Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Spirit of Truth

Here's a draft of tomorrow morning's sermon.  Not only are we recognizing high school graduates tomorrow, tomorrow is also The Day of Pentecost.  This festival has been celebrated since ancient times by the Jewish people as the "Feast of Weeks" or, in Hebrew, Hag ha-Shavuot, commemorating God's gift of the Ten Commandments and the harvesting of wheat.  It occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after Passover, at which time Jesus suffered, was executed, and rose from the dead.  The Christian account of Pentecost is found as chapter 2 of the New Testament book of Acts.  The assigned reading is verses 1-21.  We will also be reading Psalm 104:24-35; Romans 8:14-17 and John 14:8-27.

THIS is an important time.  High school seniors are graduating.  We're moving closer to the June 23 meeting.  And, this day, today, this is the actual day when, about 2,000 years ago, the Spirit of Truth came down on about 120 disciples, gave them courage and miraculous communication skills, and by that evening the church had grown by 2,600 percent.  And all of these things--high school graduation, our June 23 meeting and the explosive growth of the church--it's all based on Truth.  The truth we learn, the truth we know and the truth God gives us as a gift to the world.  This is an important time.  A time of Truth.  A time for the Holy Spirit of God to work within us, among us, and through us--not because we are anything special, but because we have been given the Spirit of God--the Spirit of Truth.

In our Gospel we have these words from Jesus:
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.
If my some miracle you can trust God's love, if you know the truth about yourself, that you are a lost sinner saved by Jesus, if you know who you are and the truth of Jesus' love, then the Holy Spirit of God's Truth has done his work!  By that work of Truth, you are born again!

It's a miracle because so often we avoid the truth.  We don't want to know who we are any more than we want to know just how much sludge and oil is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.  We don't want to think about how our lives and our lifestyles indirectly hurt the creation and the poor of the world.  We do not want to remember how we have done damage through our pride, our stubbornness and our unwillingness to work out our differences in a peaceful and respectful way.  We don't want to know how much is hurts God when we fail to pray, when we fail to trust, when we gossip and try to control others.  But when God comes to us we come to know the truth--the truth of our damnable sin--and the truth of his far greater love.

And because of Jesus' love, we never have to be afraid of the truth.  That's what I'd like to say to our graduates this year.  You never need to be afraid of the truth.  Because God is the truth, and because God sends his Spirit of Truth, you never need to be afraid of your questions, you never need to hide your mistakes, you never need to pretend you are anything other than what you really are.  God knows all that.  God knows everything there is to know about you and God loves you just the same.  Let your minds expand.  Learn all you can.  Let your hearts be open.  Let God's love pour in like a river.  When you are hurting and wounded, come to a Christian adult who can pray for you and share this truth--God will always love you, no matter what.

I'd say something similar to the members of this church as we come up to the June 23rd vote.  You do not need to be afraid of the truth.  Let your minds and your hearts expand.  Talk with one another.  Learn all you can.  Don't come up to June 23 without doing some learning.  Think of that date as a test date for our church.  Not a final exam--this first vote on ELCA affiliation is not a final thing.  It is a first vote.  Disaffiliating from the ELCA takes two votes.  I think this vote is coming too soon because many of us just haven't learned enough yet... but our church council voted to bring this before the congregation a month from now.  There is no reason for fear, no reason to believe God will not lead us.  So take a breath, learn all you can, and come prepared for this first vote on the 23rd.  A letter from the council will be coming out to you shortly with the particulars.  In any case, hear Jesus' words: Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.  Be in prayer.  Pray for faith to trust God even at this time.

Finally--about that "explosive growth" of the church.  It is the Spirit of Truth that brought that growth.  If you read through the whole second chapter of Acts, you'll see how the Spirit of Truth made that happen.  The disciples had been in hiding.  For weeks they barely moved.  Then God came and made them change!  You never need to be afraid of God's changes!  When changes come that are in agreement with God's Word, we can let our joy just explode!  That's what happened to those disciples.  When God came they just let Him in.  No barriers, no walls, no boundaries.  God came and took them where they never expected to go.  God did that through signs and wonders, miracles and gifts of deliverance and healing--and, especially, through the Truth of the Word of God.

Peter was the spokesman.  He preached a sermon that we heard just a part of from Acts 2.  The sermon goes on to speak the truth.  We human beings, no matter who we are or when we have lived--our sins, whether we meant them or not, whether we know about them nor not--our sins were the reason Jesus died.  Those sins--those sins against the commandments God gave--You Shall Not Covet, You Shall Not Bear False Witness, You Shall Not Steal, You Shall Not Commit Adultery, You Shall Not Murder, Honor Your Father and Your Mother, Keep the Sabbath Holy, Keep God's Name Holy, Love God Above All--every time we miss the mark intentionally or unintentionally on those or any other of the commandments in God's Word--it's as if we put Jesus on the cross with each one.  Because Jesus is the only one who could pay the price for our treachery, for our disloyalty, for our treason against the one who loves us more than we can imagine.  But we never need to be afraid of that truth.  Accepting that truth, and preaching that truth, it opens the door for saving, freeing, precious grace.  Grace that never ends.  Grace that brings blessing every day.

When God's truth comes to us, we, like the people who heard Peter preach, we say "what shall we do?"  And, through Peter, and through this preacher today, you hear the same message.  Do not hide from God's truth.  Admit your sin.  Ask for his grace.  Give up your games.  Take Jesus instead.  Let God be your Abba Father.  Let Jesus be your savior.  Let us pray God's Spirit into you.  And then live in this new family--this new family of believers.  This new family of prayers and lovers and givers and forgivers--people who let new beginnings come over and over again--who never hold grudges--and who are never afraid.

That's the new beginning God has to give.  And that's the new beginning we can speak to every hurting, precious soul out there.  We let the truth be known.  The truth about ourselves--we never pretend we are good--only that we have a good God.  That's the truth the Spirit brings.  And when we speak that and live that truth boldly, when each of us takes our place in letting God have his way with us, I believe God will open the floodgates for a new beginning, a new beginning based on nothing but what the Spirit of Truth gives through the precious Word of God.

Jesus died for you.  Because of you and because he loves you.  And he rose again to give you new life.  That is the truth.  The truth that brings new beginnings.  And whether we're graduating, voting, or just going out to proclaim that truth to our neighbors, we never need to be afraid.  That truth is available for you today.

1 comment:

  1. May the Holy Spirit fill us to overflowing and show us the way.