Our gospel sounds more like Pentecost than for Holy Trinity Sunday. The gist is Jesus tells his disciples who the Holy Spirit is and what the Spirit does in relationship to the Father, himself and the church. We have all three members of the trinity involved in this passage. Jesus speaks of the Father, he is the Son, and we see the Holy Spirit’s work.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (v. 13) is the key to this text. This is not general truth, like the puffy clouds are cumulus clouds. He assumes the role of revealer of God, the Truth, as Jesus has made him known. As the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit is the Great Guide. The word for “guide” is a compound word from “way or road” and “to lead.” Literally, it means “lead in the way.” He guides God’s people, the church, into all truth. The Father speaks to Jesus, who speaks to the Spirit, who will “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit is the Great Communicator. His method is to declare. The word for “to declare” is used three times in this text. “The things that are to come” may refer to the events of Jesus’ hour, his crucifixion, but it also points to the faith community’s future, to the events for which Jesus cannot prepare them now (v. 12). The Spirit will proclaim the teachings of Jesus to the disciples in the new and changing circumstances of their lives, as he does in ours. The promise of the Spirit “declar[ing] … the things that are to come,” means that the presence of the Spirit in the life of the community ensures that all believers’ futures are open to fresh proclamations of Jesus’ words (Mark Allan Powell).The Spirit is not described as one who foretells the future. Instead, it highlights the proclamatory charge of the Spirit within the community of faith.
Likely, we have all met people who say and do strange things because “God told them” to do it. When my family and I lived in the Holy Land in the 1980s, there was such a man. He stood at the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. We saw him each Sunday as we made our way to church. I can’t remember his words, only how he dressed. He was all in white in what looked like a karate outfit. Among ourselves, we referred to him as the “karate prophet.” However, this does not negate the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God’s Spirit continuing to guide and enlighten the church is a conviction we dare not abandon.
The litmus test to help us discern if something is really from the Spirit is if the actions and words are in accordance with what we know of God and of Jesus Christ. Of course, what we know of God and Christ is in scripture. If we think we need to rob a bank or desert our families, it’s not the Holy Spirit speaking to us. If you feel God is speaking to you about something, and you’re uncertain, please contact me, and we can talk about it.
The Holy Spirit is the Great Connector. How central is the Holy Spirit to our faith? Jesus declares, “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Later, he told a Samaritan woman, “God is spirit…” (John 4:24).
Sounds pretty central!
He makes the church work. He is the presence of Christ to the people of God of the early church and today. The Spirit places the story of Jesus into conversation with the lives we live today, so that we can hear Jesus’ words as he speaks to our own lives and needs.
The future is open. It requires our discernment, our listening, watching for and trusting that God will continue to reveal God self through the Spirit of Truth. We can trust that the God Jesus has shown us is the God still at work for our illumination and strength to persist. We acknowledge there may still be truths we are unable to hear, and that God accompanies us along the way (Sarah Heinrich).
In our gospel, we find pivotal descriptions of the Spirit for contemporary Christian communities of faith, like our own. They point to ways in which the Spirit enables the past, present and future to converge in the life of the church. The Spirit empowers the words of Jesus to resound afresh in ever-changing circumstances. He gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the altering situations of faith communities and the world demand.
What does this mean to a weary world-weary of gun violence, weary of racism, weary of so much? It means no one is alone. God is with them, no matter how horrendous theexperiences. The Holy Spirit prompts people to help them. The most recent I am aware of is a massacre in a Catholic Church in Nigeria. We will remember the friends and family of the dead in our prayers of intercession.
Mary W. Anderson writes:
As Christians in mission, we must be ready to witness to others about what we believe and why we believe it. The early Christians, living in a hostile world, needed … language [for] what they believed Christ had revealed to them. For the sake of unity, they needed a common language, a common confession. In our hostile world, our witness demands the same thing.
Fred B. Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year: Year C
Sarah Heinrich, workingpreacher.org
Lucy Lind Hogan, workingpreacher.org
Gail R. O’Day, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX: Luke, John
Mark Allan Powell, Chasing the Eastern Star: Adventures in Biblical Reader-Response
Brian Stoffregen, crossmarks.com