Tag: conversation

Pentecost conversation – Audio – Bishop John Henderson

Pentecost Sunday – St Petri Lutheran Church  20/05/2018

Sermon – Bishop John Henderson   “Pentecost Conversation”

John 15:26, 27; 16:4b-15

The Work of the Spirit of Truth

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.  And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning

I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?” Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.  But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

 ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’

Dear friends in Christ,

There’s a conversation going on today between the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You can listen to it by tuning in to this morning’s Gospel reading.
And tune in you should, because the conversation’s about you.

God sees what’s going on in this world and in your life. God is concerned for you. God knows that, left to ourselves, we humans fall into destructive spirals that will see the end of us.

God isn’t prepared just to sit silently by to watch us suffer. God is a God of engagement, conversation and dialogue. God wants relationships. That’s why God speaks to us through the Word, because God wants to communicate with us. The conversation begins in creation: ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’ God’s image is about relatedness, connection and community. We are relational beings. God creates us to gather, use language and, by nature, build communities. The Triune God makes us in that image.

But the image is now corrupted. We see it all around in the disruption and fracturing of relationships and communities. Sin reveals itself most clearly in the ways we deal with one another. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ We can be legends in our own living rooms, but out in the community we discover who we really are. We see the sin that fractures and breaks the relationships for which God created us.

The first broken relationship is with God. In Genesis three Adam and Eve turned their backs on the divine conversation and perfect community they enjoyed with God. They decided to go it alone. That’s what sin is. Ever since God has been working to bring us back into the loving, communal relationship between creator and created which is our fulfilment.

Jesus is the centre of God’s work for us. He’s the divine-human Son of God, a standing invitation to bring us out of the darkness to re-join God in the light of a perfect relationship, to join once more in the divine conversation. God created you for that.

The conversation recorded in the gospels goes something like this. Jesus has finished what he came for. He was born, he lived among us, taught us, shared the Word and gave us the Father’s gifts. Yet we rejected him, judged him, and crucified him. The Father didn’t stop there, however. He raised his Son from the dead. Last week, if you were in church, you would have heard the risen Jesus talking about going back to his Father. He did that to clear the way for the Spirit to come and the conversation to go on. That’s why he sends the Holy Spirit. The Spirit puts us in permanent contact with God. In the Spirit we can participate in the divine relationship, just as God always wanted. That’s why God gathers his church – it is a community of believers joined together in a Spirit-led conversation with their Creator and Saviour God. It’s a foretaste of heaven.

The words Jesus speaks in today’s gospel reading are much more than history. He spoke them millennia ago and he still speaks them today. The word of God connects past, present and future, God’s eternal now. This very morning, Pentecost Sunday 20th May 2018, Jesus is promising to send us the Advocate, the Spirit of truth.

His actual word is Paraclete, and it’s to translate it into English. It literally translates as ‘One who comes near’. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit, the God who has come near. Our eternal, conversational, relational, creator God is as close to you as the air you are breathing, as close as the sound waves reaching your ears, as close as the light striking your retinas. As close as the thoughts inside your brain. The Paraclete continues what began in creation. God is with you, in this very moment, right now.

The Paraclete is the Spirit of truth. Not truth like a courtroom where judge and jury forensically distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. Not truth like a science lab, where through hypothesis, trial and error, sorting through the data, scientists test their theories.

This is more. It’s truth of purpose, identity and relationship. Who am I? Who are you? Who is God? How do I know that? Can I trust you? God, why did you make me in the first place?

These are the truths of the Paraclete. His message from the Father is fundamentally, ‘I know you, I love you and I want to be with you, and you with me. I will wait for you as long as it takes.’

Jesus shows us what this looks like in Luke 15 in the parable of the Waiting Father. Sometimes called the Prodigal Son. The parable tells of a father and two sons. Both sons are essentially prodigals. The love of the father binds the story together. Whatever shame they cause him and however much it costs him he loves them equally and patiently waits for both of them. This is our heavenly Father waiting for humankind to come back home.

In this morning’s gospel reading Jesus gives us three key words that are central to the Paraclete’s message. They might jolt us a bit, but we must face up to them for the relationship to be real. They are sin, righteousness, and judgement.

They jolt us because they are unpopular words today. We frequently block them out of our conversations because they sound negative and out of step with the times. We prefer to speak more comforting, affirming words like spirituality, love and peace. But we can’t have those things until we have dealt with our most pressing problems: sin, righteousness and judgement.

We have already talked about sin today. We have considered how God responded to sin by sending Jesus. Faith in Jesus Christ is our number one priority. Without faith we are without hope, lost in sin.

‘About righteousness,’ Jesus says, ‘because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer.’ A few minutes ago we said just that in the Creed. When Jesus’ returned to his Father he did not leave us alone. He opened the floodgates to the full indwelling of God. Our Small Catechism teaches the same thing: ‘the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Galatians 3 affirms, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.’

And finally, ‘about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’ This is all the forces and powers of darkness that want to smother the light of Jesus and steal the children away from the Father. We call it the devil. There’s a dark mystery in that name and it’s just too dangerous for us to go there. Only Christ can do that.

The light of Christ expels the darkness. In him darkness is condemned. In the past, it’s true, we have sided with the darkness instead of Christ and so deserve judgement. But that hasn’t stopped God loving us. Christ takes our place. He takes our death. Just when darkness thinks it has won, God raises Jesus from the dead. He just won’t let the ruler of this world have you, as God’s Word says in Romans 8, ‘there is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’
So these three words – sin, righteousness and judgement – are how God begins his Pentecost conversation with you. Jesus explains that knowing each of one these words assures us of God’s love and salvation.

The Paraclete brings you the message he hears from the Father. And everything the Father has also belongs to Jesus. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons in one God, working together to bring you back to life, to relationship, to community, to be the person you were created to be.
Do not doubt that God loves you, has a permanent place for you and is right here, right now, closer to you than you are to yourself. You have received the Holy Spirit who will always be with you, guiding you into all truth, and showing you what is to come.

Praise God for all his love, and for sending the Spirit so we, and all believers, may have true, saving faith in Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Go with what you know

Sermon, Easter 5B, Sunday May 6, 2012 St Petri

 Acts 8:26-40

Go with what you know

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[
b]

 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”[c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

I was lucky enough to attend “Aladdin” at  Faith Lutheran College on Wednesday night. Great show! So good to see young people showing us who they really are and how gifted they are.

Of course a show like Aladdin doesn’t just happen. It takes so much effort from so many. It also takes a director to bring the whole thing together – all the cast and crew, the orchestra……making all the people work together to accomplish the goal of creating a quality experience for the audience. The Director is the key in bringing it all together.  Seeing Aladdin made me view this interesting event as told by St Luke today with new eyes. This little event is part of a much bigger show skilfully portrayed by Luke. It is an account of an interesting meeting between a searching royal accountant and a fast moving disciple!

Before we remember the event, we need to be clear on what St Luke obviously wants us to understand about this: The Holy Spirit is the Director of this mission. The Spirit of the Risen Jesus is the Director of this show called “Missio Dei” – “The Mission of God”. He is the master tactician who directs this “chance” encounter between a searcher and a disciple.

It is obvious……

  1.       “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, Go…..”
  2.     “The Spirit told Philip, Go….”
  3.     “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture…told him Jesus” (This is not Phillip’s Word, but the Spirit’s Word)
  4.      “The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away…..”

The Holy Spirit, the Director of our show called the “Missio Dei” (The Mission of God”) begins the encounter and ends it in his timing and place.

It all begins with the Spirit telling Phillip to “Go”. He responds and goes. He goes south on the Gaza Road from Jerusalem and what does he find but a dark African man in royal clothes and carriage.  If that is not surprising enough for Phillip or us listeners, the royal accountant for Queen Candice of Ethiopia is reading the bible!

 Understanding one? The Spirit begins and ends our life’s mission – God’s mission to “Go” to whom he sends us with the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness and love.

Understanding two: God is already at work long before we turn up.

These two understanding clearly given by Luke make quite a difference to my life’s goal and our direction as a community of the Spirit. See, somehow we tend to believe that God is not at work in people’s lives until we turn up and do/say something. It seems that we actually believe that the “success” of encounters with people that we have at school, at sport, at home, in our family and among our friendship group is totally dependent on our right words, or our bible understanding or our obedience to God or our openness to the Spirit or our right moral witness…..

All these things are part of our calling to “Go” but it is not all dependent on us. The Spirit of God is way ahead of us, working in ways we don’t need to know about. He just is working because he just is on a mission – the “Missio Dei”. He is the director of the show and the power of the Word he’s given to humanity.

EG. How often have you thought that a person you know of would have no understanding or connection to God or the Church or faith, only to find out in one of these “chance” conversations that this person understands quite a bit about these things, or has a spiritual side you never would have picked?

I find this all the time among blokes my age and young people I have worked with. It would be easy to assume that they have lived in a “no-God zone” all their lives. They swear, they drink, they have relationship troubles, they are in pain, they are lonely, they are all show at times – but they have a searching and longing and even at times some experience of God in their life.

The reality that God is already at work directing his Word to all kinds of people in all kinds of places, as is on show where in this event in Acts, tells me that being a missional church and being a disciple with Jesus on his Mission to seek and love the lost is actually a calling to join God in what he is already doing – not a crushing guilt trip and pressure cooker calling to have to make it all up in our own strength or out of fear of failure.

Friends, we much put aside a view that I have heard a lot at St Petri and in the Barossa since I arrived. “If we don’t do mission we won’t have a church”. If we don’t get the young people back in church, we are all going to die”. “If we don’t change things, there will not be a St Petri….” you get my drift? There is a time for these kinds of things to be aauid. They are a reality check and they joly into thinking about our mission, but there are other things to say now too.

I can’t see Phillip, or Luke or Paul or John or any of the other biblical disciples and evangelists being too concerned with this kind of fear driven thinking at all. I can’t see it here with Phillip, can you?

All I see from Phillip is “Going”. All I see in Phillip is “knowing” – he knows the word and he knows Jesus. He just shares what he knows, not what he doesn’t know.

Our motivation for being a missional community is not fear and guilt of what we don’t or cannot do. Our motivation for being a missional community is the Holy Spirit’s gift of going and knowing. He says, “Go” in his word and in our worship life as we receive that blessing and sending at the end of our worship and he lets us know of Jesus in the word we hear and share together and alone. So we go and we know.

With our calling to share Jesus love and hope with everyone by going and sharing our knowing, the message here from the Spirit is that do what do and be who we are not knowing where the road ends, the conversations ends or the results come.

I don’t see Phillip even waiting around long enough to check the score on his work. As the Spirit takes him away to another encounter way up further north in Azotus and Caesarea, he does not seem to have much idea of what will happen tomorrow, let alone in a week’s time. Neither do we. Nor do we have to.

We follow the Spirit’s prompting – not knowing where it will lead or take us or the person involved. Phillip just “started out….” That’s how we approach our task as the Spirit’s ambassadors of reconciliation and hope among our acquaintances and family. We just “start out” on the Spirit’s directions. We go. We listen. We watch: We go with what we know, without worrying about what will happen, what the results are and what the future will be.

Our lives in God are always about trust. We trust him as we go to our day at school, our day at work, our day at church, our day at netball, footy and everywhere else we go. We go with what we know, and we know him and his forgiveness and hope.

As we go with what we know, then the Spirit will do a “Phillip” on us for sure. There will be an African man in a chariot with royal robes on and Isaiah the prophet in hand at netball this week!

There do come those moments when a thought on God is shared, a question about church, faith, religion, forgiveness, etc… Come in a conversation. Take that as the Directors prompt to step up into the carriage and listen to that person. This is what Phillip did very well it seems. When the moment came, he simple asked a question of the searcher.

“Do you understand your searching? Do you get what you have been hearing from God?”

“Not quite”, comes the response to an honest question. “How can I understand what has been happening, what I have experienced, what I am hearing unless someone guides me?”

What a great invitation to share what you know. Not always the case, so when this good ones comes, we Go, pronto!

 “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]

Here’s what I might do in the carriage…

  • This old prophet is telling of something he knew would have to happen but never saw it with his own eyes. But many did. Jesus of Nazareth was like an innocent Lamb to the slaughter……..
  • He went to his underserved death without protesting or trying to justify himself, even though he could have easily escaped the pain and death.
  • He says he did this for his enemies – us – you….
  • Everyone is incomplete, rebellious against their Creator God, broken, in need of forgiveness and love from God.
  • Jesus’ life was taken but he came back to life – There is no one else like him, way truth and life…
  • You could learn more and understand him more at St Petri. There is this amazing gift of God called baptism……..

In doing this I would be going and knowing – Going with what I know, so far.

And here is the trust factor. My going and with what I already know will be enough. That’s where we trust this Word from the Spirit about Phillip. If the Spirit directs us he will give us enough for the encounter. The Spirit will take my words and make them count.

 As Jesus promises to his mission team “…. do not worry about what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at the time what you should say” (Luke 12:11b-12)

The Spirit seeks our committment to simple “make a start” and then promises (and then only – not before!) “theach us what to say” – in the moment and not before.

Friends, we are a community of the Spirit and he is the Director. He “gathers, calls, enlightens and makes holy, the church day by day (Luther’s Small Catechism, 23rd Article of the Apostle’s Creed). The Spirit is already at work in your non-church friends. He is at work with your acquaintances, friends and family hurt by the church, alienated from another person, unsure of their life’s direction, grieving, angry, alone….. The Spirit was in the carriage long before he gets Phillip to jump into the conversation.

But The Spirit chose to use Phillip’s going and knowing to get this searcher into the community of the baptised – the holy people of God in the world – in mission to bring in more. He chooses to use our words and actions and directs the conversations. We need to simply “Go with what we already know and join the Spirit in his show – Missio Dei. The Mission of God.

Better be ready this week. You might need to jump into the carriage too…