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Edward F. Markquart

Series C
The Spirit of Truth

Trinity Sunday   John 16:12-15  Day of Pentecost, Series B, C

Truth. We all want truth. The search for truth is deep within the human spirit. Deep down inside all human beings, is the desire to know the truth, however good that may be or however painful it may be. A sign of health in us is that we search for the truth.

The opposite is also true. We human beings don’t want to be deceived. We don’t want to be deceived by lies, distortions, and half-truths. A sign of sickness in us as human beings is that we try to avoid the truth or distort the truth or manipulate the truth.

And we want to find the truth out about everything. All human beings have this spirit of truth, the desire to find truth in all aspects of our lives.

For example, we want to find out the truth about our universe and how it works. We want to find out the truth about the sun, moon and the stars. We want to find out the truth about the origins of our universe and the destiny of our universe. We want to find out the truth if there is life living out there somewhere in the universe. The purpose of the science of astronomy is to discover the truth about how our universe works. We want to know the truth. That is just the way we human beings are.

We also want to find out the truth about our small planet, Earth. In the past, we human beings were on a quest to find out the truth about our planet. We asked: “Is the earth flat? Round? Does earth revolve around the sun? Does the sun revolve around the earth? Is the earth the center of the universe?” Today we ask other questions about Mother Earth:  “How old is Mother Earth? What is in the Earth’s core? How about the atmosphere surrounding the Earth? Is the atmosphere depleting? Are our oceans dying? Are we endangering this little planet? What are the sources of the global warming? How many people can actually live on this Mother Earth?” The point is, we human beings want to know the truth about everything, including truth about the Earth. That is just the way we are. We are on a quest for truth.

We want to find out the truth about everything: About medicine and diseases. We spent tons of money on medical research, trying to find out the truth about cancer, heart attacks, leukemia, alcoholism, and every other disease.

We want to find out the truth in history. That is what history books are all about: historians trying to find out the truth about some historical trivia e.g. searching for the DNA in the descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings or the DNA in Columbus from his grave in Seville, Spain.  

We want to find the truth out about politics. What is the truth about Muslims, the terrorists, Al Quaida? We want to find out the truth about the war in Iraq, terrorists, bombings, oil, etc. 

We want to find out the truth about ourselves. What makes us tick? Why we do things. Why we don’t. We are interested in psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Why are human beings such warring animals? Why were there so many kamikaze pilots in World War II and so many terrorists willing to be human bombs? There is so much about human beings which perplex us.

We human beings want to know the truth about everything. It is like we human beings are on a quest, not for the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ from the Last Supper, but we are on a quest to find the Holy Grails, the truth about life in all of its infinite variations.

We are aware of the several “drives” in us as human beings. We have an inner drive for food, an inner drive for water, an inner drive for sex. And we also have this inner drive for truth. We have a “truth drive” in us and we search for the holy grails of truth. We don’t want to be deceived

Since the spirit of truth is so deeply implanted and interwoven in all human beings, it makes sense to us that we also want to find the truth out about God.  That is why there are so many religions on the face of this earth. From the beginning of the human race, people have wanted to find out the truth about God just as much as they wanted to find out the truth about our universe, earth, history, politics, medicine and everything else about us. Just as human beings have a sex drive deep within us, we also have this deeply implanted drive within us to find out the truth about God.  From the dawn of the creation of the human race, people have wanted to find out the truth about God. Human beings have always been religious and that religious drive in human beings is one primary factor that distinguishes us from the other animals.  We want to find out the truth about God.

It is with this introduction that we approach the gospel lesson for today. This gospel lesson includes that powerful phrase, “the spirit of truth.” Three times in John’s gospel, the Apostle John speaks to us about the Spirit of truth and that phrase is our focus in the sermon for today. The Spirit of truth.

The first statement about the Spirit of truth is in the text for today in John 16. The Apostle John writes, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” In this passage, we are reminded that God is Spirit, and that God is the source of our drive for truth. This drive for truth in all aspects of life comes from God.  Focus on the word, guide. The Holy Spirit is none other than the Spirit of truth and this Spirit will guide us, lead us, show us, reveal to us the truth. Focus on the phrase, ‘into all the truth.” We know that the Holy Spirit will lead us into the full truth about Jesus, but at this moment in the sermon, let us remember that the Holy Spirit guides us into “all the truth.” God is truth and wants us to know the truth in every aspect of life such as science, history, math, music, medicine, psychology, sociology and everything that is here in our universe.  The Spirit of truth leads us into all the truth. That is what the history of human civilization is about: the search for truth.

The second statement about the Spirit of truth is from John 15:27-27:  “When the Counselor comes, the Holy Spirit, The Strengthener, whom I shall send from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” Focus on the phrase, “will bear witness to me.” That is the purpose of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit will testify, give evidence and witness to the words and wisdom of Jesus Christ, his miracles and parables, his Good Friday and Easter. This Spirit of truth leads us to listen to Jesus so that we will discover the truth about God. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring our image of Jesus into sharp focus so that we see Jesus Christ as clearly and distinctly as humanly possible, so that we can begin to grasp the truth about God.  The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all the truth about everything, but especially and specifically, to guide us into the truth about Christ who is the mind and heart of God.

The third statement about the Spirit of truth is from John 14:16-17. “In the future, when I have gone back to the Father in heaven, he will send you another Counselor, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because the world neither sees this Spirit of truth nor knows him. You know him for this Counselor, the Spirit of truth, lives with you and in you.” In this statement of Jesus, we learn that the Spirit of truth comes from God. This drive for truth proceeds from God, the Father, the Creator of the world and everything in it. This Spirit of truth, this Holy Spirit, then comes and lives in you and is with you. And the world? The world is hostile to the truth, especially the truth that Jesus reveals to us about God.

Today is Trinity Sunday, and we humans are on a quest to find out the truth about God. In our quest to find out the truth about God, we find that come comes to us in at least three ways. In the creation, in the Son, and in the Spirit. That is true to our experience

Let me demonstrate this for you by a simple and popular analogy. The analogy of H2O. I ask you all a question and I would like all of you to answer it with one word. Please answer in unison. What is H2O? (All will say, water.) Yes, water. Water is H2O. But how many forms does H2O have? Answer? Three. We all know that H2O comes to us in three forms: water, ice and vapor.

(If a preacher uses props, the following paragraph works well by having a glass of water, a block of ice and a vaporizer.) Would you all imagine water, a glass of water, and drinking that glass of water? Water has a distinct texture, a distinct taste, a distinct touch. Now, secondly, would you all imagine a block of ice in your hand? Does the block of ice feel freezing and cold? In your imagination, let his block of ice start numbing your hands with coldness. The experience of ice is so different than the experience of water. Both are the same substance, but each experience is so different than the other. Ice, also, has a distinct texture, a distinct taste, a distinct, touch, just as water does. Now, thirdly, imagine water vapor in the air. Imagine humidity on a hot summer afternoon. The air itself feels moist, wet, damp, and clammy. But this moist air does not feel like water from the drinking glass nor like the block of cold ice in your hand. Yet this is the third experience of H2O. We all know that H2O comes to us in three different forms but yet it is the same substance.

So it is with God. To know the truth about God, we need to know the truth about God the Creator, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We have three distinct and different experiences with God in our daily lives. We have our personal experiences with God the Creator, our personal experiences with God the Son, and our personal experiences with God the Holy Spirit. These are all one God but we experience God in three different ways.

In the created world around you, where do you see God most clearly? Where do you see the handiwork of God the Creator most clearly?

Some of you will say your gardens. You look at the flowers grow and vegetables grow and you sense that there must be a God who created this all. It doesn’t seem by accident that the soil, seed, and moisture came together, but within this miraculous mix of all these elements, we experience a miracle. Isn’t that true? Sometimes, when you are looking at your garden, you say, “This a miracle. Only God could have created something so lovely.”

Where else in nature do you clearly see the handiwork of God? Some of you see the glorious miraculous designs of God in the intricacies of the flowers on the flowering trees. I have these indelible experiences in my mind of my wife and I remember her often standing in front of blossoming, flowering tree and exclaiming, “There must be a God.” How many thousands of kinds of flowers are there here on Mother Earth, and each of those flowers has a specific beautiful design. In your mind, imagine the specific details of a flower. How intricate. How beautiful. How perfect. And we know the argument, if there is a design, there must be a designer. Who designed the flowers? God. The mind of God.

Where else in nature do you see most clearly the handiwork of God? Many people will answer the ocean and the waves of the ocean. Waves symbolize eternity and the waves keep coming into the shore endlessly, incessantly, continuously. So it is with the love of God, our heavenly Father. His eternal love comes into the shores of our lives endlessly incessantly, continuously, from before we were born to the day we die to the eternal day with God in heaven. God’s love never ends.

Where else in nature do you see the handiwork of God? Some of you see the glorious miraculous designs of God in the mountains. I am one of those. There is no place on earth that reminds me of the glorious presence of God so much as in the mountains. Why in the mountains? The mountains are glorious and God is glorious. The mountains evoke praise in my heart and God is to be praised.  The mountains are from everlasting to everlasting and so is God.

We remember the creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of the heavens and the earth.” We talked about the Creator of heaven and earth, but what word did we leave out? Father.

Jesus taught that God was not only the Creator of the heavens, the earth and everything on it. Jesus also taught that this Creator of the world was none other than our heavenly Father. Jesus said when he was raised from the dead, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.” Jesus taught that the God who created the vastness of the universe is also the same God who is our personal heavenly Father, who knows our name and the numbers of hairs on our heads. Jesus taught that God was not only the infinitely brilliant Intelligence who created this universe and everything that is in it, but that this God is simply our Dad, our Father, our Abba, the one who knows us and loves us personally as children of the heavenly Father and family. And just as I take pleasure in knowing the infinite God of the mountains, I also take pleasure in what Jesus taught us about God: that God is our personal Father and we are God’s personal children.

Point two of the sermon: we personally experience God in the Son. In Jesus who was the physical embodiment of God here on this earth. The Christian faith teaches that the fullness of God’s love lived fully in the body, mind and spirit of Jesus, in the flesh of Jesus. You and I experience Jesus all the time. We experience God through the stories about Jesus in the flesh. What are some of the most important stories about Jesus that reveal for you the love and compassion of God? (A pastor can ask this of the congregation and see what stories that people volunteer.)

His words from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We all can imagine Jesus hanging on that cross on Good Friday. He had been beaten, scourged and then nailed to the cross. He looked down at the mass of humanity that were killing him and he says to God, “Father, forgive them, they don’t it. They do not know that they are doing.” What forgiveness. What love. What compassion.

What is another favorite story about Jesus? The woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees found this woman who had been caught in adultery. How a woman could get caught in the act of adultery and not the man, we will never understand. Jesus, while kneeling on the dirt and doodling in the dust, asked a pointed question, “Whoever is without sin, you cast the first stone.” Jesus could hear the rustling of clothing as people were getting up one by one and leaving. When Jesus looked up, everyone was gone. It was clear: we are not to judge. Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

What is another favorite story about Jesus? “The two commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself. Do these and you shall live.” Jesus condensed all the words and chapters and books of the Old Testament into two basic commandments. Love God and your neighbor.

What is another favorite story about Jesus? The prodigal son. This is Jesus’ most loved parable. It is about the son who takes his inheritance, goes and squanders it on wasteful living, and returns to his home empty handed and broken in body and spirit. And what does the Father do? Welcomes him back home, puts and ring on his finger and clothes on his back. For the son who was lost had been found. What a time for celebration. Jesus had this unfathomable compassion for sinners and people who were lost, people like us.

We know God through the death and resurrection of Jesus , by the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

So we experience the presence of God, not only in nature, in the gardens, flowers, oceans, mountains but we fully experience God in the person of his Son, Jesus of Nazareth. God’s love was fully embodied in the body of Jesus. His teachings, his miracles, his way of life, his death on the cross, his resurrection: when we experience Jesus, it is so different than experiencing the beauty of creation. There are such differing tastes of water, ice and vapor and there are such differing tastes of God in who is present in the creation and God who is present in the Son.

Point three of the sermon. The third experience of God is through his presence in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the experience of God here in our lives today. How you personally experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your lives? (A pastor can ask this of the congregation and see what stories that people volunteer.)

The third article of the creed says: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints.” God is present and reveals himself to us within the communion of saints. Just as we “see” God in nature and “see” God in Jesus, so we also “see” God in the Church, the communion of faith.

Such as at Bible camp around the campfire where another teenager is telling his/her own story. Those moments are really powerful, when God is speaking through a kid at a campfire. Time and time again, in their evaluations of camp, all the kids say that this experience is what they love most about the camp or retreat. The campfires and the stories of the kids. Not the Bible lessons from the preacher. Not water skiing and inner tubing and rafting. Not the meals. It is always the same: the kids love it most when other kids tell their own personal story about the presence, strength and help that God has given them in a particular situation. Those stories are gripping. One hundred and fifty teenagers around a campfire and it is breathlessly silent. Why? They are listening to another kid tell his or her Jesus story.

In the music. I don’t quite know why, but God’s Spirit seems to reach into my soul through music like in no other way. It seems as if music touches deep inner cords that reason and rationality cannot touch. This is often through the Grace Choir or often through a special soloist and often through the music of the praise band. Again and again, my heart is touched by God being present in the music. Not always. But often enough that I know it.

In the Scriptures. Sometimes when I sit down and read the Bible, it is as if God is talking to me directly. I am down in the dumps, feeling blue and my heart is bruised. I open the Bible and something draws me to Isaiah, the forty third chapter, where God says, “I am doing a new thing in your life. Don’t you see it? The new flower? The new crocus?” It amazes me how God continues to speak to me through the Scriptures.

In the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I love to come to kneel at the altar and have my quiet time with God there, confessing my sins, thanking God for his love and forgiveness, thanking God for all that God has given to me. The bread. The wine. I feel that I am taking the Lord Jesus Christ into me as I receive his body and blood. Communion touches me deeply.

In the valleys. I don’t know why but I often sense the presence of God especially in the valleys of life. God is there to sustain and strengthen me. I like the contemporary parable about Footprints. “I was walking along a sandy ocean beach. There were two footprints in the sand, Lord. Yours and mine. Pretty soon, there was one set of footprints. I was hurting and I discovered I was alone. There was one set of footprints in the sand.” The Lord answered, “Yes, that was when I was carrying you.” Yes, we often discover that presence of God today in our suffering.

Today, we heard Jesus teach us: He will send us his Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who comes to us from God. This Spirit of truth will be with us forever, in us and around us. From this Spirit of truth, we will personally discover the truth about God the Creator, the truth about God the Son and the truth about the Holy Spirit, one God, forevermore. Amen.

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