Getting Ready For Sunday by Paige Hanks

May 15, 2016

Pentecost

John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever."

On the first day of school in kindergarten classes all around the country, teachers read the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This picture book tells of a young raccoon who is apprehensive about leaving his mother for the first day of school. He would rather stay in the comfort of his mother’s presence forever. She kisses his hand and explains she will always be with him, and that kiss acts to remind the raccoon of the gift of his mother, helping him feel her presence even when he is physically away from her. This book is read by teachers to their students on the first day of school to help encourage and give them strength as they go out in the world to begin their formal learning journey.

The readings for Pentecost remind all Christians that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit with us forever. In the Gospel reading from John, the disciple named Philip tells Jesus that he wants to see the Father because he doesn’t fully grasp the divinity of Christ himself. Jesus goes on to explain that he will be leaving to be with the Father, and that God will provide an Advocate to be with us forever. Jesus reminds them to keep the commandments and do even greater works for the glorification of God and with the Holy Spirit abiding within them and therefore in us all.

What does it mean to have an advocate in the Holy Spirit? Another way to translate the word advocate is as a companion or helper, making the Holy Spirit an ever present guide in our lives. As followers of Christ, this means that we are not alone as we go about our daily lives. Philip didn’t really understand God when he asked Jesus to show him the Father, and the same is true for us today. How can we fully comprehend that which is divine when we are only humans? Although our revelation may be limited by our humanity, we can see the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. As we face the challenges that come our way, our faith in God can give us strength that can only be understood as divine, since we would never be able to overcome those challenges on our own. That evidence points to God’s promise to be with us as Jesus said to the disciples that day.

This text also speaks of the great works we will do, with Jesus using his own works as a model for us and as a way to show his divinity with God. Imagine if our own works showed our creaturely relationship with God as well! With the companionship and help from the indwelling Holy Spirit, our helping actions toward our neighbors, the poor, the marginalized, the neediest among us, will point directly to our God. The restoration of the Kingdom of God demands these works from us, and the Holy Spirit is in our midst to make it happen. We just have to seize the opportunity.

The words of the first verse of Hymn 516 in our Hymnal say it best:

Come down, O love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

May we know God’s presence in our lives as more than just a kiss on the hand, and may we call upon the Holy Spirit to work in us to serve God in the world. Kindle in us the fire of your love!

Posted by Paige Hanks with

Getting Ready for Sunday: By the Rev. Leslie Stewart

“I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

Do you hear him? He prays for us? We’re listening to Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples, and for us, just before he is betrayed and arrested. It is his prayer before he leaves them, and in it he spreads and extends the circle of belonging like concentric circles to include those who will believe through their word (us), and to the world. Verse 23 states, “so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John’s Gospel is clear in its purpose that these things are written so that those who contemplate these stories will believe, and that belief will lead to life. What kind of life? Life in his name. Our passage points to what it means to have life in his name.

The key themes are unity, glory, a place with Jesus, and a mysterious gravity around a name. That name is the very nature of God. In the Old Testament, to know someone’s name was to have some kind of power over them or to share intimacy in relationship with that person. When Moses first asked God’s name at the theophany of the burning bush, the reply was, “I am who I am” or “I am who I will be.” The unpronounceable Jewish name for God (YHWH) implies God is beyond our knowing or control.

However, our passage is in conversation with Exodus 33 and 34, a section of the Old Testament sharing the same themes: unity with God - the renewed covenant takes place after Moses’ encounter with God from the cleft of the rock; glory – implying God’s presence, a place with God – where Moses will lead them, and the revelation of the name which brings intimate knowledge of God’s nature.

Moses prayed, “…show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight (vs 13).” And then even bolder, “Show me your glory” (vs 18). And the LORD told Moses he would pass by and declare his name, “The LORD.” But when the LORD passed before him he proclaimed his name and nature: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (34:6-7).

To know the name of God is to know his nature and his ways. Now we can understand the significance of Jesus praying “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” God himself has passed by, and as John put it in the prologue, “Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14).

Jesus’ final prayer reveals this name that does more than just make the Father known. Living life in his name means we are drawn into the orbit of divine love and union between the Father and Son, which extends to us through the Holy Spirit. Knowing the name leads to mystical union, an intimate and life-giving relationship drawing all creation into Trinitarian love at the heart of all things. It is God’s very life – Love.

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.