God Walked, Love Talked
For Christians, it has often been said that our problem is not that Christianity has failed. Our problem is it hasn't been tried yet. "If you love me you will keep my commandments," Jesus reminds us. And yet, as we learn from today's Gospel lesson, Jesus does not expect us to keep the commandments and be obedient to him on our own. No! He gives us the power to do it.
Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work in vain. But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
Those lines, from an old "spiritual," speak to our condition. There are times when we can't do it on our own -- when we need to be revived, restored, renewed, replenished, and re-created. We can be deeply moved when we hear the early Christians saying that it is the Holy Spirit who does this reviving. Many of us may have friends today who talk about how their lives began to change when they opened themselves up to the gift of the Holy Spirit. And many of us may find ourselves wondering, "What is this gift of the Holy Spirit? What can the Holy Spirit do for me? Is it possible that my soul can be revived and re-created?"
For some answers to these questions, it is helpful to recall the baptism of Jesus. It was during Jesus' baptismal experience that he received the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was the gift that empowered him for the ministry he was about to begin. Yet it came to him so gently and peacefully that, from that moment, the symbol to describe the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus was a dove -- one of the gentlest of all birds. As for the disciples, they did not receive the Holy Spirit until after Jesus' Resurrection.
In today's Gospel lesson, Jesus gives the disciples the promise of this great gift to come. It is the last night of Jesus' life and he is with the disciples in the "upper room." He is preparing them for his departure. He is preparing them for what will be a time of terrible anxiety and grief. In the midst of this, Jesus says to the little group -- his closest friends -- "If you love me you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (a Comforter, an Empowering Force, a Paraclete, a Soul-Reviver, and a Re-Creator) to be with you forever." And Jesus assures the disciples that their belief in this promise would enable them to accomplish wonders with their lives: "... whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works because I am going to the Father" he tells them.
Later, after the Resurrection, Jesus keeps the promise. He appears to the disciples and he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, it was a peaceful, gentle experience, as far as we know. But later still, on the day of Pentecost, all the believers are gathered together to worship, and the Holy Spirit comes, this time in a mighty display of wind and fire.
Who is this Holy Spirit? The Biblical writers want us to know, with certainty, that the God, who made us, loves us so much and wants so much for us to love him that he literally pours out his presence for us to experience. And it is the gift of His Spirit that makes it possible for us to experience the joy of being lifted up as temples of God's love.
When theologian Bernard Haring returned home from a trip to Africa, he told of a young African Christian who had been spending an unusual amount of time in church. One day, as the young man came out of church, his pastor asked him what he had been doing in there. The young man seemed surprised at first to hear the question. Then he said, simply, "Why, I've just been lifting my soul into the sunshine." What an eloquently simple, beautiful definition of the Church!
The Spirit-filled community of Christ is burning with desire to lift our souls, and the souls of others up into the sunshine of God's immediate, living, loving presence.
Someone has written this clever rhyme to present the Bible in a nutshell:
God made, Adam bit, Noah arked, Abraham split.
Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled, Bush talked, Moses balked.
Pharaoh plagued, people walked, sea divided, tablets guided.
Saul freaked, David peeked, prophets warned, Jesus born.
God walked, love talked, anger crucified, hope died.
Love rose, Spirit flamed, Word spread, God remained.
Those last few verses sum up the miracle of the Lord who rose up in love, and with the gift of the Holy Spirt sent out the disciples to spread the Good News of a gracious God that remains for all eternity.
Ernest Hemingway's book, "A Movable Feast," was published after his death and is a reminiscence of the author's early days in Paris as a young writer. In one place he says,
"Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of little oranges over the flames and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence that I knew or had heard someone say."
All of us can share in some way with Hemingway's experience. We too experience desperate moments when we want to do something creative with our lives but do not know where to begin. Like Hemingway, we can begin by uttering one true sentence. And I can think of no better sentence to begin with than the one Jesus gives us in today's lesson:
"If you love me you will keep my commandments." In a nutshell, that one sentence sums up our responsibility as a people of faith.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is calling us to obedience.
"Love one another as I have loved you. I have come that the world may be one" Jesus said to his disciples and is saying to us now.
Jesus has come to bring us ever closer together.
Jesus has come to draw us ever deeper into his blessed Kingdom of Peace and Brotherhood.
Jesus has come to offer us the blessed fulfillment we all need and want in his life of love.
Jesus has come to enlist us as his disciples on earth in fulfilling our mission of compassion and concern for others.
Jesus has come to show us, in and through his own ministry of service, what it means to "hold the Word of Life in our hands," as the Apostle Paul put it.
In and through Jesus the Christ, love rose, Spirit flamed, word spread, and God remained.
With the love of God rising in your heart.
With the Spirit of God showing you the way.
With the Word of God, ruling in your life!
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