Sunday, May 20, 2012

MAKING OUR WAY IN THE WORLD THOUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT, Homily for Pentecost Sunday. 5-27-12


Pentecost Sunday

Homily for 5.27.12
JOHN 15:26-27; 16:12-15 (see below)
Year B








Today is Pentecost Sunday. Today we celebrate that powerful moment that changed everything, that powerful moment when the promise of the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth came to those first disciples, and to us.

Pentecost:
  • When the Spirit established the church as GOD's new humanity 
  • When the Spirit empowered the church to proclaim King Jesus 
  • When the Spirit enabled the church, generation by generation, to understand Jesus 
  • When the Spirit endowed the church with the reality of the present/future Kingdom 
Again, the lectionary offers us the words of Jesus from a brief portion of St. John's record of the upper room discourses. For our purposes this morning, we must place this text within the context of two powerful truths that ultimately displayed, to all who cared to see, to whom these disciples had offer their allegiance. That is, to truly be Jesus disciples they had to:

1) Love one another as Jesus commanded
The command of Jesus to love one another would be seen as the identity-mark of the community he founded and left behind, so that the watching world would know that there exists a powerful, real, and stunning alternative to the divisions of gender, race, socio-economic, religious and the like that drives the world-system. (this love beyond division is called reconciliation)
2) Endure the hatred of the world
The willingness to withstand the onslaught of the world that is no friend of Christ, without resorting ourselves to division and hatred. Or, as we said last week: The world this world's system of greed, self-indulgence, inter-personal conflict and division would like nothing better than to destroy the Jesus-movement, this movement which calls the world’s values and ways into question, and finds them deeply wanting. (this enduring presence is called sacrificial love)

So far, so good. But the obvious question which easily come to mind is:

HOW? 

How are we to practice reconciliation and love one another, and how are we to practice sacrificial love that endures the hatred of the world?

Clearly, this calling cannot be fulfilled on our own strength. We know only too well that within our own hearts there exists very little sacrificial love or very little will to reconciliation. We simply do not have the power or stamina to sustain this duel challenge thus presented, so that we would finish what we start and end well.

This opens to us what may be the most precious promise found, certainly in John's gospel, but perhaps in the New Testament, when Jesus said:
"I will not abandon you as orphans -- I will come to you."
And how does Jesus fulfill this promise to us? His response is to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Messiah (see Rm.8:9; 1Pt.1:11). On Pentecost the promise of the GOD's dwelling place would be somehow be with people begins, and the writing of the laws of GOD would somehow find its way upon the human heart bursts forward.

Said differently, the Holy Spirit becomes Jesus-present to his followers, allowing them to fulfill the calling to love each other and to withstand the hatred of the world.

Which brings us to today's text. Here we see outlined, actually from two similar but separate pericopes, the boots-on-the-ground work of the Holy Spirit in the life of King Jesus' new discipleship community. Here we learn the Spirit as:


EMPOWERING THE COMMUNITY TO PROCLAIM KING JESUS AS SHE MAKES HER WAY IN THE WORLD

and

GUIDING THE COMMUNITY TOWARD THE KING AS SHE MAKES HER WAY IN THE WORLD



EMPOWERING THE COMMUNITY TO PROCLAIM KING JESUS AS SHE MAKES HER WAY IN THE WORLD


The Texts reads:
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Here, it is important to remember that the gift of the Spirit is not primarily so we will be able to experience heady religious adventures in our personal lives. No, the Spirit is sent forth to our lives, as N.T.Wright reminds us:
"...to enable those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen."
I take this to mean we must somehow come to understand that we are commissioned by the LORD, Christ, and sent into a world hostile to the truth we are dispatched to proclaim -- that there is a new and lasting King of the world. That is, it is by none other that the authority of the King himself that we are to sent proclaim -- testify -- of the reality of the King.

Of course, we know that the root word for "testify" comes from the Greek word, martus, where we sometimes get our word, martyr, and it means:
“to be a witness, to bear witness, testify, i. e. "to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration"

“sometimes in the N. T. the apostles are said μαρτυρεῖν, as those wire had been eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses of the extraordinary sayings, deeds and sufferings of Jesus, which proved his Messiahship...” (go here)

One translation proposes the words, "to give evidence" for the word testify. That is, because the disciples had, "been with me from the beginning," and they were therefore authorized and empowered by Jesus through the Spirit to share what they had seen and heard. This, of course, is what we call the Great Commission.

I have always been astounded by the calling of those early followers to perform the Great Commission. How was it that little band of believers, standing awestruck at Jesus' disappearance in the Ascension, were then to throw off their confusion and doubts (Mt.28:17) and suddenly prevail against the gates of hell? How was it that within some thirty years after the death of her founder, this small group of people had managed to send the message that there was a new King throughout the Roman Empire?

How this happened, and how this continues to happen, is found within the persistent willingness of the discipleship community to proclaim King Jesus (by reconciliation and sacrificial love) to the watching world through the endorsement the HOLY SPIRIT, who empowers this proclamation.

Think about it in this way: Someone proclaimed King Jesus to me, displaying his world-changing love, acceptance and forgiveness, and somehow this proclamation melted my heart to the truth, changing my life, with a change that continues to this very hour. I assume something similar happened to you. This is how King Jesus works in the world -- his community, the church being empowered to live-out the reality of the Christ through dynamin, the power of the Holy Spirit.


GUIDING THE COMMUNITY TOWARD THE KING AS SHE MAKES HER WAY IN THE WORLD

The text also reads:
“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
Here, it is important to remember that the gift the Spirit imparts to the living, breathing discipleship community is the truth in understanding who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing in each succeeding generation.

That is, the truth the Holy Spirit brings to the church is nothing less than the understanding of King Jesus needed for the present moment as we stand before this hostile world system which does not wish The Christ’s rule of wisdom, love and grace.

This guiding ministry of the Holy Spirit, then, brings to light not only the shifting challenges facing each church generation, but also the power to speak and live the living truth of the Christ -- “glorifying” Jesus and “declaring” that which comes from Jesus -- equipping each generation for the exact place where the Kingdom battle rages. Said differently, the Spirit shows us the places of confrontation, and gives us what to say and do to show both the reconciliation and sacrificial love of the King.

This means, as the current expression of the church, we must somehow find an openness to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as we grapple with the words and works of the LORD Christ as found in scripture and table. So that, even as we understand that the truth of Christ is surely settled, we must still not assume that each generation understands that truth without the necessary sweat of interpretation and the diligence of practice.

On our own, we are lost here. Apart from the power endued to us by the Holy Spirit we could never hope to frame the Gospel that Jesus is King, and to practice that Gospel in reconciliation and sacrificial love in a way this generation can hear.


_________________________

JOHN 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you."