God, in a reckless act of love, pledges to stick with humanity no matter what. In response, all God asks of us is that we work with God in caring for the good of creation. The story about God and us continues, by the gracious gift of God’s covenanting with us.
Message by Rev. Stephen Hershey
June 9, 2019
Jesus: Do any of you have any questions?
Philip: Well, if you could show us what God is like, that would be great.
Jesus: What? (Pause while Jesus looks around at the disciples with a shocked look on his face.) I can’t believe what I’m hearing! You’ve been with me all this time, and you still don’t understand? (Jesus becomes increasingly patient as he talks.) Okay, let me go through it one more time.
God is in me, and I’m in God. If you’ve been watching me, then you’ve seen God.
And more than that: if you do the things that I’ve been talking about, and love and care for people the way that I have, you’ll do well. In fact, more than that – you’ll do great things!
Even though you won’t see me anymore, I won’t be far away. If you’re truly doing my work, it will be like I’m right there beside you. And I will be!
You can show your love for me by doing the things I’ve taught you. But God’s Spirit…God’s Spirit is already with you, and it will continue to be with you in amazing ways. You’ll be okay.
We have been working through the Gospel of John in the Sundays of Easter and today, here on Pentecost, our gospel is again from John. This passage is selected for this Pentecost Season because of its mention of Spirit who “who is with you, and will keep on living in you” (14:17).
Here’s the story that, for Christians, leads us to the Christ: Though “the Lord was sorry for creating humankind” (Gen 6:6), God preserved humanity from the devastating flood (Gen 6) by the ark of Noah. And after the great flood, wonder of wonders, God actually makes a promise to continue to work with and to love humanity (Gen 9:8-10, 12-13). God, in a reckless act of love, pledges to stick with humanity no matter what. In response, all God asks of us is that we work with God in caring for the good of creation (9:1-7). The story about God and us continues, by the gracious gift of God’s covenanting with us.
Not that we kept our part of the bargain. What do you expect of a creature of whom it is said, “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth” (Gen 8:21)? God responds to our rebellion and disobedience with yet another covenant. On a starlit night God takes two childless senior citizens – Sarah and Abraham – and promises to make out of them a great family that shall be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen 18).
God has plans for them to be a “light to the nations.” Thus Israel is born as a gracious act of a God who loves to bring something out of nothing and makes somebodies out of nobodies. All God asks of Israel, for its part of the bargain, is to worship “the Lord your God” in all its life together: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol … don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal … ” (Ex 20:2-4, 13-15).
Without boring you with the details (you can read Genesis through Malachi on your own) let’s just say that, once again, things did not work out as God intended. It was Genesis 1-9 all over again. God gave us the law, the gracious gift of a God who refused to leave us to our own bumbling devices, a God who loved us enough to show us the way to life through the guidance of the law.
God sent us the prophets, gracious gifts of a “long-suffering” God of “steadfast love.” God gave us the priests and the Temple, ways to ease the pain of our sin. We disobeyed the law, we scorned the prophets, and we abused the rituals and ceremonies of the Temple. Yet, as Paul said of God’s covenant with Israel, “The gifts and the calling of God are unchangeable” (Rom 11:29).
And so, in the “fullness of time” (Jn 1:16) the same God who made promises to us and who kept forgiving us when we broke our promises, the same God who kept coming back to Israel and resuming the conversation that we, by our sin had ended, this holy and righteous one lovingly moved in with the profane and the unrighteous. “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14).
We could not come to God, so God came to us. We could not, by our efforts, climb up to God, so God descended to us. For Christians, salvation has a face, a name, a particular way of living and dying, and rising and being present. That name is Jesus – the one who said God is in me, and I’m in God. If you’ve been watching me, then you’ve seen God. The one who said to us the kingdom is here and yet coming.
We celebrate today the gift of Spirit given so that God might “be in you,” the gift of Spirit providing the tools needed to make real “thy kingdom come.”
God revealed in our living:
somewhere someone is kind when others are unkind,
somewhere someone shares with another in need,
somewhere someone refuses to hate, while others hate,
somewhere someone is patient – and waits in love,
somewhere someone returns good for evil,
somewhere someone serves another, in love,
somewhere someone is calm in a storm,
somewhere someone is loving everybody.
Is that someone you?