Sunday, June 14, 2020 “The Spirit is Speaking Through You”
Join us Sunday morning for Holy Trinity’s Video Worship Service with Pastor Erik, “The Spirit is Speaking Through You.”
Here’s the YouTube link for Sunday Worship. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOMO3foK3Hw
“The Spirit Speaks Through Us”
MATTHEW 10:1,5-14, 16-20 June 14, 2020
Have you ever had a re-occurring dream or nightmare that has just kept popping up throughout your life? Have you ever had a theme that keeps happening in your dreams, but just in different forms? Have you ever had one of those nightmares where the feeling is so strong you are not quite sure if it is real or not, even for a few moments after you have awakened?
As a pastor, one of those dreams for me has to do with being asked to speak, but not having prepared for it. In the dream, I’ll be visiting a church service somewhere else or I will be attending a funeral or I will be at some special event and I suddenly find out that I’m supposed to get up and preach a sermon or say a few words. I will get that sinking feeling in my gut that I forgot that I had been asked to speak. I will get that sinking feeling that I should have put the note in my calendar so I would have been ready. I will get that sinking feeling that this event was important, and I’m walking up front after having been called out, but I am not sure what I am going to say.
Perhaps these re-occurring dreams would not be such nightmares if I would trust more in the words we hear from Jesus this morning from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells his followers, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Jesus is telling his disciples to trust that the Spirit will give them the right words to speak. These are reassuring words indeed since I think almost all of us have been in those situations where we want to respond, but we are just not quite sure what to say, so we are afraid to speak up. What would it mean to allow the Spirit to speak through us in those kinds of situations?
I had a friend in seminary who told me about the time she was assigned to preach, a couple months into her internship year. She was still new to preaching and was struggling with what to say that coming Sunday. All week my friend wrestled with writing her sermon. It just didn’t seem to be coming together. She had put a few things down on paper, but the words just didn’t seem right. Time began to run out on her and she said it was Sunday morning, yet all she had were a few notes.
My friend told me she stepped up to the pulpit looked out at the congregation and paused. Then she began and somehow the words started to come out. She said they kept coming and a whole sermon began to form. Afterwards, lots of people gave her great comments about the message she had delivered. My friend said she felt it had been the best sermon she had preached so far that year. She had really felt the Spirit! The only problem was that after that experience, my friend said she was afraid to write out a whole manuscript because she was concerned that if she wrote everything out, there would be no room for the Spirit to move and then her next sermons wouldn’t be as good!
The thing is, that whether or not my friend wrote out a complete word-for-word manuscript, I knew she was still preparing herself to preach. This is where we might need to be a little careful with how we interpret Jesus’ words. I don’t think when he tells his followers not to worry about what they are to say he means they shouldn’t be prepared. Rather, I think what he might be implying is that they need to get their hearts and minds in a place where they are preparing themselves for the possibility of witnessing so that when that time comes, they do not need to be anxious because the Spirit has already been working within them.
I like what the author John Piper says about this text. He writes that, “we should avoid thinking that the promise implies that the Holy Spirit will give wisdom and grace and power to a mind that is habituated to foolishness and selfishness. The promise says we should not be anxious, not that we should be empty-headed. We should be free from fear, not free from truth and faith.”
In his letter to the early church, the Apostle Peter tells his listeners of getting themselves ready for difficult situations where they might need to speak up. He writes, “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:14-15
When Peter says this, I don’t think he is contradicting the promise of Jesus that the Spirit will give his followers the right words to say. Rather, Peter is telling us to always be nurturing our hope with the seeds of biblical truth, so the roots of our faith can grow. If we water the branches of our hope every day with lessons from God’s word, the Holy Spirit will take that preparation and give us what we ought to say when the time comes.
This is really important because when Jesus is telling his followers that the Spirit will speak through them, he is not just referring to a time when a friend might simply casually ask them why they are a believer in a social setting. No, he is saying that the Spirit will give them words to say when they are being persecuted. As he sends his disciples out, Jesus is warning them that it is not going to be easy out there. They may have good news to share, but not everyone is going to hear it as good news. Being a witness to God’s love can be difficult in a dog-eat-dog world. Jesus tells his followers, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them.”
Trying to live out God’s love in a world that lives by the creed of greed and might makes right can really get you in trouble with the powers that be. But Jesus says that is also an opportunity for his followers to be a witness, for as the authorities ask for an accounting of his follower’s faith, that is when the Gospel can be shared with those people and the Spirit can begin to change hearts and minds.
I want to take this a step further and say that the Spirit can also give us words to say when we see others being persecuted for speaking a word of truth to power. Jesus calls the Spirit an advocate who works on our behalf to bring us closer to God. In the same way, the Spirit can call us to speak up on behalf of others who are being oppressed.
We see this in the story of Moses that we heard in the first reading. Moses is up on Mount Horeb herding sheep when God speaks to him out of a burning bush. God tells Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land …”
God is calling Moses to be an advocate for God’s people. The Lord wants Moses to speak on behalf of God and also speak up on behalf of the Israelites who are being oppressed by the Egyptians. Moses isn’t too sure about this. He responds and says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” So God reassures Moses, telling him, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
This is still not enough to convince Moses, however, as he then says to God, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the Lord says to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”
God answers Moses with a promise similar to what Jesus says to the disciples. It is a promise to give him the right words to say at the right time. The difference is, Jesus is telling his followers that they will be given the ability to testify when they themselves are persecuted, whereas God is telling Moses that he is going to speak up on behalf of others who are being persecuted. It takes a lot of prodding from God, but Moses eventually does go and trust that God will be with him. As a result of that trust and the Spirit of God within him, Moses becomes a fierce advocate for the people who are enslaved and by using his voice he helps to set them free.
There may be times when we find ourselves confronted because of our beliefs, and we will need to remember that the Spirit will give us the words to say so that we might witness to the good news. We need to remember to also keep ourselves connected to God’s Spirit so that we will be prepared to let that Spirit speak through us in difficult situations. There may be other times, however, when we are called to give witness on behalf of others who are being persecuted or oppressed.
So, who in our world might need an advocate because they are being mistreated? Who might need a voice to speak up for them? Who might need someone to speak up so they can rise up? Who might need to hear about a Spirit of love because they are being put down by hatred or bigotry, violence or greed?
Listening to the Spirit of love is not always an easy thing to do. It can lead us into some difficult situations where we might have to face some pharaohs, but we can have courage, trusting that God will give us the words we need to speak. We can find strength in the conviction of our faith, and if we do lift up our voices with words from the Spirit, then we just might find that there are people who can be set free.
-Pastor Erik Goehner