Sermon on the Holy Spirit

John 14:15-21

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

 

In our text from John today.  Jesus is promising the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Coupled with the text from last week, or 8 minutes ago, our reading today is explaining to those poor, lunkhead disciples, that if they have seen Jesus, they have seen the father.  Now, we are promised the Spirit – so even if we don’t have a physical Jesus present with us, we still have God in our lives – as the Holy Spirit.

So what does this Spirit look like?  In an article from Working Preacher, our professor David Lose suggests that the Spirit looks like anyone of us, following Jesus’ commandment.  This text says it rather plainly – God is in YOU who know me, and follow my command.  So what is Jesus command?  In the Gospel of John, it’s clear – Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

So, this Spirit of God, that is in us – how did it get there?  I’m certain with a group of seminarians (and professor!) you can guess – Baptism.  The gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon us in Baptism.  We then have the gift of God’s holy presence with us as long as we live – nothing can separate us from God.  

I need you as future leaders of the church to feel the presence of God.  Pay attention to the Spirit, how God speaks to you.

Growing up, my Lutheran church and in fact, my Lutheran family (dad’s side) didn’t spend a significant amount of time on the Holy Spirit – except to critique how others felt it manifested.  “Clearly laying on of hands, healing, and speaking in tongues is crazy, right?”  Feelings are bad – make sure what you believe is on paper somewhere, damnit.  

It didn’t work well for me – I’m a feeler, and felt like God moved in every place of my life – sometimes it was hard to understand where or why or even how, but the more my mother explained how God worked in her mind, the more I felt a deep spiritual connection with God.  It wasn’t just a metaphor – I felt things, sensed things, – I truly felt the Holy Spirit.

I’ve always gotten the impression from church folk and non church folk alike – spiritual stuff was squiffy at best – it was something that didn’t REALLY exist, and therefore, something that you didn’t talk about in “good company.”

This deep sense of a real, present as a spiritual God coupled with the inability to talk about it in a way that made sense to me led to exploring outside the church’s understanding of “Spirit.”  I’ve watched (and loved) so many “Haunting” stories and the like on the discovery channel I don’t even jump anymore when things pop out, and I’ve seen Ghost Whisperer start to finish, and am to the point of understanding her theology as VERY grace centric, with plenty of heavenly messengers to help, but almost NO talk of God.  I had a problem.  I was either fed Spiritually, or theologically – never both.

This problem seemed to heighten for me in Seminary – so many people were so “TEXTUALLY” concerned, so I did my best to fall in line.  Lucky for me, if you adhere to the text, you will find the spirit EVERYWHERE.

With such a rich, Spiritual theology, it’s a shame that it took me until Seminary to find a connection in texts like this one, or one of the many others available.  My challenge for you, my fellow preachers, is to bring this promise of the Spirit to the table for discussion.  People all over have experienced a real and true part of God, and our lack of discussion of the Spirit’s real power on Earth can cause a disconnect.  Spiritual but not religious?  Let that be a phrase no more –   Give them that meaty, scripturally sound backing to think about their experience, help them to understand where this experience comes from, and help them to know God even deeper.  Don’t make those people like me get all the way to seminary before they hear this great news – bring it up – because spiritual gifts that do not benefit the community of Christ are but a clanging gong – and it’s up to you, preachers, to help educate your people on the true ways of God through the spirit.

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Christmas Rush…

I’m certain no one would be surprised to learn that I dislike the “gimme gimme” attitude during the holidays.  It sets us up for disappointment – I remember when I still looked more forward to “getting” than “giving” at Christmas – and after I opened all my presents, I was depressed.  It wasn’t like the spread wasn’t fantastic – my mom does a great job of giving – it was that this stuff was not going to fill the hole that consumerism told me I needed to fill.  

Since that Christmas, I’ve focused on what is most important – giving, appreciating the gifts I’ve been given, my family – and yes, the birth of Christ.  It’s hard to do that without feeling pressure from the many ads out there.  Part of me feels for these companies – they are trying to have a successful season, and I don’t begrudge anyone their success.  But this constant barrage of “spend more, spend more here, PLEASE?” type of ads seems to suggest that Americans are only happy with more stuff.  I’m certainly guilty of wanting more stuff – but this stuff never does what it’s promised to do.  My life hasn’t been made complete by any phone, computer, clothing item or household goodie, no matter how fancy or expensive.

One ad that is particularly annoying is the J.C. Penney version of “Feliz Navidad”.  It ends with “I wanna get my family more this Christmas from the bottom of me grande heart.”  Other than the vaguely racist tones, I can’t help but be enraged by the message – my family deserves more stuff.  Not more of my time, more of my love, more of my prayers and good thoughts, but more stuff.  Also, some boots in mom’s size.

Please forgive me if I let loose a large growl when I hear that ad, or any others.  I’m not anti-fun or anti-presents, but I do wish that our society focused less on money and more on the gifts God gave us of one another and the time we have together on this earth.

Merry Christmas, God’s peace to you and your family, and may all your Christmases be white.

 

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