Sunday was Pentecost.
It is Pentecost, and I have been thinking a lot about that big day. The day the fire came down. The spirit was disseminated. Everyone was speaking at the same time and the whole thing was such a mess that some people asked Peter if everyone was drunk. Instead of saying No! These are upstanding people, Peter says, these people can’t possibly be drunk it is only 10 in the morning. I love that so much. Y’all, the church has ALWAYS been accused of being scandalous. The church has ALWAYS been messy. I love the text from Acts, Acts 2:1-21 which is the traditional text for Pentecost. But this week I preached from John,
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.]
In Theology school, the class that is most like to give you headaches is systematic theology. Within systematic theology the most headache inducing subject is the trinity. How do you explain how the trinity works? How do you use words to describe something that is beyond description? I am not sure you can.
If I am honest, I think Jesus kind of talking in circles with all this I am the father and the father is in me and the spirit is coming business. I am not saying that Jesus is doing a bad job, I just think words don’t do it. I have a lot more success painting my understanding of the Holy Spirit than I ever have described it using words. How do you tell people what it feels like when your grandma says your name? How do you describe what your favorite birthday cake ever tasted like or the way you feel when they play the theme song from your prom? There aren’t words for that. I don’t know that there are supposed to be.
The trinity, God’s love, the Holy Spirit is all like that. How do you describe the indescribable. Jesus tries, Peter tries, and yet we are still without words.
And Phillip, right at the beginning of this text is asking Jesus to explain it. Even after hanging out with Jesus, watching the miracles he did, sharing meal after meal with him, Phillip still wants just a little more proof. Don’t we all? Don’t we all want just a little more proof than we have? Don’t we all just want a little bit more just to be sure? Phillip just wants to see the Father, is that too much to ask? But Jesus insists that Phillip has already seen that! We ALREADY have what we need. I know it feels impossible to believe somedays, but how many times are we asking for what we already have?
The end of this passage is particularly interesting to me. Have the peace of God. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid. Oh. Okay. So the Holy Spirit comes down and reshapes the whole church, and changes….pretty much everything…and you don’t want us to be afraid? That seems insane! Of COURSE we are afraid! Everything is changing! The church loves to romanticize the coming of the Holy Spirit. They love to talk about how the early church had it right. But I wonder if the early church had people who were really really sad that the church was changing. Did they miss their old ways? Their old songs? Their old ceremonies? Were there people who liked the way it was before the Holy Spirit came and messed everything up?
We are in a massive shake up in the church universal. New Hope has had SO MANY changes, and I am so proud of the ways that they have adjusted. It is truly remarkable. The UMC is in the midst of a major shake up, and the church at large. Y’all we literally don’t know what to do with the church. The ways we have worked in the past, just aren’t working now. Our society is different. That is okay. And the truth is….we don’t know what will work in the future. We just don’t know.
But here is what we do know. We don’t have to be afraid. The Pease of God is with us. We are going to get somethings wrong, but we will eventually work it out. Not knowing is scary. Radical uncertainty is just so hard. Yet this is what they are called to, to go forth with the Love of God, confident that we also carry the peace with us.
Please be praying with the church as we think about how best to serve the community this fall.
Be praying for our young adults, they are under a lot of pressure.
Be praying for me (Abby) as I keep filling out the Methodist paperwork!
What we are doing, having a physical church and inviting more than that into it, this is new. So how can we pray for you? What do you want us to know about you? How can I pastor your heart? Please know I am praying for you and would love any feed back you have!