Home > Uncategorized > Spirit and Character (and hope)

Spirit and Character (and hope)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
How striking the words that Jesus starts out with! “I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.” He tells his friends this because if he told them the truth they wouldn’t believe him, nor would they understand certain things about God and Spirit. With each passing day He made reference to God as his father, yet even that seemed difficult for them to grasp. Many mysteries of the world would have been revealed to them if they could somehow break away from the routine thought patterns of their minds. But at the same time, they came to him with hopes, dreams and a faith that defied rational thinking. Day after day they followed him and listened to his words. He eagerly and lovingly accepted the crowds that begged to be healed, taking time away only to eat, sleep, and of course – pray. They may not have understood the how or why of this healing but none of it seemed to matter to the followers – as long as they could touch his garments they knew the possibility of a new life was at hand. And Jesus recognized this need for a personal relationship – all the while knowing that his absence would be quite hard for them to bear. For him to leave without instructions would be near abandonment to those who expected their messiah to be a living hero and free them once and for all. They were to hear all the truth at another time in another way. A way in which God the Son could continue guiding and loving them even after he was gone from their sight; a way in which we can still today can access all the truth without hearing the words.

Yes, even in our own time, we find it difficult to bear the real meaning behind the words we hear or miss the opportunity to make a connection with what we read or hear. I have a personal story about that which might serve as a good example that goes along with today’s reading from Paul. It illustrates this fairly well. Some of you may have heard me tell it, some not, and I hope it bears repeating on this day. Three years ago while I was working at my internship, Sheri happened to become ill and we were in one of rooms of the emergency department at the hospital. Now it also happened to be that I was preaching that upcoming Sunday and was reading the lessons to see where my sermon would be going. As I sat next to the bed, I opened up my Bible to the marked passage and was reading – quite intensely to be sure – when I glanced over and thought about how much pain she was in at the time. I glanced back at the text and continued. The next thing I know I’m reading the line about suffering… and about how it leads to endurance… and how that leads to character… and then hope… and then I became filled with the Holy Spirit, or so I thought, and thinking that this was all in some cosmic order of events; me… her… the reading… everything seemed to fit together… I said; “Listen to this! Here’s an answer and reason for what you’re going through!” Well, she glanced up at me in what appeared to be thankfulness for maybe finding a cure. “Here it is, right here in this week’s readings for my sermon!” And I began reciting the passage from Paul of what suffering led to and after I was done I said; “See? All of this pain and suffering you’re going through?!? It all leads to character and hope!! So you have nothing to worry about!” —– It was at that moment I learned a huge lesson in bedside manners concerning pastoral care. She gave me a look only a spouse could understand and said “I don’t want character and hope; I want this pain to go away!!!”

Yes, I then also understood how many times we think we have an answer – or the answer – and jump into something without first discerning the situation or praying for the right solution. It was not that I had lousy intentions with my zealous reaction; it was that I was not ready to bear the words. I, too, was hearing through my own mind from my own will and my own emotions – and not from a place where I could discern all the truth that the passage was telling me. Oh, the Holy Spirit was present there, that’s for sure, right there in the written words. Had I maybe not been so attached to the situation I may have found that the passage was meant for me. That as I struggled and sympathized with her pain, the situation would help form me into being better with hospital visits. It might just help me recognize the hope that I need to have for others.

When our knee-jerk human reaction is the desire to find a cure or an answer or a quick way to relieve someone from pain it can – as I learned – be more of a setback than advancement toward our cause. Instead of first seeking guidance and waiting to be faithfully confident in knowing the truth, we plunge into waters of unknown depth. Where did these words and my actions come from that led me to do the things I did and react that way? Were these actions and words that first came to mind and out of my mouth the result of patient listening to all the truth from the Holy Spirit or were they of my own will? How can we be sure? Where does the guidance and comfort come from? God? Yes, God. From that part of God who is our Father and Creator? From Jesus? Jesus did say that He would give us whatever we asked for in His name, and we know that Jesus was God in human flesh, but we’re also told Jesus ascended into heaven, too, so it’s not his physical presence that we meet. So what is it? Here, revealed, is the relationship of the Holy Spirit, being one with God the Father and Creator; and one with Jesus the Son of God, fully human, fully divine. Here is where one becomes three. It’s here in these last two or three weeks of the Easter Season where we are told we have nothing to fear even though Jesus is no longer walking among us. For what we have now – is what we have always had – it’s that part of God, that “person” that was from the beginning, that was breathed from the lips of God to bring us into life. It’s that Spirit that moves like the wind; we don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. It’s that part of God that Jesus commands to lead us and trust in while we are on this journey together on earth. Our Advocate: The breath of God: The comforter…

In this period of the life of our church, I have witnessed how St. Luke’s has been listening to guidance of the Holy Spirit. Not only have we dealt with our internal matters in a prayerful and spirit-led way, but not one of our ministries to those outside these walls who need our help has been left unattended. We are alive with the Holy Spirit and She has kept us focused and strong.
Speaking of strong, this is also Memorial Day weekend – the time we spend honoring those who gave their lives during times of war in service to our country. There is something to be said about a person who stands up for his or her beliefs to the point of being willing to die for them. And that’s what this holiday is about. It started out being called “Decoration Day” because the graves of the fallen soldiers were to be marked with decorations of flowers. Today it has become to many a time of reflection, thanksgiving and a prayerful memorial. One of my favorite memorials is a song by Edwin McCain called “Prayer to St. Peter.” It’s a song about where we find souls lost in the conflict of war, and how they should be treated in heaven. Here is a portion of it: “Let them in, Peter. For they are very tired. Give them couches where the angels sleep. And light those fires. Let them wake up whole again… to brand new dawns. Fired by the sun. Not wartime’s bloody guns. May their peace be deep. Remember where their broken bodies lie. God knows how young they were. To have to die.” Likewise, may our peace be deep as we continue our journey together in prayer, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

scripture references: Romans 5:1-5 and the Gospel of John 16:12-15

Advertisements
  1. LilSisBear
    May 26, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Most Excellent Sermon!
    That wife, Sheri, surely must be a “character” 😉

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: