Testify to the Truth
On Pentecost we receive the Holy Spirit and give thanks for its continual illumination on the Church. For its mission of illuminating the truth of God’s love for humanity. However, while we might receive the Holy Spirit as a gift from God, it comes with an obligation for us to also testify to God’s truth.
Testify to the Truth – Audio Sermon
Every story has a beginning. Whether it is the first page of a novel, the day you were born or the day you met your spouse. Every story can trace its origins. Everything starts somewhere.
The beginning of John’s gospel recounts the very beginning: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
That is the beginning of John’s gospel. A poetic was of rephrasing Genesis 1. It is a passage that captures our imagination and explaining the divine origin of Jesus and his purpose for all creation.
The narrative then shifts to a new beginning. We learn about a man named John who came to prepare the way. John baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. He proclaimed that another would come and that this other would baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit.
John is the precursor to Jesus. John gets us ready to hear about Jesus. Jesus who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John is known as John the Baptist, because that’s what he did: baptize people. Yet, he was always humble about the work he was doing. John always pointed to the one who would come, John was pointing to Jesus. If people thought John was doing great and wondrous things in the name of God, just wait he told them until you see the next guy.
So John baptizes with water, promising that one would come who would baptize in the Holy Spirit. That person is Jesus and he does come. Except that he does not baptize anyone. Have you ever noticed that? Throughout all of scripture, Jesus does not baptize anyone.
Our passage this morning is a notable exception. It seems that John was right after all. The only thing he got wrong was the timing. You see, Jesus needs to leave before the Spirit can come and do its work. Jesus needs to create space for the Holy Spirit to come. The Holy Spirit will come and it will testify on Christ’s behalf. The Holy Spirit which Jesus calls the Spirit of truth will come and testify.
We see a clear connection between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit which serves as our permanent life line to God and Jesus. Our continual reminder of God’s love for us and evidence of God’s radical love for creation.
The Holy Spirit comes to illuminate the truth. .
What is that truth you ask?
Our reading from Acts illuminates this truth. Peter stands up and addresses the crowd. Calling forward the words of the prophet Joel Peter reminds us:
In the last days it will be, God declares,
That I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
And your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
And your young shall see visions,
And your old shall dream dreams.
This passage gives me chills. That our children will prophesy and see visions. That we will dream dreams! All of which is a part of the promise we receive when the Holy Spirit descends upon us. This is magnified when we consider that the Holy Spirit comes to testify the truth.
Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to testify and then he continues by commanding the disciples to go out and testify, because they have been with Jesus from the beginning. Friends we too are called to go out and to testify.
And just what is it we are to testify about: the truth!
Which perhaps leads to the next question, what exactly is the truth?
Truth can be subjective, what is true for me, may not be true for you. So perhaps we should ask what truth are we to testify to.
That my friends is simple, it is found in scripture, it is found in the words and deeds of Jesus.
We but look to scripture and we can find witness to the truth. The Holy Spirit comes and it separates right from wrong and in doing so illuminates the truth. In his life and death Jesus tells the disciples that he fulfilled the teaching of the prophets, the law and the psalms. Consider what Jesus taught us.
Concerning the law Jesus tells us that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself. Jesus doesn’t emphasis keep strict observance to Sabbath, nor about following dietary laws. Instead Jesus says love God and love your neighbour. These are the most important laws, if another law prohibits your ability to follow this, then ignore it. The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s gospel is an example of loving your neighbour and ignoring the other laws that get in the way.
Part of the truth that Jesus reveals to the disciples, high priests and Pharisees is that we have become more concerned with keeping laws, of following rules than we have in caring for and loving other people. I believe that message of loving rather than following rules is a problem for us today as well. Please understand I’m not asking or requesting that we throw out the rule book, but I am concerned that in our world today we follow a spirit of rules, rather than the Spirit of truth and grace.
When we ask homeless people to move along, rather than finding them a bed to sleep in we are neglecting the Spirit of truth.
When we ridicule and demean others because it is easy or feels good, we are neglecting the Spirit of truth.
When we dismiss or ignore issues of mental health because we find it difficult to deal with, we are neglecting the Spirit of truth.
When we ignore issues of justice because it might put us against the status quo, we are neglecting the Spirit of truth.
When we advocate for war, instead of praying for peace, we are neglecting the Spirit of truth.
We are called, just as the disciples were, to testify to the truth. We have Jesus to look to as our teacher, our Saviour and Lord. His example, his teaching and healing ministry are the truth that the world so greatly needs to hear. The message of his love for us, his dying on the cross for us and his defeat over the power of death all need to be heard by the world today.
Theologian Douglas John Hall writes that “The cross reveals the compassionate determination of God to bring the human creature to the full realization of its potentiality for authenticity … Divine grace does not intend to make us into someone else but to make us the self that we are before God.” (Douglas John Hall, The Cross in our Context, 105, 108).
This is Good News. This is truth that needs to be shared. That God desires to be in relationship with us, that God desires for us to be in proper relationship with one another. This is part of what Christ came to tell us and so long as disregard the message of truth, so long as we choose to follow rules over grace then we push against God. We rebel against God when we refuse to allow His grace and mercy which were so freely given to rule in our lives.
Jesus tells us that the Spirit of truth will come and testify and that we should do likewise. The Holy Spirit which Jesus also refers to as the Advocate. That’s right, we have someone with us every step of the way.
Friends, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and it also descends with fire. A fire which should ignite us to share the Good News, to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ. To share the message about God’s love for creation. This is what Pentecost is about!
So let’s dream dreams, let’s have visions and let’s prophesy about how the world will change when the message of God’s truth is shared with all people, in all places, at all times. Amen.