[Jesus said:] " I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.When 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. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

John 16:12-15

Pastor Marc's sermon on Trinity Sunday (June 16, 2019) on John 16:12-15. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


Earlier this week, I met with my colleagues in the Upper Pascack Valley Interfaith Clergy group for our monthly luncheon. As we sat down to break bread over kosher deli sandwiches, we talked about the things we’ve been up to. Since it is graduation season, one member of our group was asked to give the keynote address at a religious school’s graduation ceremony. She had actually been at the school that morning and she shared with us a bit of what she said. The graduating class, it seemed, had a bit of a reputation and she was hoping her words would leave a lasting impression. She wanted to inspire those youth to make wiser, more compassion, and more caring decisions. She hoped that the youth would leave that place ready to be something better than they had been before. That hope, I think, is what we all want when we deliver a keynote address as a graduation ceremony.  Yet personally, I don’t remember anything a keynote speaker says at a graduation ceremony. Part of that is due to how my brain works. Unless I’m taking notes and literally writing down what someone says, I struggle to retain it. I can feel a deep emotional and spiritual connection to the words they shared but by the time I toss my hat into the air, I can no longer quote what they said. When we stand in front of a group of people who are at a transitional moment in their lives, we want our words to make a difference. But we sometimes, I think, hype up the importance of the words we’re trying to use. We believe that every noun and verb and even every punctuation mark that we speak matters because we think everyone at that graduation ceremony will remember what we said. We often forget that there’s also that person sitting there who wished their graduation gown wasn’t so clunky so that they could reach their phone and take notes about what was actually being said. Our words in every situation do matter. But there are times when it’s what our words point to that ends up being the life-giving gift that helps carry everyone through.

Today’s reading from the gospel according to John is, once again, part of Jesus’ Farewell discourse. We’ve been here for a number of weeks, listening to Jesus as he talked to his friends before his arrest, trial, and death. We’ve already heard the beginning of Jesus’ speech, when he washed his disciples feet. And we’ve already heard it’s end when he prayed for himself, his friends, and all who would eventually follow him. We find ourselves, at this moment, smack dab in the middle of his words. Jesus has, up to this point, tried to reassure his disciples over and over again that the Cross won’t end their time with him. His love for them is stronger than anything that life will bring their way. But the disciples were a bit confused. They had seen Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, turn water into wine, and even raise Lazarus from the dead. It seemed to them that Jesus already had the power and the wisdom and the might needed to overcome anything that life might send against him. Their dreams about Jesus saw him triumphing over all that was around him. So his Farewell discourse didn’t really make a lot of sense to them. The disciples, I think, searched Jesus’ words, looking for some kind of confirmation that Jesus wouldn’t really experience what he said he would. Yet Jesus knew that his disciples were at a transition point. So Jesus tried, once again, to help his disciples understand  what his words were all about.

The one graduation speaker I do remember didn’t actually speak at my graduation at all. I was a Junior in High School and I helped herd the seniors during their graduation ceremony. I made sure they were all in the right seats and that they knew where to go when it ended. I don’t remember all the speakers who spoke at that graduation. But I do remember the one who began his speech with silence. My high school had, over the years, decided to work through its racist past by confronting its offensive caricature of its mascot, the Arapaho Native American Warrior. They had worked with the Arapahoe Nation to redo their mascot and they formed new relationships rooted in respect, empathy, justice, and affirmation. Part of that relationship meant that, every year, a member of the Arapaho tribe would speak at our graduation. For several years, the chief of the tribe who was instrumental in forging that more life-giving relationship was the person who spoke. But after he died, his son came to speak in his place. I witnessed his first time speaking to all 500 high school graduates whose way of life differed from his own. He made his way across the stage, sood at the podium, looked out at everyone in front of him and said...nothing. He stood there, quietly, for several minutes. His silence started to make us uncomfortable. We began to shift in our seats, pretend to clear our throat, even started whispering to each other, wondering if everything was okay. We expected him to immediately start talking when he came to the microphone but he didn’t. So we filled that silence with any noise we could make. When he finally did speak, you could feel the entire audience get comfortable since he met our expectations. But I found out later that his silence was anything but. As he stood at the podium, looking over the graduates before him, he was waiting for the right time to speak. The clock and our schedule wasn’t going to manage his words. He would wait until he knew it was time to talk. Now, behind the graduates, at the edge of the field, was a wooded area along the banks of a small creek. None of the graduates could see it since we were looking the wrong way. But he could. After a few silent minutes, an eagle suddenly flew out from those woods into the air. That was a sign to him that the presence of his father, his ancestors, and his people were now there. It wasn’t necessarily the words he chose to speak that mattered. Rather, it was the fact that he speaking those words within a life-giving relationship, one that transcended time and place. That presence is what ends up making a difference.

Jesus, in our passage today, makes a promise that there are many things he wants to say to each of us but that the time isn’t quite right because we still have some living to do. All our joys and all our sorrows, all our graduations and all our moments of transition, are part of what makes us who we are. The life we live is a life that must be lived and through it all, we won’t be left on our own. Instead, our Jesus will be there because, through our baptism and through our faith, we have a Savior who is always with us. He is, even now, speaking to us, and he will say what we need to get us through. When the words becomes too much or too confusing or when we find ourselves unable to recall what anyone else has actually said, we can always lean into who is always with us. And into that promise that Jesus, through the Spirit, will, no matter what, keep guiding us through.