First Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
1Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
22The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
26when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”
Psalm: Psalm 8
1O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!—
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children;
you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5Yet you have made them little less than divine;
with glory and honor you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet:
7all flocks and cattle,
even the wild beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-5
1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Gospel: John 16:12-15
[Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When 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. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
One of the dynamics that grabs the imagination of people, young and not so young, are super heroes. Marvel Comics has created a whole “universe” of these people in recent years and movies to go with them! Turn to your neighbor and share who was your favorite super hero when you were a child? Mine was the Lone Ranger.
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart by acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Today is the first Sunday after Pentecost and is always dedicated to talking about the mystery of our God, the Triune God, who is three in one. It’s hard to get our mind and our language around the Trinity. In fact we are always living into a deeper and deeper understanding of who our God is and who we are to God. But let’s give it a try.
Last Sunday we heard about the Holy Spirit who descended like a giant wind, appeared like tongues of fire on heads, enabled people to speak foreign languages and touched hearts of 3,000 people from all over the world who then wanted to become followers of Jesus. WOW! I wondered how people today hear this text and internalize its truth. Is the Holy Spirit added to our list of Super Heroes that we follow or is there something entirely unique that sets the Holy Spirit apart and adds texture to our understanding of the Trinity?
We have a whole host of tales about beings we call “super heroes” today and that we have made movies about. Christians make movies like “The Jesus Film” or “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “The Passion” that competes for attention. I would claim that the Holy Spirit is not just another super hero to add to our list of tales about the past. Christians have the Trinity while secular society enjoys the Fantastic Four. I looked up the definition of “super hero” on the Internet and a super hero is a character that does feats that a normal human cannot, i.e. has super power. The hero uses that power to help humanity battle with evil. Actually there are evil beings like Lex Luther or the Joker that oppose them, somewhat like Satan.
I first thought of the Lone Ranger from my childhood. He charged across the Wild West rescuing people from evil’s grip, righting wrong. He wore a mask so his identity was no clearer than the Holy Spirit. “Who was that masked man?” was always a closing comment to an episode as he rode off on his white horse. The Lone Ranger was also known by his silver bullet, a symbol of purity. The Holy Spirit is often identified with speaking in tongues, glossolalia (your own personal worship language for prayer) or foreign languages (as in Pentecost). The Holy Spirit comes to do good, help the needy, and has a pure heart. Perhaps the Lone Ranger is known because of his faithful friend Tonto who always comes with him to do the good deed. The Holy Spirit is not a stand-alone act either. The Spirit is part of the Godhead. Where the Spirit goes, God is present. So far our super heroes are competing well with the Holy Spirit for our affection.
We love Superman who disguises himself as Clark Kent and then runs in a closet to reappear in his outfit and flies off, jumping buildings in a single bound, to help the needy people of Metropolis. Is the Holy Spirit just a new expression of Jesus? My sister, who is 73 years old, shared about a new Marvel Comics character in the film Fantastic Four. The character’s name is Susan Storm. Susan is a human who was affected by radiation and mutated into a super hero who has the ability to become invisible to come to the aid of helpless humans in the grips of evil. Susan can become invisible and has super power to help humanity. Sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit. OK, so let us now go back to our texts today and try to clarify super heroes whom we dress up like at Halloween or pay to see at the movies, from the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity whom we worship.
First: “he will guide you into all the truth”
I note that the Holy Spirit is first described as a “guide,” not as a savior or the creator. His first role mentioned in the Trinity is guide. Super Heroes jump into action to rescue endangered people and use their super powers to defeat evil. Houston we have a problem! How do we see God? Is God a being to make my life safe, comfortable, and happy-ever-after or rather do I see myself as partnering with God? Guide calls us to evaluate how we understand God. I suspect often “God” by definition has power that I pray, hope, will be mobilized for my serious situation. When I am not rescued from my plight I may well blame God for not caring or blame myself for being not worth caring about. Suffering challenges faith in ways that confirmation never did. Suffering differentiates the Trinity from Super Heroes. Wayward children, suicide, bankruptcy, health crises, marriage problems all drive us to our knees and the Evil one loves to whisper in our ears that God does not see, does not care, and chooses not to act. Our text tells us that the Spirit is a guide into truth, not health, wealth and prosperity. He leads and we follow. Super heroes resolve situations and are applauded and famous. The Holy Spirit is often like the wind of Pentecost, blowing but unseen, guiding us through the events of our life.
Unlike the Super Heroes, the Holy Spirit was able to be with 3,000 people at Pentecost, guiding each into truth in his own heart language.
So let us sit back for a moment and ponder where we need the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth today. For certain, when we go out into the parking lot and burn the mortgage, we can claim that the Holy Spirit has not just been active at Pentecost but is also active today guiding Bethany into its future. We still need the Spirit to guide us. But perhaps there is a situation or a question you personally need to bow your head and commit to the Holy Spirit to guide you today.
Second: “he will declare to you the things that are to come”
The Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity guides us into truth. The text continues to say that the Holy Spirit not only guides but also declares. The Holy Spirit is not a Super Hero that deals just with the challenges of evil in the present. The Holy Spirit declares what is to come. We often think of ‘future talk” and the Bible as the arena of prophecy, the unfolding of historical events, perhaps end times. Certainly historical prophecy is Biblical but let me broaden our thinking today to how truth declares our future.
If we kill, for sure we are murderers and sinners. and we will face trial if only in the court of our own conscience. God’s word guides but also declares the benefits and pitfalls of disobedience and how disobedience unfolds and impacts our future lives. When we choose violence and hate as a solution to disagreement, we take a fork in the road and our life changes forever. Jealousy is building our house on the sand and when the storms come, our life dissolves. Seeking vengeance, not turning our other cheek or offering forgiveness will spiral into unending conflict. God’s Word as applied in our hearts by the Spirit does talk to the present but also gives us a window into the future.
Perhaps this is also the basis for the Holy Spirit interceding for us when we don’t know how to pray. Certainly we are invited to pray about the problems we see our loved ones facing, prayers of intercession that speak into the future even as God holds our futures.
The Lone Ranger rides off into the sunset. The Super Hero is in our life for a time but not forever. The Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost, at Christ’s baptism, and at creation. The Holy Spirit did not just appear at Pentecost but as part of the Godhead, has been present in our past, our present, and guides us into our future declaring and revealing the best path. That journey may involve suffering but the Holy Spirit is with us even as the air we breathe is in our lungs.
So again let’s take a moment. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance but perhaps we need the Holy Spirit to declare, to clarify something for us. Commit it to him.
Third: “He will glorify me”
The Holy Spirit guides and walks beside me through the challenges of today. The Holy Spirit declares things that are to come. Thirdly, though, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Godhead. The text now talks about the unity of purpose and identity of the Godhead. The Spirit glorifies Jesus who is one with the Father – a Trinity.
Theologians have struggled with this reality and what it means. In confirmation the pastor talked about a banana peel coming off in three pieces but one piece of fruit. Perhaps that was a picture that worked for a while. I have come to think of electricity as an example. Electricity flows through my house but I cannot see it. It powers the lights in the room that sometimes I see and sometimes I don’t.. It powers the television that brings pictures and news from afar. It powers the radio and sound. It also somehow creates heat in the stove. All those things are powered by electricity, unique in their expression, but unified also.
As we burn the mortgage today, we will not wave our giving statements to say “Look what we did!” I have confidence you will bow your heads in prayer and say “Thank you, Lord.” You guided us through this process. When we doubted our strength, you declared you were with us leading us to this day and into the future. We give the Triune God the glory. The Holy Spirit is somehow like the Super Heroes of the movies but so much more. The Holy Spirit is God and we bow in worship.
Thank you for guidance.
Thank you for declaring the outcome of things to come.
May God be glorifies.
The people of God said, “AMEN!”