Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on August 4, 2019: The Paraclete: He Will Guide You Into All the Truth. Text: John 16:12-16 . Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]
What do I do now?
This is the Caledonia Cemetery. It is in the country outside of Sparta, Illinois, where my mother grew up. It’s the cemetery where my uncle’s funeral took place yesterday morning. I put the address of the cemetery into the GPS on the car. No idea where it was. But, you take your cell phone in your hand, and you go to Google Maps, and I swear, Google Maps can find just about anything.
Not only that, there’s a button if you push it just right, it will tell you, “Turn Right. Turn left. Turn right. Turn around. Make a U-turn. You missed the turn.” Google Maps was how I got to the cemetery. Because we understand nowadays the power of a connection. I know if I had tried to write down directions to this cemetery I would never have found it. But we’re connected by our cell phones to powers greater than we understand. Which is why I say to you the guidance of the Holy Spirit is like a network and you’re a part of it.
What do I do now?
Well, I was connected, so I knew which way to turn. And I had been to a funeral before, so I knew what to do next once the car was parked. But you know, we don’t always know what to do.
I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy chair reading a book on Friday night at 8:30 when the connection of the cell phone showed me that I had a Facebook message from someone you don’t know. Her name is Laura Claro. And her Facebook message said to me that her younger brother, Danny, had died that day.
Danny and his wife, Amy, were members of the Caseyville Church where I was the pastor for nine years. They’re Lutheran now. But apparently, he had died in the morning while he was getting dressed, collapsed back on the bed. And when his wife came home from work, she found him. She’s in her 40s, he’s in his early 50s, they have a nine-year-old child, Mason. And I called Amy on the phone and she said she just had a minute to talk because they were going to the funeral home Friday night. And she said to me in the most heartbreaking voice,
“What do I do now?” Because, you know, sometimes we just don’t know what to do.
“What do I do now?” Psychiatrist David Burns, in talking about how we perceive reality around us – he’s a psychiatrist and an expert on depression – he says when people become absorbed in the past, that can be a foundation for depression because there are so many things in our past that we cannot change. We are powerless.
Not only that, if you focus on the future it can be a foundation for anxiety. Why? Because you begin to imagine every possible thing that can go wrong.
Psychiatrist David Burns talks about 10 cognitive distortions, 10 ways to look at reality and be interpreted in a way that creates depression or anxiety. And I have one of them in great quantity. It actually has two parts. It’s called mind-reading and fortune-telling.
Fortune-telling is when you look at the future and you imagine every possible problem that could happen. Does this ever happen to you? And you try to work out a contingency plan for every possible problem that can happen. I’ll guarantee you, there’s nothing that will ruin a night’s sleep more than that … because, here’s the problem. You can never imagine every possible thing that can go wrong and be ready for it.
I also have the problem of mind-reading, which is that I think that I know what other people are thinking. So what that means is, in the middle of the night, I’m thinking, well, he’ll say this and she’ll say that and then they’ll do this and then he’ll do that and then everything will be hopeless.
Now I’d like you to know that I think I’m smart. But I’ve come to realize over the years that I’m not that smart. This is the problem with our brains trying to know too far into the future. We create an emotional storm that is more than we can handle. We can’t dwell in the past where we’re helpless. If we have too much anxiety about the future, we will feel hopeless. There’s only one safe thing for us to do when we don’t know what to do and that’s to remain in the present.
In fact, there’s a saying by Robert Sapolsky, an American neuroendocrinologist and professor of biology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. He says, “There is no stress in the present moment.” And what that confusing statement means is that right here, right now, you probably know what to do. You don’t know what to do about the future. There’s nothing you can do about the past. But right here, right now, you probably know what you need to do now. And if you don’t know what you need to do now, if you just simply stop, let go of the past, let go of the future, open yourself up, you will probably know what to do in the present.
And, of course, when Christians talk about opening themselves up, they’re talking about listening to God and letting Jesus be the Lord over the present moment. And I promise you, if you do what you need to do now, you’ll be ready to do what you need to do next, the next now. And you will slowly find yourself moving out of the valley of the shadow of death.
If you don’t know what to do now, focus on what you need to do next because the Holy Spirit will tell you. Jesus is in Heaven, but He is connected into the souls of every person who believes in Him. And here’s the verse where Jesus talks about how the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, comes alongside of us primarily to communicate what Jesus wants us to hear. Jesus says these words, “I have yet many things to say to you…” Things about the future. But, Jesus says, “you cannot hear them now.” Verse 13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” There are things I can’t tell you now, but when the time comes that you need to hear them, the Spirit of truth will be there to tell you what you need to know.
How will we recognize the Spirit of truth? He will not speak on his own form, but whatever he hears from God, he will speak to us. Jesus says, “He will declare to you the things that are to come.” What you can’t hear now, the Holy Spirit will bring to you in your time of need. Not only that, verse 14, here’s another way that you recognize the Holy Spirit speaking: “He will glorify me,” Jesus says. He won’t be lifting up a human being, He won’t be glorifying the latest celebrity or the latest music group. He won’t be glorifying a particular translation in the Bible or a particular book that you should read. The Holy Spirit’s voice will glorify Jesus. The topic of the Holy Spirit’s message will always be Jesus because “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
This channel of communication exists for the people of God. And Jesus said to them on the night he was betrayed, “A little while you will see me no more.” And again a “little while” on the day of Pentecost when the connection between the souls of believers and the Holy Spirit is made, Jesus says, “In a little while, you’ll see me.” We will still be in touch.
And in fact, we are still in touch as believers. We’re in touch when they walked through the paths of Israel with Jesus because He is with us by means of the connection with the Holy Spirit.
So you see, we have something like this (a Bluetooth cell phone headset) that allows us to communicate with God. We have something like this mechanical device, only it’s a spiritual device, that allows us to pray. And if we learn to listen, hear from God answers to our prayers. Answers to our questions. Guidance for our lives. Someone just like Google Maps: you can turn right, you can turn left, and now go straight ahead. Because Jesus Christ is still in contact with each one of us if we we will listen.
“What can I do?” Well, here’s one thing we know. You are not a source of power that can get you through a time of trouble. You are not a source of power that can help other people keep going in the time of trouble because whatever source of power you might have, it’s not going to last very long if you’re only plugged into yourself.
But you have a source of power beyond yourself. So what you can do– what you can do when you can’t control what’s happening, is you can challenge yourself to control the way that you respond to what’s happened. My recommendation to you would be this. The first thing to do is to plug into the power of God. But if you control how you respond or react, you’ll find that’s where your power is: in the present moment. You have a choice of what you can do.
Because I want to suggest there will always be a next thing. And if you listen to God, you will find that you’re able to do the next thing. Whatever that is, however small a thing that is, you will find that you’re able to do the next thing. And then when you’ve done it, “Okay, Lord, what’s the next thing?” And then, when you’ve done that, “Lord, what’s the next thing?”
Those of you who are familiar with computers when you see that little diamond– well, that little triangle there if you press it, it plays a little tape or video or message. Sometimes, the next thing is you’re given a message to say in that moment to encourage someone else. To help someone who is your neighbor. To lift their spirits and as you lift their spirits, you lift your own spirits. If what the next thing is, is that you’re going to share God’s love and compassion and encouragement with someone else, let that message play out to someone who’s not connected to where you are.
Listen to the Spirit and speak what you hear. That’s one of the reasons why we have this connection. But always remember, the source of your power is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You see the cross down in the bottom right-hand corner of that picture there, all the wire is plugged into it or drawing power from it. But, as the green arrow points out, if people are going to draw from you, you need to be plugged into the source of your power. And the source of our power is always the presence of Jesus Christ in our life, not just on Sunday mornings, not just Sundays, but as he promised he would always be with us.
Please, pray with me. Lord Jesus, in a difficult time, it is tempting for us to believe that we have the power. Lord, remind us that we are only sheep. But sheep who are partners with a shepherd, have the power to do the right thing in the moment, for their lives and also for others that they are connected to. And so, Lord, we pray that you would strengthen the connection between us and you by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. So that we might hear from you for our benefit. That we might hear from you what we need to do right now. That we might hear from you any words which might encourage someone else who is frightened who is walking with us. Lord, we are created to live in partnership, connected with you. May it so be. And we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?
What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.