The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Easter IV Sermon by Fr. Peter Jardine


Today we read verses 5-15 from Ch.16 of the Gospel according to St. John. Taken as a whole, this section shows us a number of important things.

Firstly it shows the compassion of our Lord. That comes through in every word when he says, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. How well he knew his Apostles and how deeply he cared for them!

Secondly, it shows us the nature of God’s Love. It is an all knowing Love which brings firm discipline as well as compassion, gentleness and generosity. Jesus knows that the hearts of his Apostles are breaking because he has told them he must leave them. But that knowledge does not weaken his resolve one tiny bit.

Gently, but firmly, he tells them, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away. He goes on to tell them why, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

God Loves us, but in his Love He knows us intimately and knows what is best for us His Love is so perfect that we can be absolutely sure that God will give us only what is best for us, which may coincide only rarely with what we think we want or need. This is a tough love; a Divine Love; a love we must accept in all its fullness.

Now one of the things which we all need is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. But we need to examine that need rather carefully and to put it in the context of God’s Love.

The Holy Spirit is God, the Third Person of the Trinity. That is why I cringe when I hear ministers, or lay people, declaring that they will call down the Holy Spirit. Such people often go as far as telling us that we will tremble, or get hot, or fall over; that the roof will shake and the windows rattle, as a mighty rushing wind blows all around us.

Who do they think they are, to demand anything of God? God does not dance to the tune of a human piper. What arrogance such demands betray and how clear the New Testament teachings are about such proud hearts. He hath scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts, says Mary in Luke 1:51, part of what we should say daily during Evensong in the Magnificat, the beautiful Song of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In v6 of Ch.4 of his epistle, James refers to Proverbs 3:34, stating that, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

St. Peter says exactly the same thing in his first epistle, ch.5:5.

If we think about it, why would the Comforter come to someone whose heart is so filled with pride that there is no room for anything else. Such a person is not even aware of their need for the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used by St. John is πparakleton, which translates correctly as paraclete, meaning advocate. If we do not know that we need an advocate, we are hardly likely to go looking for one, or even to accept the suggestion that we use one.

Many of us are supremely, blindly confident of our own self sufficiency and when such arrogance drives us to think we can make demands on God, it is our own power we are trying to demonstrate, not God’s power.

The Psalmist wrote in psalm 51, The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.

That is how we make room for the Holy Spirit. When we are truly contrite and able to fall on our knees before God, asking in all humility for the Holy Spirit to fill us.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, the first words of Our Lord’s public ministry are Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Similarly, in Mark we find, The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe in the Gospel.

Repentence is clearly high on the Lord’s list of priorities, so we can be sure that he is not referring to some casual, “Oops, sorry God!” What we are talking about is gut wrenching, heartfelt, totally sincere repentance. Usually such repentance is accompanied by acts of contrition – giving to the poor, for example. Not public breast beating, but genuine acts of contrition, offered to God and known only to Him.

Of course, in order to repent, we first have to know what sins we have committed, to understand the harm they do to us and to our relationship with God. This is not as easy as it sounds because it can be quite comfortable and even enjoyable to waltz through life in blissful ignorance of what we are really doing.

How many times, for example, have we used that self serving term, a little white lie, and convinced ourselves that the deceit was ever so small and therefore unimportant. How many times have we looked at a member of the opposite sex and thought, Wow, what a corker! And gone on into raunchy fantasies. But no one was hurt, because it stayed in our minds, right?.

Wrong on both counts. Jesus tells us that and we need to develop a serious respect for what those sins will mean if we do not truly repent, but carry them with us to the time when we come before God to receive his judgement and justice. None of us can escape that, lease of all those of us who tell ourselves it will never happen.

In verse 8 of John 16, Jesus begins to explain the work of the Holy Spirit and that work begins in convincing the world of sin in all its aspects, especially that the fruit of sin is death. In Romans 6:23, St. Paul writes exactly that, the wages of sin is death.

Jesus also explains that the Holy Spirit will convince us of Righteousness, that is that Jesus is righteous. The Spirit will guide us in all truth, showing us, teaching us, convincing us that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. The Holy Spirit is sent to convince us of the mighty, saving power of the crucified, risen Lord.

Then Jesus says, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convince us of judgement. We must let the Spirit into our hearts to show us without a shadow of doubt that on the Cross evil was condemned and defeated. But we must all know that one day we will stand before God to answer to him for our sins.

It is necessary to know the danger we are in, in order to appreciate and understand fully the salvation given through Jesus Christ.

Such knowledge, such appreciation and understanding will come slowly to most of us. Con version to Christianity in the most profound sense is much more a journey than it is a Damascus Road experience, at least for most of us. Sanctification is generally both slow and rather painful. We will stumble and fall often.

But, to the glory of the Lord, the Holy Spirit will be there to help us to pick ourselves up, re-focus our eyes on the light of Christ and struggle on towards our heavenly home.

It has been that way for 2,000 years and if it were not so, Jesus of Nazareth would be buried in the silt of the ages as just one more criminal who got his just deserts.

But Jesus is not buried in history. He is here today, risen, living, loving us and calling us to his side. The Holy Spirit will convince us of that.

Veni, Creator Spiritus!
Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with Celestial fire;
Thy blessed unction from above
Is comfort, life and fire of love,
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. Alleluia.

Peter Jardine+
Easter IV, 2005