Sermon: Easter 6 RCL A – “Holy Spirit”

During an Episcopal worship service, a man began to be moved by the Spirit.

Out loud, he said, “Amen!” People around him were a little disturbed.

Then louder, he said, “Hallelujah!” A few more people were becoming disturbed.

Louder still, he shouted, “Praise Jesus!”

An usher moved quickly down the aisle. He bent over and whispered to the man, “Sir! Control yourself!”

The man exclaimed, “I can’t help it. I got religion!!!”

To which the usher responded, “Well, you didn’t get it here!”

I shared with the last Confirmation class, and I believe that I’ve shared it here, that while in seminary, I wrote a paper on the work De Trinitate by Richard of St. Victor. De Trinitate—On the Trinity—is Richard’s understanding of the Holy Trinity and the necessity of the three Persons of the Trinity, and how their relationship is based in love. I pulled out that paper this week, and one of the sentences I wrote is this: “Even though the Supreme Being ‘is the source of all existence,’ the Supreme Being and the condignus are of equal essence, as seen in the above discussion on the procession of the condignus from the Supreme Being and in the Quicunque; therefore the condilectus must proceed from both the Supreme Being and the condignus.” I said to myself, “Self, that right there will preach.” Maybe not, but it got me thinking about the condilectus, that is, the Holy Spirit—the Advocate that Jesus spoke of in our Gospel reading. What is important to note is that much of what we’ve been hearing these weeks since Easter Sunday has been pointing to this giving of the Spirit because this coming Thursday is the Ascension—Jesus leaving us—but before we go forward, let’s go back and look at the bigger picture.

On Good Friday, the Lord was crucified. On Easter Sunday, He rose from the dead. On the following two Sundays, we had the accounts of witnesses to the Resurrection. First, Jesus appeared to many of the disciples in a locked room. As you may recall, Thomas wasn’t there, and he doubted the others, so Jesus appeared again, and Thomas believed, giving us that first creedal statement, “My Lord and my God.”

The following Sunday, we heard about the appearance of Jesus to Cleopas and one other while they were on the road to Emmaus. They did not recognize Him until late in the day in the breaking of bread, but after He was made known to them, those two returned to the fellowship of the apostles and proclaimed the Lord’s resurrection.

The following two Sundays took us to a time before the crucifixion. These teachings were placed as a reminder of who the resurrected Lord truly is. In the first, Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” In that, we understand that in Jesus, there is rest and safety. And then, last Sunday, Diane shared with us the message of Jesus going to prepare a place for us and how He is The Way. Speaking of that Gospel, Diane said, “Jesus is keenly aware of the limited time that he has remaining; and because of his great love for these very dear followers, his friends, he desperately wants to leave them with both comfort and instruction for his way to the Father, the true way, the way that leads to life.” 

All this tells us that Jesus died and rose again, there were many witnesses to these events, and He is the way to eternal life with God, yet, in one of the last verses of the Gospel reading from last week, Jesus says something alarming, “I am going to the Father.” Jesus is the way to eternal life, but he is leaving. The questions then rush out, ‘If He is leaving, how will we know the way that leads to Him? How will we know the Truth? How will we have this Life He has promised?’ All these, but then today, Jesus reassures us, “I will not leave you orphaned.” I will send another who will guide you into all truth. The condilectus. The Advocate. The Holy Spirit. A Spirit that will not just be available to a select few but to all. The Spirit guides us to the Father, that leads us into all truth; through this same Spirit, we receive life. So, who is this Holy Spirit?

When you think of Jesus, I’m sure some image of what he looks like comes to mind. Even when you think of the Father, even though He is without time or space, our human minds imagine what He might look like. Yet, with the Spirit—this gift from God—there is no physical focus other than the dove, which is for lack of any other means of identifying him. The best way to understand it is by understanding the Hebrew word rouah, which we spoke of recently—the wind, spirit, or the breath of God. Just as you cannot see the wind, you can only witness its effects; the same is true with the Holy Spirit of God. You cannot see it, but you can see its effect as it works in the world and individuals.

In our reading today, Jesus says He will send this Spirit, the Advocate. Advocate is a translation of the Greek word paraklētos. It can also be translated as counselor, helper, intercessor, or comforter, which helps us further understand the role of the Holy Spirit—one who comes alongside us to help us. But it is also important to note that Jesus says he will send “another Advocate.” Who is the first? St. John tells us in his first epistle, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1) Jesus is telling us that He is sending not just a spirit, but His Spirit to be with us. 

Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)

Moses spoke to the Israelites and said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) God said, I will not leave you alone or abandon you. Jesus said, I am with you through it all until the last day. And this is made possible through the giving of God’s own Spirit to us. 

Jesus will ascend into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father, but he does not leave us orphaned. Instead, we are adopted—made one with Jesus and one with the Father. And we are given this Spirit so that—as we say in our Eucharistic Prayer D—so “that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all.” We are drawn into full communion with the Triune God as daughters and sons and are commissioned to continue God’s work of love in the world.

Somebody needs to get some religion and say, “Amen!”

One last piece. St. John records a message for each of the seven churches at the beginning of the Book of Revelation. Each church is given a different message, but one part of the message is the same for all. It comes at or near the end of the message: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” That is not only a word for the church, but it is a word for us individually. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.” We are given the Spirit of God so that we may know the way to God, so that we may know the truth of God, so that we might have life through God, and so that we might complete God’s work in the world, but in order to have these things, we must shut up and listen.

Take time to be quiet, to be at rest, to seek the presence of God, and then listen and hear what the Spirit is saying to you. I make no promises that you will like what you hear, but it will be God’s message to you.

Let us pray:
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.

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