“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” John 16:13
“The Holy Spirit uses time but does not believe in it.” Jesus in “A Course in Miracles”
Remember when you first left home as an adult? For some of us it was a bit confusing and lonely for awhile. We had to meet and adapt to new friends and roommates, teachers, bosses and drill sergeants. Leaving the comforts of home can be harsh for a time. Some never did adjust and either returned home or in some cases, destroyed themselves.
I have seen animals give birth to kittens, puppies and calves, an amazing site in itself. It is beautiful to see the mothers take such meticulous care of their babies. Once I was attacked by a father goose when I walked to close to the nest of the mother hatching her eggs. It was on the 10th fairway of South Shore Golf Course. My friends stood and watched, laughing themselves to tears. One later wrote a poem called, “The Day the Gander Goosed the Pastor!” Or something like that.
Yet in time, the mother goose, cow, dog or cat will push the babies away. I once watched a mother Cocker Spaniel we owned drive her grown pups away from her food and herself as if to say, “You guys are now on your own! Get lost!”
In the story from John’s gospel, Jesus seems to be saying a similar thing to his disciples. “I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away.” Some translations say it is “profitable that I go away”, others say, “It is necessary….” Why is it necessary? Why do scriptures have Jesus saying it?
Because Jesus taught he expects followers to become just like him and even do greater things. The dependency upon him for daily words and succor must end. Now we must fly on our own! Well, not completely alone, but with the Spirit, but one whom we can’t see anyway.
A teacher can stay around too long. It doesn’t liberate learners or teachers but makes them locked into a system or personality. Jesus was wiser according to these stories. Yes, the break is threatening and scary, just as when a close friend, parent or spouse dies. We miss them dearly but we also discover we have strength to go on, to fly on our own.
I had a friend who once learned how to fly an airplane. It was a little airplane with one engine. He didn’t simply buy the plane, read how to start the motor and take off. He studied manuals and rules for months and paid a certified flight instructor to show him how to fly it. For weeks and months the instructor rode with him taking off, flying and landing. Finally the course was finished. It was time to fly alone! The first time he must have felt a bit apprehensive but determined to do it, which he did and continued to fly for many years, even taking Naomi and me for a nice ride one beautiful autumn afternoon.
Yes, the Spirit Jesus promised will guide us into truth and freedom. The Teacher is now gone but we are not alone. We have been given other temporary teachers over the centuries, teachers like St. Francis, St. Teresa, Martin Luther, Karl Barth, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. They left us examples, writings, and models of love. But they are all gone now; we must fly on our own taking over leadership in becoming teachers to others. Yet the Spirit is still with us, and will guide us.
Who and what is this Spirit? I imagine It, Him everywhere. The Divine Spirit and Presence by reason seems to be everywhere or nowhere. Being eternal, He was present in the creation of the universe, and even now as it continues on. He will be there when it collapses into nothingness. He is all around us; in animals, trees, nature and in all peoples. As the Psalmist wrote, we can never get away from It however far we travel or run; even to the uttermost ends of the universe, He is there. And this Presence will teach and guide us into truth, giving comfort and help for our tired and stressful journeys. The Spirit is the Universal Teacher the Creator gave to provide a link and way back to the Oneness we have in God’s Peace and flow, the Great Tao, the Way.
Do you know you need help? Do we feel it? Paul wrote in Romans the whole creation is groaning in labor pains, groaning for a kind of eternal adoption and place to rest beyond the world we see. Can’t you feel it? The pain and stress of just living here in these bodies? Don’t you feel drawn into worry about sickness, disability and death, either peacefully or violently? Do we not fret over purpose and meaning here? Weep over loses of friends, loved ones, and health? Can you not listen or read news at any hour or day and feel the insanity and hopelessness of the violent, angry world in which we live in time and space?
In the 12 Step Program one of the first thing addicts confess is their denial about the pain suffered by themselves and given to others. We too must confess our denial of loneliness, our hidden agendas of self aggrandizement, the latent greed and fears we harbor with the hatred we carry against others. In our “12 step program,” we have to confess we know nothing as it appears to be, that is, we really know nothing! We admit life is beyond our controls, that we have nothing which lasts. We confess we need a Higher Power or Presence. “If anyone claims to know something he does not have necessary knowledge.” (1 Corinthians 8:2.) That’s pretty hard for people, the rich and apparently secure ones, and for those who are on the “down and out.” Socrates wrote “The only real wisdom is to realize you know nothing.”
How then does the Spirit help and lead us into all truth? I think He begins by reminding us we can hope for nothing lasting in what we see and touch in this world. If we want relief from pain and suffering, we cannot hope in the seen and material world. “In hope,” Paul says, “we are saved. But hope in what is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-5)
Real knowing, then, is an experience of transcendence as we enter the realm of the Spirit, which is beyond time and space. Meditation and openness bring us into the “Cloud of Unknowing” which is the only “real” knowing we know! It’s not words or matter but experience. It’s not creeds or “theologies” but transformation. It’s not in great men or women leaders but our stories. It’s not liberal or conservative, libertarian or communist, it is experience of the Eternal Now, the Holy Instant of eternity.
Staying in the present, the Now, is the closest we come to Spirit liberation. We learn that everything in the past is but a memory and everything in the future but a dream. Neither are reality; only the present moment is Real and free. Can we feel that? Can we see it? Live it? Experience it? If we can’t forgive someone or ourselves, we are living in the past. If we worry and fret about the future, we are living in a dream or illusion of reality. Joy, Peace, and Love are in the Now, this moment.
Once an American family decided take a vacation to Europe. They planned for months and where they would go and how they would record the experience to share with others. They spent hundreds of dollars on transportation and packages to see special places and events. They purchased hundreds of dollars worth of cameras and recording devices to save and bring back the trip for others and reminders for themselves. They finally went and every moment were seen recording scenes and snapping pictures. They returned bearing hundreds of photos and hours of video. They only missed one thing: the experience of Europe! In a sense, they were hardly ever “there!” They rarely stood and looked, sat and felt, waited and listened.
In the present moment, in what the Course in Miracles calls the “Holy Instant,” we experience eternity, oneness, a release from all past and future concerns. It becomes a “journey without distance to a destination we never left.” We let the past go and live into the future with deep satisfaction in each moment. We do not walk toward nirvana and peace, but nirvana and peace become the way. Yes, we use time to teach and share with others. “The Holy Spirit uses time but does not believe in it.” (ACIM) God is everywhere present; in you, in this very room, in animals, nature, the whole universe. Yet Spirit isn’t seen with physical eyes and ears but heart, mind’s eye, and our spirit within joined with Everything!
Today in Christian and Jewish circles is called “Pentecost,” the season of awakening. Throughout the past 50 days since the departure of “teacher Jesus” we have been seeking to live in the Moment, the Holy Instant, to walk with and in the Spirit, forgiving others as we have forgiven ourselves, leaving a trail of compassion and holy laughter for others. I trust the sense of constant surrounding love has increased and grown in our lives. If not, well, just let it go, forgive yourself, and begin anew today.
How does the experience enter us? It begin with the understanding we are God’s Creations as Spirit Sons and Daughters. Then what? We practice remember and experiencing it. How? We can meditate in silence, take walks into nature to listen, learn sacred dances and movements to help us feel and let go, we can sing, hear singing, taking time to listen and be aware. So much of our tradition has negated such practices. We sit in orderly pews in which we can hardly move as the “expert” speaks “Truth” from the raised platforms, truth about what we are and must do in order to be saved and find “heaven.” Oh, it is much more. It ceases such routines of dependency and takes responsibility to find and feel for ourselves. Fr. Richard Rohr has said, “People who practice religions are trying to save themselves from hell; but people who practice spirituality know that have been in and through hell!”
The “Jesuses” among us must go! They only breed more dependence, leaving us as little children imitating the Way. Leaders can give suggestions, ideas, stories, and answer some questions, but they too must join you in facing their many hells, shams, and empty lives, going out into the woods and places of quiet and find It themselves.
May this congregation join the pilgrimage to a deeper love, found in embracing the Now, and in being touched and transformed, lead in this community as models and vessels of hope, joy, and peace accepting our own divinity as our own I Am-ness, manifesting love each day.
Summary of Reflections from Sermon offered on Sunday, May 27, 2012 at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, NY. Rev. Dr. David G. Persons, speaker.