GROAN, SIGH AND HOPE!

Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27, John 16:4b-15

May 24, 2015 by Ken Dale

It is intriguing to me to compare the two reports of the Holy Spirit being given in the Bible. We have heard the report from Acts 2 and I can?t help but think that Steven Spielberg would have a ball making the movie. I loved the thought shared in the podcast used for our Wednesday morning Bible study. It was said that the real miracle of Pentecost is that God spoke in such a way that everyone heard and understood despite their different tongues or languages. The emphasis was on what God was doing and this action of course is what we understand as the birth of the Christian Church when the Holy Spirit was given to those gathered.

But in the gospel of John 20:19-23 when Jesus first appears to the disciples after the resurrection he says to them, ?Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.? When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ?Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.? Nothing dramatic ? he just breathed on them after he sends them.

Earlier in John?s gospel, back in chapter 14, Jesus speaks of the Spirit as ?paraclete? (that ?l? is important!!) ? and ?paraclete? is the transliteration of a Greek term meaning ?called to the side of.??? It is translated as advocate, counselor, comforter and it is the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Truth ? the way in which the work of Jesus will continue, the presence of Jesus will continue, and so the presence of God will continue. That Spirit can be understood as the way in which we are equipped for what our role is in the world as we seek to bring the presence of Christ in all that we do.

Romans 8 is one of my favorite passages of scripture and I?m sure I?m not alone when I say that. The five verses before us today speak of that world in which we live. Paul says ?the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains? and certainly we are able to understand.?? Do we not groan and sigh when we watch, listen to or hear the news of our world? Terrorism, wars, gang wars, crime, substance abuse, the exploitation of people in so many ways, family distress, diseases, — nearly impossible to state all of the current happenings that cause us to groan. But Paul?s message is that yes, we groan and sigh ? but we do so with hope. I couldn?t help but think of the lovely Easter card Kathy and I received from the Wrights this year ? on the front of the card was a picture ? and it was a picture of the bumper sticker on Bill Bausch?s pick up: ?There is no hope?..but I could be wrong.? Inside the card it read ?Easter Blessings? and down below the signature was the scripture verse of Jesus being laid in the tomb. Wonderful!

Paul navigates the choppy waters of the now and the not yet ? of the present and the future. Paul says we hope for what we do not see and we wait for it with patience. If we are to bring the presence of Christ into this groaning world we need to be patient ? and we need to listen. We need to deeply remember Paul?s words about this paraclete ? because we do not know how to pray. Sometimes we do not have the words we need when we turn to God. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us ?with sighs too deep words.? Look at the gift God gives us in the Holy Spirit!! When we are overwhelmed to the point of not having the words ? the Holy Spirit intercedes for us ? brings our concerns and the will of God into harmony. God does know.

I met Mary Luti the day Catherine Merrill received her Master of Divinity degree from Andover-Newton Theological School. I had heard about her and missed sharing her presence at an annual meeting of the Maine Conference UCC. She is a wonderful person, bright and quick witted, it was a joy to meet and converse with her. When I met her she was on the faculty at ANTS and now she is serving as interim minister at the UCC church in Welsley, MA since Martin Copenhaver left to become president of ANTS. Mary Luti has become one of my favorite still-speaking daily devotional writers. But this past Friday I found her message quite timely so I share it with you. If you?ve read it, I think it will be good to hear it again ? it?s powerful and challenging as we seek to let God?s Holy Spirit work in and through our lives. Mary Luti wirtes:

A?little?girl?asked?him?why God lets children?suffer?asked?Pope?Francis, that is,?in?Manila last January.?”Terrible things happen to children,” she told him through tears. “It?s not their fault. Why does?God permit it?” ?It was?an?entirely?unscripted question.?So was his answer. ?He?didn?t?correct her theology or?otherwise?attempt?to pacify?Glyzelle?Palomar?who, in front of a million people,?had?just told him?that?she?scrounged?food from garbage and slept?outside?on?a?cardboard?mat.

Here?s what?he?did. He?enfolded?the sobbing child?in his arms. Then he?admonished everyone?to pay?close?attention?because,?he said,?”She has?just?asked?the?one question with?no?answer.” To?her he said,?”Only when we?are able to?weep about the things you?have lived?will?we understand?anything?and?be able to?answer?you.”

Then he taught the crowd, “The?world needs to weep.?The marginalized weep, the scorned weep,?but?we?who?are?more or less without needs,?we?don’t know how.?We?must learn. There are realities in this life?you?can?see?only?with eyes cleansed?and clarified?by tears??If you don’t learn to weep, you’re not a good Christian!”

Whenever?we?re asked the question with no answer, “Our?answer?must?first be silence, and then a word born of tears.”

LET US BOW TOGETHER IN THE PRAYER OF HOPE WITH WHICH SHE CLOSES

Give us tears, O God, so that we may?see; and seeing,?join each other in suffering; and in joining,?be moved to?love in deed. Amen.