The Gospel: John 14: 8-17, 25-27
Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 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'? 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. 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. 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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 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."
"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 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. 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."
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: I would like to begin this morning with a second prayer. This one comes from The Society of Saint John the Evangelist. It is entitled Help and was published on May 31, 2017. It goes like this:
God of Ages, I ask your help. In my discouragement, give me hope; in my confusion, give me guidance; and in times of frenzy and anxiety, give me your peace. Help me to trust that you order all things well and make me a channel of your healing and help to others. I ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Have you ever stopped to think about what motivates you in your Christian life, your church life, and your spiritual practices? I believe if we are really honest with ourselves most of us would freely admit that much of what we do in our Christian lives, our church attendance, and our spiritual practices brings us a sense of comfort and satisfaction. We do them because we feel good for doing them.
Unfortunately or maybe fortunately at some point we have to make the realization, and then make the transition, in our thinking that is not really enough. Christianity is not just about us finding a way to feel good about ourselves. We need, at some point, to find the way to share what we have experienced with others for their sake.
I love the second prayer I read this morning because it seeks to recognize both our need and our responsibility. The first part of the prayer is focused on the great need that each one of us feels in our lives as we go through our daily tasks. It addresses our discouragement, our confusion, and our times of frenzy and anxiety. The prayer recognizes our need for the Holy Spirit's balm, for hope; for guidance; and for peace.
But then midway through there is a change in the focus of the prayer. We are encouraged to take our eyes off our own lives, challenges, and needs and to affirm the certainty, the sovereignty of the Lord. " Help me to trust that you order all things well." We are asked to trust, to proclaim the Lord's ordering of all things.
Then out of that place of assurance, we turn our focus to our own role and purpose in the world. "make me a channel of your healing and help to others."
This is Pentecost Sunday and we read and hear about the promise and the coming of the Holy Spirit. This brings me back to the Grace Experiment that I announced at the beginning of May. I said then I wouldn't check up on you and see how you were doing as you experimented with Grace.
A number of people have spoken to me about what they realized or what they were struck by as they participated in the experiment. I am very glad for that feedback.
Let me just say what I said the Sunday I launched the experiment: "My desire for Christ Church, now and into the future is that we would be known as a Place of Grace.
That we would live our lives together for the sake of grace. That we would be willing to risk ourselves for grace. That we would no longer hold onto our resentments because of grace. That we would no longer count the cost to ourselves, and that we would forgive for the purpose of grace. That we would study the Scriptures so that we could focus our lives on grace. That we would temper our conversations and our comments about others with grace. That we would consider how we invest our time, our talents, and our finances for grace.
I invited us to experiment with living our lives together for the sake of grace. To be willing to risk ourselves for grace. To no longer hold onto our resentments because of grace. To no longer count the cost to ourselves, and that we would forgive for the purpose of grace. To study the Scriptures so that we could focus our lives on grace. To temper our conversations and our comments about others with grace. To consider how we invest our time, our talents, and our finances for grace.
In the Gospel of John this morning Jesus makes an astounding statement. Let me read it for us again: "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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."
"the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these"
So, what is Jesus talking about here? Well, one element of what he is talking about here is his motivation. Jesus did all he did from a motivation of grace. Jesus is speaking to his disciples, but let us be clear here that he knew who these people were. These are the people closest to him, these were the ones who made all kinds of promises about how they would stand beside him, how they would never deny him, yet they ran and hid and they lied about knowing him. They proclaimed that they knew who he was and then they weren't willing or able to accept his resurrection. They said they understood what it meant to be servant followers and then they vied with each other for positions in the Kingdom. They allowed him to be taken and crucified.
How did Jesus respond to all these imperfect human actions? He extended grace and reinstated them as his representatives in the world. He healed their guilt and lifted the burden of their failure. He affirmed them with his words to them, and to their fellow disciples, as the redeemed and favored people of God in that moment.
Jesus empowered them to live their lives together for the sake of grace. He was willing to risk himself for grace. He showed them how to no longer hold onto their resentments because of grace. He showed them how to no longer count the cost to them themselves. He gave them the example of how to forgive for the purpose of grace. He encouraged them to study his words, the Scriptures, so that they could focus their lives on grace. He urged them to temper their conversations and their comments about others with grace. He urged them to be willing to sacrifice, to consider how they would invest their time, their talents, and their finances for grace.
On this Pentecost Sunday as we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit for us as well how are we doing at "the greater things that Jesus has made possible for us?
I would like to end as I began: "Have you ever stopped to think about what motivates you in your Christian life, your church life, and your spiritual practices?