Tag Archive | Holy Spirit

Finding Our Way in Life

John 17:11-15

Do you enjoy working puzzles? I do. One kind of puzzle I like is called a “maze”. You each have a copy of a maze and here is a big one like you have (put maze on easel).

You may have worked a maze puzzle before, but to solve the puzzle, you take your pencil and begin where it says, “start” here (put pen on START) and try to find an open path in the puzzle that will lead you all the way to the picture of Jesus. The trick is you are not allowed to cross over any lines! Of course, you aren’t allowed to cross over any lines. That would be cheating! A maze puzzle like this can be very difficult. Sometimes it can make you very upset! Traveling through this maze, you will often have to change the direction you are going. For instance, you may find that the path you have chosen leads to a dead end – like this (show a dead end on maze on easel). When this happens, you just have to back up and start again. When the puzzle gets too difficult, you may need someone to help you, like your dad or mom. Even though finding the right path that leads to the finish may be difficult, still you will feel great when you finally reach the goal!

Growing up and making your way through life is usually a lot like finding your way through a maze. Almost every day you have to make important choices and decisions and it is sometimes difficult to know what do – which way to go – which choice to make – who you want to be friends with. Shall I put off my homework? Do I help at home with the chores? Can I ignore someone who says hurtful things about me, or fight back? Worse even – should I take up for a classmate who is being bullied or hurt – or pretend not to see? Shall I play football? Join the band? Can I say ‘no’ if people try to get me to do something I know is wrong? Sometimes we may make a bad choice – choose the wrong path, and end up at a dead end.

When that happens, we have to back up and start over again. Maybe apologize for our mistake or pay the consequences for not doing our chores or homework. Life isn’t easy and it can sometimes be very frustrating when we don’t know which way to turn.

Jesus knew that growing up and living life in this world is difficult – remember he was once a boy, too. That is why he prayed to God for his disciples when he knew that the time had come for him to leave this world.

And he prayed for us too, in this prayer:

“I am about to come to you, but my children will still be here in this world. Protect them, Father, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one. Protect them from whoever wants to hurt them.” (John 17:11-15)

Think about that – Jesus is asking God to watch after us – you and me – as we grow up and make our way in the world. This is pretty fantastic, isn’t it?

So, how do we find our way in this world?

We put our trust in God, our Creator, to show us the way, as Jesus ask God to do. We have his Word, the Bible, to help us. And we also have our parents and teachers and loved ones to help us. Today is Mother’s Day, when we say a special ‘thank you’ for our mothers and all they do for us (so don’t forget to tell your mother “thank you” and that you love her!)

Any time we don’t know which way to turn, we can also talk to God in prayer and ask God to guide and protect us. It may not be easy, but with the Creator of the universe leading the way, we know that we will never get lost. We will find our way through the mazes of life and always arrive safely home!

Let us pray:

Dear God, as we search for the path that will lead us safely through this world, we place our trust in you and ask for your guidance and protection. And we thank you for our mothers and fathers, and all those who help show us the way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
[1] Adapted from ‘Maze Puzzle’, Sermons4Kids.com

Delivered at Formation Eucharist, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 May 2018

Jesus Prays for Us!

John 17:6-19

Eternal and ever blessed God, grant this day light to the minds that hunger for truth, and peace to the hearts that yearn for rest. Grant strength to those who have hard tasks to do, and power to those who have temptations to face. Grant unto all within this place the ability to find the secret of your presence, and to go forth from here in the strength of the Lord. Amen.

Today we celebrate two important and seemingly very different things – one – Mother’s Day – is a secular sort of “made up” holiday that indeed fulfills a wonderful purpose: to remember, honor and thank our mothers, whether alive or not, whether biological or not – that woman or those women who love, nurture, and guide us through life – often from our first breath of air.

The second is a truly sacred day – Ascension Day – the day we mark Jesus’ ascension from earth to be with God – after he appeared several times to his disciples following his resurrection. After Ascension Day, no one sees Jesus again, but in his loving prayer in the gospel today, he asks God to be with us and protect us – to show us the way – and so God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and minds – if we will but seek it and listen.

Much of what we human beings experience involves our emotions. Whether we like it or not, we respond to everything emotionally. Our emotions are involved when we experience love, hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, jealousy, depression, happiness, joy. The most important growing experiences that we will encounter as we travel along the journey we call life, are emotional experiences and feelings. Certainly, they affect our mind and body, but they really reside in our spirit: that part of us that we Christians believe is eternal and connects to other spirits – and to the Holy Spirit of God. Our minds cannot fully comprehend the spiritual depth and breadth of our lives, for it is woven into our very nature – and we believe it is that part of us that exists before and after our life on earth.

The Gospel of John, from which today’s reading comes, is very different from the other three gospels. Written some sixty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection, it is less a narrative and more philosophical; in many ways, it seeks to summarize all of Jesus’ teachings and work. In John, after washing their feet and sharing the Passover feast with his disciples, Jesus began a long series of sermons, known as the ‘final discourses’. In them, he reiterates again and again that God is love (1 John 4:8), and we are to love and serve one another (John 13:34-35); that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5); and that we are to draw nourishment and direction from his teachings and examples.

Jesus reminds us that if we follow him, we cannot be ‘of this world’. If the world hates us, hurts us, demeans and wounds us, we must know it hated him first, and that we are part of a different kingdom – God’s Kingdom. Following these discourses, Jesus prayed. In the other gospels Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we are told he prayed for strength for what he knew lay ahead. In John, however, this prayer, which we read today, is almost entirely for us – his disciples, for those he loved then and for those he loves today – you and me!

In the discourses, he promised the disciples that God would send them a companion – the spirit of truth – to guide and protect them, and so in this final prayer, he fervently asks God to do this.

He prayed, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they kept your word. Now they know everything you have given me is from you; of the world that you gave to me I have given to them, and they received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours and yours are mine; and I have glorified them.” (John 17:6-11)

Jesus continued to pray for the protection and unity of his followers, but then his prayer shifted to praying for all of his followers in times to come.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)

In the years following Jesus’ death and ascension, his disciples would endure difficult and painful days as they spread his word throughout the known civilized world. They would be imprisoned, tortured and beaten, murdered; they would be alone and reviled. But we can only believe that the power of ‘the Companion of Truth’ that God sent – the Holy Spirit – was so strongly with them, so vibrant and clear, that they all endured, prevailed, and made sure that the work of Jesus of Nazareth changed the world forever.

We are all well aware that our world today is far from the Kingdom of God, but with all its flaws, it is closer to that Kingdom than it was 2000 years ago. Here we are, followers of Jesus, still facing difficult journeys of life, still encountering hate, deception, greed and consumerism, lust and depravity, violence and war, poverty and despair, addictions and destroyers, evil things and evil doings, just as Jesus acknowledged we would in his prayer. Each of us carries, in some way, the marks and scars of battling our way from birth to death in this world.

But, we, too, still have the Companion, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, the God of love which protects and guides us, and we reach The Companion through our spirits, usually through our emotions. I have come to realize that what one truly feels in their heart is more real, more true, than most things we can study or read. We can use prayer, meditation, intuition, dreams, sudden ‘ah ha’ moments. All of these can reveal the Holy Spirit, can speak to us, guide our ways, just as we are taught in Matthew:

seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you”. (Matthew 7:7)

This, and this alone, gives us the strength and clarity of vision to not be of this world – to turn the other cheek, to walk away from conflict, to be the Samaritan who crosses the road to help and serve others in need, to face pain, illness and suffering with hope; to return hate with love, lies with truth, deception with reality, vengeance with forgiveness, and evil with goodness and love.

In short, our work is in this world. Jesus left physically, but we remain. What he began, we must seek to carry on. And Jesus left us the Holy Spirit, or Companion Protector so we may care for and serve others, love and forgive our brothers and sisters. We are promised no hedge, no short cuts, no escape routes, no end to the battle until we at last cross the River of Death to enter, once again, Eternity – and realize Death is not the victor. We are here, and we must stay here for a time to do his work.

Ultimately, we will always find the sheltering arms of God protecting us. Life is not easy, and if it is, we are probably not doing our jobs. But the reward is great and the Truth and Love of God will keep us strong!

So, take a minute today to look ahead to the coming week; read the prayer that Jesus prayed in John. Focus on how Jesus makes us holy for the sake of oneness with our fellow believers, and gives us courage along the journey, no matter how difficult the path. Ask yourself how God might use you to bring love to our broken, hurting world. How can God use you to transform the pain and darkness of our earthly life and turn it into the promise of resurrection and new life for others, as well as ourselves? Consider how Jesus guides you through his Holy Spirit, when you feel lost; don’t shut out your deepest emotions and feelings, – listen to them! Remember that Jesus prayed for and prepared a way for his disciples, and that includes us!

God answered that prayer then, and does so now!

Jesus’way is

‘the way, the truth, and the life”. (John 14:6)

Let us all seek to follow him.

Let us pray:

“Holy Father, keep us in your name … that we may be one … Sanctify us with the truth of your words. As you sent Christ into the world, so send us into the world, consecrated in truth, armed with your protection and love, and the good news of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Help us to turn our lives toward bringing the fullness of God’s Kingdom to all, sustained by the hopes and belief that when we reach the end of our lives, there will be no fear, no sadness, but real joy as we hear your trumpet sounding for us on the other side. Amen.

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 May 2018

Receive the Holy Spirit

Easter is over, but Jesus has not yet ascended to be with God. But the disciples know that He will be leaving them soon; He had told them that and they were afraid. He had been their teacher and guide; now he would not be there to tell them what to do.

And just as happened after the crucifixion, the disciples were locked inside a room, afraid of the Jews and even their own shadows. But we hear in the gospel of John:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

First, Jesus reassured the disciples saying:

“Peace be with you” (John 20:19)

He wanted them to know that everything was going to be alright; they were to go about teaching, preaching, and healing as He had taught them. We know from other passages in the Bible, that the disciples were not sure they could do what He has instructed them to do (Matthew 17:16-19). They did not believe they had the power. Then He blew on them and gave them, and us, the greatest gift of all: the Holy Spirit.

But what is the ‘Holy Spirit’? The Holy Spirit is, an energy, a power, that little voice we sometimes hear in our head when we are troubled or questioning what we should be doing. It has to be experienced, acknowledged, and kindled from within us like a holy fire. It is a guiding light, leading us in the way we should go to follow the teachings of Jesus. It is a spiritual light – not one we can actually see, but one that lives within us. . . we can feel it, but not see it. Saint Paul tells us

that God’s Holy Spirit is a mark of God’s ownership of us.” (Ephesians 4:30)

Each one of us belong to God; we are one of His beloved children. And to help us through life, through Jesus, we have received the ‘Holy Spirit’.

We experience the Holy Spirit at various times in our lives – often when we are troubled or depressed or at the lowest points in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that comes and shows us what is real, not what we suppose or imagine, but what is ‘real’ in the situation we are in. The Holy Spirit is very important because it comforts and guides us so we can get through dark nights of doubt and despair. Although we may not identify it, the Holy Spirit comes into the lives of each one of us. Jesus promised he would send up an advocate, and the Holy Spirit is that reassuring force.

The Holy Spirit is there to remind us that God has told us He will never desert us. In the depths of the darkness or despair, never doubt or forget that. Remember that the resurrection of Jesus is real; Jesus said He would

go and prepare a place for each of us” (John 14:2-3)

and He has. When our time comes, we will join Jesus in eternal life.

If we just listen, we can be led by the Holy Spirit to do the things God has planned for us. It can be a guide, a counselor, advising us how to follow Jesus. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit will comfort us when we’re hurting, saying.

I will not leave you as orphans,” (John 14:18),

promising that the

the Spirit will bring us peace” (John 14:27).

But the Holy Spirit can’t do all the work for us. We are still responsible for doing our part—asking the Holy Spirit to show us the truth and teach us how to live. All we have to do is let the Holy Spirit enter our lives. Just listen to that small voice to follow the teachings of Jesus and have eternal life.

Let us pray:

Spirit of the Mighty, Gentle One, come upon me, anoint me.

I see the oppressed. I name them; I hold them close. Make my life into good news for them.

I see the brokenhearted. I name them; I hold them close. Give me gentle grace to bind up their hearts.

I see the imprisoned. I name them; I hold them close. Give me true words and deeds to release them.

I see the ruined cities. I name them; I hold them close. Make me a part of their building up.

Spirit of God, be upon me. I see my own ruins, my chains. Hold me close and set me free, that I may be your good news for others.[1]

[1]      Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, ‘Spirit, be upon me’, Unfolding Light

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 4 June 2017

Filled With The Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

 God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both.

 And whoever calls out for help to me, will be saved. (Acts 2:1-4, 6-8, 17-18, 21)

Imagine what it must have been like – you are standing in a crowd of people in Jerusalem, maybe at a festival or community meeting. People jostling each other, everyone in a festive mood. Can you hear the din of everyone speaking at the same time? Friends talking about people they know, strangers getting to know each other, vendors hawking their wares. Imagine the noise – and that everyone could understand what everyone else was saying.

Suddenly there is a rush of wind – – like a train rolling by, with dust swirling and people shielding their eyes and running for cover. And then – what appears over the top of their heads, but a tongue of flames! If they weren’t already scared, this certainly did it! Can you imagine the look of their faces when they saw flames sitting on the top of their friends’ heads?

Those flames over their heads were the Holy Spirit descending upon them. . . filling them with the love and protection of God. The same Holy Spirit that fills each one of us as we try daily to live according to God’s commandments.

And if that wasn’t enough, suddenly everyone started talking in different languages! People who were uneducated and never exposed to another language were suddenly talking fluently in a language they didn’t even know! But it was a language that someone else in the crowd understood.

Language is an interesting thing. It can bring us together or it can divide us.

When I first moved to the South, I heard a word I didn’t recognize. The word was “ratcheer.” I heard it many times before I finally figured out what it meant. For example, when Juliet calls down, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Romeo responds, “Why I’m ratcheer in the bushes.”

If we could all speak the same language with the same accent perhaps there would be no hatred and wars. I don’t know.

All I know is that the miracle of Pentecost sends us a message we need to hear: concentrate on the language that unites us despite all worldly differences . . . the language of the Spirit of God. We all want to have God in our hearts. We all live with the Holy Spirit within us and among us. We all are in community and God wants us to know it and to live it. God wants us to be in community with all its nurturing gifts and its call for us to minister to one another.

The miracle I referred to a moment ago took place on the day known as Pentecost—which literally means “fiftieth”. It was the ancient “feast of harvest,” “the day of the first fruits.” held on the fiftieth day after Passover. The purpose of this feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest. It was on this high holy Jewish holiday in the City of Jerusalem, 2000 years ago, that peoples of all nations gathered to worship and celebrate. People from many countries, cities and towns were doing that when suddenly they all started speaking in various tongues. Yet everyone present was able to understand what was said all around them. They understood it in their own native language.

This miracle occurred as the Gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the Church, and the community that is made possible by This Holy Spirit. This agape or love-based community lives and empowers us to care about others and to minister and to empower each other, from that day to this very minute.

The Holy Spirit is in us and in the world, linking us one to another. We are in community with everyone in the world who worships God, who seeks faith, who believes that good is better than evil. The word community comes from the same root that gives us the word communication, and the word Communion. We are all part of one another.

This one-ness applies to the whole world and to the small piece of the world such as the community of In The Garden. What one of us does or does not do has its impact on the whole. What one of us receives or does not receive has its impact on the whole. When one is forgiven the entire community is healthier in spirit. When we as a community forgive, each of us is freer.

So we live in community, even when we go off by ourselves. To be in relationship with God is to be in relationship with every person who is also in relationship with God. We do not need to speak the same language or have the same accent to be in true community; we have only to realize that we are all part of God, and remember that as we live and relate to each other.

Because we have the Holy Spirit as our guide, we can call upon it when we are in trouble or distressed. The Holy Spirit is always with us. And as we heard in the last line of the reading, because we call out to the Holy Spirit, we will be saved!

Let us pray:

Almighty God, thank you for the coming of your Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Thank you for sending your Spirit to us. Thank you for your abiding presence within us and assurance through your indwelling Spirit. Help us to see the Holy Spirit in everyone we meet. In Jesus’ name we praise you! Amen.


Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 15 May 2016