Trust in the Holy Spirit
Pentecost is the time of year when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is also historically when we look at the forming of the church.
What does it mean for us as followers of Jesus today to trust in the Holy Spirit? Jesus speaks eloquently about the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Advocate who God will send to guide us and be with us.
Scripture: John 14: 8-17, 25-27
I was in France, it was 2003. My friend Curtis and I were doing a whirlwind two-day tour of memorials dedicated to the memory of those who fought in the Great War and World War II. We were in the village of Courseulles-sur-Mer, which is where the Juno Beach Centre is located. We were hungry and all the restaurants were closed, so we satisfied ourselves with a hot dog vendor who had a few picnic tables. Sitting down with a cold drink and a hot dog we talked about the day and where we were heading next.
We witnessed a family walk by, look at the sign and then move on hoping for better prospects. Curtis and I looked at one another and both said aloud, “They’ll be back.” Sure enough within five minutes the family of four returned. I let them know the food, “Wasn’t that bad.” I could see the ears on their children perk up, someone was speaking English. They decided to give it a shot. Turns out this family was from Ajax, Curtis and I were living in Pickering at the time.
We often forget how comfortable it is to hear words spoken in our own language. Visiting another country where English isn’t spoken can sometimes be a jarring experience. Even visiting south of the border can be off-putting with the variety of accents. I remember the first time I heard a New York accent and how strange I found it. We can feel out of our element when we can’t understand what is happening around us.
Instances like this can cause fear and anxiety in us. We go from confident individuals to people who are unsure. This can happen while travelling or when you receive unexpected news. Suddenly our world changes. A friend’s mother died recently, and she shared the following: “In an instant everything changed; and it was never the same again.”
Change can be troubling, it can be hard and life altering. While it will never be the same again, it does not mean it has to be worse or that we suddenly lose our ability to be happy.
The final words that Jesus speaks in John’s gospel message where he speaks about the Holy Spirit are “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Of course, this is a curious passage to use for Pentecost Sunday. This passage from John occurs about 53 days before that first Pentecost. Jesus is still alive, and the disciples are in Jerusalem. Over the course of the next few days, the hearts of the disciples will be plenty troubled, and they will be afraid. Jesus will be arrested and executed. Plenty to fear.
Yet, Jesus tells them not to fear and not to allow their hearts to be trouble. For Jesus knows what is about to occur and about the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word that the Good News Translation gives us is Helper, however in Greek it is literally translated as the one who comes alongside.
I find that the Holy Spirit often gets the short end of the stick when we think about God, when our liturgies are written and our prayers are spoken. We think about God as our creator, about Jesus and his earthly mission: The death on the cross. When we pray we honour God by using words like Eternal, Almighty, Creator, Gracious, and Loving among others. When we finish praying, we offer the prayer in the name of Jesus. But the Holy Spirit, the one who comes alongside, we often forget about. That’s probably on me more than you. But we forget about the third member of the Triune God. We forget that God is active and at work in the world through the person of the Holy Spirit.
Often, we might wonder how the Holy Spirit works, as if it were a machine or a computer that we could just turn on. That the one who comes alongside, does it at our bidding on our schedule. When we need help we should just turn and ask the Holy Spirit to assist us. As if it worked that way. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t call upon God for aid in our task. But the Holy Spirit is already there working in us and through us.
We look to the reply that Jesus gives to Philip, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you.”
Let’s also remember that in Acts the Holy Spirit shows up as tongues of fire. It is the Holy Spirit which after anointing Jesus at his baptism, drove him into the wilderness where he was tested. We often think of the Holy Spirit as gentle, like a dove. But the Spirit has the ability to be fierce, to demand action where required.
The Spirit remains with you and is in you. Constantly guiding us, sometimes pushing us, informing us about the way that God works in the world and how God would like us to act in the world. Our task is to be open to the working of the Spirit. To be willing to receive the Spirits guidance, to know the Spirit, recognizing it in the world.
People often reflect, and I know I shared this sentiment a few weeks ago, that God has either abandoned the world or that God allows terrible things to happen. What the coming of the Holy Spirit makes apparent is that God has not abandoned the world, rather God has infused those who believe with the Holy Spirit. And if we are willing to be open to the Spirit we see these terrible things and we recognize that they cannot stand. God hasn’t abandoned the world, God has said here is my Spirit who will guide you and help you reach good decisions. Who will help you understand the scriptures, at the time that Jesus spoke those words he was referring to the Old Testament, so that you can better understand God’s plan for creation.
The Holy Spirit comes and illuminates, helps us make sense of the world as we discern our place in it as God’s people.
Often things don’t make sense. It’s sometimes difficult to cut out the noise. Everything sounds foreign to us and we can’t tell if it’s the voice of the world speaking or that of God. We wonder what to do and who to trust. But if we stop and take time to breath, we can hear the voice of the Spirit reminding us that ‘it isn’t that bad.’ Trust in God and things will make sense in time, but continue to trust and listen for my voice. Amen.