Sermon April 28, 2019 "We Brought the Spirit's Love to You!
Scripture Passage: John 20:19-31
We Brought the Spirit’s Love to You!
Good morning! I know this is only the second Sunday of Easter and it’s not nearly Pentecost, yet, but I’m focusing the worship and my sermon on the Holy Spirit. This is because the first part of today’s scripture is about what I call a ‘Mini Pentecost’. I say Mini Pentecost, because it is Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon only his disciples. After Jesus conducts his Mini Pentecost and the Spirit has descended upon the disciples, Jesus commissions them to go out into the world and share the gospel. The disciples are given lots of authority, as Jesus says that if they forgive a person’s sin, the sin will be forgiven; if they hold a person accountable for the person’s sin, that person will be accountable for the sin until it is confessed and pardoned. I think it’s important to note here, that the spirit of Jesus’ mandate to them is not to go out and randomly judge some people harshly, while graciously forgiving others. I think that Jesus’ spirit was that they should speak words of firm challenge to situations of injustice, bring peace and abundant forgiveness wherever possible, speak comfort to those afflicted, and speak affliction to those who are too comfortable. The spirit of the command is to ‘speak the truth with love’; doing justice often requires speaking candid words, but the words should also be spoken with compassion.
Wally, Shauny and I came to Knox 6 months ago, because we heard the Spirit calling us to this church at that time, to speak the truth with love. Because I believe that we should always listen, when the Spirit calls, even when we have no idea how it will all turn out and we are making some sacrifices, we came. I Corinthians 15:58 says that if we are immovable in following God’s will for us, nothing we do will be in vain. As my friend, Rev. Dr. Don McKim paraphrases this, “nothing we do will go down the drain!” Don is a well known Reformed theologian and author of many books. So, we came to Knox. We explored and listened to what the Spirit told us was needed here. We sensed that the congregation was tired from so many transitions. So, we brought the Spirit’s love and enthusiasm to re-spark some energy. We sensed that with so many zigs and zags along the way, especially declining membership and an aging building, that some joy got lost along the wayside. So, we injected some of the Spirit’s joy back into the congregation. We sensed that somewhere along the way, the lines of communication got a bit crossed or muddy, so I tried, with the Spirit’s guidance, to bring a more direct path of communication. In each of these actions, we tried to speak the truth with love, as Jesus commanded his disciples in today’s scripture.
On the other side of speaking the truth with love, I think it makes sense that Jesus would also want us to listen to the response of those to whom we minister. As the commentator noted, maybe we ministers are sometimes the ones, who need to hear the words of those for whom we care. I think that this reminds us that we are to carry out Jesus’ mandate with humility, rather than with sharp arrogance; I think that a spirit of judgement or arrogance will do more harm than good to a church or world, which is already hobbling in its wounds. However, if we approach all that we do and say with a spirit of humility and compassion, respecting and giving the benefit of the doubt to everyone-yes, even those whom we dislike, it undoubtedly will bring the healing and wholeness, which the Spirit intends.
So, as we brought the Spirit’s love, joy and clearer path of communication to you, we did it humbly, practicing Calvin’s Seal. If you’ve not followed the church Facebook page, you’re probably wondering, “What in the world is Calvin’s Seal?” Calvin’s Seal is an outstretched hand with a heart in it. Calvin, the Father of the Reformed Tradition used a wax seal with this icon to seal all his letters in Geneva, Switzerland. Later the seal became the school seal for Calvin’s College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the words, “My heart I give to you Lord, promptly and sincerely” were added. My friend, Don McKim emailed me a picture of Calvin’s Seal a few months ago, as I began my ministry here, and told me he thought of me and my ministry in the Church and nursing, when he saw the seal. I connected with the seal right away, and I adopted it as my motto for ministry, in both the Church and the nursing! I think the image expresses very clearly what Wally, Shauny and I have tried to do during our ministry here at Knox, as well as in my nursing work. As Jesus commanded his disciples to share the gospel with a spirit of humility and love, we have offered you our heart-in-hand in providing pastoral care, providing firm leadership, preaching, leading worship, joining the Praise Team, leading Lectio Divina and all other things we did at Knox.
Calvin’s Seal was not invented yet, when Jesus commissioned his disciples, but I’m sure he would have thought it was appropriate when he asked his disciples to go speak the truth with love! Jesus also wanted his disciples to listen to the response of those to whom they ministered. This is because it is impossible to know how effective your ministry is without listening, carefully. Also, sometimes the response that we get back is a bigger blessing than whatever word or action we gave out. We ministers are blessed by those whom we bless!
So, during our time here at Knox, we heard a response of warm welcome and love for the Spirit’s love we brought to you! You received us with open arms. You perceived us accurately-that we held out our heart in outstretched hand and were here to take care of you and inject some of the Spirit’s love and joy back into a tired church. We heard a response to Wally, that he was very welcome, as the church greeter dog in my office. Wally fit right into that role, as he loves every person and every animal, with no exceptions. We heard a positive response to my sermons, that you found yourself in the message and heard God’s Word to you as the Spirit inspired me to speak it. We heard a response to the clearer path of communication, in sighs of relief that things could be communicated through healthy channels. Finally, we heard a response of gratitude and healing for the unconditional love that we brought you-Calvin’s heart in that outstretched hand!
So, as we move forward in our ministry, focusing on the nursing at this time, and as you move forward in your ministries, we hope you will remember Calvin’s heart-in-hand we brought you, and take a piece of it with you in all that you do! Peace and God’s love be with you! Amen.