The Psalmist said, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humanity that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Pray with me: “Almighty and gracious God, do not leave us without revealing your full will to us. Keep speaking to us, keep showing us your glory, keep changing us for the better period keep telling us the truth, even when it may hurt us to hear it. Keep believing in us so that we might believe in ourselves. Keep calling us so that we might come forth and be the faithful, lively, courageous followers that you deserve. Do not leave us, continue to be with us, this is our prayer in the name of your son Christ Jesus, and we say, Amen.”
In today’s passage in John, Jesus gives us a promise of the continuing, unfolding revelation of God in Jesus Christ. A promise that eventually we will understand the nature and nearness of God through reflection on our own experience and that we will also understand the evidence of God’s presence and activity in our world as well as in the biblical record. A promise that through the revealing, by the Spirit, we will increasingly become the reflection of God showing forth the love and light of God as we have come and continue to know God more completely.
Jesus says in his farewell address to the disciples that he will give to us the “Spirit of truth” who will continue to reveal the significance of Jesus for us. The Holy Spirit reveals the Son who is the revelation of the Creator. In Jesus Christ we have seen the fullness of God – but not all at once. For “there is still yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s word.” It is not that there is new, brand new, esoteric, secret knowledge that was not or could not be declared to the disciples rather it is the unfolding of the grand significance of Christ. Christ is the fullness of God’s self-disclosure. There are things about Christ teachings that are still being revealed to us. I do not know about you but there are things that happened during Jesus’ time here on earth that I do not understand. I believe and I accept but I do not understand. As I continue to live and experience life some things become clearer. The Spirit continues to teach us, continues to disclose to us the truth of Jesus, finding just the right time and place for us to receive such teaching. Discipleship is, as all of the gospels depict it to be, a journey, a pilgrimage in which we who follow the Christ learn more about Christ as the journey continues. The truth of Jesus is too large and grand to be mastered in a moment. We must be ready for insights that are fresh and new to us, though as ancient as Creation, for the work of the Spirit of Truth continues among us. God is not done with us yet, there is still more to come. There are still more wonderful new insights, new mysteries, and revelations to come. Things that you have not encountered yet.
A friend recounted a spiritual encounter that she had had. She started her remembrance with her mother dying when she was 8 years old. After she had finished school, graduated from college, was working, got married, divorced, and then moved back home to take care of her father who had become ill and needed additional care. By her own account she had been blessed. She was in a profoundly serious accident and needed surgery. It was an extremely serious surgery. During the surgery she flatlined and died. She remembers being outside of her body and remembers thinking she did not want to die. As she continued her remembrance, her mother came to her with a paper in her hand with my friend’s name and the date of her surgery written on it. She remembers taking her mothers hand and going with her to heaven and seeing all her relatives that had passed on; grandparents, aunts, cousins, and they were all happy to see her. She was happy to and then she says she paused and looked at her mother and said I cannot go now, I must go back and take care of my father, he needs daily care. She says her mother paused and then released her hand for her to return. Shen then remembers that she was no longer outside of her body. She knows for sure; she knows without a doubt that this happened, that for her this is very real and true.
I have heard and known of others who have had out of body experiences, and you have probably heard of some who have seen a white light at the end of a tunnel. I do not doubt that all these experiences are real for those individuals, however I have not made it to that point on my journey. I do not discount their experiences for they are confident in their telling of it. Their faces shine with the joy of what they have seen, heard, and encountered.
If the Spirit of Truth is busy in our lives, busy in our congregation, busy in our worship, busy unfolding more and more of the great mystery of God maybe this is one of those things we have not known before. Could this be some of the more that Jesus has to say to us that is more than we can now bear? But the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth. Is the Spirit of truth working on us? There are beliefs that are dear to this faith of ours that we have learned over time by coming to worship Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year. It is good that we do not have to figure out everything about Christianity from the very first or many years later. You see our faith is larger than our ability to comprehend. The Spirit of Truth continues to reveal truth to us, continues to prod us, pull us toward a greater, deeper, richer appreciation of the glories of Christ.
I heard the old saints say things like, “the Lord will make a way somehow,” or “may not come when you want but God is always right on time,” or “God always answers prayers,” or “troubles don’t last always,” and I could not understand how they could believe these things. As I grew in my faith, I understood how those cliches had become truisms. An invitation to a meal when my cupboards were bare. A phone call from a sister, saying I put a little something in the mail to you today. Not knowing what the need was or even if there was a need. Just a sense, on her part, that all was not well. Some students coming together to make plans for how we could all get through the struggle of Seminary without breaking down or giving up. Those old saints and their sayings came to the forefront of my mind as I began to go through. I began relying on those sayings and believing that the old saints, even though gone on, were part of the Spirit of Truth that was continuing to reveal and declare things that had already been declared and proclaimed. When I had nothing else to stand on, I stood on the words and the faith of the old saints of the church. Those old saying were coming true for me as they had been true for others for ages.
I know many of you wonder why I open with a reading from the Psalms. It was a few years ago that I discovered how vital the Psalms can be for a deep life of faith. It was as if I began reading and hearing them as if for the first time. They seem to be calling my name, seemed to lay hold of me, embrace me, show me things about God that I had not seen before. Yes, there were a few Psalms that I knew well or so I thought. You know like the 23rd Psalm, 150th Psalm and lines from other Psalms that spoke to me. Now, I see them in a new light. My appreciation and application for them are new. The Spirit of truth continues, there is more to come.
The story I told earlier about my friend says to me as a Christian I am to be willing to grow, to change, to be proved wrong, to be shocked and surprised by the work of the Spirit of truth among us. The more that is revealed, the more that I learn, the more new I see, I recognize the Thomas in me. I believe, Lord help my unbelief. All of us must steadfastly guard against believing as if we have arrived in our faith, as if there is no more growing and converting for us to do, as if the work of the Spirit of truth in us has been accomplished. None of us can master the art of following Jesus. We are all still on the journey and God still has more surprises in store for us.
For us to still be on the journey, for us to still be learning, for us to be part of an ongoing process where the Spirit will be our guide, yet it is not just a process where we learn but rather one where we learn and apply what we have learned. As my friend shared her experience, she was full of energy and enthusiasm. She was creating a deeper relationship with me. As we create a deeper relationship with God through Jesus throughout our journey, we share with enthusiasm that which we have learned in words but more importantly through action. If I love my neighbor as myself then I want my neighbor to have food enough to fill, education available to all, jobs that pay a living wage, accessible and affordable health care, safe and secure living space, weather appropriate and size appropriate clothing, time for enjoyment and entertainment, freedom to live in peace without fear. The Spirit of truth is revealing and proclaiming what we need when we need it. The Spirit knows enough about each of us to not tell us more than we can bear at the moment. The Spirit will wait until just the right time to tell us the truth. We must be ready for insights that are fresh and new to us, though as ancient as Creation, for the work of the Spirit continues among us. There is More. Let us take a moment to reflect on the Spirit of Truth working on us letting us know that God is not done with us yet. Amen and Amen.