(Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Romans 8:14-17)
John 14:8-17, 25-27
(watch here: https://youtu.be/tY7wgxThNMk)
8Philip said to [Jesus,] “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus 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’? 10Do 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. 11Believe 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. 12Very 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. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This 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. 26But 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. 27Peace 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.”
To help get us in the right frame of mind to celebrate Pentecost Sunday this morning, perhaps a funny little story will do the trick. There was once a jockey who had an unbelievable winning record. Just before the end of any race, the jockey would lean way over and seemingly speak to the horse. A reporter asked the jockey what he did that made such a difference in the horse’s speed. He replied: “I simply quote a little verse in his ear: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue; Horses that lose are made into glue!”
We all have our reasons for doing what we do. Some of us are compelled by fear like that unlucky horse! Some of us are compelled by rewards. Some of us are compelled by a sense of duty. Some of us are compelled by the law. Some of us are compelled by our spouse or are children. Some of us are compelled by our current situation; some by are past situations; some by our future situations. Some of us are compelled to do what we do simply because we’ve been doing it for so long that we don’t know any different way of doing it! Some of are compelled by suffering or the threat of suffering. There are probably an infinite number of reasons for why each of us does what we do on any given day. Each of us is driven to do something with each and every moment of our lives. Even when we’re unconscious and not aware of doing anything other than dreaming, our bodies are still actively repairing and rejuvenating cells in our bodies that were used during our waking hours. No, as long as our bodies are in existence, each of us is constantly compelled into doing something…anything. Like the tiny atoms and subatomic particles that make up our bodies, we can’t help being in perpetual motion. We, our bodies, minds, and spirits, are always in a state of change, compelled into ever-developing growth or decay. We can’t avoid change. We can’t hide from change. We can’t run away from change. Our entire existence is in a constant state of change. There are an infinite number of reasons for the changes in our lives. And yet, as we explored last week, for whatever reason a change occurs, it inevitably serves but one purpose—to bring us into one with each other and with God. We are compelled to change so that we might become one.
Now perhaps you might be asking yourself, “what happens when we become one…with each other and with God? Does that mean we would no longer need to change?” Well, yes…and no! Even within God there exists both the never-changing and the ever-changing. We understand God to exist as a Triune God; a God comprised of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Next week is Trinity Sunday so we’ll be celebrating the triune nature of God but this week, as a sort of foretaste to that discussion, we lift up one part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. What distinguishes the Holy Spirit from the other two parts is its nature. The Spirit is the ever-changing part of God. The Spirit is always moving, always evolving, always changing. Nothing about the Spirit is permanent. It is always in a temporary state of existence. Because it itself is never in a fixed state of existence, the Spirit can serve to compel all of existence into change. It is the Spirit that actually compels us into change. We might have an infinite number of reasons for change but it is the Spirit that actually compels us into change. The Spirit is more or a less a force, an agent of change.
Today we celebrate the Spirit, not because of who it is as a part of our Triune God but rather because of what it does. Believe it or not, change is not always a bad thing. Change can bring about new life into situations that are considered dead. Change can bring about new possibilities, new opportunities, and new realities. Change can bring about new understandings and new existences. Some changes are good, some are bad, but without the Spirit change wouldn’t be possible at all. We need the Spirit to compel us into change. As we heard earlier, change is inevitable—we can run from it or hide from it or try to avoid it altogether. Every part of our existence is changing whether we like it or not. The Spirit compels both the living and the non-living into change, sometimes for good but sometimes for bad. Without the Spirit, we would never know what is good and what is bad though. In fact, we wouldn’t know anything without the Spirit! We wouldn’t know ourselves, we wouldn’t know the world, we wouldn’t know each other, and we wouldn’t know God if it wasn’t for the Spirit compelling us into such knowledge…ultimately compelling us into one.
In our first reading from Acts, we heard the great story of the Spirit compelling both the apostles into speaking in a variety of tongues and the crowd of devout Jews into understanding each other in spite of their differing languages. In the same passage, the Spirit both divides and unites understandings shared between people. This effectively illustrates how the changes created by the Spirit can be both good and bad. No doubt the apostles were frustrated by speaking in different tongues. Though it gave witness to the presence of the Spirit, it didn’t serve to make the gospel understood by each other. At the same time, the Spirit was able to bring people together in understanding the gospel through different tongues. Rather than change the languages, the Spirit changed how the languages were heard. In both instances, the Spirit was compelling people into change yet for the same purpose of helping people to better understand God. People were brought together with each other and with God.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul tells us we are “guided by the Spirit” into understanding ourselves as children of God. The Spirit wants us to know that though we may suffer in God, we also may share in the glory of God as God’s beloved children. Children share in all that their parents are and do. If the parents succeed, so too do the children succeed. If the parents suffer, then the children suffer. When God suffers, we suffer, and when God is glorified, we are glorified. We wouldn’t know this if it weren’t for the Spirit guiding us. The Spirit guides us into better understanding ourselves and God and our relationship with God.
We again heard from the passage in John that tells us how Jesus gives us the Spirit as an Advocate to teach and remind us about the Father and the Son. Jesus’ own disciples thought that the Father was different than the Son. They wanted to come to know the Father as separate from the Son. Yet Jesus teaches them that his words were the same as the Father’s. Jesus teaches them, and us, that if we want to know the Father than all we have to do is listen to the Son. And we listen with the help of the Spirit. Listening is an action, in itself an agent of change. When we listen, we are changed. The Spirit compels us into listening and knowing more and more about God the Father and God the Son.
Last week we heard the Son praying for us to better understand the Father. We heard him pray for us to become closer with God and ultimately to become one with God as he is one with the Father. We couldn’t have heard his prayer if it weren’t for the Spirit compelling us to listen. The Spirit compels us into oneness; not through fear or reward or suffering or spouse of children. The Spirit couldn’t care less as to the reasons why we choose to listen or ignore God’s words. The Spirit is simply concerned with making it possible for us to heard God’s words. The Spirit is concerned more with compelling us into listening. For it is through listening that we become one with each other and with God. We might all speak our own unique languages and stories but the Spirit somehow enables us to hear and understand them. Let us rejoice in not only who the Spirit is an integral part of our Triune God but also in what the Spirit does for us. It is the source of all change and understanding. It brings us together with each other and with God. As we go forth into the long season of Pentecost, let us be glad that we go as one…one in Spirit.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.