This Friday I will preach for the last time to the Friday worship/Bible study group at Holy Trinity. One of many goodbyes.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will announce to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and announce it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and announce it to you.
A few years ago, there was a popular song on the radio that my daughters listened to called “Closing Time.” The song was about being at the bar when it was about to close and being told it’s time to move on. You might wonder just where I am going with that, but it’s the refrain that I want to share- “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Which pretty much sums up what we hear in today’s gospel. We hear of the work of the persons of the Holy Trinity as Jesus is saying goodbye. Fitting words for us as we gather at the end of the Friday worship season until the fall and as this is my last time to gather with you here and proclaim God’s word and truth in your midst. Just like Jesus knew the time for farewell would happen, so too did I, though I confess it always seemed farther away than it is. There are many things I could say- so I hope you are comfortable…As I thought of having to preach this “goodbye” I was reminded of my time growing up at church camp.
Each summer I used to go to church camp for a couple weeks. That first year I didn’t know a single person and I was a little worried. Over two weeks, total strangers bonded by sharing cabin space, arguing over who would kill the giant daddy long leg spiders in the bathroom, setting and clearing the tables. We shared songs, ghost stories, mosquito bites and games around the campfire as we tried to light the marshmallows on sticks on fire and then blow it out just at the right time- perfectly black and crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside- just before that point when they melted off of the stick and fell into the flames. After all of that and Bible study where people shared deep personal experiences, we were convinced that this had been the best two weeks ever and these were the best people ever and nothing could ever top what we had shared! We had the best camp that had ever been or could ever be. We hugged and cried and we swore it could never be as good as this again unless those same people came back for the same weeks next year.
My experiences at church camp are one of the factors in my falling love with God, and even though I doubted, every year at camp was different and every year was good.
In our opening verse we hear Jesus tell the disciples-“it is to your advantage I go away.” He is not saying here that he wants to leave, that he’s glad this gig is up. Instead, he’s speaking words of comfort and assurance that the end of what they have experienced is really just the beginning of another new thing. That God is not done and that if he doesn’t leave that next thing cannot happen. So too for us- it is time for the movement of the Spirit in your lives and in mine.
But hear again that God isn’t done, but instead through the Advocate, the Spirit is going to continue to be at work in ways we can’t fathom. And that work is to announce and glorify God. Verse 8 tells us that the Advocate’s role is to announce and convince the world of sin(fulness), righteousness, and judgment. I want to focus on that notion of sinfulness for a minute.
Sin(fulness) in the Gospel of John is centered in unbelief. John speaks of Jesus’ death and resurrection as conquering, “the ruler of the world.” That ruler tells us that we need to hold onto things because there may never be anything as good as this again. This is the seed of doubt and of unbelief that can have power over us- Sometimes we can’t see that God can and will continue to do great things out of love, and that Jesus who revealed this love, renders this force of doubt powerless over us. But it is the work of the Spirit that allows for Jesus’ words to continue to speak to us. There are many things left to be spoken, but God knows we need to hear them over time and in different ways.
When we gather here we refer to ourselves as people of Trinity, but in reality we are and are called to be people of THE Trinity. The ongoing work of the Spirit of truth will continue Jesus’ revelatory word and work of the Father. And WE are called to believe. This is how we are people of THE Trinity.
Which brings me to my last point which involves a little bit of a grammar lesson. One last Bible geek moment. Our lesson for today is full of verbs that are in the future tense. One Biblical scholar noted that there are nine future tense verbs in 16:13-15, which define the revealing and continuing work of the Spirit of truth. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he will hear he will speak, and he will announce to you the things that are to come” (16:13).. “He will glorify me, for he will receive/take what is mine, and he will announce it to you” (16:14). “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he receives what is mine, and he will announce it to you” (16:15). Lots of announcing and lots of talk about the future.
Our God is calling us into the future, to continue to be people of THE Trinity. The Spirit will continue to guide this community in that which will be heard, spoken, and announced here and in the broader community. Martin Luther spoke of the church as the mouth of God. That the work of the Spirit is announcing or proclaiming the word of God. This is how the Spirit works judgment and faith in our lives. And this work has a purpose. That like the Spirit, we announce God. We are called to announce the living word of God through which the Holy Spirit works God’s mighty work of faith, calls people to repentance and calls us into a living community where in faith we proclaim God’s Son as Lord and Savior.
Over our months together, you proclaimed God’s words and truth to me and to each other. We found a way to live together hoping that our future would be a good one. And it has been. But now, I must go to make room for the new work of God’s Spirit in my life and what God has in store for me in my path toward ordained ministry. And so that here in your midst a new voice can be heard, and new community experienced and God’s new future can be announced.
Brothers and Sisters of the Trinity, as we give thanks for how we have seen God at work, may we believe and announce to the world that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, still has much to say to and through each of us.