Message Manuscript for “Getting the Guide” John 16:12-15
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019
I was in an antique store recently and saw a bin full of maps for sale. I thumbed through them and reminisced about the paper maps that occupied my dad’s glove box in his truck, each folded perfectly and in perfect order. I cracked up thinking of how the maps really weren’t antiques; just antiquated and very much out of place since the advent of GPS and Google Maps. There are just too many other ways now to be guided—phones, phone apps, AI, refrigerators, watches/wearable technology, and digital assistants in our homes. All these things are great for when we need directions to an unfamiliar place or for a step by step guide to baking a new dish, but what about when we need guidance for our lives, our souls, for where we really need to go in life? That’s the kind of guidance mentioned in our gospel text this morning. It’s the kind that the disciples needed when their only guide in life was telling them that he was leaving and as he said another one was going to lead them. And it’s the kind we need today.
The disciples weren’t fully getting what Jesus was saying to them here in our text. I mean who could or would want to take all of that in. Yes, Jesus had been talking about leaving, going somewhere where they were not but it didn’t make any sense to them at the time and it certainly wasn’t anything they wanted to happen. The words Jesus gave them were more for later, for when they would feel abandoned, grieved, fearful, and uncertain. They would need to hear them as they experienced and felt all of that in days and years ahead; to know that they would have the Holy Spirit to guide them just as Jesus guided them. They would know which way to go in life and what was real truth. What they didn’t understand then is that the exciting and happy times they enjoyed with Jesus would be turned upside down in the chaos that would come with the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. From then on, they would be pulled in different directions and the way ahead for them would become more difficult to find and follow. But the Spirit would come to and within them to be their guide.
I think we can identify with where they disciples were when Jesus spoke these words to them and when they would so desperately need to hear them again. It’s safe to say that we live in a time more chaotic and upside down than they could have ever imagined. This is true for our world as we experience the fear of terrorism, an increase of shootings and homicides in Shreveport, a Constitutional crisis, escalating tension between the US and Iran, the effects of a trade war with China and Mexico, the intrusion of Russia in our elections, and the ever-expanding effects of global warming. But it’s true for our personal lives as well. Broken relationships, uncontrollable addictions, financial stress, emotional challenges, disappointments, parenting pressures, and difficult decisions all have a way of upending our lives and making it difficult to find our way. We struggle at times to know what is really true and right. We get twisted and turned and wonder if we can ever make it to where we need to be. All of this is overwhelming and we know what it’s like to need a guide in times like these.
I was also thinking of how we need guidance as a church, as we’ve been searching for where God is leading us—and Highland Center Ministries—to relocate. As we’ve compiled a list of available buildings and been actively looking, we are constantly reminded of how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit for direction. Time is short and our task is indispensable. Our prayer is to be “God, where would you have us look? Where do you want us to be?”
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Thomas Merton’s prayer for guidance, as I’ve quoted from it in the past. It’s a great example of how to trust God for discernment for what lies ahead of us,
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you
and I hope I have that desire in all I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me on the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore, will I trust you always.
Though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for you are ever with me
and you will never leave me to face my struggles alone. Amen.
In all of this, we are to remember that we aren’t alone; that Jesus said there would be days like this; that we can know which way to go and be guided to the truth. What God wants us to discover in these words of Jesus is that each one of us and our church as a whole has the Spirit within us as a personal guide. And we are to get to know this guide—how it speaks, what it sounds like, how to find it within us, how to hear it, and how to follow it. We are to become so familiar with the Spirit that it becomes our default guide for navigating for us life’s journey. The Spirit is to be the one we consult when we don’t know what to say to someone, when we have no more ideas for how to handle a marriage or relationship problem, when all our parenting tricks no longer work, for how to invest and spend our money, for which people hang around with, which place to live, and for what to do with the rest of our lives. Turning to the Spirit for guidance should be just that normal for us. We are to know that God has given us a trusted Guide for such a time as this. And we are to seek out this Guide, being quiet enough to listen to it and willing enough to follow it.
I’ve seen a lot of butterflies recently, especially as the butterfly bushes in our front yard are blooming and attracting them. I love to watch them and think of where they have been and where they are headed. I read once that each fall,
These butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to Angangueo, Mexico. Amazingly, they all congregate at the top of the same mountain each year with phenomenal punctuality around the first of November. They are so dense that you can actually hear the noise of their wings flapping when they take off to fly, and the trees literally bend from their cumulative weight. Researchers have tried to understand the Monarch’s ability to navigate this enormous distance with such precision. In a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, scientists painted the antennas of a sample group. Some had their antennas dipped in black paint and others received a clear coat of paint. This eliminated any sense of smell for both groups. It was discovered that those with clear paint were able to find their way, but those who had their antennas blocked from light became disoriented and lost their way. Researchers noted that these beautiful creatures are completely dependent on the sun to give them guidance. Like a well-calibrated GPS, they track with the sun’s light to find their precise destination. (source:In Other Words, https://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/monarch-migration)
How like them we are as we journey through life, so in need of the Son’s light from the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us in the way we are to go.
Video of this sermon is here on the CFTH Vimeo site