"Can God Ruin Your Day"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - June 4, 2006
I Kings 19:8-13; John 16:4b-15
Jesus knew that he had chosen his disciples very carefully, but as long as he was with them, the qualities he saw in them would probably remain dormant. Dependency will do that. In our lesson for today Jesus told his disciples that he was going to the one who sent him. In other words, he was telling them about his pending death. He knew this news would cause them considerable distress. It would be like your best friend telling you that she had 4 weeks to live. Yet he said these words, “It is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you.”
What process was Jesus describing when he spoke of a coming Helper? From the context of our lesson, we learn that the Holy Spirit appears to be a revealer, one who will help his followers to discern various aspects of their spiritual lives.
What we call the Holy Spirit is very difficult to define from all the New Testament references. However, if we really want to catch a glimpse of the drama and power this Spirit brings to life, contrast Peter who denied that he knew Jesus with Peter wearing his commanding, fear-nothing attitude as he stood before the powerful Sanhedrin. (Acts 4) What happened to Peter? Perhaps we could more easily relate to this process if we see it unfolding in the context of our family.
This is the time of graduation for a number of young people. Years ago there was a first person article that appeared in Reader’s Digest. A young man had graduated from high school and his Dad gave him $100 and a one-way bus ticket to Austin, Texas. His father said, “You will never learn to stand on your own two feet as long as your mother and I are in your picture. I want you to find a place to stay, secure a job, work the summer and come home in the middle of August ready to start college. My father did this for me and it made the greatest difference in my life. I hope this experience will benefit you in ways you cannot imagine.” His mother was in tears as their son boarded the bus.
The Reader’s Digest article described how the author grew up over night. He stayed at the YMCA, got that job and he earned enough money to fly home. He said, “Rather than needing to prove something to my parents, I viewed this as a mother bird helping one of her chicks to try his wings. Everything I knew had never been tested within the realities of the world. It was not until I was alone without support that I learned what God and I could do together.” Jesus said, “It is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you.” Might this be the same process viewed within the context of our living patterns?
Sometimes we are led to believe by our Christian traditions that something external that we call The Holy Spirit comes and takes over our bodies. What would be the point of that? Such an understanding would mean that God created us incomplete. If this were the case, it would mean that we are the only life form on earth that was created that way. Perhaps our understanding needs an adjustment.
When we remember a stammering Moses at the burning bush trying to argue with God why someone else would be a much better choice, we can easily sense similar insecurities within ourselves. Look at what Moses became once he stepped out in faith, trying his own wings. God was not ruining Moses’ day, God wanted Moses to become a leader who would trust that God had chosen him for a unique purpose.
We could define this Helper as God coming to us. We could think of this experience as something that happens to us when we begin to act on the recognition that God is the vine and we are the branches. We could think of this experience as a transforming power that comes to us when we understand our identities differently -- rather than belonging only to our material world, we also understand ourselves as beings that have come from the world of spirit.
We read in the Book of Acts that the first Pentecost came to Jesus’ followers like the rush of a mighty wind accompanied with what appeared as tongues of fire, but rest assured that after the participants went back to their homes, those who were part of that drama had to do something with what they had experienced.
Jesus was trying to instill confidence in his Disciples when he told them, “It is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you.” He was teaching them, “Once I am no longer able to do for you, step out on faith and watch what happens.”
We have to go into job interviews believing that we are God’s representatives in that setting. We have to enter relationships, whether married, dating or in our work culture, knowing that it is up to us to bring God’s love into the mix. The chemistry of our environment may not change until we become the change agent. Spirit will only radiate from us when we allow it. God does not micro manage people.
God will never rain on anyone’s parade. God is not the greatest nightmare that happens to us when we were preparing to do something else. It may feel that way at times, but ultimately when we are engaged in the process of extending God’s presence right where we are, incredible, unexplainable experiences occur.
Remember that Joseph’ faith and trust in God was initially proven wrong when he was betrayed by his bothers and sold into slavery, betrayed by Potifer’s wife when he refused her seductive invitations and still later betrayed by Pharaoh’s former wine steward. All those events happened before Joseph arrived at that moment when he became the savior to his people. He never lost trust that God had a purpose for his life.
When we feel that life is at a stand still or worse yet, not worth living, remember, God is not finished with us. Whether we are a nanny or a national leader, when we are open to God’s Spirit moving through us, the world changes. The world changes when the way we perceive our role in it changes. Be open to God and watch what happens. God will make your day, not ruin it.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
Ever-faithful God, our lives are often inspired to new heights of awareness because of everyday experiences. A new baby teaches us the role we play in creation. We sense how forgiveness heals relationships. We learn that love is giving and not getting. We learn that by standing with you, we are able to climb every mountain and ford every stream. When we remember that authentic power comes from a place we cannot see, we remain humble. Teach us, loving God, that we do not need tongues of fire, rushing winds and burning bushes to be reminded that we are vehicles for the transmission of your presence. Let us live so that your presence in us will inspire the growth of a community where people care about each other. Amen.