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“Concerning the Work Jesus Left for the Spirit”
John 15:26-27, 16:4-15
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit comes, the Spirit will guide you into all the truth, because the Spirit will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
With those words from today’s gospel lesson, Jesus assigned the Holy Spirit the task of saying more of what Jesus said some of; leaving the Holy Spirit to take up where Jesus left off, and take us farther along the same path Jesus started us on.
That’s how we discern whether what we feel led to do or say is the Holy Spirit, or just the echo chamber of our own fears or desires, politics or opinions. We measure what we think the Holy Spirit is leading us to say or do by how nearly it aligns with what we know of Jesus, because, according to today’s lesson from John, the Spirit will only take us farther along the same path Jesus started us on; the Spirit, saying more of, what Jesus said some of.
Which requires us, of course, to have some knowledge of what Jesus said, and how Jesus lived, when Jesus was here; which most of us learn best by reading the four gospels. To read the four gospels, over and over, across a lifetime, is to develop a clear sense of what mattered most to Jesus, which is how we then recognize the leadership of the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit will only say more of what Jesus said some of.
I think of it as “anchor and sail.” We get ourselves anchored in the words and works of Jesus by reading the four gospels, all the way through, over and over, across a lifetime. And, then, anchored in the gospels, we are ready for the wind of the Spirit to send us sailing, farther along the same path Jesus started us on; the Holy Bible, our anchor, the Holy Spirit, our sail; the Spirit saying more of what Jesus said some of.
Thinking about all that this week took me back to some of the conversations we had with our friends at the Mississippi Baptist Convention back in 2015 and 2016. In my occasional meetings with our friends at the convention office, more than once I said that, while Northminster has as many flaws as any other church, one thing I know for certain is that, to the extent that we long to welcome all persons without regard for human difference, we are being true to the Holy Spirit.
The reason I know that that is so is because the Holy Spirit only says more of what Jesus said some of. And, when you read the four gospels, you see a Jesus who, in Matthew 7:12, said that all the law and the prophets can be summarized in a single saying, “Treat others as you want others to treat you,” and who said, in Matthew 22:34-40, that nothing else in all of scripture matters more than loving God with all that is in us, and loving others as we love ourselves.
According to the four gospels, that is what Jesus said matters most when Jesus was here. So, whenever we actually live that way, we can know, with confidence, that we are walking in the Holy Spirit, whose assignment, according to today’s gospel lesson, was to say more of what Jesus said some of; to lead us farther along the same path Jesus started us on.
That is why, once you get serious about staying open to the Holy Spirit, you will find yourself reaching out to, sitting down with and standing up for the same people Jesus would reach out to, sit down with and stand up for if Jesus was here; because the Holy Spirit’s job is to tell us more of what Jesus told us some of, and to take us even farther along the same path Jesus started us on. So, the more open we stay to the Spirit the more likely we are to live and love as Jesus lived and love
Live that way long enough, intentionally enough, and, eventually, a day will come when you will no longer have to try to live a Spirit filled life. Instead, you will become one of those truly Pentecostal people in whom the human spirit and the Holy Spirit are so seamlessly integrated that no one will any longer be able to tell where one ends and the other begins.