Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost- Power from on high

John 15:26–27, John 16:4-15

‘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.
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. 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.
 ‘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.

Last week, we remembered Luke’s account of how Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high.

While they waited in the room they must have wondered what that meant for them to be clothed with power from on high.

Following Jesus, they had seen power, the power of God through Jesus: power to heal, power to unite, power to restore to community. Power to conquer death.

Up until now, none of the disciples had done any deeds of power.  They had seen their rabbi heal and teach, but they had been disciples, students.   It seemed unlikely that any of them would be the next rabbi.  Each person had a weakness, a failing. And each weakness or failing had been brought home at the time of the crucifixion, when even Peter had denied Jesus. 
How could it be possible to be clothed with power?
Paul later wrote, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
And that is exactly what Jesus sent- the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Helper.

These days, we know also the magnitude of our problems, and we see how impossible it would be to solve these problems if it were all up to us on our own.

But today we affirm with the disciples that our power does not come from within, it comes from the Holy Spirit acting through us and with us.

When some of us learned about the challenges that our brothers and sisters around the world face as they suffer malaria, it was so widespread, how could one stop it?  What could one person do? One person’s actions will make a very small difference, but many people’s small actions have made a big difference.
In two year’s time, the rate of death has slowed such that instead of a child under five dying every 30 seconds, it is now every 45 seconds.  We are making progress, $10 at a time, bed net by bed net.  The Holy Spirit is at work as people gather to save lives.

But what can we do about global climate change? It’s overwhelming and scary.  One among us said, “Sometimes I want to just stop reading everything and go hide to make it all go away.” But others of us went out to work on wetlands restoration just last month, and joined a host of people who have removed invasive species and planted trees. And throughout the city and our country and our world, projects that reclaim natural spaces make a difference.  The Holy Spirit is at work as people gather to heal creation.

Participating in global health initiatives and wetlands restoration is all very fine and good if you can do it, but what about those among us who struggle with addiction at home? Life itself can seem unmanageable, impossibly chaotic.  And there, it is the church that gathers in the AA group or the NA group or as friends to say, “One day at a time,” “One step at a time.” And brothers and sisters, because of the power of those who are gathered, the grip of addiction loses its hold and healing takes place. The Holy Spirit is at work as people gather to heal relationships.

This is what Martin Luther called the work of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, our helper: to call through the gospel, to gather, to enlighten with gifts, and to make holy the whole Christian church. So that the Body of Christ, gathered and united by the Holy Spirit receives power from on high- the power to save lives, to restore creation, to heal broken lives.

The Holy Spirit has been doing this powerful work- from the days in which those scared and confused disciples gathered in Jerusalem until today. The Holy Spirit has been working through the Body of Christ, of which we are just the latest members to join.

So as some of us go to tend graves tomorrow, and others of us simply take time to remember those who have gone before, let us give thanks for the lives of our loved ones and let us also praise God- the Holy Spirit- who has acted through and with all the beloved of God and continues to act today. 

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