, that we are not enemies,
that we are all one.
The Spirit’s best outcome is friendship, love, understanding,
justice, and true peace.

The spirit is the force that makes God’s will happen in the world
The Spirit is God abiding in us, living in us
The Spirit helps us keep Jesus commandment to love one another.
And that is just what the spirit is doing
with us right now, helping us to love,
and to share love, and to heal rifts and to reconcile.
Now it might be reasonable to ask,
“how’s that going for us so far?”
Because sometimes lately it seems like
the world is about to explode with hatred and animosity and violence.

It might seem like the Advocate
and the Spirit of Truth has not been very effective
over these last two thousand years since
Jesus made that arrangement with God to send her into the world.

Now I’ve told you this before, and I tell you again,
because it bears repeating,
It might seem like we’re on the verge of disaster,
but really we are living in the least violent time in history.
There are less wars today, less murders,
less abandonment of children,
less government sanctioned genocide,
less people killing people period than ever before in our history.

It’s hard for us to see this because we’re in the middle
It still happens for sure, but it’s far less (with far more people in the world) 
than at any time in history.
It’s just now, we’re more attuned to violence,
we’re more sensitive to it, more horrified by it, less tolerant of it
and at the same time that there’s less violence,
there is more news available than ever.
So it seems like there’s more violence,
but there’s never been less in all of history.

I say this is the Advocate work in this world.

Another simple thing I noticed
A couple of weeks ago,
Bob and I  watched Saturday Night Fever in the theater,
on the 40th anniversary of the movie.
Besides some great dancing by John Travolta,
it’s a pretty gritty depiction of working class life
of young people in New York in the 1970’s.

There are things that the main characters in the
movie did that make us very uncomfortable now,
blatant racism, sexism, rape, hostility towards gay people.
Things that were acceptable at the time,
Yes, all those things still happen now,
but they just aren’t widely acceptable now.
Just 40 short years, in my span of memory,
and our sensibilities have changed.

You can watch almost any movie or TV show actually,
and something will make you cringe, I’m sure.
The road might be clunky and not direct,
but the world is changing.
That the Spirit of Truth is working.

Earlier in his conversation,
Jesus said that we would do even greater things
than he would.

Now, we can’t heal people just by touching them,
we can’t make the blind see
We can’t calm the seas, we can’t walk on water.
But all those miracles were not just magic acts,
They were not done for the sake of doing them -
they were signs of God’s love, and God’s power through love.
  
And we can show God’s love and power through love
through our words and deeds. And we have.
When Jesus was here in the flesh,
he was only able to touch one person at a time,
only able to look one person in the eye at a time.

But just in this congregation, this body of Christ,
how many people have been loved ?
how many people have been cared for?
how many hands held?
how many people have been fed?
how many children have learned about God’s love and grace?
How many minds have been changed?
How many hearts have been healed?
And that’s just at Gethsemane.
Think of all the other bodies of Christ around the world.
That is God’s Spirit, abiding in us.

We are not in this alone.
Jesus kept his promise,
he did not leave us orphaned.
The Advocate - the Spirit of Truth - lives in us,
in that little room that God has

made in our hearts, God will be with us forever.

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