It is interesting to come across an old sermon and see if the words and ideas some years later are perhaps not totally embarrassing.

In preparation for Pentecost, I recently stumbled on a sermon I preached nine years ago. It is not the sermon I will preach this morning, but it feels like it had some worthwhile things to say. So, here, slightly abridged, is a 2004 Pentecost sermon. (nb: I will return to Matthew 25 tomorrow.)

SUNDAY SERMON June 6, 2004


JOHN 14:25-27

Near the end of John 14, Jesus connects the ministry of the Holy Spirit specifically with the problem of fear.  Jesus says,

Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Fear motivates a great deal of what most of us do much of the time.  It starts early in life.  As soon as we begin to become aware of our separation from our mother, we begin to experience fear.  We are afraid there is not enough of what we need in life to sustain us.  We are afraid the nourishment we require will run out.  So we start clutching and grabbing trying to ensure that we get enough.

As we grow older our fears develop. We become fearful we will not fit in; we do not really belong.  We feel like an outsider.  So we develop strategies to try to make sure we are popular and impressive.  Our lives develop around a constant struggle to make things work for ourselves and to make the world tell us that we are good and worthwhile.  We seek signals from others that reinforce our fragile sense of self-esteem.

But it never quite works. In my heart one little dark corner of fear remains.  There is always a small voice somewhere in the background telling me that all my strategies are going to fail.  Eventually the world is going to discover I am a fraud.  They are going to find out that I am not the person I project myself to be and then everyone is going to abandon me.

Jesus’ promise of a life without fear comes in the context of John’s Gospel chapters 13 and 14 in which Jesus tells those closest to him that one of them is going to betray him and another will deny even having known him. These are the primal human fears. We fear being betrayed and being invisible.  So much of life tells us we do not fit in; we do not really belong.

Jesus knew that those closest to him were going to let him down completely.  And, it was in the midst of this recognition of betrayal and failure that Jesus was able to speak about peace saying,

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.

The “peace” the world gives is no peace at all.  The peace the world holds out depends upon circumstances being a certain way, and upon me being treated a certain way by others. The world’s peace is based upon the illusion that other people have the power to give me a sense of worth and well-being.

The peace Jesus offers is a peace that exists even when my feet are set upon the way of the cross.  Jesus’ peace is a peace that can survive the horror of betrayal, the tragedy of denial, and the pain of being forsaken by everyone and everything upon which I have ever relied in the external world.  The peace Jesus gives is a peace that cannot be taken away by any change in external circumstances.  It is a peace that is stronger, more real, more lasting, and more true than any calamity that might occur in my circumstances.

If we are to know this peace, even in the midst of fear, we need to listen deeply to the voice of God’s Spirit.  Fear comes because there are too many conflicting voices speaking in our lives all at the same time.  The voice of fear tells us we are no good, that life is nothing but a series of random painful events, and that nobody really cares about us or values us.

Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will

teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

That is what we need.  We need to hear the truth.  We need to grow deaf to the illusions and lies that surround us on all sides in the world so that we can remember the things Jesus taught.

The Holy Spirit will speak truth to us if we have ears that are willing to hear.  We need to let go of those constant menacing voices that come to us as the inheritance of childhood and adolescent pain. When we let go of those lies and illusions that our past feeds us, we will discover the voice of truth emerging.  When we finally are willing to recognize the lies in our head and acknowledge them for the falsehood they represent, we will discover that the voice of truth speaks more and more loudly in our hearts.

The more we listen to the voice of truth that is God’s Holy Spirit living within us, the more we discover that peace Jesus promised.  Our hearts know the difference.  We do know the sound of lies and the sound of truth.  The only question for us is who are we going to listen to?  Who will we believe?  Who are we going to follow?

The truth of the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace.  The lies of our pain lead to suffering, unrest, and chaos.  It is hard to imagine why we would even need to ask ourselves which voice we prefer to hear.  But the voice of pain is seductive and subtle.  The lies of our hurts are incredibly tenacious. It is one of the strange peculiarities of lies that the more they are proven false, the more we try to believe they are real.

So, stop, listen to the voice of truth.  Believe the gentle words of love that God’s Spirit speaks in your heart.  Feel the strength and the life that is contained in those words.  Know that God’s Spirit speaks words of love.  God’s Spirit of love speaks words that drive out all fear and bring healing hope and blessing.  Let go of the pain you carry with you.  There is a healing and a strength that is greater than any of the wounds we have ever encountered.  God’s Spirit will take us gently and lead us to that place of wholeness as we listen and trust the gracious guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.