Day of Pentecost – The policy behind the Spirit (The Gospel Passage)

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)

These passages from the gospel of John are a little confusing. Both because the wording of the translation is a little confusing, and because the writer of the gospel of John seems to be talking (or has Jesus talking) in riddles and mysteries. I will attempt to pierce through the muddle and put it in plain speech – not that I assume, beloved reader, you cannot parse out and understand it yourself; but if we are to carry the message and good news of Christ, we need to state it in simple and plain ways.

Jesus is telling his disciples that both they and the Spirit of Truth will testify. But the Spirit does not speak directly in a verbal way but encourages and inspires us, humanity to speak.

But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.”(John 16:4-6)

The writer of the gospel of John portrays a Jesus who was both human and divine – both at the same time. The Jesus of the gospel of John nurtures along the disciples, explaining things in what seems to be clear ways, but always with the aura of mystery and spiritual density. In point of fact, other gospels do have the disciples asking where Jesus is going.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.(Verses 7-9)

Why, one might ask, cannot Jesus and the Advocate not be in the same place? Some triune God-believers have this idea because only one aspect of the God-self can be present at any time. I cannot speak for the writer of the gospel of John, but this maybe why he has Jesus say this. And it goes along with the writer of the gospel that he feels that those not part of Jesus’ followers could not and do not understand Jesus. Furthermore, that the “ruler of this world” is the aspect of sin we call Satan.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Verse 12-15)

Apparently the writer of the gospel of John does not see the Spirit of Truth as a separate entity but an outpouring of Jesus and the God-self into the world. Or maybe the phrasing is simply to emphasis that the Spirit is not an independent Being but part of the corporate God (meaning all the Lord is in all the roles and aspects of God). You can see with the theological denseness comes in.

Tomorrow we will look at what actually happened when the Spirit came. But what is most important – more important than the theology/philosophy/policy and the history that is set down by the writers of the bible – is how you encounter the Spirit beloved reader. May the Spirit speak to you in ways that you can easily understand. Selah!

Day of Pentecost – Pausing, and praising God (The Psalms Passage)

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works— who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.” (Psalm 104:24-34)

It is good for us to pause, and praise God. We need to remember that the Spirit who came to the world on the Day of Pentecost has always been with God and a part of God. But the mentioning of the Spirit is only a small part of this psalm. It is at its core a praising of God for creation.

Creation has always known its Creator. It is humanity that was slow to come in realizing who God the Creator was, is, and will be. And because the Holy Spirit is now seen as a distinct entity, we can see who God the Creator is, and who Christ the Redeemer is. If, however, your faith does not the Divine as a Triune God, this may not make much sense to you. And if that is the case, enjoy this passage from Psalm for what it is – a praise to God. And whatever your beliefs, echo with the psalmist . . .

Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!” (Verse 35b)

Day of Pentecost – The Epistles Passage

In a way, the Day of Pentecost is what we have been counting down to since Easter. It marks the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world in a way that it was not present before. If you think about it, that is rather sad. The Spirit and Presence of God had always been amongst God’s people, and those that God had singled out as being in relationship to the Divine. But with the coming of the Spirit to the disciples, the Holy Spirit was launched into the world as the aftermath of Jesus’ ministry. Without the ministry of Jesus, the disciples and apostles would have never been established. And the writer of most of the Epistles would never been called by God – called out from old belief into new belief. And nurtured by the disciples until he was ready to take up the mantle of his own ministry.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:22-27)

There is a great deal in this passage from Romans chapter 8; more than can be dealt with in one posting. It if a very important passage concerning pray, and petition & intercession. It also has important information about the life to come. And, of course, hope. But what I want to highlight is the fact that the Spirit is talked about as separate from God – an entity or aspect of the Divine that is distinct. This is a difference. But for those of us who believe in a triune faith, it marks the emergence of the third aspect of God – an eminent God that is with us always.

As the week unfolds we will hear more about the Spirit that comes from God, that has work separate from God, but yet is a part of God. As the writer of Romans would say, a great mystery.

May you, beloved reader, be ushered into the presence of the Spirit and may you see, in part at least, some of the mystery revealed. Selah!

The Seventh Sunday of Easter – Preacher and Seeker Praise God for being the Lord (The Psalm Passage)

Preacher: “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;” (Psalm 1:1)
Seeker: We are happy this day because we have lived wisely and walked with the Lord. Praise God for showing us the way to happiness.

Preacher: “ . . .but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.” (Verse 2)

Seeker: We have studied God’s word and taken in the guidance and direction we find there. Praise God for showing us the way to delight.

Preacher: “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Verse 3)

Seeker: We have soaked up all that Lord has given to us, and our lives are good. We have faith in the Lord is firm and strong. Praise God for leading us to good places and providing us with resources.

Preacher: “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Verse 4)
Seeker: We see how others live; while they may have more possessions and enjoy the abundance the world has to offer, what they have will not last. Praise God for giving us the Lord’s good gifts that endure.

Preacher: “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;” (Verse 5)

Seeker: Those who sin will not be able to stand up against the judgment of the Lord. They have not place among the righteous. Praise God for teaching us how to be righteous, that we might be found worthy in God’s judgment.

Preacher: “ . . . for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Verse 6)

Seeker: We know that God watches over us, and leads us. God leads us in this world and will lead us to the world to come. Praise God that we will not perish but will be counted among God’s righteous. We will endure! Praise God!

Last time we encountered the Psalm passage, I lamented that we cannot always praise God. But that we, humanity, are not the only thing in creation that praises God. This is good to know and remember. This week’s Psalm passage does not ask us to praise but gives us reason to praise God. We praise God for being, simply, everything that God is. I like this Psalm because it confirms that we are blessed by God if we follow God. It does set up the assumption that if we follow God, our lives will be blessed and full. And that is not always the case, or so it seems. But it does not demand that we praise God, but simply that we remain faithful to God. May you do so, beloved reader. Selah!

The Seventh Sunday of Easter – Overhearing a good “prayer” (The Gospel Passage)

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:6-19)

Like children at the “grown-up table” the disciples and we hear these words. I am not criticizing this passage beloved reader, but pointing out a truth that the disciples may not have been able to understand and take in this prayer; or maybe they did. It is not typically what we would think of as a prayer. It is more of a conversation between two Divine equals, one telling the other what is mutually understood by both of them, but saying this conversation out loud for the purpose of informing and enlightening the listener.

Again, I am not being critical. Let me assure you of that beloved reader. Many times prayer is thought of as telling God what we want or thanking God for something. It’s direction is from us below to God high above us. But this prayer of Jesus’ is more like a report to God of what Jesus has done according to a plan that was set down far in advance of Jesus’ coming to earth. It is just so different!

What would it be like . . . what would it mean if we prayed to God like this? What would it mean to be on this much of intimate terms with God? What would it be like to partner with the God-self to this depth and level? But how can we turn away from this opportunity? Jesus did not have to pray this prayer out loud in front of his disciples. It could have been done as a time away in prayer that Jesus did so often during his earthly ministry. Makes you wonder what those times away were like. But Jesus HAD to have a reason for disclosing to the disciples this depth of relationship with God. And I HAVE to believe it was to show them, and show us beloved reader, what a relationship with God could be like.

I encourage you to cultivate such a relationship with God, and to enter into such conversations with our Lord. And I await to hear how it might change you, your life, and the people around you. Shalom!

The Seventh Sunday of Easter – The conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry . . . and the beginning of a spiritual ministry (Scripture for Ascension of the Lord)

[Today, May 14th, is the day the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated. I decided, when I saw it listed, to post something extra today. The other passages the Revised Common Lectionary notes for this day are Acts 1:1-11 and Psalms 47 & 93, if you want to look at them.]

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24: 44-49)

Stay where it is safe until you are made ready to go forth and do ministry. That is the idea of seminary; that it is a nurturing environment where one can learn about doing ministry, staying fresh and focused for ministry, and learn how to discern a calling for ministry for self and others.

I was thinking about this just today, reflecting on what I wrote yesterday and what I chose to highlight in the scripture passage that I used yesterday. There was much more in those verses than I specifically addressed. There was a time when I tried to encompass too much spiritual and faith issues in my writings. Now I know it is better to focus on a small part than try to cover “too much ground.”

Even once someone has graduated from seminary, the learning through the Spirit continues.

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Verses 50-53)

I have often imaged what that day must have been like. Surely a warm day, with few clouds in the sky, the sun shining and birds twittering in the branches of trees. A peaceful pastoral (if you will) scene. Jesus lifted up and then disappearing against the blue of the sky. What began peacefully in a stable ended just as peacefully on that day. But in-between, the whole world changed.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:15-16)

I like to imagine that Paul wrote this to me; I know I have been hard on him over the years. But I have never doubted his care and commitment for the people he wrote to and ministered to. And I like to pass on this sentiment and blessing to people that I know, people such as you beloved reader.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Verses 17-19)

These types of blessing are prayed through the Holy Spirit who comes to all believers in some way or another. The Spirit knows what each one of us needs, and waits oh so patiently for us to ask for these blessings and gifts.

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Verses 20-23)

All this stands in readiness for us, beloved reader. We need but ask for it. It may seem that when Jesus left the earth for heaven, a tremendous gap was left. But that is not the cause at all. What had its beginnings on earth continues in heaven. And that brings us back to verse 17, the prayer that the writer of Ephesians prayed, and that I pray. May it be so . . . Selah!

The Seventh Sunday of Easter – Hopes and wishes for all believers (The Epistles Passage)

There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.” (I John 5:7-10)

I had to wonder at and ponder this, that those who do not believe make God a liar. When I am looking and commenting on a text, I do not like to make assumptions or guess about a passage. I want to KNOW what the passage is saying and means, and so I look for outside study material and commentators. And my favorite is Albert Barnes.

He says of verse 10, “The idea is, that in various ways – at his baptism, at his death, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, by the miracles of Jesus, etc. – God had become a “witness” that the Lord Jesus was sent by him as a Saviour, and that to doubt or deny this partook of the same character as doubting or denying any other testimony; that is, it was practically charging him who bore the testimony with falsehood.” This helps my understanding, and I hope it helps yours. This also means, beloved reader, that the Holy Spirit also testifies to the identity of Jesus, and if one doubts then on is also calling the Spirit a “liar”.

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (Verse 11-12)

The testimony is fairly basic, according to our modern understanding; but quite revolutionary and illuminating to the Early Church and those who lived at the time of Jesus. Remember the verses, “and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”? Knowing Jesus as . . . . well, Jesus . . . it may be hard for us to imagine that this is testimony that may not be believed. But for many Jesus was simply Joseph and Mary’s oldest whose birth was strange. Keeping this in mind, the writer of I John’s statement . . .

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (Verse 13)

. . . takes on a special blessing and benediction. The writer of I John desperately wants his/her readers to believe and have eternal life. It is not a much different desire than I have for you, beloved reader. May it be so! Selah!