Remember and Forget

This sermon was originally preached on June 16, 2019 at Kenai United Methodist Church and North Star United Methodist Church in Alaska.

John 16:12-15 (NRSV)

 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, she will guide you into all the truth; for she will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever she hears, and will declare to you the things that are to come. The Spirit will glorify me, because she will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Creator has is mine. For this reason I said that they will take what is mine and declare it to you.

There are two types of people in this world. There are the people who carry all their groceries in one trip to wherever they’re taking them, loading their arms with handles and essentially overwhelming themselves with the weight so they don’t have to take a second trip. Then, there are the ones who are less concerned about a second or a third trip, and just want to take what they can handle and then see what’s next. Which ones of you are more of a one-trip person? And who spreads out the weight into multiple trips? And which ones of you only get enough groceries to carry them in one trip, so you can really cheat the system on this either/or thing?

I think of this whenever I read that first verse in our passage today. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Like our huge pile of groceries that we can’t take in one trip, Jesus is sensitive to what those he is speaking to can handle at one time. And he wants us to see that too. This of course is no shade to those one-trippers out there, as far as groceries are concerned.

Jesus is sensitive to his disciples’ limited understanding. This piece is the towards the end of the Farewell Discourse, and Jesus is preparing them, saying he has more to tell them. Jesus knows how anxious we can be to let go of the past and also to trust what the future will bring. This happens through the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us, and we are called to trust that.

Today is Trinity Sunday, meaning the day we circle back around to try and understand what the Trinity actually is. One in three, and three in one. What does that even mean? We try and find things to compare it to. Like Neapolitan ice cream or s’mores? But that usually just makes things more confusing, and makes us hungry. Like any explanation of God, it’s so complex and so layered, and usually each situation hones in on a specific quality of God. So what can we know to be true about the Trinity in today’s passage?

The Holy Trinity is weaved together in this passage. God is expressed through the life of Jesus, dwelling here on earth for a time. Jesus is there, in that moment, tasked with sharing the Creator God’s instructions. And now, in this farewell discourse segment, Jesus is teaching us about the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of Creator God and Jesus, alongside the Holy Spirit, all weaved together as three and one.

Jesus is with these disciples, talking to them, trying to ease their concerns while also being realistic about what is going to happen. He tells them earlier that his physical body is not going to be there for much longer, and things will change. He introduces the most obvious transition they’re going to experience. And then today, he continues. God knows what is going to happen, as in God, the three persons of the Trinity. And Jesus’ followers want answers, yet Jesus is telling them they can’t bear the answers.

It might be easy to look at his response as some sort of power move, like Jesus wanted to know more than the rest of us, so he just left this important part of the story out. But we learn, that this act, this statement from Jesus, was actually an incredibly gentle means of protection.

In the same way that God created each of us not knowing all the answers, Jesus is giving us space to learn, to seek, and to grow, each action guided by the person of the Holy Spirit. As we continue to follow God, The Holy Spirit will reveal herself and reveal things to us, things Jesus already knew, but wanted to carry for us for a while.

It is impossible for us to grasp or remember all that Jesus taught us. This is why the sharing of those learnings is rooted in the Holy Spirit, unfolding God’s message which Jesus expressed to us, and doing it at the appropriate times.

The Trinity is mysterious. We often don’t grasp it fully, and the beauty of that mystery, much like the sacrament of communion, is that there is holiness in that. When we question, feel unsettled, or even worry, we are inviting the Spirit in to speak to us now, in whatever moment we are in. We are inviting God to grow something new within us, stir us to a deeper knowledge of our call. And Jesus reminds us that this won’t be easy. But among it all, amidst the transition, the big changes, the spirit speaks. God speaks.

This passage is less about where Jesus and his followers have been together, and more about the future that will be shared because of God’s resurrecting and renewing power. Jesus invites us to live our life with a fierceness, a radical life of taking risks and crossing boundaries and celebrating love above all else, just like he did.

Our future as a church is unknown, because God is the one who can see it most clearly, and still, we are invited to jump in, to continue moving on that path towards holy inclusion and grace and resurrection. Our job is to honor that journey towards learning and knowing by listening to the spirit.

This Holy Trinity has been working in my life since the day I was born. They have been guiding me and speaking to me, and speaking louder when I don’t hear them the first or second or third time. Each step of the way, while never perfect, is filled with the Spirit, God’s hand at work in the present. Last year, on the day before Easter, The Spirit revealed to all of us, the next step in our journey together, when I was introduced to many of you all over a grainy Zoom call. The Spirit spoke as I was welcomed in, through dinners and hugs and laughter. The Spirit spoke as we worshipped together, both on Sunday morning and beyond it. We allowed God to work on our lives personally, and we invited God to work on our life as a church community. We dreamed dreams which I believe were spirit-filled, dreams that would transform us into a church that truly embodied open hearts, minds, and doors. We did that together, Friends, and that is incredible.

All of us are now here, having a sit-down with Jesus, in a place on the brink of big changes. We don’t know a lot of things about our future. As I leave, I will be moving to a new place of ministry. I will be going to love and serve the people of Mission Hills UMC in San Diego. Because of this transition, I will detach a bit, to allow for critical time to grieve and start new relationships well, and give you and your new pastor the time you need to learn to love one another well, as you have done for me this year.

I have loved being your pastor, and that experience, and these relationships do not go away. I promise I will pray for you as individuals and as a church. I will pray for your ministry as a congregation, that you find the courage to live out the visions God is stirring up, that you take risks toward spirit-led changes. Jesus teaches us that while we do not know all the details, you are being led out into this new stage of the journey with God right beside you, slowly allowing you to uncover new truths in the future of this church.

We have done a lot together, yes. We have built relationships and learned together and reached new people. And after today, I am beyond excited to see all the wonderful things you all will accomplish from here on out. I cannot wait to talk to one of my Alaska clergy colleagues about this great new thing you all are doing, or come back in 10 years and see the progress you all have made. It has been an honor to serve as your pastor, and the even bigger honor is saying goodbye, knowing that what comes next will be revealed in grand and sacred ways.

We are ready for what comes next. We know things are changing. We know it won’t be easy. We are missing some of the details. And still, today we are reminded and encouraged that God created us all, to live and learn and love with great passion. We are encouraged that Jesus, our savior and teacher, has walked the roads we will walk, and has told us we will not do it alone. And we are encouraged through the Holy Spirit, her presence boldly motivating us to move towards lives driven by justice and hope for the future.

May we learn how to wait upon God, for our next steps to be revealed to us in God’s divine timing. And may we remember that we have already had a new thing revealed to us too, and that requires that we act on what the Spirit has revealed.

Friends, each week when I introduce myself, it is important to me to state that it is a privilege to be your pastor. Today, on my last Sunday, I need you to know that. Wherever we go on our separate journeys, that privilege will not be forgotten. Thank you all. Thank you for allowing me to serve beside you, to come into your community and share my gifts with you all. Thank you for your encouragement, your questions, your challenges. Thank you for your service, for the ways you’ve made me laugh and think harder and smile. It has been an immense privilege to be your pastor, and I am so excited to see where the Spirit is leading you next.

Let us pray.

Glorious Trinity, you have made your presence known, leading us in this place through our worship, our prayer, our service, and our fellowship. Guide us, Holy God, Three in One and One in Three, as we continue walking, listening for your beloved voice. In your name we pray, Amen.

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