The readings on which this sermon is
based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r032b.htm
s032bg12 Pentecost 27/5/2012
'he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and
judgement' John 16.8
The ordinary atheist, agnostic or generally unchurched are actually
not concerned about sin, righteousness and judgement, and church
people are wont to suggest that they are wrong to not be concerned
about these things; that they are going to be judged because of
their unbelief and indifference to judgement. It is the
orthodox and the devout who are the experts in matters of sin,
righteousness and judgement; the ones who had Jesus crucified, and
these words of Jesus say that their 'expert' opinions about these
things actually were wrong. Some orthodox and devout
think 'We' are right, others are wrong, and we are thereby exempted
from doing anything, even from the command to love these
others. Whatever our prejudices and actions derived
therefrom, we will be accepted??? No matter how much others
love indiscriminately, they will be
condemned??? Immediately we see that ugly
head of sanctified selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia.
Just recently I met a retired minister for the first
time. He told me how he would probably describe himself
as an evangelical, though he'd had experience of both high church
and charismatic congregations in his ministry. But he
couldn't accept liberals. I wondered if he didn't
realise the significance of the rainbow lanyard on which my cross
hangs, or it inspired his chosen topic of conversation.
The people who didn't believe in Jesus were those who had him
crucified, the orthodox and the devout - those who supposedly loved
God with all their hearts and minds and souls and
strength. Others also didn't believe in him; those with
whom he had worshipped all his life in the synagogue of Nazareth,
who were scandalised that he spoke of God's love for
others. We are also told that members of his own family
didn't believe in him, presumably for similar reasons.
How interesting it is that God uses those closest to us to bring us
the message of his love for others as well! The
perception of entitlement that the orthodox and the devout had, just
like those who might presume on their association with Jesus, and
those who were actually related to him, lead, sadly, to sanctified
selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia.
So it is precisely this perception of entitlement that leads to
errors about sin and righteousness and judgement. When
we consider ourselves as right and others as
wrong. And this is no less true for those who
invoke the name of Jesus as a basis for their entitlement today, as
those who invoked the name of God, in the time of Jesus.
And so we can't invoke the name of the Holy Spirit to justify
entitlement as we celebrate Pentecost either, today!
The Holy Spirit leads us to the opposite of sanctified selfishness,
arrogance, blindness and inertia separate from others – so the Holy
Spirit leads us to an earthy selflessness, to humility, to awareness
of others and to action alongside others. And the
picture I have of Jesus is not someone who was noted for his
sanctified selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia separate
from others, but who was crucified precisely because of his earthy
selflessness, humility, awareness and action alongside others.
Again and again we see how 'doing unto others', especially those
others who are not of our physical and spiritual family, is the
essence of the gospel message.
The Holy Spirit leads us into action, into incarnation into the real
world. And if we are to be incarnated into the world we
will need an advocate: for the whole raison d'être of religion
has traditionally been in the opposite direction.
And those other words: ‘He will take what is mine’ - the incarnation
– ‘and declare it to you’: means that we are also to be incarnated
into the world, as Jesus was and is.
And those words: ‘the ruler of this world is judged’: mean that the
force behind sanctified selfishness, arrogance, blindness and
inertia is judged to be a force for death rather than life. We
will need an advocate when we stand up against sanctified
The force of repression, of endlessly harping on about what has gone
before, is contrasted to the Advocate who will 'declare the things
that are to come': the inclusion of all who want to be included with
others, a willingness for and to be a part of
incarnation. We will need an advocate to free us
from theologies like 'penal substitution' and to embrace a world
that is dying to be embraced.
This is why Jesus was killed, because he was incarnated fully into
society rather than the sanctified selfishness and arrogance of a
holy huddle. We will need an advocate to enable us to
become fully the people we were meant to be, for we are only fully
that person within the community as a whole.
Today we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first
apostles enabling them to speak the language of the hearers, not to
enable the hearers to speak and understand the language of the
church. So we celebrate the church being incarnated into
the society, not society being subsumed into the church.
So our celebration challenges any sanctified selfishness, arrogance,
blindness and inertia, which is essentially of the world, even when
it is dressed up in scriptural, theological or spiritual
The Holy Spirit empowers us to look around us towards others, to see
the good in them, even to speak their language. We need
the advocate to empower us to do this as we need Jesus’ example
which has inspired countless people over the centuries.
It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to understand the
language of others, and so to really engage others in dialogue
marked by mutual respect.
When we think about the mission of the church, what we really want
others to do unto us, is to recognise the spiritual treasures, the
taonga, of our tradition; so the words of Jesus and the leading of
the Holy Spirit, tells us to recognise the spiritual treasures, the
taonga, of other traditions. And learning to speak their
language also includes ‘seeing’ and appreciating the source of their
inspiration and strength, be it from nature, art, or looking
scientifically at the microscopic world or the astronomical
As I worshipped this morning, I thought about Jesus speaking with
authority, yet somehow that authority has been lost, and perhaps
this points to a kernel of content that has also been
lost. The command to love one's neighbours is
thoroughly Old Testament. Surely the authority is found
in Jesus round denunciation of the sanctified selfishness,
arrogance, blindness and inertia of those who claimed special
affinity with the divine - undoubtedly most clearly expressed in
Matthew 23, but in reality littered throughout the gospel accounts
as the devout and the orthodox clearly ‘got’ Jesus’ message, time
and again. But of course the majority of the New
Testament was written to people who had experienced Jesus’ earthy
selflessness, humility, awareness of others and action alongside
others. The words of denunciation didn’t apply to the
majority of them. And so it is also for the majority of
worshippers today, those who know the earthy selflessness, humility,
awareness and action alongside others of Jesus and are empowered by
the Spirit do likewise, know the joy of the kingdom.
Thanks be to God that we are called simply to be ourselves,
selfless, humble, aware and active in society, and that the Holy
Spirit is given simply to enable us to be these things.
For this promises a society that is also selfless, humble, aware and
active rather than a continuation of the opposite. Amen.
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