John 14:15-21 ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
************************************************************************************************************************************ We have been looking at this passage for the last couple of weeks, and we’ve gotten to know a little more about the Spirit that lives and breathes and moves in each of us, and today we celebrate that same Spirit in Pentecost.
The story of Pentecost actually appears in the book of Acts 2:1-21. Let me read a little of it to you…
“When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”(NRSV)
People watching thought they were drunk, and then Peter got up and said, “No, we’re not drunk… it’s 9 am… this is how it is going to be from now on, the prophets talked about it, and now you’re seeing it…” The Old Testament was full of references to the Holy Spirit; Peter referenced the prophet Joel, but the bottom line is that Spirit is all over the Jewish Scripture: The Spirit of God moving over the water, the Spirit of God who led the Hebrews through the dessert; in fact the Prophet Isaiah talks about the ‘gifts’ of that same Spirit (11:1-3)- not like the gifts that Paul talks about in the New Testament,(some are prophets, some are teachers, etc) but gifts available to everyone.
On Pentecost, the Spirit fell on the disciples and changed how they were perceived by the rest of the world. That one instance- that one explosion of fire, if you will, altered the way they communicated. All of a sudden, people understood what the disciples were talking about- all of a sudden, folks saw and heard something “different,” and the disciples acted differently, and they could recognize the Spirit in themselves and in each other!
Especially today, when we have been talking about the Spirit being evidenced in our lives, and how the Spirit is in each of us, and continually pushing, guiding, poking, pestering us to be all that God has for us… it’s important to know, not just what our relationship with the Spirit is (pt 1.) or what the role of the Spirit is (pt. 2) but how we can identify the Spirit in ourselves and others.
Jesus says, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”(v17).
So if we will know the Spirit, because the Spirit abides in us and is with us… then why do we have so much trouble recognizing the spirit in others and especially in ourselves? And not for nothing, but more often than not, I wish I could experience some big wind sound and fire falling from the sky type of sign that the Spirit is moving. Wouldn’t that make her easier to spot?
A group of elders and I had the honor of meeting with one of our confirmands this week, and we got into a discussion about “being sensitive to the Spirit moving in our lives.” But if we can’t see it, how can we be sensitive to it? I would submit to you, that the moment we decide to become intentional about looking for the Spirit, is the day we are overwhelmed with evidence of the workings of the Spirit. In fact, on that day, when you decide to open your mind to the possibility that the Spirit really might be moving as God promised, you will see her working everywhere!
Why? Because the Spirit we are talking about is the Spirit of truth- that means that despite the lies that we are told about us, our world, the people of the world, each other… despite the lies we have come to believe about the way the world is, or “has” to function, or how evil the “other” is; despite the lies we have come to believe about ourselves, or our marriage, or our children, or our ability to have a whole, rich full life… somewhere, under everything we have managed to pile on top of it… truth is at the heart of every situation. We only need to look deep enough to find her.
Tuesday night at what was supposed to be Bible Study we began discussing weight loss- many in the group have lost and gained weight several times… but we talked about how we are programmed through dieting, to set ourselves up for failure. We begin a new weight loss program, we stick to it, even strictly sometimes, and sometimes it even works… for a while… but the cycle lasts for just a cycle… and sooner or later, we give into our desires and we find ourselves hopelessly at the bottom of a Ben and Jerry container wondering what just happened and feeling like the failure we knew we were in the beginning. We affirmed what we already knew about ourselves… we can’t do this… we are a failure… (For more on this topic, see the blog page- Food for Thought)
Yet this (failure mentality) isn’t what we profess to believe about ourselves, is it? We sit here week after week telling each other that we are acceptable to God no matter what- and we encourage each other (well, most of the time) with that same good news. Yet for the most part, many of us have bought into the lie that somehow we are not acceptable just as we are- fat or thin. (And this is only one area… we can apply this to any part of our live where we have set ourselves up in the same way… and if you need help finding an area of your life where you have this scenario going on, see me… or better yet, the person next to you-they can surely help you out…)
I want to read you the Isaiah passage I told you about earlier, and then we are going to see what happens when we apply them to that all too familiar diet/failure example…
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;” (NRSV)
So in essence, here are the gifts- WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, RIGHT JUDGMENT, COURAGE, KNOWLEDGE, REVERENCE, WONDER
Let’s apply just some of them to the weight loss/failure system.. If we applied wisdom, for example, our focus would not be solely on our appearance. We would not only be more aware of the things we were choosing to eat (making wiser choices) but we would keep in mind eating responsibly...as a good steward not just of our body, but of the environment, our resources; we would be cognizant of our impact on low wage and unfairly paid workers, more aware of the need to eat more natural foods. We would be eating in mindfulness- aware that each bite is a gift from God.
How much different would the other areas of your life look if you were intentional in even one of these areas? If you intentionally looked for and applied wisdom, or courage, or reverence… or even wonder… to your most difficult situations.
But again, look at the bigger picture…lets get outside of ourselves… what possibilities would open up if we started looking at others through and with even one of these gifts. You know that relationship you just can’t make right? Would it be any different if you held it in reverence before the Lord? Would it matter if you applied understanding daily to the most painful part? (Again, apply this to each gift, each situation... it's an amazing concept, like a mix and match puzzle)
And then, let’s take it to the next step. Do you think, looking for each of those gift in others and in the world, you might be able to see the workings of the Spirit? I would bet that you do it all the time. I know that whenever I see true wisdom applied to something, or when I see someone exhibit courage that goes beyond my understanding, or when I see someone who holds life in wonder… when we are witnesses, even unintentionally, of the Spirit’s movement… often it comes as a “wow” or at the very least, with a warm feeling… And when that happens, I find myself more sensitive to looking for the Spirit again- almost selfishly.... I want the wows and the warmth. And I begin to seek out the Spirit in other people, and you know what? I find Her! I look for Her in the world, and believe it or not my friends, she is there! Working, moving, even in the situations we consider impossible- and th Spirit works with one end in mind: to create Peace (Shalom) in all of Creation.
And while we might think of the Holy Spirit as peace (for goodness sake we symbolize the Spirit with a dove) She can be anything but calm and serene! Don’t forget the Spirit came at Pentecost with all the explosiveness of Fire, fueled by mighty winds and thunder! Sometimes the Spirit comes in ways that make you want to duck and run for cover!
Sometimes you have to stir the pot in order to enact change. In any situation- you want you kid to do his homework; you don’t leave him in front of the tv…. You want the church to grow and be more effective, you have to ruffle some feathers… this is the same way the Spirit works! It’s not always comfortable to be the one the Spirit is prodding! It’s often quite uncomfortable, and even downright painful! But I promise you that whatever situation you are in, or whatever you are doing right now or in the future- the Spirit is at work- right now, in you , in me, in the world… waiting for us to join in the change making, peacemaking activity. Christ in me... I in Christ....