New Testament Readings
8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
This week, in the common lectionary, we are still working in the last discourse that Jesus gave after the Last Supper and before he went to the cross…and the importance of the Spirit of God, the very presence of God, that continues to reveal to us the relational nature of God…
Jesus is encouraging the disciples even as Phillip is asking to see the Father. Jesus goes on to remind him, and the others, AGAIN, that he is one with the father. And, that even if the relationship is sometimes unseen, Jesus reminds them of all of the things they have done, and that God has done through him. And, that he believes in them and that they will do even greater things.
I can somewhat relate to this when my grandfather died. We were really close, he believed in me. It’s been 15-20 years since he died, but I still feel his presence. There’s something more. And my grandfather believed through his belief in me, that I would do great things in my life. I feel that sometimes with my own kids…it’s pretty wild. There is a connection that is still there with my grandpa, and with others, and with you…that connection is still felt with Jesus as well.
Now, this presence pales in comparison to what I’ve experienced with Jesus, similar, but with Jesus it’s even more present within my body, within my friendships, and within the space between us. Teilhard calls this the cosmic Christ, that Christ not only lived and walked the earth, but is with us, everywhere with everyone and everything, right now.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that there won’t be any problems in this passage…that life would be perfect and everything is going to be OK. No, he simply promises that he won’t leave us, that he’ll be with us in the midst of life’s throes.
I spend a lot of time checking in with folks who are going through some hard times. Maybe they are sick, or have had a break in a relationship, or are struggling with various issues. I can’t, with integrity, say that their situations will work out, I don’t know. But, I can say that they are not alone, that there is a Presence, a sense of God’s love all around them and I pray for awareness of God’s Presence. I believe that the greatest gift and struggle that we have as Jesus followers, as humans, is the work of becoming of self, others, and God aware. Of moving past our small egos and moving into a global ego, a sense of deep connection with ourselves, others, and God’s movement and shaping.
We are not alone in this work, God is with us, reminding us that we can see God…often in the small things. And to “abide” in God. Abide is a great word. It means to remain, to live, to be present with what is happening.
Jesus gives the pronouncement that he won’t be able to be seen by the world, but his followers will see him as they abide in him through his Presence, the Spirit of God. That’s an interesting thought. We’ve prayed for eyes to see and ears to hear God’s movement in our world. I strongly believe that all of humanity is being shaped and formed by God’s movement, that God is with all of us in the most intimate way. God is closer than the air we breathe. Yet, we don’t often recognize God, or sometimes we even deny that God could even exist. The idea of a loving God can scare us. Love transforms, it changes us. Yet, we are comfortable with what we think we know.
Jesus goes on to say that because he lives, because he loved and continues to love, we will all someday see that we find our being in community, in relationship with God.
This concept of being “in” relationship with God and with others starts with an understanding that God’s very nature is communal relationship. You can go through all sorts of head knowledge of God, but if we go deep within ourselves, whether we are extroverts or introverts, we are wired for relationship. Science affirms this concept, at the very root of how we are formed, with atoms, protons, neutrons, quarks, etc., there is an understanding that energy is created for atoms to form through attraction, through relationship.
Our understanding of God as three in one, as Trinity, gives witness to relationships. God as father, son, holy spirit are so close that they are one. The outcome of their energy together is creating, saving, and sustaining relationship based on love. It is not static, it is dynamic.
This love moves us, gives us energy. We are drawn to it like an atom is drawn together to form something. As a seminary professor at Fuller once told me, we can say no to God, but what if God says no to our no? There is a flow that is creating and shaping us, and that flow is relational, and it is marked by love. We can go on resisting it, or we can obey that desire to love and let it reveal itself to us.
This love may move us towards a personal understanding of God’s love for us, but it also moves us eventually in an evolutionary way towards an understanding that God’s love is for everyone and is not so small minded or ego-centric on just us, but all of us.
As we begin to allow God’s love to pour into us and through us to others, we begin to understand that we are connected to an expansive God. We begin to see faith as not being right, not living in a black and white world, but understanding that living in mystery and curiosity, living in a willingness to let go of our control, our vision, and letting God expand our horizons and understanding of the global Christ project by being locally rooted in community, we begin to experience a deepening of ourselves, a joy in things unseen but lived out.
God’s Spirit is called Advocate, God advocates for us. God has made God’s home with us, and is in our corner. Not in our corner to meet our selfish needs, but to say to us that we are not alone, that God sees a better “us” and is calling us into growth through awareness. This Advocate, this Presence, God’s Spirit, is a counselor for us, reminds us of God’s story with us, and goes with us.
God’s Spirit is a gift, but just like any gift, we need to open it, see it, experience it. A good place to start is to work towards authentic community with others, to honor them, to work towards awareness by slowing down and taking time each day to reflect, pray, journal. By unplugging and going on a retreat to a quiet place.
As we do that, we will begin to see that God is in us, and we find our being in God. This being will move us in ways we don’t always expect. Look at the early disciples that are describe in Acts. They experience the Spirit, it’s like a flame that’s burning, uncontrollable, yet warms them and moves them to change the world. They moved out of their closed doors, they were not afraid, and they found peace in trusting that God’s Spirit was with them and leading them. May it be so for us.