In the church calendar, today is Trinity Sunday -a time when I am supposed to speak on the Triune relationship between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is not an easy task. The church actually split over it.
Again, Jesus gives us a pretty solid clue when he tells Philip, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. If you don’t believe that, then look at the works I’ve done.”
It seems Jesus is one with God because he lives out God’s word perfectly. And God is one with Jesus because those who keep the commandments God abides in them. Jesus shows us how this works in that everything he says and does reveals God’s glory and grace to the world.
In the space between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit moves with action and purpose, making Jesus’ words and deeds come into fruition. The three work together as one to bring healing and restoration into all of creation. That’s the Holy Trinity in a nutshell.
There’s a lot more to it as you might imagine. But I want to talk about something else Jesus said when he was answering Philip. He said, “If you believe in me, the Spirit will move through you so you can do the works of the Father like I do.” Then he adds, “you will do greater things than these.” And that, my friends, is the church’s mission in a nutshell our call is to do greater things than Jesus.
God the Father needs us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. God the Son comes to us in the flesh to show us how to do it. And God’s Spirit is given to us to do what he did, so others will know the way of God’s righteousness and follow suit.
But this spirit is only given after the Son ascends back to the Father. And therein lies the problem for the disciples. They don’t want Jesus to go away.
Years ago, a very dear friend of mine was redoing his will. He and his wife had chosen Kathleen and I to care for their child should anything ever happen to them. On one hand, that’s a great honor. And a great responsibility. But it’s also a great weight for me because I know that in accepting this responsibility also means losing a great friend.
The disciples have been with Jesus pretty much every day since he called them to follow him. They’ve worked together, sat around the fire together, laughed and broken bread together. They were Jesus’ best friends. Partners in his ministry. Now, he tells them “I’m going away without you. You got this.” The Twelve don’t want to hear that.
Jesus assures them that it’s going to be okay and in fact they should be happy that he is leaving them because they will receive this great gift, an Advocate, who will help them do things they never could imagined themselves doing.
The same is true for us today. The same Spirit given to the first church is the same in this church. With that said, let me quote this warning from Spider-Man who said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Between you and me, this feels like a set up for failure. An impossible mission at best. I’d love to be able to turn water into wine, or heal people’s diseases, but I can barely manage my honey-do list my wife makes for me how will I ever do greater things than Jesus? I know my limitations and weakness, my lack of focus and how lazy I can get. How does God expect me to save the world?
But here’s the thing, Jesus isn’t sending us out to do the impossible. He’s sending us out with God’s Spirit because with God all things are possible. Jesus is connecting us with the Father so we too can move like the Son and the Spirit with meaning and purpose, to heal and restore the world.
watch the entire message here
To quote Barbara Brown Taylor from last week, “The same Spirit of God that had entered Mary and given birth to Jesus, has entered those who believed so that God could be born again.”
As the church, our job is to be the bearers of God’s Holy Spirit out in the world. How we define ourselves begins with how we allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through us like it did in and through Christ who loved without conditions and forgave without restraint.
It’s in this space between you and me, God’s Spirit moves like our own breath – encouraging us to proclaim the gospel; to produce the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We all possess the abilities to be like Christ because it’s not so much you and I doing the work, but Christ who is in us. Scripture tells us that it’s his faith that does all the heavy lifting. Our faith just opens the door for him to move about.
In giving us the Spirit, Christ is giving us his power, his consciousness, his wisdom, and strength. It’s not us, but Christ through us who befriends the outcast, heals the sick, speaks up for the marginalized, and stands up against the sins of the empire.
I think that’s why Jesus says all we need to have is faith the size of a mustard seed to do great miracles. A little bit of time, or a little bit of energy, can help a person out of a jam. A little patience can bring about great peace. A simple smile, or a few kind words, can calm someone who is anxious. It doesn’t take much for God to come in and do a lot of good through us.
Church is a verb. Faith is an imperative. Christianity is an action. To follow Jesus is to be like him, every day, in all that we say and do.
It’s about showing his heart through acts of mercy, generosity, and love. It’s about being his visible body to the poor and hurting. It’s about being his hands for someone to hold on to when there’s nothing else. This is what healing and restoration looks like in the Kingdom of Heaven. This how miracles happen every day. This is how the face of Jesus is seen in every space we enter.
It only takes a little faith to receive the same Spirit that empowered Jesus to act and inspire. The only thing stopping us from doing what he did, is ourselves. We all have limiting beliefs that we are not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or faithful enough to be of service to God. But between you and me…we are.
I think Jesus made that perfectly clear when he entrusted his ministry to us. Jesus knew what he was doing, ordaining us with the Spirit of God, to keep his mission going. He empowered us to do the undoable.
If you want to forgive someone who has hurt you, Jesus believes you can.
If you want to heal a broken relationship, Jesus tells you to go for it.
If you want to cast out the demons of anger, hatred, and violence, then do it in his name.
Through Christ, we’ve been given all that we need to do greater things than these. Like Paul wrote, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
It’s only a matter of time that the Apostles will understand just how powerful of a gift this Spirit is.
Following Pentecost, Peter and John went to the temple to pray. On the way, they met a man who had been lame since birth. Every day, the man sat at the gate of the temple and begged for alms. When he saw the two Apostles about to enter, he asked them for a handout. Peter looked the man in the eye and said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk.”
They reached out and pulled the man up. Immediately his ankles and feet were strengthened. And this man, who had never walked a day in his life, began jumping and leaping and praising God as he entered the temple all on his own. Everyone who saw him “were filled with wonder and awe.” (c.f. Acts 3:1-10)
A lot can happen in that space between you and me, if we are willing to awaken our hearts to the work of the Spirit. Just as we breathe in and out, so too does the Spirit move between us to do the healing work of God in the world.
In closing, I would like to remind you of one more thing Paul said. “It’s not me who lives, but him who lives in me.” Through Christ, God invites us to become a part of the power of the Holy Trinity; moving as God moves. Loving as Christ loves. And being actively present, just like the Holy Spirit is all around us.
If we show up and allow Christ to be seen between you and me, then we will bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And so much more.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”