We Are: A sermon on tomorrow and the Spirit.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

John 14:8-17,25-27.

My sermon from Pentecost (May 15, 2016) on John 14:8-17,25-27. Listen to the recording at the bottom of the page or read my manuscript below.


When Jesus speaks, what does he sound like? That’s the question that popped in my head when I read Jesus’ response to Philip today. This scene takes place in the middle of John’s version of the Last Supper. Jesus just washed the disciples feet, shared that he will be betrayed, and told his friends that he won’t be here much longer. And that warning finally gets through to the disciples. Now, these men and women gave up everything to follow Jesus. They left their homes, their families, and their careers. They thought Jesus would start a new era with a revolution by making Jerusalem great again and tossing the occupying Roman army into the sea. But Jesus’ words during this last supper point to something different. The future, suddenly, looks a lot less certain. I imagine something inside Philip – just broke. He immediately recalled everything Jesus said about dying – all the words that pointed to the Cross – and Philip’s mind raced. His heart beat faster. Without a sense of what’s going to happen next, Philip is anxious. So he turns to Jesus and asks for a sign from God – for something that’ll show that everything he believes is going to happen and that, in the end, everything is going to be okay.

And this is the where Jesus’ tone matters. When he responds and says “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” Do we imagine Jesus sounding patient, kind, and speaking in a whisper? Or do we hear Jesus sounding totally exasperated, like when we our kids or loved one open a fridge full of food and say “There’s nothing to eat.” Like..seriously…Philip, where have you been? That’s the tone – that’s the Jesus – I hear in our gospel reading today. Philip has been there since nearly the beginning. They’ve taken trips together, slept under the stars together, and shared meals all over Israel and beyond. Philip has seen the miracles, seen Jesus do what Jesus does, Philip’s literally seen the signs – and even that’s not enough to extinguish his anxiety and his worry about the future. When Philip walked with Jesus, he carried an expectation of who Jesus is and what’s going to happen next. But if Jesus isn’t going to start a revolution – and with his betrayal and death on the horizon – Philip, in many ways, is undone. His expectations are broken. He pleads to Jesus for another sign – another miracle – to put Philip’s broken expectations back together. Philip is emotional with Jesus – and Jesus is emotional right back. He tells Philip to remember. Remember what he’s seen, who he belongs to, what Jesus has taught. And then, Jesus says, “know what you can control.” Philip can’t control what the future will bring – but there is something that he can do now. He can remember. He can believe. He can love. And Philip can trust that Jesus will be with him, no matter what.

The problem with the future is that we just don’t know it. Our expectations of what’s going to happen next isn’t the guarantee we wish it was. Life is full of too many variables and our anxiety about tomorrow is just…always there. I remember, as a kid in school, spending long nights staring at the ceiling, too anxious to go to sleep, because I wasn’t sure what questions would be on tomorrow’s test or if that special someone I wanted to ask to the prom would say yes. I couldn’t decide what my teachers would ask and I couldn’t decide if my future date was available or if they even liked me. But I could do something about me.I could make sure I studied and covered all the material assigned – and I could do the hard work to be that kind and caring person that even I would like.

So by admitting what we can’t control about tomorrow and focusing on where we’ve come and what we can do now: that’s Jesus’ answer to Philip. Remember – hope – and love: that’s Jesus’ message. But Jesus doesn’t leave things there. He doesn’t tell Philip that this process of looking at the future and looking at today – will be something he has to do on his own. Jesus promises an ally – an advocate, a divine presence that Jesus will give his disciples and who will to put in keep God’s promises always in front of them. And that’s the Spirit. That presence is God’s commitment to us, saying we’re not going through this thing called life on our own. That’s what we’re celebrating today. We might not know what’s going to happen but we do know that in our past, in our presence, and in our future, yesterday, we’ve got God and God’s got us. Faith and love, caring for others and for ourselves, is not something God leaves us to do on our own. Because sometimes we need a flaming tongue of fire to ignite our call to love. Sometimes we need to have others around us who suddenly can speak our language. And sometimes the only sign we get is a memory, a promise, that we were baptized, we were kissed by the water and kissed by God, and that’s all we need to share Christ’s light in the world. Philip walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, and saw all that Jesus can do. And even Philip needed the Spirit. The Spirit’s holy gift is that we are God’s and God isn’t leaving us on our own. That’s God’s promise. That’s what God’s peace looks like. And that’s the confidence we need to live as the people of God. When we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, the Spirit grabs us to remember our roots, remember where we come from, and remember that God will go to any length – even to death on a cross – for us and for the world. And it’s with this gift, with this Spirit, we can hear Jesus’ words, listen to his voice, and do what he asks: and that’s, in everything, just love.