Readings: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, John 16:12-15
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God our rock and our sustainer. Amen.
When the Spirit of truth comes, that Spirit will guide you in all the truth……
It is only in John’s gospel that we hear this title used: Spirit of truth. It is a differing perspective perhaps, one that adds another dimension to our understanding of the Spirit, and one we don’t always use when describing the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the Church.
And it does need to be said that John’s understanding of truth is not as fact, dogma, rules but instead as revealed and declared in Jesus, the Christ –that the Spirit comes to guide the community of faith in the truth that is the life and teaching of Jesus continuously working in the world.
In the reading from Proverbs we meet Sophia, Wisdom, calling from the market places and the crossroads – places where truth (wisdom) is both found and revealed.
Wisdom cries out to all – pleading for her voice to be heard and offering her impressive credentials for speaking the truth of God into all the world and in the most public of places. True she has competition, folly’s voice is strong too, but Wisdom is belting out her message, God’s message of encompassing love creatively and audaciously.
Listening to the role of Wisdom in the beginning, in creation, you might well imagine her as God’s architect, active in all the inhabited world, the delight of God and in turn delighting in the all human race. John Calvin paints a picture of the work of God in creation with these words from the Institutes:
“Wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of God’s glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness.”
Yet the God revealed in the market place and through nature can only be fully understood in the light of Jesus and therefore through later scripture.
So back to the Gospel reading on this Trinity Sunday. John is not so concerned about defining the inter-relationships of the three in one God (he left that for theologians to battle with for 2000 years)– rather he is focussed how the triune God relates to the reconciling of the world to God. And in this passage we are looking particularly at the role of the Holy Spirit in the continuing instruction of the way of living in the truth of Jesus. In a sense the things that Jesus has held back on, that he couldn’t say, were not because he felt they were too much but rather because they would only be revealed in context of resurrection and through the Spirit of truth.
The journey of revelation continues to this day. The truth of Jesus Christ is a living and creative happening in the world and, I have to say, not the captive of the institution that we know as the church. Where we (the church) have decided that we already have all the truth, where the voice of dogma is louder than the voice of the Spirit, I would suggest we have well and truly lost our way.
We must expect God to be present outside the confines of church, we must expect to encounter wisdom outside of Sunday service, we must accept that God is at work in the world outside of our influence. With vigour, with the passion and daring of Sophia, the Spirit of truth is at work in the world.
This Gospel text is encourages us into an openness to fresh encounters with the revelations of Jesus, engaging anew with the Spirit of truth and courageous enough to be the
raucous truth tellers that are needed in the world today.
Jesus Christ – the way and the truth and the life as guided by the Spirit – our story to tell, our truth to share. I wonder what this means for us.
I personally have a real problem with the idea of getting out into the market place and haranguing the crowds with what they need to do to be saved. Not particularly effective at the best of times and certainly not where the words are not surrounded by acts of living out the truth of Jesus.
Equally though I have a real problem with us expecting the world to come to us, the Christian Church, as the source of all truth. We are not, God is! We are continuing to be guided throughout time in the truth of Jesus Christ made known in the Spirit – how dare we assume that we have it sussed, signed off for all time. We are part of the reformed and reforming church, forever discerning the truth of God in our lives – we need to be careful what we claim are the facts of truth and who has exclusive use of God.
Is it possible that in some way we have become entangled in religion, its familiar rites and passages, and lost our searching faith, our understanding of the truth that is Jesus Christ. There is a quote from the book Churchless Christianity that might speak to some of us: “Come out of those jungles of religion. If you once enter there, you can no more find the way. Look for Christ, who by-passed the jungles, who pointed out the direction, who over-ruled the ceremonials, and who showed us how to live always for others.”
One of the best ways for me to keep a handle on how it is that I as a Christian am asked to live in the truth of Jesus, to be aware of where the jungle of religion is compromising that, is always to imagine my feet in his, my response as his, my choices as he would choose, my prejudices and biases and apathy to be swept aside by his care for all in the world.
So imagine if Jesus was born and lived not into the first century but the 21st century.
Would Jesus be delighted with the religious establishment in any sense of the word? Probably not.
Would Jesus choose to exclude certain groups of people because the community in its wisdom decided they did not conform – never, his arms would be open and his table a place of welcome
Would Jesus stay in a safe place and prefer not to engage with the different. Heck no!
Would Jesus muck in with the homeless and the destitute, Heck yes.
Would Jesus be protestant (reformed of course) or Catholic or Eastern Orthodox? Would he even be a member of the church? Or would he allow that faith and truth was to be found where people gathered to worship and learn to live in the way of Jesus?
Would Jesus sit in on the interfaith group, seeking truth together – I believe he did in his day and would do so today.
Would Jesus understand that diversity was delightful and be horrified at our desire for conforming to sameness? Yes and yes.
Would Jesus act as if there was nothing new to know – or would he be on a journey like us, excited about what might be around the corner? Absolutely
Would Jesus be interacting with all the people he met never mind their failings? Yes, yes, yes.
Would Jesus be the raucous voice in the market place, seeking not to win souls for the church but to do what ever it takes to bring people into God’s love and justice, wisdom and truth – for all who would have ears to hear? Yes indeed.
When the Spirit of truth comes, that Spirit will guide you in all the truth – the truth that is Jesus the Christ.
I invite you, in a time of reflection, to consider how the truth of Jesus challenges and assures you in your journey of faith.