Won’t you call her your own?
May 21, 2017
Scripture: 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, a Comforter to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees nor knows the Spirit. You know the Spirit, because the Spirit abides with you, and the Spirit 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.”
It seems that so little time is spent in our faith on studying or truly getting to know the Holy Spirit…we spend quite a bit of time talking about God, all across our dialog as humans, using words and phrasing which may or may not always accurately portray the loving essence of the Divine, and a good deal of attention is fostered on the person of Jesus, in fact sometimes it seems almost to the exclusion of the balance of the Trinity. But at least in my experience growing up in the Protestant tradition, the Holy Spirit was often only thought about or dealt seriously with on Pentecost Sunday, the time when our scriptures tell us the Spirit was given to the young church as a whole. And I think we do ourselves and our faith understanding a disservice when we fail to lift up and give the Spirit the attention and devotion it deserves.
For it seems to me that Jesus’ words to his disciples depicted in today’s message reveal one of the greatest gifts humankind has ever been offered. Jesus knew his time among his disciples was fast drawing to a close. The die had been cast, Lazarus had been raised from the dead, the Temple had been ransacked and overthrown by Jesus, and all of Jerusalem was in a state of fear and alarm as this outsider from Galilee walked among them. And in those closing conversations Jesus tried once more to prepare his followers for the mission soon to be their own, sought to instill in them a sense of community and purpose, prayed deeply for them that their upcoming scattering might be temporary and that the movement he had started might continue its saving work among humankind.
And in our passage today Jesus is close to the end of his instructions as he shares one more promise intended to bolster their courage and convey the truth that God’s love never ceases, that even without Jesus in their presence, the fullness of God’s love and guidance – day to day, moment to moment guidance and instruction, would continue in ways which they would see and understand. Jesus’ offer of the Spirit to come upon their hearts and minds, of the Spirit who would dwell within them, revealing the plans and purposes of God was solemnly promised just hours before his betrayal by Judas and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. In those closing words Jesus offered the gift of his continuing presence among them in the form of the Holy Spirit…and in doing so gave us the greatest gift as well. The Spirit was given in order to give us an opening into the divine…an opening into a direct relationship with our God of love.
As I have said in the past, over the course of my life I have gone through a number of different understandings and practices within the Christian faith. I had an early understanding that there was supposedly a Trinity, but I didn’t really understand what that actually meant. I knew that God was actually God, and that he was presented to me as Jesus’ father and that Jesus was his son who was arrested and crucified and somehow rose again giving us the Easter holiday. But the Spirit was far away from my early instruction. It was not until the early 1970s’ when I became involved with a prayer and praise ministry up at St. John’s in Pawing that I began to hear people seriously talking about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, and about this strange phenomena called ‘speaking in tongues’.
It was the time of Spirit-renewal across many Christian denominations but particularly in Roman Catholicism where Cursillo, Tres Dias, Women’s Aglow Fellowship and Marriage Encounter all seemed to have captured the attention of those I was in ministry with. And in addition to all of that there was a renewed focus on the Spirit brought forth by the Charismatic Movement, which actually gave classes and courses on how to be trained so that one could be ‘Baptized in the Spirit’. All of which was both exciting somehow but just a bit scary as well. It seemed as though everyone involved was having some sort of profound religious experience, but it also seemed sort of ‘out there’ to me.
But what it did do was educate me in the truth that there was indeed a third person of the Trinity who deserved as much attention and study as the other two. And so I stayed in touch with the Charismatic Movement and tried to find the doorway for myself but could never quite convince myself that I was having a genuine encounter with the Divine. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized that those early forays into the life of the Spirit were actually very important to the progression of my faith understanding as I learned how to appreciate and to draw upon this most wondrous gift of God’s continuing presence within and through all of my life.
In fact, I must admit that the Holy Spirit was the easiest person of the Trinity for me to truly fall in love with. Many years later I looked on with a sense of envy at my sisters in Seminary who were so in love with Jesus, but I just couldn’t catch the same enthusiasm myself. Perhaps it was easier for me to love the Spirit because in all of my studies and throughout all of the scriptures both Old and New Testaments the Spirit has always been portrayed as a female essence, all of the words used to name the Spirit in both Hebrew and Greek have feminine endings to them…somehow maybe that helped me truly love this third person of God.
So now, I have come to know that the Spirit was given to us as one who would walk alongside of us through all the pathways of our life. Today’s scripture from John finds Jesus making a promise of partnership, a solemn vow both to his disciples as well as by extension to us, that no matter what we come upon as we seek to walk in the ways of holiness and justice, the Spirit of truth, grace, and love will be right there with us…leading the way, guiding us onto right paths, and being an ever-present help and comfort. Jesus told his disciples that he would never leave them nor abandon them…he kept that promise through his gift of the Spirit…and it is a promise that was extended to each one of us as well.
In trying to find a way that I might share with you just how special and how important the Spirit has been and continues to be in my life I thought I might try and just tell you…so…
Let me introduce you to a dear, dear friend of mine. This friend is always there for me, not just when I am in need, but at all times. This particular friend has been around for so long that sometimes I even forget that she is there, so quiet and supportive is she. I never need to look far for she is always there, whenever I am quiet enough within my own self to focus in and search her out.
And in my searching, I sometimes do receive an answer to a question, an inner sense that a certain course of action or a particular word would be the most pleasing to the Lord. Other times I am just overwhelmed by her sudden presence and even brought to tears at the simplest of things merely because of her sure, steady, and loving presence. And…at other times I may not sense an immediate sense of how I should act or what I should think…and it is in those times that I know I still have steps to journey and perhaps even faith to test.
Of one thing I am sure…she is particularly good at seeking me out in my most difficult times…in times of anger, of deep or unexplained loss, or even when gathering darkness threatens to overwhelm me completely, rendering me unable to do anything other than just stop. In times such as these she is a rock, a steady and unyielding force of love that just will not leave me alone in my misery. Rather, she just stands by, willing to let me stew in my misery for as long as I want, but making it very obvious that there is a better way and important work that still needs to be done. It is at those times that I remember that this is all much bigger than my own little problems and that the work of sharing the love of God must stay in the forefront of my conscious efforts. All in all, this is the one who has never failed me, even though I have failed her countless times.
She also is the evidence in the bottom of my soul that God’s love and mercy knows no bounds whatsoever, that all people are beloved children of God, and that judgement of another to the extent that one might consider someone unworthy of love, forgiveness, or acceptance belongs not to us but to God alone…and as yet, my only sense of this divine judgement is that of forgiving and unconditional love…a depth and purity of love that draws the one forgiven both to their knees in humility and then to the presence of God in fullness. And it is always my friend who is the one to accompany that soul into the presence of God’s loving grace.
She is my friend, and she wants to be everyone’s friend as well…She is the Spirit of God’s love…that wind that hovered over the waters at the moment of creation, that breath that was blown into the lifeless clay form of humanity as first molded by the hands of God, bringing that form to life as the pure delight of God.
…the internal person of the Trinity, the purest expression of unconditional love already present within you
…there for it all…for absolutely each part of who you are, the good, the not so good, and even that for which you are ashamed…waiting patiently without judgement, but rather only extending guiding and uplifting love that calls you back into the fold…
…all loving, all forgiving, all merciful, and all encouraging…
…the one who finds you where you are hiding or broken, and patiently and lovingly says once again…and as often as needed, ‘Pick up your mat and walk with me’.
…like a shadow, always there, as close as your breath and deep within your soul…
…a guide through the hardest of times be they of your own creation, or ones that come upon you from without…
…a teacher of how to give and how to receive God’s love…both for yourself and for all others…
…a source that can lead us to a place of overflowing joy and a sense of peace that runs so, so deep…both of which are frequently beyond explanation…
…the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to never leave us…
…and finally, she is the easiest to learn to trust and the hardest to hide from…
…this then, is my dear friend…won’t you call her your own?