Preached on May 5, 2013 for Throop and Dunmore UMC's.
To give you a little bit of background, here in the gospel of John, this is of course a passage that we often hear in funerals. But the context is that Jesus is preparing them for the events of Jerusalem (In John, Jesus is portrayed as have knowledge of the future), and is reassuring them that it will be all right, in the end.
Judas (not Iscariot, John is careful to mention) asks why they are getting all of this special knowledge, but the rest of his followers, and the populace at large, aren’t.
Jesus says essentially that “not everyone gets this. Yet. There are things that will have to happen for others to get this. But because you have been with me, and you have stayed, and you have believed me, I am telling you who I really am. And who I am, you also can be for the world."
The Holy spirit is coming to you, and will be your companion, and will remind you of everything I have taught you.
Up until now, they have had Jesus, a physical being, with them, and their connection to God has been through this flesh and blood friend. Now, with his death imminent, he is reassuring them that they will not be alone, and his connection to God will be available to them, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
Where I am going, he says, I go to prepare a place for you.
These disciples were not any different than you and I are. They may have eaten different foods, less beef, more fish, more grains, more wine, but they atill needed food, too. They got married, had children, worked, the same as we do. Sometimes, they have had sorrows, just as we do.
They were not any different that we are. In all the ways about being human that matter, they were the same as us.
And yet, they were told by Jesus that the Holy Spirit would come and be in their lives, because they believed.
In this way, they are no different than us, either. The Holy Spirit can come into us, as well. She (I like she for the Holy Spirit, it balances the trinity, with Jesus as male and God as both, or neither) can give us leadership when tough questions arise in us, when difficulties appear in our lives. When change occurs around us, the Holy Spirit IS with us, just as she was with them.
Now, does the Holy Spirit come to us, in order that we may do healings, like Peter and Paul? Can she come to us so that we may speak in the tongues of those whom surround us? I don’t know; I have never experienced that, but there is more to this world than in my experience.
But have you ever had those moments, at 3 AM, when you’re tossing and turning, worried, and a peace comes over you which enables you to sleep with a decision in hand? That’s the Holy Spirit, too.
She may come upon you while you’re sitting around a campfire, and singing songs, and everyone there sees the same shooting star, and just knows in that moment that God is with you.
It might even happen while sitting in church, in a pew, in worship!
Everything that was available to the disciples is available to us. Jesus says to them “when I leave you, I go to prepare a place for you”. Jesus’ promise to them is Jesus’ promise to us. We do not live in a Godless time. God is ever-present. So much of what we consider evil in this world is not because of people not believing in God. It is instead from people who are religious. It isn’t because of people having no religion. Some of the most peaceful people in our world are atheists. No, the wars, the strife, and the anger come from people having an incorrect understanding of religion, or too much religion. A religion that is going away from God’s intent.
If your religion tells you that other people are less than human; if your religion tells you that you are right and others must be banished or eliminated because they are wrong; then folks, you’re being taken down the wrong road.
The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Peace. She is a Spirit of Love.
Those times when you feel your heart expand, like the Grinch’s when framed by the x-ray machine at the end; that is not an absence of the spirit, it is a visitation of the Spirit. The more the Spirit is in your life, the more love there is; the less the strife.
This is the Holy Spirit, and if your religion tells you otherwise, it’s the wrong road.
The Epistles talk about testing the spirits, and this is a test; what is God’s love in this thought? What is God’s love in this action?
Perhaps a congregation is being led in a direction; is it a loving direction? Does it show God’s glory through our service? That is a test. Is it love? If it is not, we are to step back from it.
Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you and where I go, there you will be also. We believe that place to be heaven, but we also know that when the world ends, there will not be a separation; we will not ascend to heaven. Heaven will come to us. The new Jerusalem will descend, and the world may not look much different than it does now. But it will be heaven, because the Holy Spirit will be fully present, for the first time. There will be no cancer, no war, no murder.
For us, in our hearts, that can start now, by allowing the Holy Spirit in.