“Make Room for the Holy Spirit”
A sermon by Lay Preacher, Ginnie Glassman
In today’s Gospel, we continue to hear the farewell message that Jesus gave to his disciples. In it, he tells them “I will not abandon you.” “I will not leave you orphaned.” I wonder if his Father said the same thing to him as he was being incarnated into our world. If so, I would imagine these words would have given him courage and strength in his mission, reassurance that his Father was with him always. This message for the disciples is for us also. Jesus and his Father will not abandon us, will not leave us orphans. We will have strength and support from them in our earthly lives and join them one day in heaven.
At the beginning of the reading, Jesus says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This bothered me. It sounds transactional, like we have to prove our love for Jesus by following his orders before he will love us in return. A better translation might be “BECAUSE you love me and I love you, do what I have asked you to do.” We love Jesus because he has loved us first, so he asks that we return that love to him.
There is a song that I asked Steve to play this week. I am imagining Jesus with a guitar (or maybe a lyre?) singing this song to reassure and encourage the disciples before he leaves them as well as us now. Steve will sing it later in the service but hear the words. It is called I Will Be Strength:
There is a road meant for you to travel,
narrow and steep is the shepherd’s way.
And as you say, “Yes,” letting me guide you,
I will be strength for the journey.
There is a cross meant for you to carry,
there is a cross meant for you alone.
And as you bow down in humble surrender
I will be strength for the journey.
How many times have you doubted my word?
How many times must I call your name?
And as you say, “Yes,” letting me love you,
I will be strength for the journey.
Jesus asks us to do things that may be difficult: “Love your enemies.” “Give to anyone who asks.” “Take up your cross and follow me.” “Proclaim the Good News and heal the sick.” Knowing that we will struggle to do these things, he promises not to abandon us by sending another Advocate who will be with us forever. Not only will Jesus and his Father be with us spiritually and caring for us but they will send yet another person of the Trinity to be more intimately with us. This Holy Spirit is even more personal in that “he abides with you and he will be in you.”
In last week’s Gospel, Jesus told us that there are many rooms in his Father’s house and that he was going ahead of us to prepare one for each of us. (John14:2) While we are here on earth, Jesus promises to send the Spirit to live within us. As one preacher tells us “The Holy Spirit has moved in, so to speak, filling your soul’s halls and rooms with himself. And he will never, ever move out. In Christ, not only do we have a home in heaven, but heaven has made a home in us now.” (Scott Hubbard)
So now that we know the Holy Spirit has a home in us forever and the space will never be put up for sale or lease or rent, how do we treat and honor this heavenly guest? There are several ways to recognize and respect this honored presence.
We need to take time to hear his voice. The clearest voice is through Scripture. We believe that the words of the Bible are God-breathed through the Spirit to inspire, teach and correct. (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21)
In our busy, noisy world, we can hear the words of the Bible but be deaf to them. We may read or hear with a distracted mind so that the words go by us but do not go into our mind or heart. The words are there but we have no time to absorb them and apply them to our busy lives.
We can also use the words to make them say what we want them to say. As George Bernard Shaw said, “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.” To really hear the Spirit takes time and quiet. Taking a few minutes a day for undistracted prayer, quiet or Scripture reading will help us to recognize that voice and to hear more clearly what is being said or asked. It will be a voice asking us to grow in the Spirit and move closer to God.
The Spirit can prompt us to action, applying the things we have read, heard or remembered to our lives. If something makes us think that we need to make a change in our lives or take on a new challenge, we should act on it. However, as we go through our day, the thought often recedes and we never do what we were going to do. The gap between our intentions and our actions happens often. So when I wanted to spend more time reading Scripture each day, I put my Bible by my bedside. I chose to follow the readings in Forward Day by Day. I decided that I would read at bedtime to help reflect on the day. I have been consistent for two years in this practice because I made a plan to do it. I will admit to falling asleep over the Bible some nights, but as my Mom used to say “What better way to fall asleep than in the arms of God?
We cannot escape God’s Spirit. A psalm asks “Where can I go then from your Spirit, where can I flee from your presence?” Neither light nor dark, heights nor depths nor distance will hide us. We cannot escape. God is everywhere – as close to us as our next breath and always willing to welcome us back as soon as we seek him. (Psalm 139:6-11)
Jesus promises that he will not leave us orphaned. Jesus tells his disciples that even though will no longer see him, “you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.” In other words, God’s presence (the Holy Spirit) already lives in us. We are part of the presence of God through our belief. We can draw others into his presence. We need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit to know what it is that God is asking us to do and then pray for the wisdom and strength to do it.
Our Holy Spirit Talks group met this week. We talked about ways that people had experienced the Holy Spirit in their lives. We discovered many and surprising ways that the Spirit spoke to or acted in the lives of people. If you have had an experience of the Holy Spirit, God, Jesus, angels or ancestors, we would welcome you to the group to share our experiences.
To close, I want to share a short meditation with you that Rev. Kate Heichler suggested in her Water Daily meditation this week. Please put down anything you are holding, sit back and close your eyes. Take two or three deep breaths. Now just listen and imagine:
Today in prayer let’s go swimming. Imagine a waterfall flowing into the sea. Let’s say the sea is the Love of God, the waterfall is Jesus, and the spray that rises as they meet is the Holy Spirit. This sea is always being renewed, refreshed, replenished, the water all one, so you cannot distinguish sea from waterfall from spray. Imagine jumping in. How does the water feel? How does it make you feel? How do you want to move in it? If this is God’s love, how does it feel to be immersed in love? How would you share the water with others? How would you invite others to join you in that pool? (Water Daily 5/12/23)
This week, be aware of the Holy Spirit, look for “Spirit sightings”. Listen to see if you are being asked to do something. Maybe just some quiet time together. Maybe a new challenge in your life. Maybe a simple message of love and support. Maybe just the grace to get through the day. But know that the Spirit is with you.
As today’s psalm ends: “Blessed be God, who has not … withheld his love from me.” (Psalm 66:18). Amen.
Collect: O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *and will not allow our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us; *you have tried us just as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare; *you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts with the smoke of rams; *I will give you oxen and goats.
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, *and I will tell you what he has done for me.
15 I called out to him with my mouth, *and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had found evil in my heart, *the Lord would not have heard me;
17 But in truth God has heard me; *he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, *nor withheld his love from me.
1 Peter 3:13-22
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
Jesus said, ”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.”