Sometimes we are not ready to hear what we need to hear, we are not ready to see what we need to see, and we are not ready to know what we need to know – until we are ready to hear and see and know it.
Jesus is asking his disciples to trust him into the unknown. His promise is that the Spirit will reveal to them what they need to hear and know when they need to hear and know it; just as he has been teaching and revealing to them what his Father has been and is doing through him.
It may sound like talking a bit in circles, but the Holy Trinity is like that. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct but not separate; relational and intertwined; knowable but mysterious. Our best attempts to explain and map out exactly how God works and what God is up to in our lives often fall short of the vastness of who God is and what God does.
Yet look at the context of this passage. God is not unknowable; but revealed. At this point in the story Jesus is still with his disciples in the upper room. Even though on numerous occasions he has told them he is going to suffer and die they have not believed him, or at the very least, they have not truly understood what he was saying or what it might mean. We might ask...do we?
In the chapters that follow in John’s Gospel, they will experience, betrayal, denial, abandonment, fear, loss, bewilderment and a whole host of emotions as his passion unfolds. Jesus is telling them before it happens that not only he, but his father will be with them through it all. The Spirit will guide them into the truth to truly experience what his mission has been all about and what it means for the present and future.
Jesus could have kept explaining it all to them. He could have told them not to worry because on Sunday he would be raised from the dead. But they still would not have seen or heard or understood. Instead he simply tells them to trust him. The Spirit will guide them into the unknown, beyond what they are experiencing or can comprehend in the moment. Then they will know.
This is good news for us because we often do not see either the big picture or beyond the pain, worry or fear we or our loved ones are experiencing in the moment; or beyond the injustice, suffering and cruelty of this world. In the midst of what may feel overwhelming; Jesus asks us to trust him.
Rather than getting caught up in Trinitarian formulations or explanations; Jesus invites us to get intertwined in the Divine relationship – never alone; never giving up one’s identity; never getting lost in the shuffle or being left behind; but united in Oneness and relationship; distinctness and togetherness; embraced and embracing.
Look for it in your own doubts and fears.When you see someone struggling in theirs -welcome them into the Divine relationship that shows us what we need when we need to know it. In the meantime God is God; we are not; but we are never ever alone.
That is all we need to know.
Day of Pentecost
Sermon on Acts 2:1-24
and John 14:15-17
“What church are you lamenting?;
What church are you hoping for?”
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT
Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo
Ascension / Easter 7
Sermon in Acts 1:1-11 & Luke 24:44-53
“Why look up when you can show up?”
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT
Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo
Ordination of Dan Purtell to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament
Emanuel Lutheran Church, Manchester, CT
If you were to hold an informal poll with those around you, how do you think people would answer the question,
“Where is Jesus now?”
How would you answer that question?
Answers will vary to be sure.
In the Lukan narrative (Luke 24:44-53); Jesus explained the scriptures to them (just as he did on the road to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-35] after he ate with them and had them touch him so they did not think he was a ghost [Luke 24:46-43]). He explained, “thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). Jesus promised, “power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Then he took them out as far as Bethany (about a mile and a half from Jerusalem) where he blessed and left them. The gospel ends with the disciples returning to Jerusalem, “and they were continually in the Temple praising God” (Luke 24:53).
In Acts (Acts 1:1-11), Luke expands the story to include an explanation of this “power from on High” (Luke 24:49) to be the coming Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-9). The rest of the book of Acts will be a continuation of how the Spirit emboldens those first believers to carry the mission of “repentance and forgiveness” (Luke 24:46) to the “end of the earth” (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). Acts expands this scene even further by locating two men in white robes among the disciples. This echoes the two men in dazzling robes at the empty tomb in Luke’s Easter account with the women (Luke 24:1-12). Here among the disciples, like the women at the empty tomb, the men in dazzling clothes ask a good question. They asked the women, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). They asked the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” (Acts 1:11). [Personal aside – I cannot ever read that question without laughing. I often find myself looking at the sky for answers when there is work right in front of me to be done.]
So what does it all mean?
Jesus is not displaced out of the world by the Ascension. Jesus is to be found wherever there is repentance and forgiveness; that is in every place reconciliation, rehabilitation and restoration of the world and our relationships takes place. This work is powered by Christ’s ongoing presence that is enfleshed in the community that bears his name; that is the body of Christ. The church’s mission is powered by the promised Holy Spirit; that came; that comes to us now, and will keep coming to us in the word, the sacraments and the ever-expanding people of God brought into God’s promises of life and mercy.
Where we (the church) keep getting stuck is dwelling on our limits, failures, fractures, decline, death and/or shouting at the sky for answers. We have work to do. It takes the Spirit, in the story of Pentecost (Acts 2) to shake us up and blow through us like a mighty wind so we can look for Christ (and the need for Christ) in all the right places…and go there to share his abundant blessing of new life that keeps exploding out of the grave.
Where do you look for Jesus?
How might you help others see him?
Memorial Day Weekend
Sermon on John 14:25-31
“Peace…Get On With It”
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT
Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo
Confirmation of Elise DeBernardo
Confirmation of Aiden Goiangos
Peace is illusive.
We often define peace as the absence of conflict. Yet ongoing conflict seems to have the upper hand in our world. We believe it will defeat us.
We try to achieve peace through violence. To defeat our enemies often costs us dearly. We remember and honor our war dead. Sometimes we remember the other side’s too. Innocent lives are lost in the crossfire. Lasting peace continues because we have hit our opponents hard enough that they will not come back…
…at least not for a while.
We define peace as acceptance. We may not like the way things are in the world or the way someone has treated us. We make peace with it by acknowledging the pain, carrying it as long as we must and somehow deciding that in order to live we cannot allow that pain to define us. We carry within us the scars of this peace.
We define peace as death. Sometimes we say things like “they are at peace now” after someone’s life has ended after a struggle. They are no longer breathing. Life is gone. There is something final to this kind of peace. “Rest in peace,” we say. Peace in their absence becomes grief to work through for us.
We define peace as tranquility. We seek peace in serene environments in the natural world: where the conditions are perfect, the breeze is gentle, the sun is warm, and people leave us alone.
We define peace as projecting calm. Those who can handle the pressure of tense circumstance, the heightened anxiety in others, the fear creeping up in themselves in the midst of turmoil overcome the intensity of a situation by remaining calm and drawing others into the focus required to overcome threats with poise and confidence.
We define peace as reconciliation. Two people come together after being in conflict. Feelings were hurt. Lives were broken. Actions have consequences. Offering contrition and responding with forgiveness destroys the power of separation with an embrace. Life is renewed, but things will never be perfect. There is still much to struggle through together. We have memories. But peace breaks into those lives, when the one with the power does not punish the other but welcomes them home. Our sharing of the peace in church is supposed to mimic this act of restorative love among us.
Jesus offers peace. But what kind?
Jesus becomes the embodiment of conflict and violence at the cross; exposing how fruitless violence is. He confronts power by declaring it powerless, “my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36) and declares “the ruler of this world has no power over me” (John 14:30). He is our peace; bringing us together into one restored humanity (Ephesians 2:14).
Jesus does not retaliate or raise the sword. Violence begets violence. Only the path of non-violence has the potential to break the cycle. The Pax Romana – peace through power, bloodshed and terror is exposed as no peace at all.
Jesus is a peace-maker; by not accepting the world as it is. He often creates conflict directed at him and his followers by healing on the sabbath, touching the unclean, eating with sinners, talking with gentiles and women, treating both the oppressed and the oppressors with dignity and respect, and teaching about a kingdom that often confounds his hearers assumptions by flipping their expectation about God, community and the world upside-down.
Jesus destroys the power of death at Easter. This “peace that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7) re-orders our world, so that God holds our future no matter what circumstances we face; even the dire ones.
Jesus often went off alone to quiet places to pray; but always in order to re-engage the world around him. We often get caught in escapism so we don’t have to deal with others. Jesus embodies a peace that is grounded in purpose for the sake of serving others.
Jesus calls us into the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). It is not just a matter of making amends for wrongdoing, but restoring our broken humanity as ambassadors to what Christ has done to destroy sin by becoming sin so that all things are made new n him and through him.
Jesus reminds his disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate is coming. They will not be on their own, but God will see them through whatever is coming next. In their story, his passion is about to unfold. In our story, the future is unknown. Fear can be a real power in our lives. Jesus reminds them not to be afraid, but to trust the peace that he gives.
Sharing this peace, Jesus calls them to get up, and get on with it (John 14:31).
We should too.
-How have you defined peace?
-Where do you see Jesus’ peace that surpasses understanding?
-What makes you afraid of trusting that peace?