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November 22, 2015 - John 16.12-15

“Nine Words”

John 16:12-15

(with reference to Acts 2.1-11)

November 22, 2015

 

12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

 

Acts 2.1-11

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

 

I had not planned to preach this sermon today.  That is why the scripture and title in your bulletin are not what we are doing.  I struggled with my sermon his week, and as I sat down for my final edit, I felt the Lord leading me to punt.  Last night at 10 pm.  Punt.  There is this other thing you need to preach right now.

 

ReadScripture

 

Jesus says, “I have lots of stuff I could tell you, but you can’t bear to hear them right now.”

 

Jesus seems to be saying to us that we are not going to stay as we are – IF we are going to follow Jesus.  That is the promise of the Holy Spirit, which is what Jesus is promising us here.

 

In most church budgets, there is a line item somewhere amidst all the stuff for the ministerial staff labeled “continuing education.”  Many professions require this type of thing, too, especially those who rapidly change due to new technologies.  The idea behind this is that in order to stay informed and on top of the game as a professional, education must be a career priority.  Education must be an ongoing thing, or else one becomes obsolete and irrelevant.  Even if the message is the same, such as it is for preachers, we must remain educated about the world in which we live, and the trends in it, and how to relate to them, or our preaching becomes obsolete.

 

The same thing is true for us as Christians.  The Holy Spirit intends to continually educate us as to who Jesus is, revealing new things to us, engaged in a never ending faith journey with us, so that we will always be growing, changing, and living out our relationship with Jesus.

 

Conversely, if we take the idea that “I know what I know and that’s all I need to know,” then we have proven we don’t know much about Jesus.  Knowing Jesus means being engaged in a long term relationship with a real live Savior, and we will always find ourselves being challenged, changed and remade to look more like Jesus.  If we aren’t changing, we aren’t walking with Christ.

 

Too many Christians are Sophomoric Christians.  They never venture beyond a skimming it off the top mentality, and insist that there is really nothing more important to discover.   Lord, deliver us from sophomoric Christians.

 

The truth of Jesus is too large, too grand, and too cosmic to be grasped in a moment.  This is why discipleship is a journey, why we talk of our “walk of faith.”  The Spirit reveals to us all that we need to know, when we need to know it, and not before.  We must be ready for insights that are fresh and new to us, though as ancient as Creation itself, for the work of the Spirit of Truth continues among us.

 

And yet, some churches and Christians are content to be stagnant.  I can’t understand this.  Oh, they like the idea of “things” getting better, but the fact is that for things to actually get better, it is required for them to change.  That seems to be LOST on them.

 

Perhaps that is why so many churches are divided and so many Christians seem to be mad all the time.  In order for things to get better and things to get healed, CHANGE is necessary.

 

All this division just isn’t appropriate in the face of the Holy Spirit.  Look at what happened at Pentecost.  God does not divide, but in fact unites, bringing his message to everyone, regardless of what language they speak.  In effect, the division that occurred in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel is overcome by the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

No one present is excluded from this display of God’s grace.  Everyone is included at this spectacle.  In order that none of us might miss the inclusiveness of this moment, a long list of places that encompasses the entire known world is included.  The entire world is present at this event.

 

In Acts, at the beginning of the church the gospel does not go to the entire world, the entire world is already present, and then the church must go to the world.  Lest we ever think ourselves superior to others because where we are from, Acts shoots us down.  When God’s Spirit is unleashed, everyone is included.

 

Pentecost is an amazing day – the rush of the wind, the fire, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.   Is it possible that this man Peter and the rest of the disciples, the ones who are preaching with power, who are doing miraculous deeds, is it possible they are the same ones who abandoned Jesus just weeks ago?  Is it possible?  Acts is always the place we go to look at what the “model” church should be - the New Testament church.  The Holy Spirit moved through them as freely as water flows in a stream. 

 

The question for us is not “How did they do that?”  The question for us is “How do we do that?”  How do we achieve the kind of unity of purpose that the NT church had? 

 

The bitter truth is that the Holy Spirit is always ready to respond and flow through us.  That means we are the ones holding God back.  How do we allow the Holy Spirit to move?  There are many ways to try and let that happen, but I have a suggestion.

 

If you really want the Holy Spirit to move through you, both as an individual and as a church, then the Holy Spirit will.  If you will learn to say just nine words, I believe that it will happen.    If you can learn to say them, God can transform you church.

 

So what are they, these “magic” words?

 

  1. I was wrong. 

This speaks to the heart of confession.  We are not even able to know God if we cannot say, “I was wrong.”  I did wrong.  I acted wrongly.  We can never experience redemption or know forgiveness unless we are willing to say, “I was wrong.”

How can we be the church unless we admit where we were wrong in the past?  What about Racism?  What about the violence done in the name of Christ? 

To admit that you are wrong is the first step in repentance. 

 

  1. I am sorry.

This is the very beginning of healing.  Nothing will dissolve a grudge more quickly than these three little words.  Saying these is like disarming the weapons of bitterness.  It bridges the gap that hatred can create. 

Saying “I am sorry” is the beginning of healing the rift in any relationship, even if you are the one that has been wronged.  It collapses the divisions that we create. 

 

  1. I love you.

This is the very heart of the gospel.  What did Jesus tell us?  That in order to love God we must love others.  If we are able to love with the kind of love that God would create in us, it will change everything.

Nothing will allow the healing power of forgiveness to flow more than the unfettered love of God.  Love one another, just as I have loved you. 

 

Love does so much more than allow us to forgive each other.  It allows us to live with one another.  If we really love each other, we will be able to be unified despite our differences.  If we love each other more than our own opinions, then we can always be united as a church.  There will be nothing that can separate us from the love of God and nothing that can separate us from each other if we truly love one another.

 

If you can learn to say these nine words to each other – and mean them – then there is no power on this earth that can hold you back from doing the will of God.  I was wrong; I am sorry; I love you.  These nine words can unleash the Holy Spirit upon any church, like the day of Pentecost.

 

I know that there are some of you here today that need to say these words to someone else in this room.  I know it because I have heard you talk about each other.  I know it because I see your faces when you look at each other.

 

Our God has loved us enough to reveal Godself to us.  Our God keeps speaking to us in ways that are both distinct and demanding.  In an “age of the spirit”, when what passes for spirituality is often a vague, indistinct projection of our human wishes and infatuations, Trinity Sunday is a good time for the church to be brave enough to do what it needs to do.  Are you brave enough?  DO you love Jesus enough to do what it takes?  The chance to follow Jesus is a gift.  And it is one of the most demanding, difficult, blessed, revealing, wonderful gifts God has given to us.  Amen.