Tagged: spirit

John 16:12-15

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 22, 2016.

Sor Lucia Wiley
Sor Lucia Wiley

In the final section of his Farewell Discourse to the disciples, Jesus focuses further on the role of the Holy Spirit (literally, the Paraclete). Most of what is said in this section repeats themes that have already appeared: the gift of the Spirit to the disciples (church), the Spirit’s relation to Jesus, the Spirit being the continuing presence of Jesus, the Spirit of truth reminding the disciples of all Jesus had taught. Now we hear these themes again, but with nuances that take us deeper into their meaning.

What might Jesus mean by the phrase “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now”? We understand that Jesus can’t teach them everything he would like because his own time in the flesh is limited, but this saying puts the emphasis on the condition of learning that disciples are yet unprepared for. To bear means to carry, as in a load or weight. Metaphorically, it is tied to suffering. The disciples were not in a position to understand what Jesus might say to them about some things, since they had not yet experienced the suffering that would be coming for them. Suffering is a teacher. It opens one up to learning that could not be gained without it. The disciples still harbored hopes of Jesus’ messianic success that comported with their vision of the reign of God. In that vision, they would join in the prosperity of Jesus’ victory over the powers of the world. Only after suffering the loss of such dreams as a result of Jesus’ death, their own rejection by religious authorities, and persecution by pagan powers would they be in position to receive what Jesus wanted them to know.

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John 20:19-31

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 3, 2016.

Hermano Leon Clipart
Hermano Leon Clipart

In a number of ways, this text serves as the pinnacle of John’s gospel.  Themes which run like threads through the fabric of the gospel find their culmination in this text.  If one views chapter 21 as the epilogue of the gospel, then this text serves as the conclusion to the core narrative.  Its location in the narrative and its theological density demand that the preacher interpret this text against the overarching Johannine narrative.

The disciples were huddled behind closed doors.  At this point in the story, they are no longer hiding from the horrors of crucifixion but the wonders of resurrection.  The preacher might want to pause and illustrate ways in which resurrection upsets the status quo as much as crucifixion does.  The resurrection says, “The world doesn’t work the way you’ve always thought it worked.”  Many find it easier to huddle up and retain whatever normality remains rather than live into the subversion of resurrection.  However, in this text, Jesus sends his followers out rather than blessing their huddle.  Followers of Jesus cannot stay in our huddles, largely because he did not stay in his tomb.

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Luke 4:14-21

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on January 24, 2016.

Hermano Leon Clipart
Hermano Leon Clipart

The preacher will certainly want to spend time in prayer before writing this sermon, otherwise capturing the essence of the moment in Luke’s gospel may prove difficult. We’re told in this opening act of Jesus’ public ministry that he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, a state that Jesus claims for himself with the opening line from Isaiah. One might assume that Jesus is always filled with this kind of power, but Luke seems to suggest otherwise. The Spirit of the Lord has come upon Jesus in a particular way, for a particular purpose, at this particular time. How, when and why did this happen?

Some answers come when we consider what has occurred before. It might be tempting to read this story in a vacuum, in which case the reader will assume that Jesus’ empowerment is instantaneous and happens simply because he is Jesus.  However, the Spirit does not empower him without cause or context. Jesus has spent years in thoughtful, prayerful preparation, growing in favor with God and others (Luke 2:52). His vocation was then affirmed (Luke 3:16-17) just before he was baptized (Luke 3:21), filled with the Spirit and then led by the Spirit through a season of formational testing in the desert (Luke 4:1-2). Two things worth noting here: 1) it’s not coincidental that the pattern of Jesus’ life bears resemblance to the story of Israel. Before Jesus announces the fulfillment Isaiah’s promise, he passes through the waters and is led into the dessert to wrestle with temptations like miraculously making bread. The preacher might decide to do something with this. 2) Spiritual power didn’t just come over Jesus in the synagogue, it came with him, and powerfully worked through him, because he had waited and worked so powerfully with it over an extended period of time. In other words, when Jesus returned home to launch his public ministry, he came spiritually prepared, and the gospel writer does not want us to miss this.

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