My friend and United Church of Christ colleague Herb Davis writes lectionary study notes weekly for the Confessing Christ Web site. These are uniformly thoughtful and inspiring, and reflects Herb’s life-long engagement with theology and church life. Herb is also one of the best preachers I have ever heard. Here are his reflections on the Gospel reading for Pentecost Sunday, John 14:8-17:
“It is fashionable to say,‘no one knows God’ or ‘there are many ways to God.’ Both statement may be true. Moses’ request to see God was denied to protect him. God is wholly other, so in a sense God is not accessible to humans. These are not John’s concern. He know that if you see Jesus, you have have seen the Father. If you know Jesus you know the Father. The Father we see in Jesus is one who loves the world, who lays down his life for us, who is not ashamed of us but invites us to dwell with him forever. The Father we know is the judge we love. John is convinced that the God we know in Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed to all the world. The world needs to know and love the Father we see in Jesus.
Yet at the same time we are like Philip who is unsure, who have difficulty seeing the Father. The Jesus we meet is a scandal. There is no solid proof that this is the One. There is no absolute certainty that we have made the right choice. The Father we see in Jesus is not a noble, exalted man we seek but a Jew who dies on a cross.
Yet the Holy Spirit teases us, woes us, and sometimes convinces us that this crucified and risen one, this pushed aside one, this down-trodden, rejected, mocked one is truly The One, the face of the Father, the very heart of God. Miracle of miracles we believe!
So we celebrate the Pentecost, the miracle of miracles that a people still gather to praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Miracles of miracles is that there is still a people who keep watching and waiting for the new creation and get a glimpse or whiff of the Kingdom’s presence. Miracle of miracles there is still a people who bear one another burdens. Miracle of miracles we see in our midst greater works than those of Peter and Paul and the Apostles. We know that what we ask in Jesus’ name is done. Like Jesus the church is a scandal. There is no positive proof that we have received grace upon grace, love never ending. There is always the temptation to celebration Pentecost as an event in the past, to be nostalgic, to dress up in red and light flames of fire and remember the ancient Pentecost. John will not allow us to live in the past. The work of the Holy Spirit is a present work. The Mighty Acts of God are present in our midst. Greater works than these are alive in us who in spite of the darkness, Confess Christ as Lord of Lords, very God of Very God. We can’t help ourselves! Jesus always a scandal is in our midst.”
I especially like the reminder that the work of the Holy Spirit is a present work.