Friday, March 24, 2017

The Three Musketeers - Father, Son and Holy Spirit

There was once a teacher who was teaching first grade in a large elementary school. One morning all of the teachers were called to the staff room for an emergency meeting, and they hurried over, leaving their classes unsupervised. All of the teachers were worried, but none more so than this particular teacher, because her class was especially mischievous and unruly.
When they got to the staff room, the teacher decided to listen in and find out what was going on in her classroom. She turned on the intercom, and sure enough her room was in chaos. Children were yelling, jumping and throwing things. But one little voice stood out above the others. The teacher recognized the voice. She picked up the intercom and in her sternest voice said, "Elizabeth, sit down!"
Immediately, the room fell silent. After a few seconds, a small humble voice answered meekly, "Okay, God"
I'd like to jog your memories for a few moments. Most of you, especially the older members of this congregation, may remember the TV series "Perry Mason" or perhaps you've read some of the Perry Mason novels that were written by Erle Stanley Gardner. If you are closer to my age, you may remember the Perry Mason made-for-TV movies that came out in the 1980s. In any event, from September of 1957 to October of 1966, Perry Mason tried 270 murder cases on television, and more in the novels and made-for-TV movies, and only lost two of them AT FIRST GLANCE. In both of those two cases, he came through with new information and at the last moment reversed the verdict and cleared his client. The mere mention of his name struck the fear of God into the hearts of any prosecutor. Well folks, there IS one prosecutor that even Perry Mason cannot beat, and that is the Holy Spirit.
Today, as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, we can think of the Trinity as a courtroom. God is the judge, the Holy Spirit is the prosecutor, and Jesus is our defense lawyer. When the prosecutor, the Holy Spirit, presents his case, no one will have any defense on their own; however, everyone can have a defense because Jesus Christ has offered to take any case for free if he is allowed to, because he has already paid the ultimate price for our defense. If he is not allowed to take our case, and the verdict of "guilty' rings out for all eternity, every defendant will acknowledge it is true, and the entire world will know it. To me, this analogy is accurate but harsh. I prefer to think of the Trinity in terms of mediation in a dispute. God is the mediator/arbiter, Jesus represents our side of the dispute, and the Holy Spirit represents the other side.
The concept of the Trinity is a difficult concept for us to grasp, and part of this problem lies in how it is presented in John's Gospel. John wrote his Gospel for an audience that was primarily Greek. The Greeks were leaders in science, thought and philosophy. In other words, Greek society was very intelligent and highly sophisticated, especially in terms of understanding abstract concepts. This is one reason why John's Gospel is very theological in nature.
Trinitarian Theology is complicated for a reason. The very complications of the Trinity are designed to bring us closer to God. There is something we need to know. We don't know everything about God, but we know everything about Him that we need to know. The Scriptures assure us of that. We do not have to understand everything, spiritual or non-spiritual the minute we become adults and that includes the Trinity. We know enough to save us. God pours out grace upon us, in abundance and consistently, whether we realize it or not. The Holy Spirit helps us and the Church to understand all of what Jesus said, especially what he said about God.
The Trinity is one of the most fascinating aspects of Christian theology, but it is also one of the most controversial. It is a mystery to us because it is a reality that is above our human ability to understand things. We can begin to grasp it on our own, but we must really discover it through worship, symbol and faith. In essence, the trinity is the belief that God is one in essence, but distinct in person. In other words, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are somehow distinct from one another, yet at the same time they are completely united in essence, will and tasks.
The Trinity is a mystery, but this does not mean a riddle. Instead, the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol and faith. In order to understand it, we must live in the light of its implications for our human lives. The relationship that exists among the three divine persons suggests to us that we can know God through our relationships---not only in God's relationship to us, but to the entire created world.
In spite of its abstract, theological nature, John's Gospel has an ordinary, down-to-earth purpose; namely, to lead people to Christ. John did not believe that "truth' consisted of what he had written or that it could be found only in the Scriptures. He was speaking of spiritual truth rather than the philosophical, historical or scientific truth which has enveloped the world since the Age of Enlightenment over three hundred years ago. He gave us a method of determining that is spiritually true and what is not. The fundamental criterion of truth for the church is that it must always witness to Christ and reveal God's purpose that love shall be of first importance in all relationships throughout the whole of creation.
In today's Gospel reading, Jesus is setting the stage for his upcoming death, resurrection and ascension. The disciples are understandably quite terrified. Their lives are about to take a dramatic turn. They are quite concerned about the future. How would they continue to do his work without his presence and guidance?
That was a valid question, and it is the same question many Christians have today. How are we going to do Christ's work in our society? How are we to care for the less fortunate and spread the Good News? Fortunately for both us and the disciples, Jesus had an answer. He promised to send another advocate or helper-the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would not be bound by Jesus' limitations of time and space. Whereas Jesus could only travel slowly and teach those within the sound of his voice, the Holy Spirit could be present anywhere and everywhere-throughout the world and throughout history.
Jesus knew that his disciples could not face the reality of his death and resurrection or the reality of their own persecutions for doing his work. They were too weak at that time to face that reality. It would be the job of the Holy Spirit to guide them and strengthen them for the challenges they would face. Many of us face the same concerns today. We often feel that we are too weak to do God's work on our own, and in fact we ARE weak. We cannot do it alone. We need the teachings and the strengthening power that the Holy Spirit provides.
The Spirit will guide us in our life's journey. It will be the still, small voice inside of us that says either "Don't do that!" or "Go for it! " He will guide us in the right direction like a built-in compass. How many coincidences in life are eventually understood to be considerably beyond the level of "chance in the long run? Perhaps there have been times in our lives when, for just a fleeting moment, we have been overtaken in some circumstance by the urge to acknowledge "something"-something which had caused an impossible situation to take a turn for a better...just when our finely laid calculations and finely made plans were at the point of collapse. Something happened. A new direction, a difference perspective, another alternative emerged from the confusion. Some call it intuition or inspired genius or coincidence. Others call it the promise Jesus made to us; namely, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells us that the Spirit will lead us into the truth. The Spirit will speak with the authority of God, telling us what God is thinking. The Spirit will give Jesus glory because he will translate what Jesus has to say to us. He will tell us what to do and what to say when we are doing God's work. The Spirit can do this because it is not an "it". He is a person with knowledge, a will, a mind and affections. You can lie to him, insult him and grieve him. He is not am impersonal force. He is not Popeye's spinach or a surfer's wave. He is God within you to help you. In fact, John calls him the Helper. He never leaves us. He comforts the saved, convicts the lost and conveys the truth.
The Holy Spirit is the force that gives us energy, but it comes to a group and not to individuals. All we have to do is remember the story of Pentecost that we heard last week, where the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with tongues and fire and gave them the ability to speak in different languages to see that this is the case. The only way we can get the same energy other than by studying God's Word in the Bible is by associating with fellow believers. The energy that we get from fellow believers is actually the Holy Spirit coming to us. In his Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury encourages Anglicans to pray for renewal in the Spirit and focus on the priority of mission, so that "we may indeed do what God asks of us and let all people know that new and forgiven life in Christ is possible"
The great evangelist D.L. Moody once planned to have a campaign in England. An elderly pastor protested, "Why do we need this 'Mr. Moody'? He's uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?" A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, "No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody".
Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, "How can I get the air out of this glass?" One man shouted, "Suck it out with a pump!" moody replied, "That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass." After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. "There," he said, "all the air is now removed." He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by "sucking out a sin here and there," but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
In every area of our inadequacy, the Holy Spirit encourages us to meet our needs in a way that honours God. He leads us to salvation, regenerates us, convicts us of our sinfulness, teaches us to live for Christ, and seals us for redemption. The Holy Spirit does not deal with the symptoms of a problem. He deals with the cause, just like a doctor treats the cause of human illnesses and not just the symptoms. Sins are just the symptoms. Sin is the problem. Sins are the fruit of our problem; sin is the root of the problem. The Spirit equips us and empowers us to accomplish everything that God calls us to do. The Holy Spirit's role is to glorify Christ not in his own person, in the view of estimation of men. He serves as an intermediary between Jesus and the church. He is also the continuing presence of Jesus, who brings the power and word of Jesus to bear on our lives.
The Spirit breathes upon our lives in many ways. It is the Spirit who calls us to various Christian ministries, whether it be ordained ministry, lay ministry, reading Scripture during worship services, or even just the way we lead our lives. The Spirit even leads us to teach others in our lives about Christ.
Our world can be confusing. That's why John 16:13 attracts believers. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth..." If there is one thing we need today, it is to be led by the Spirit of truth. The Spirit will guide us to remember the truth, reproduce the truth and receive the truth. It will help us to find the truth, act upon the truth, and speak the truth. In order to do so, we have to find him. We find him by:
1. Acknowledging his leadership.
2. Asking for his leadership.
3. Accepting his leadership.
The Spirit works with us to guide us closer to God in faith and helps us to do his work in the world. In this way, the Holy Spirit acts as our helper. He lives inside us and knows us even better than we know ourselves. He works 24 hours a day 7 days a week to enable us to be the person God wants us to be AND to help us grow in the likeness of Christ. There is no problem that he can't handle. He will help us get through our troubles and will also use our burdens to teach us about God's love, power and wisdom.
The Spirit will also guide the church as it wrestles with issues such as homosexuals in the church, abortion, war, and capital punishment. Jesus did not speak directly on these issues, so we need the Spirit's guidance. He does this by giving us the answer to these two questions:
1. What would Jesus do in these circumstances?
2. What would Jesus want us to do?
If it points to the need for change, the Spirit will help us to facilitate change and flow with change. It uses our experiences and those of others to teach us, and it reveals to us the truth we need to live our lives.

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