Sunday, May 25, 2014

Advocate - John 12-20

Jefferson Presbyterian Church, Jefferson, GA
In just two short Sundays, the celebration of Pentecost will be upon us; We will have waved good-bye to Jesus on Ascension Day--and then, iron your red dresses and put on your red ties--the HOLY SPIRIT will be upon us - resting above our heads like tongues of fire.
May 25, 2014
But, we’re not there yet.  We’re in an in between period.  In between places can be kind of hard places to be--the already but not yet--something big is going to happen, but…
we have to wait….
The disciples are in an in between place in chapter 14 of John. Here, Jesus begins what is frequently called the Farewell Discourse...
He’s going away, and so he gives this goodbye speech.
Like an elected official, his term is coming to an end..this final address.
Like a graduating senior, he is moving on to something new..was he valedictorian?
Last week, Rev. Evans preached on the first part of Chapter 14, and I would like to begin this morning’s reading with verses 12 and continue onto verse 20;
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.
15 ‘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 for ever. 17This 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.
18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
This is the word of the Lord...Thanks be to God
Jesus says he will ask the father to give his followers another Advocate.
He assures his disciples:
I won’t leave you orphaned! You won’t be abandoned!
Enter into the mystery of the divine self….  
You will know the Advocate, because he abides with you; he will be in you.
Because I live; you will live.
I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
John loves to use this mystical language
This is not some external concept;
more than a partnership...more than a co-pilot
this is a mutual indwelling…...a deeper connection than any word can define.
The advocate is with those who love God.
The Advocate works in the world so that the world may experience God.
The greek word used here is Parakletos (παράκλητος)  or paraclete
The Paraclete or advocate means
“in the widest sense, a helper, aider, assistant…
destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth,
and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom” (

So let’s use that as our starting point: A helper, aider, assistant.
Have any of you needed help, aid, or assistance in your life?
What a gift when people are willing to help us, and when we can be receptive to others helping us...a hard thing sometimes.
Was that the Advocate working in this world when someone helped you?
We have to remind ourselves of the Beatles song:
“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.”
You may have that song stuck in your heads the rest of the day...sorry!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Of certainties and satisfactions

Friendship Presbyterian Church, Athens, GA May 18, 2014

John 14:1-12 - 5th Sunday in Easter

This morning’s sermon is about our quest for certainty and satisfaction.

There is a deep satisfaction that comes with certainty.  Because, life is full of uncertainties…
so much is out of our control. Some might say nothing in life is certain…

In the midst of uncertainty our hearts can be troubled.

Jesus begins this passage in John by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, Believe in me.”

Surely, someone somewhere has made a t-shirt quoting that verse.  

If only life and belief were so simple at a t-shirt or a bumper sticker.    

Jesus, taking on a pastoral role for his anxious troubled disciples, who know he won’t be with them much longer--
and, a pastoral role for the fledgling first century christian community which has already been left--
to these, Jesus, simply says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe.”

And yet, my heart is troubled for many reasons.  
Troubled by the political turmoil in Ukraine and war in the Sudan.
Troubled by the pain and anguished faced by the kidnapped Nigerian girls; and those who love them.
Troubled by the pervasive violence in our society….
while at the same time guns are allowed to become more prominent parts of our everyday lives.
Troubled by raging fires in California and fearsome floods in Bosnia,
a troubled earth which will be the inheritance of all of our offspring.
Troubled by friends and family who suffer from illnesses

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Do you have a troubled heart?
What is troubling your heart?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Crossing the Finish Line

Today was my first mountain bike race. I have ridden a number of times, but I don't rave about the sport. I find keeping up with the multiple moving parts and the unpredictability of the bike and trail a little more than my comfort level prefers. A slow moving trail on my feet with my body in control rather than my brain still is my preference.Thus, I've never raced.

Still, I met up with Brian--my brother-in-law--for this event.  We both claim the other was the motivation necessary to "compete". 

I didn't understand how this type of race worked. We were to ride for three hours on a loop track of 10.5 or so miles.  I didn't ask questions like, "What happens if your on the opposite end of the course when the three hours is up?" or that sort of thing. I just assumed you rode to the finish line, even if the three hours was up, completing the event in more than three hours. 

We trickled off the starting line among a mass of bikers all heading for the same single track trail.  Halfway into the race, a father gives his son a hard time, asking him why he's NOT GOING FASTER...does he not see the wheel to wheel line of 50 bikers in front of his son?

After the first loop, which we took quite leisurely, we took a short pit stop. I was feeling good, and pushed ahead of Brian a bit; he shouted, "Don't let me hold you up Reverend."

So I took off, the lines of people had petered out--racers were interspersed.  I glided through the second lap. Just as I was crossing the timing mechanism, the race director screamed in my ear, "YOU HAVE 57 MINUTES TO COMPLETE ANOTHER LAP!!! FIFTY-SEVEN MINUTES!!"

Okay, 57 minutes, I can do that. Even though the other laps took me over an hour, I was determined to do this third lap in 57 minutes or better. Never mind my legs were feeling like jelly; never mind my wrists were numb, my shoulders were still, my neck was sore; never mind my clip on my pedal was broken; never mind I was out of water--I was going for it.

Off I went, and rode well for about the first half of the loop. But, come the second half of the loop, I was out of gas.  My pedal power waned; I was shocked when I was passed, not by others who had been racing near, passed by guys who were on their FOURTH lap. The guy who can run for 3-5 hours straight had been lapped. Clearly I was out of my element. Those guys were trying to complete four laps in 3 hours, I was trying struggling to complete just three. 

I realized at the 7 mile marker, when my watch read a time slower than what it read on my first loop, I wasn't going to make it. Still, I wasn't going to give up. Part of me, even as I was huffing and puffing up hills told me to dig down deep...finish strong...maybe your watch is off. Maybe you're going faster than you really are.  I had already run into two trees at this point. One on either shoulder, just to balance things out. Reminded me of tackling drill from high school football. The trees didn't budge.

After my watch indicated 57 minutes was up, I still hadn't come to the 10 mile-marker. Still, I pushed on. So what, if three hours is up, I can still cross the finish line--see how long it took me according to the official timer to complete three laps. 

Before the final hill, Brian stood there, with his phone out, read to take a picture. "Way to go, Reverend!" (How did he get there, I wondered). I struggled up the final boulder filled hill, and then onto the pavement for the down hill glide to cross the finish line...
And just as I was turning to cross the line, the race director looked at me and asked, "Are you a three hour racer?" (As opposed to the crazy people who were riding for 6 hours).
"Yes," I gasped.



What kind of race is this?

A race where one doesn't cross the finish line? 

I pathetically replied, "Ok."

I dismounted. Rolled my bike to the side of a building. Leaned it there. Removed my helmet. Peeled off my gloves. I stood, stupefied, dazed...

I am so goal oriented. Task driven.
No matter if times up, I will often push myself beyond the limits of time in order to complete something I deem important.
One of the lessons from the Benedictine Monestary is to respect limits, not only of time, but also of ourselves. When the designated time for work has expired, one is to leave the work, no matter how much or little remains, and move to the greater task, prayer. 
One is to find contemtment, even gratitude, in what was, and even in what what not accomplished.

I had raced all the way around a third time. It had taken me longer than the aloted time. I was not allowed to cross the finish line.

And there was Brian. He knew he wasn't going to make three laps in three hours; he had done these events before. Even though he was only three minutes or so behind me, he was able to find contentment in what he had accomplished.

And so I seek to do the same. One thing I can say, my body is in a lot of pain right now. I suppose I do have something to show for my work.