The Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Jesus said to his disciples, ”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When 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. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
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
I had an interesting experience this week that I think illustrates really well what I want to highlight from our Scripture passages this morning. Friends of mine in Canada contacted and told me about a project they were doing for the Pentecost celebration at their church.
They were contacting friends from around the world and asking them to record the words: "Come Holy Spirit" and send it to them. They managed to collect 29 different voices and they pulled all those voices together into one recording. I am going to play that for us now.
[Audio of a multitude of voices and languages speaking "Come Holy Spirit" played.]
I don't know about you but I found that very moving. To hear that invitation to the Holy Spirit in all of those various voices gives us a small glimpse into what the day of Pentecost might have been like. I also want to say that I appreciate Alea being willing to read alongside Fiona as we heard the reading from Acts this morning. Getting us to think about and imagine the variety of voices all proclaiming the story of Jesus, his death, and resurrection in the city of Jerusalem on that day helps us to move beyond this just being a story that we have heard many times before. I would love, at some time in the future, to have a wide variety of voices read for us all at once. So that we might capture something of what it must have been like that day hearing all those voices speaking at once. Now, I have to say I had to correct myself as I wrote that last sentence. I almost wrote "that first Pentecost Day." Pentecost didn't just start that day. The meaning and significance of Pentecost changed when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in the upper room, in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and reinterpreted the Festival of Pentecost for Christian Believers. The Hebrew people had been celebrating Pentecost for generations. The coming of the Holy Spirit forever changed how and what was being celebrated. So, there it is the word that I want us to consider this morning "change." Before I get too far with that though I want to go back to what I said at the beginning of my Message. All that I have already talked about is interesting, in and of itself. Some might say that all of that was interesting enough. But I have to say that what was interesting for me was what happened to me on the day my friends contacted me. I was struck by was the fact that my friend contacted me after I sent her my recording of "Come Holy Spirit." They listened to what I sent and they got back to me and said: "Mike could you do it again." "It seems that your accent has been modified by all the time you have spent away from Australia. Can you record it again with a stronger Australian accent?"
I had to stop and think about just what that meant. I listened to the recording several times and then with as much concentration as I could give it I recorded the words again. This time they thought it was OK. That is the first time I have ever been asked to emphasize my accent because it didn't sound Australian enough. Being someone who has often been accused of "over-thinking" things I took some time to try to understand what had happened and what exactly they were saying about my accent. There is no question I have an Australian accent. Many of you are probably as surprised as I was by my friend's comment. As I thought about it I realized that my accent has changed. That the experience of living here, speaking here, and preaching here has brought about some change, some modification in my accent. Now, I have to say at this point that there are a variety of Australian accents. Just as there are a variety of American accents. Let's be honest I have never sounded like Steve Irwin. Of course, some of us Australians would say that Steve Irwin worked hard to sound like Steve Irwin. He manufactured his accent for the role he played in his business and on-air personality.
But to get back to my point, my accent has been modified. It has changed. Unless someone points it out to me I am fairly oblivious or unaware of the change.
Change is fascinating to me. Some change happens gradually and with subtlety. Some change happens because of a life-changing experience. Some change is radical and irreversible.
So, let's examine change for a few minutes. The first kind of change I would like to talk about is the kind that we are all involved in. It is the kind of change that we engage in on a constant basis. It is gradual. It is a matter of small adjustments and modifications that lead to a greater end result. Which sometimes, we are unaware of. As we live our daily lives we are ever-evolving and changing. The second kind of change happens because of a major change in direction or commitment. A new job opportunity, Graduation, marriage, the birth of a child, all of these life events bring about change. This kind of change can be associated with a specific period or moment in time.
The third kind of change happens when a dramatic and or radical event of some kind happens and circumstances and relationships are forever altered. This can involve the death of a family member, the failure of a marriage, the dissolution of a church community, or on a more positive note a greater, deeper experience of a faith experience. Stepping from "lip service" and tradition to a deeper desire for the things of the Spirit.
We have been following Jesus and the disciples for the last few weeks as they have moved through the first two kinds of change. The disciples have experienced the deepening of their understanding and commitment to Jesus as their shepherd and Rabbi - teacher. They have been changed by their experience of Jesus. Then they have been drawn into a deeper and more challenging relationship as he has commissioned and sent them out to exercise the gifts he has bestowed on them.
Here we are today at that point where the third kind of change is about to be irrevocably experienced by the disciples. Now. Things change forever. We have been following them and we have seen them shaken to the very core as Jesus' words predicting his death and resurrection have taken place in front of their very eyes. Now we experience, with them, the coming of the Holy Spirit.
They cannot contain the impact of the Spirit and they find themselves in the street proclaiming the truth of what has happened, who Jesus is, and what it means for them and for all those who hear this news. In the coming weeks, we will continue this journey with the disciples. We are going to travel with them and we will find out just how much they have been changed by what they have experienced. Remember as we have read the Gospel of John in the past couple of weeks we have seen and heard Jesus talking about the Holy Spirit coming. He has wanted to prepare the disciples. Jesus has been saying he is going away and that the Holy Spirit will come alongside the disciples, that that Holy Spirit will indwell the disciples, the Holy Spirit will empower the disciples.
As we think about the changes that happen with the disciples I am reminded of the story of Jesus meeting this same group of disciples on the beach after the crucifixion. Do you recall that event?
Peter is shaken and uncertain about what he is expected to do following the death of Jesus. So he does what most of us would do. He goes back to what he knows, what he is familiar with. He goes back to fishing. Jesus meets him on the beach and after some interaction and community building, Jesus commissions Peter. Peter goes back to what he thinks is familiar and Jesus calls back to the journey forward. I would like to suggest that all of us have been through one of those third-level, or third kind, of change through the last year. We have all been changed by the experiences we have been through in this last year. I believe that we, like the disciples before us, have thought that we understood what Jesus was saying to us about what the coming of the Holy Spirit might mean for us. We thought that we would be ready for whatever would come. But for the disciples there is loss, there is grief, there is a change in each one of them.
I have to say nothing prepares us for what we experience in the experience of loss. We found that our hopes and our life expectations were dashed by the experience of the last year. Hopes and dreams came to an end. We like Peter are not sure what is coming next. We have been shaken and we have been forever changed. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of us relate to Peter right now. We want to get back to normal. We want to get back to what we are familiar with. Jesus met Peter and brought a new focus to his life. It wasn't in the familiar and what he thought he knew, it wasn't in what he thought he cherished. Peter no longer fit into the life he knew. He was forever changed and the coming of the Holy Spirit would mean a completely different focus and life calling. The new Peter wouldn't fit back into his old life of fishing. Jesus had a new role for him as a fisher of men. What about us? What would it mean if Jesus is calling us to something new and different? What would it mean for us if we wouldn't fit back into our old life? So I am going to play this recording again and I am going to invite you to listen and say the words: "Come Holy Spirit." What might the Holy Spirit be saying to us or calling us to?