I've been asked by a number of my friends to share the "sermon" (read...short homily) that I gave as part of our Tuesday night Holy Week observance at Circle of Hope. Here it is...(How to Create) An Awareness of the Holy Spirit (from our Suffering)...
A year ago, I blogged these words...
Passion week in and of itself is a busy week if nothing else. Jesus teaches and talks, prays and walks, loves, gives, serves, eats, commands, invites, rebukes, laughs...and all this before a betrayal, an arrest, trials, beatings, mockings, and the horror of the cross. There is a hurricane of activity that ends in the life of Jesus being taken.
In the aftermath of the crucifixion there is confusion, there is fear, there is emotion, there is pain. It is a mess. And then the resurrection. Life comes forth from death. Joy comes forth from sorrow. Hope comes forth from doubt. Jesus comes forth from the grave.
Death on Friday. Life on Sunday. And a mess in between. I believe that this world is a Saturday world. It lives amidst the confusion and fear and emotion and pain. It exists in the mess. But resurrection is coming. And we who understand the resurrection of Jesus have the opportunity to bring a glimpse of resurrection into lives lived in the mess.
On Easter Sunday I will board a plane bound for New Orleans. I find this to be especially appropriate. My reflections on the Cross and on the Resurrection this week have brought me to the point once again of wanting to take action. I want to stand up for injustice. I want to fight suffering. I want to be the voice for those without a voice. I want to take up a cross, commit my spirit into the hands of the Father, and die to myself in order to provide a glimpse of resurrection.
I got on a plane last Easter Sunday, filled with hope of the resurrection and anticipating the living out of a Sunday reality. But though the trip to New Orleans was great in so many ways, life itself didn't play out how I hoped it would. For the next number of weeks, my life slipped back to Saturday. It was a mess. Confusion, fear, emotion, pain. Suffering. I struggled with my calling, I struggled with apathy, I struggled with anger. My life moved from hope to despair.
I felt like I imagine the disciples felt beginning in the Upper Room and continuing on through the crucifixion to the grave...where the hell is Jesus? What the hell has happened?
And then one morning, I was sitting at a church service. I was angry about what was being said. I was angry about the rhetoric and the posturing. I was asking those disciple-like questions...where the hell is Jesus? What the hell has happened? And in the midst of my suffering, the Holy Spirit came.
For weeks on end, I had felt like no one was in my corner, like no one was giving me sound advice, like no one was lending me a hand, or being someone I could turn to. And then the Holy Spirit came. Well, I guess he was already there, but I finally recognized his presence. At long last I had an Advocate, a Counselor, a Helper, a Friend. I don't know how it works, it's a mystery, but the suffering eased and I knew clear as day what steps to take next. Some of those steps were difficult, to be sure, but they were bearable because I had this awareness of the Holy Spirit walking with me into whatever was next.
Jesus knows that his disciples will suffer. He tells them...
If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of th world, for this reason the world hates you. Remember what I told you, "A slave is not greater than his master." If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey your words too. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.
But in his last words, he gives them hope...
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate [the Counselor, the Helper, the Friend] will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.
Our suffering, both through this Lenten season, and in our lives should create in us an awareness of the Holy Spirit. We are not suffering alone, the Holy Spirit goes with us toward what's next.
As this week closes, take the time to be aware of the Holy Spirit, coming to you in the midst of your suffering and going with you to what God has next.