A PENTECOSTAL SPIRIT
Pentecost is all about the coming of the Holy Spirit into our midst and even into our very lives. Jesus says the Spirit will teach us and give us power to do the work that God has for us to do. But, where in the world is the Spirit? How do we even know the Spirit is here? The disciples saw a tongue of fire. We see…well, nothing. So, where really do we see the Spirit of God? Or, maybe better yet, How do we see the Spirit today?
God of Power and Presence! Guide us today by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will we might truly discover joy and peace. Amen.
John 14:8-17, 25-27
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 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…
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
“For the Beauty of the Earth” — Folliot Pierpoint (lyrics), Conrad Kocher (music), performed by Michelle Swift (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)
For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.
For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light. Refrain
For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild. Refrain
For Thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love. Refrain
For Thyself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of Thine,
peace on earth and joy in Heaven. Refrain
Sometimes, Jesus seems really annoyed. John 14 is one of those times. Philip has obviously missed something important when he asks Jesus to show him the Father. And yet, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Don’t we do the exact same thing with the Holy Spirit? How often have we prayed, “Come back, Lord Jesus! Make everything better!” I wonder if Jesus isn’t up there saying, “But, I sent you my Spirit!”
The story of Pentecost is the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit, but because of that, it’s also the story of how we can now know and see God all around us and in us. Just like Christmas, Pentecost is the story of Immanuel, the God who is with us. Quite expectedly then, what Jesus says here in John 14 — if we’ve seen him, we’ve also seen the Father — has helped define what we mean when we say that God is Trinity, or three-in-one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But, I wonder if Jesus isn’t also saying a whole lot more than that. It is surely true that, if Jesus isn’t God, then it would seem impossible for him to save us. How could anyone save us but God? And if the Spirit of Jesus isn’t also God, then how could that same Spirit work that same salvation in our lives today? He couldn’t.
And yet, knowing a doctrine about God is nothing compared with actually knowing the very person of God, and that, I take it, is what Jesus is really getting at when he tells Philip that if he’s seen one of them, he’s seen both of them. Know Jesus and you know the Father, which means that when Philip was living, breathing, and speaking with Jesus, he was in a real and true sense living, breathing, and speaking with the very God of the Universe. Put another way, the difference here between knowing a fact (or “doctrine”) about someone and knowing them personally is like the difference between reading their online dating profile and spending decades married to them. The two just don’t compare.
Now, fast forward to verse twenty-six. Jesus says it’s the same thing with the Holy Spirit. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” If you have the Spirit, you have Jesus, and if you have Jesus, you have the Father. This is why the Spirit comes in Jesus’ name. It is his own Spirit! Hallelujah!
And yet, we’re still like Philip. We’d like things to be tangible, and the Spirit seems the opposite of tangible. We are physical beings who place a whole lot of stock in our five senses, and the fact of the matter is that the Spirit doesn’t really seem to touch any of them. We can’t see the Spirit. We can’t touch the Spirit. We can’t smell the Spirit. We can’t taste the Spirit. We can’t hear the Spirit. I mean, no wonder Philip wanted Jesus to literally show him the Father. He could see, touch, smell, taste, and hear Jesus – so no wonder he wanted to do the same thing with the Father. Wouldn’t you with the Spirit?
To me, that’s the 63 million-dollar question: How do we really see and know God today? Just where is the Spirit? This past Sunday after church, I went up to the Mad River to fish with a friend from Dayton. Wading in the middle of rivers like the Mad, I often wonder about God’s presence. As I crouch down in the water, to look out over it, I can see the way the currents move. I can see the way the sun hits the surface and reflects off of it. I can see the bugs push the water up ever so slightly until they pop out and fly into the air. I can see birds swooping down to catch them, fish emerging from below with wide-open mouths to draw them back in. It happens almost in slow motion. The fish’s mouth barely graces the surface of the water — smoothly, perfectly, without any ripple at all. When I crouch down, it’s like I’m one with the river, one with that ecosystem. I’m part of its life. When I’m in the middle of a river paying attention to all the flowing, swooping, and breathing going on around me, I think I must be getting a glimpse of God.
I know that sounds overly sentimental and spiritualized, but there’s just something about paying deep attention to what’s going on around you in the here and now. The only life we have is the life that’s happening right now. We have such a tendency to live in the past or to live in the future. Our attention is focused on what we should do or what we shouldn’t have done. We’re consumed by what we want to have or what we’re afraid of, and we fail to actually live in the present. We fail to see even what’s going on right next to us. But that’s where God is. That’s where the Spirit is – right here in this moment, attending to the world as it really is.
When we begin to pay attention to what’s going on around us, we begin to see the world the way God sees the world. We begin to see things the way they really are. We begin to pay attention to people as they really are, and not as we want them to be. And we begin to understand them better. We begin to love them because we’re finally truly seeing them, sometimes for the very first time. When we pay attention to what’s going on around us, that’s where we see God because that’s where the Spirit is living and moving – not in the past, not in the future, but in the present. Right here and right now. We see God in the life all around us. When life bursts forth from dry and barren people, there’s the Spirit of Life. There’s God.
So, the question for all of us today is not that 63-million-dollar one we asked earlier, about where God is or where the Spirit is. Instead, the real question for us is, Where are we? Are we living in the present? Are we attending to our neighbors and our world as it is? Or, are we off somewhere else? Do we have eyes to see God working and bursting forth all around us?
Trinitarian God, give us eyes to see you in our neighbors and in our world; give us ears to hear you in our stories and in our conversations; give us faith to know you in our lives and in the lives of others. Amen.