Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
[Jesus said,] 26“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
16:4b“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
I’ve been attempting to meet with 60 people in 60 days here in my first two months at Christ Lutheran, and I’m happy to say, I’m half way through! One of the common stories I’ve shared with some of you is remodeling and home improvement projects, and our adventures living in a house that’s well over a century old and needs a bit of help everywhere. We took two rooms down to the studs, and like they say, it’s got good bones.
The Lord gives the prophet Ezekiel a vision of dry bones in a valley, and asks him, can these bones live. The Lord answers their own questions and eventually tells Ezekiel, that these bones represent the house of Israel, in exile, scattered, exhausted, and depleted, the Lord declares I will put my spirit within you and you shall live.
In our other readings today – Peter quotes the prophet Joel with some rather disturbing and yet affirming imagery and a vision of spiritual equality and hope. And Jesus tells us about sending the spirit who will be our Advocate and guide us to truth.
The common thread with these texts is the Holy Spirit’s action comes after hard times, and in unexpected and difficult ways. The Spirit shows up where death is. Where despair is. Where there are dry bones and tombs. The Spirit is the one breathing new life into what was lost and gone. And it’s not gonna be a return to the way it was before. It’s a new life. A new reality. A new vision and a new hope. It’s a bit scary.
But I can tell you from experience, the worst feeling is in the middle. Can these bones live? The feeling you get between the question and the answers. Can these bones live? When you gut the room down to the studs and you’re breathing a century of coal dust and its coating everything in your house – its really really hard to see how these bones will live. When the project is plagued by setback after setback, and it’s taking so long to get something done, and you feel like, it’s never gonna happen. I’m gonna be looking at these two by fours for the rest of my life.
Now I know from experience, married 8 years on tuesday, that the two by fours will not stay exposed forever, and that there will be a new beautiful creation where before there was only sawdust and spiders. I’ve seen it happen before…. It’s possible. It does happen.
BUT when that happens in my life, it’s a little different. It’s what I like to call a Holy Saturday time. Holy Saturday is the day between good Friday and Easter. The day in between the death and resurrection. Quiet but pregnant with possibility. But at the same time full of doubt and despair, staring at the bones. Can these bones live?
Do we trust that God is acting even when we don’t see it or don’t understand it? Can we trust God’s voice speaking new visions into existence Evan and especially when the speaker or the topic makes us uncomfortable? That’s Pentecost.
To quote modern day prophet LL Cool J – Don’t call it a comeback. These bones aren’t bringing themselves back. We don’t have to rise from the ashes or put flesh back on our bones by ourselves. Our resurrection will not come from our ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. It is God’s action – unexpected and surprising – undeserved – and unbelievable.
Confirmation students, I promise you, that the Holy Spirit is working in your life. I know this to be true. So when you feel like things are stale, or dead, or impossible, or tragic, or done. Keep listening and keep looking.
We’ll pray for each of you by name during your affirmation of baptism for the holy spirit’s action Stir up in name the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. That’s a lot of work for the Spirit to do in you, and it’s not always going to be comfortable. But the Spirit is for you, the Spirit is on your team, Jesus calls the spirit the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Comforter, the one who comes alongside. You are not here because your parents brought you, or even because you chose to keep your commitment to confirmation classes and affirm your baptism. You are here because the Holy Spirit has called and gathered you here. Remember? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth.” (Luther’s Catechism)
But there’s a part of the story of the dry bones that we’ve skipped. Ezekiel followed God’s command to prophesy to the bones. To tell the dried out remnant that hope is at hand, and is already here. Prophesying is not fortune telling or seeing into the future. It’s putting into words for our time and location, what is already true for God, outside of space and time. God’s word for us. And there is power in that word. Spoken to dry bones – it brings them to life.
Spoken to hopeless and helpless situations and individuals – it instills hope and help. And it’s not just preachers who are called to be prophets. Anyone and everyone. Our sons and our daughters, young men with visions, and old men shall dream dreams. Even upon the most marginalized and those made to be second class citizens. They will speak God’s truth into our time. Pentecost is a call for the church to live in the full power of the Spirit. To listen to the prophets around us – To speak God’s word of new hope, new life, new visions, and new ideas into every hopeless mess we find, whether inside our doors or outside. That what may look on the outside to be devoid of life, where God seems is absent, and when Holy Saturday despair overshadows. Remember the church has good bones. Remember the church is the body of Christ, and still lives, because the Holy Spirit is its breath. Amen.
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