May 20, 2018
The Spirit of Truth Will Guide You
Reading: John 16: 1-15
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
As we were reading the Scripture from John, our slide show had a painting of the apostles with the flame of fire on their heads. That comes from the Acts of the Apostles chapter two, which we almost always read on the Feast of Pentecost, but instead we read the first verses from John’s Gospel, and this is the key verse: “The Spirit of truth will guide you.” That was Jesus’ promise. Here we are two thousand years later, and we’re still being guided by that mysterious, powerful, holy wind, the holy fire of the Spirit.
You may recognize the picture on the left. That is Steve Perry from the rock group Journey. The guy on the right is Fabio, but at least he has a shirt on. You have probably guessed that these two men are not actually Steve Perry and Fabio. These two guys were the groundbreaking mathematicians Leibniz and Newton. My point in showing their gorgeous portraits is to lift up the amazing reality and phenomena that one was working in Germany and the other was working in England (independently of one another), and they simultaneously were the founders of calculus. They were breaking ground in mathematics. Some of you are learned, and you have the calculus gene; I never got that gene. I did really well in mathematics until I got to calculus, and then I got hit over the head with the dumb club. I just couldn’t get calculus.
The point is that Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo were proposing ideas about the universe that were really revolutionary, and a few years later Leibniz and Newton were applying mathematical ideas to an ever-expanding universe. This was a mind blowing, new insight into the world, and this is still happening today. People are making amazing new discoveries in math and science. Just look at all the things we can do in medicine today. It’s crazy in a good way. I credit all of that to the inspiration and power of God’s Spirit at work in the world. Both of these gentlemen believed in God. They weren’t religious, but they were both God’s people who believed that it’s possible for the human being to begin to understand, begin to catch a glimpse of the glory of God at work in our world.
In a similar way, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul were writing the New Testament. It was written by real people who applied pen to paper, inspired by the Spirit of Jesus, and from these six different perspectives, God was happy to illuminate our minds to the mysteries, especially of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s remarkable, and even two thousand years later, we are reading the mysterious journey through the sacred Scripture. Are you ready for the wind to blow and the fire to fall down? Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Pentecostals—we are doing our absolute best to spread the mystery of God and the Holy Spirit in our own cultural and theological way. There are a variety of ways to express the Gospel in the family of Jesus. No one is the ultimate belief system, but we are all part of the family.
Here is another thing that has a similar theme: the ancient writers of Christianity (the Latin fathers, the Greek fathers, the desert fathers) were the fathers of the church. There are about fifty people who wrote extensively about Jesus and the mysteries of God, and we have their writings today. Each one of them, like Leibniz and Newton, were able to catch a glimpse of the glory of God in their writing. We’re invited to take a sip from the fountain of the Holy Spirit when we meditate on the teachings of the church or the teachings of the fathers.
Each one of you is a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and maybe one of the young ones here today is going to break new ground. I wonder who the new person that breaks new ground will be. There is a mystery of what God can do through any one of us or all of us together, but in order to get to that place where you can gain insight into the mystery of God, I think there are three things that have to be present. The first one is this: anyone who is open to the Spirit has to come to grips with is that God is God and I am not. I am limited, finite, and mortal. So, a humble spirit is absolutely essential. Billy Graham was an example of this. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of God is theirs.
Point two is reverence and a thankful heart. One thing all of humanity has in common is that we stand before God, grateful. That is what grace is all about; I didn’t do it, but rather God did it. Thank you, Lord! In a nutshell that is what faith is all about. I can’t claim credit for almost anything. All glory is to God. We praise Him because He did it, not us. If we could do that, we are opening up to the possibility of the Holy Spirit.
The third point relates back Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Leibniz, and Newton—when we begin to ponder the vastness and the mystery of creation and the universe. I know very little of what is knowable, and if we can ask God to help us catch a glimpse of what is knowable, that is when the Holy Spirit has infinite possibilities. On the Feast of Pentecost, the last day of the Easter season, we stand in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Here is a very famous Orthodox icon of the Holy Trinity. Notice the Father and the Son are engaged in a loving gaze. It has been that way since the foundation of the world. The Father and the Son in love, in communion with one another. Always present, but a somewhat silent partner is the Holy Spirit. You cannot have the communion of the Father and Son without His Spirit. We too want to be in that communion. I want to be in the communion of God in Jesus’ name, by the power of the Spirit.