Devotional Message: The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year C (5/26/2019)


Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22--22:5
St. John 14:23-29
St. John 5:1-9 (alternate)

Prayer of the Day

Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

14:23 Jesus answered [Judas (not Iscariot)], “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

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. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”

St. John 14:23-29, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Teaching and REminding”

When I was younger I had friends who spoke often about the influence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They did so with an extraordinary amount of clarity and confidence. The Spirit worked with them in tangible ways, in matters as important as life-threatening illnesses, and as mundane as finding a good parking spot at the mall. It was very black and white for them (a very “binary” way of thinking, as some might say today). And the corollary to that, of course, was that to the degree with which you agreed with their understanding of how the Holy Spirit works you were right, and to the degree with which you disagreed you were wrong.

I often found myself intimidated by that way of thinking. I wasn’t aware that the Holy Spirit had ever touched me in such specific ways. No significant illnesses in my life (or in my circle of family and friends) had ever changed course, and no parking spots had ever mysteriously appeared. I couldn’t always relate to the conclusions they reached about these matters. Honestly, I often feared that their direct access to the Spirit meant they were more likely than I was to be on the right side of the divide, with God and the Saints.

Some of this I attributed to my perception that our Lutheran tradition wasn’t all that interested in the Holy Spirit. We knew about the Trinity, and we reflected on how various teachers tried to explain it to us, but it seemed to have more to do with theory about God than reality about life — I never really connected with it.

Given all this, I was struck when I began to learn about how important the Holy Spirit was to Martin Luther and his colleagues. How they trusted that the Spirit calls to believers through the Word of God, and through the gathered community, and works to keep us faithful even in those times when we cannot do it on our own. Luther once wrote that the Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common faith.” [Small Catechism; Apostles’ Creed]

Luther was reflecting, of course, on passages like this morning’s Gospel. During his farewell discourse at the last supper in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus is seeking to reassure his disciples that when he leaves them (which he soon will do), they will not be left alone. Instead, the Holy Spirit will enter into their lives and, “will teach them everything, and remind them of all that he said to them.” Eventually, they came to believe this, and their trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit empowered the early church to hold on to their faith, and provide a compelling witness to the world, even in the face of significant opposition.

It is the Spirit’s work in creating and sustaining faith that Jesus lifts up in this week’s Gospel, and which became so important to Martin Luther. We believe the Spirit is still at work in this way. Through our times of worship, study, prayer, service and fellowship, the Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten, make holy and make faith possible. What Jesus promised to his disciples, we too have received. And for this gift from God we are deeply grateful!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What events during Holy Week do the disciples experience as a threat to their faith in Jesus?

  2. How must these words of his have been a source of comfort and hope for the people of the early church?

  3. As the Spirit reminded them of Jesus’ words about peace, and his call to love, how does this shape the church?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What have I learned about the Holy Spirit that has been helpful for m? (And what has been unhelpful?)

  2. When have I been drawn into a deeper, more meaningful understanding or experience of faith?

  3. Through whom has the Holy Spirit worked to inspire me and empower my faithfulness?