Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Sixth Week of Easter - 05/01/2016

It’s been challenging keeping up with seminary-level studies at my age. My brain is not the “sponge” it was when I was in my late teens and twenties. I’ve managed to finish up a variety of courses, like church history, the scriptures, and theology, but by far, the most difficult and demanding time for me was the summer I was immersed in Greek.

Biblical Greek is what is called a dead language – not as bad as it sounds – it just means no one really speaks it or writes it any more. In the case of Greek, no one speaks or writes it except for people in the church: seminarians like me, pastors who bring their Greek dictionaries in to text study, professors and those who write New Testament commentaries. We use our knowledge of Greek to better understand what the New Testament writers were saying at the time Scriptures were written.

For me, it was really hard to learn a new language – a different alphabet with all kinds of obscure grammar rules that tied into spelling the words. The order of words in a sentence was completely different from English. We had to memorize hundreds of words, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. I remember thinking at one point that I couldn’t fit even one more morsel of Greek into my brain. But I did … And I made it … through the grace of Dr. Leeper and dozens of hours of work … and prayer … and through God’s spirit leading me.

This week’s Gospel reading, verse 26, reminds me of that experience.

“… the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

I claim this verse for my experience with Biblical Greek. Now that it’s behind me, I can see that I’ve been taught this special “dead” language so that I can better understand all that Jesus has said.

This morning’s John 14 passage takes place on Maundy Thursday, after the foot washing and the meal. Before heading out to pray, Jesus begins his long “good-bye conversation” with his disciples – it’s four chapters worth of good-bye - and today we get to hear part of it. Jesus is preparing his followers for when he leaves, and he promises that he won’t abandon them. There will be an Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will come into their lives “to teach them everything and remind them of all that he has said.”

What a comfort these words will be later, when the disciples feel abandoned! There will be much confusion at the time of Jesus’ arrest and death and resurrection. Things won’t make any sense. In order to get through it all, they’ll need someone who will teach them and remind them and help them put two and two together. And they will not be alone!

Pentecost is still two weeks away, but today we hear Jesus promise the Spirit. And that promise wasn’t just for the disciples then, but for each of us, in our here and now.   

I claim the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding me through Greek, and I believe that God, through the Holy Spirit works in my life every day: in my morning prayer and studies, my work and family … in my conversations and in all the surprising twists and turns in my life, the twists and turns that have led me here to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit works through me and through each of you and through the entire Christian Church on earth. When we open ourselves to the possibilities, the Spirit is ready to teach us so much more.

We all need a little help, a little prompting now and again about those things Jesus said and taught, and we have this built-in helper to keep us in tune with who Jesus is, what he continues to represent, and what he wants us to accomplish in a world that desperately needs more of the same grace and love that has saved us.

At Bethany we adults have regular opportunities to learn and to be reminded – through Bible Studies and Lay School and WELCA Studies. To give just one example, at our Monday morning Bible study of the Twelve Minor Prophets, each week are running into a theme of God’s hope and promise in spite of chapter after chapter telling stories of oppression and persecution. These stories are difficult … God’s people not caring for their brothers and sisters in faith, worshiping idols, cheating one another. God calls the people to do better, but the calls go unheeded, and ultimately, foreign countries take over the Promised Land of Israel and Judah and send the people into exile. All those centuries ago, economic inequality, power struggles, and humanitarian issues were concerns. But we hear in the Bible, hope and promise from God that one day, things will be better.

Each week, we try to connect with these old stories and make them current to our world. We know that things have changed significantly, but there are still plenty of justice issues calling for attention. Bible Study reminds us that our God is a God of hope, and we’re invited to listen to and join the voices that are out there, voices of peacemakers and community builders, advocates for the hungry, the alienated and excluded. We can connect them with Jesus’ voice and Jesus’ teachings, and we can act, locally and globally.

Our study of Scripture can keep us linked to and following the Holy Spirit, growing as we are taught, as we are reminded of all that Jesus has said. We can trust that we will begin to have ever new understandings, interpretations, and applications of the ancient words, and we can take what we learn into the world.

And it isn’t just academic stuff like studying Greek or the Twelve Minor Prophets that brings the Holy Spirit close to us. Sometimes it can be just a sense, an inkling: Through a movie – reminding us of the educational needs of the poor. Through a good novel – we remember someone who is desperately lonely. At home, seeing joy in the life-giving nurturing of children, parents, and spouse. Perhaps a walk through the woods activates an invitation to share creation’s beauty or fight for the needs of the environment.

What are your inklings? What’s tugging at you? What is the Holy Spirit helping teach you in your everyday life?

The Spirit whispers things into our ears, and we’re prompted to remember things we might otherwise forget.  It is a dark and difficult world out there – lots of sorrow and uncertainty – that can make us lose our place and forget what we know.  Isn’t it amazing that we have a Spirit that comes alongside us to remind us of the dearest things that Jesus said and taught?

And let us not forget one of the most important truths the Spirit teaches us: that we’ve got it made, thanks to Jesus going to the cross for us.  We get to rest assured that our sinful, self-centered behavior is forgiven. Each Sunday, we hear the words in the Confession and Forgiveness: “God forgives us all our sins.”

You are forgiven. You are made right with God through Jesus Christ. 

In our reading, when Jesus is ready to depart from his disciples, he promises his disciples that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit will teach them everything and remind them of all Jesus has said.  We have the same promise today.  The Spirit stands ready for us around every corner: in prayer, Bible study, devotional materials, worship, nature.

Listen for the voice that says yes to God’s kingdom on earth as we work together to sow peace, lessen fear, and create community. 

The Spirit will be beside us all the way.

Amen.    

Vicar Terry Frankenstein

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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