‘I still have many things to say to you’

Published: Monday, 23 May 2016

This address was given at ABC by Geoff Pound on 22 May 2016.

Reading: John 16:12-15staring at the stars GP 0516

16:12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In 2009 NASA launched a spacecraft that’s been studying the stars in the solar system ever since.[1]

On board is the powerful Kepler space telescope. This month it was announced that the Kepler has discovered, and had scientifically verified, 1200 new planets.

These new planets were found in only a small patch of the night sky, which leads us to ask: ‘How many more planets will be discovered as newer, more powerful telescopes are set to work in the coming decade?’

The Psalmist looked with his naked eye and said:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4.

Imagine the amazement if the Psalmist was able to look at those same night skies with the powerful telescopes we have today.

If we were alive on 20 July 1969, chances are that we all got near a television to watch the first moon landing. It was a huge event! But with so many space discoveries since and eclipses of the moon and the sun being ‘two a penny’, it’s all become a bit ho hum. We’re in danger of becoming blasé! Complacent!

In today’s reading we hear Jesus say to his disciples:

"I still have many things to say to you.” (v12)

In other words, ‘Don’t pull down the shutters! Don’t think you know it all.

"I still have many things to say to you.”

They’d studied under Jesus for the last three years. Maybe they were getting ready to receive their Bachelor of Divinity at the graduation ceremony and Jesus says, “Your learning isn’t over. In fact it’s only just begun.”

I am going but there’s a new teacher coming. My replacement is called the ‘Holy Spirit’.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (V13)

Carlyle Marney was a Baptist preacher at the Myers Park Baptist Church, in Charlotte, North Carolina. One Sunday, as he was preaching a sermon, he suffered a heart attack. He was carried from the pulpit to the ambulance. His congregation thought that might be the end of him or at least the finish of his pastoral and preaching ministry.

But Carlyle Marney recovered. Six months later he was back in that pulpit. Beginning his sermon he said: “As I was saying…”[2]

The disciples might have thought their teacher Jesus was finished but now they hear him say: "I still have many things to say to you.” (v12)

We could flip this around to read: “We still have many things to learn from you.”

Can you imagine a teacher coming to church or a classroom and saying?

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

What I have to say is so profound, so complicated and deep, it would go over your heads! And the teacher packs up the lecture notes and heads for the door!

Is that arrogance? Is that underestimating the students? No it isn’t.

Parents do this with children all the time. There are things that parents might be going through that are complex and raw and they decide that for children to enjoy their childhood they don’t need to know those things. Telling them would be like putting 240 volts through a weak circuit. We’d blow them up.

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

Perhaps for senior adults this might mean:

"I still have many things to say to you, but you won’t remember them now.”

You know the experience of walking into a room with some purpose in mind only to completely forget what you came into that room to do? Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers in our minds what’s know as an ‘Event Boundary’.[3]

When we go into another room or we open the fridge door we have an ‘Event Boundary’ that separates one set of thoughts and memories from the next. Our brain files away the thoughts we had in the previous room and it scrubs our mental slate for the new room.

Thank goodness for studies like this. They prove to us that it’s not our age. It’s the jolly doors!

Please forgive me if I’ve already told you that story!

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

It’s the same phrase to describe when Jesus was on the Via Dolorosa seeking to bear the weight of the cross. (John 19:17)

In his book A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, Lawrence Sterne tells of meeting Maria, a young woman who’d lost her mind.[4]

Maria had travelled across the French and Italian mountains without shoes. He asked her: “How did you do it? How did you cope?”

Maria replies, “I cannot tell but God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.” There’s compassion here. For the one that’s so vulnerable there’s a softening and a protecting.

This is a biblical theme especially in the Psalms,[5] that God treats the weak with greater kindness.

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

On this Trinity Sunday we hear Jesus speaking about the intimate connection between God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

“All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he [the Holy Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, became known for his influential work on child development, especially a child’s cognitive development.

His research helps us to see that with young children we need to talk concretely—in pictures and images. They cannot bear the lessons in algebra and trigonometry.

Only later when children develop mentally can we add the abstract thinking and philosophy.

Yet how often is it young children who ask us these penetrating questions about God? ‘Where is God?’ ‘Is God here now?’ ‘How is Jesus God’s son?’ Out of the mouths of babes! (Psalm 8:2)

Perhaps a similar development must go on before we can get our minds around this one God with three persons.

The creator God, who on the first page of the Biblical story, says: “Let us make humankind in our own image.” (Genesis 1:26)

How do we understand that statement from Thomas in the upper room when he said to Jesus: “My Lord and my God.” He’s ascribing deity to this man!

Now in introducing the Holy Spirit, how do we understand this trinitarian connection when Jesus says:

“All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he [the Holy Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (v16)

One God. Close relationships. Different roles. Trinitarian teamwork.

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

How do we describe a beautiful sunset to a person who is blind?

How do we convey the magic of a symphony to someone who is deaf?

There are many things Jesus was leaving in the too hard basket and the realm of mystery, simply because we lack the capacity to understand them.

That doesn’t mean we shut up shop and don’t try to understand. On the contrary, Jesus announces that this is the very reason that the Holy Spirit has been given to us.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

How good is that! What a resource is this Holy Spirit—“he will guide you into all the truth.” Fancy that! Being enrolled in an advanced course with the spirit of Jesus!

There is the idea that the Gospel is already fixed, that we’ve been told everything, that only what is required is to explain and translate the Word into our time and culture.

But these words go further than this. They highlight something more. In the words of John Robinson when he gave a charge to those Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers who were setting sail for America in the Mayflower, he said:

“I am persuaded that the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy Word.”[6]

I wonder what things Jesus wants to say to us at the moment.

What are the things Christ wants us to learn now, with the teaching power of the Holy Spirit?

We’ve thought already this morning about astronomy and telescopes and growing in wonder at the universe about us. Is this the project for you?

We’ve been thinking in this new week of reconciliation about Australia’s own story. We’ve touched on this issue of indigenous recognition in our primary national documents. The challenge of growing in our cultural appreciation and partnership.

We’ve been thinking today about ways that art might teach us and inspire us with a sense of beauty. Is this the area for development?

We’ve thought of God and wondered how we might scale the heights and plumb the depths of the trinity.

So many different spheres but what is the growing edge for you at the moment? Is this the growing edge for us as a church?

We’ve received a report about the Search for a new Youth Pastor and here we are back to square one. What is God saying to us? Let’s enrol in this discernment course with this teacher about whom Jesus says: “He will guide you into all the truth.” What a promise!

Another angle is our energy and motivation to learn? Formal schooling and courses of education can be like stairs which take us further step by step.

The bannisters help to pull us along. Sometimes when we don’t have these disciplines we go off the boil. We can go flabby because we’re not searching. We’re not pursuing.

As I finish let me share a story that Fred Craddock tells from his childhood.[7] One summer night he and his father were out in the backyard. Fred was lying on his back looking up at the stars. His father said: “How far can you think?”

Fred said: “I don’t know. What do you mean?”

His Dad said: “Just think as far as you can think up toward the stars.” Craddock said: “I screwed my imagination down and said, ‘I’m thinking…I’m thinking as far as I can think.’”

His father said: “Well in your mind, drive down a stake out there now. Have you driven down the stake? That’s how far you can think?” The boy said, “Yes.”

His father said: “Now what’s on the other side of your stake?”

Fred said, “There’s more sky.”

His father said, “Move your stake.”

Craddock said that he and his father spent the evening moving the stake further and further outward.

There are times like this in every life, when the boundaries of our thinking get moved to a farther place or a deeper place than we had yet seen. That’s what education is for. It’s what parents and churches want to help their children to experience. It’s what all good teachers keep telling us: “Move your stake.”

Sometimes it’s what a crisis does to us. Something terrible happens and forces us beyond old assumptions and well-worn certainties.

But there doesn’t have to be a crisis. Out of nowhere it can come. The quickening suspicion that there’s more for us to desire, to know, to do now, if we’ll have it.

There is the sense that now is the time for taller dreams and a larger scope of concern. A time to move our old boundaries of understanding and commitment.

Isn’t this the never-ending project of our lives?

We are here to grow up. The growing is never to stop.

"I still have many things to say to you…”

Yes doctrine, discipleship, service but also more about growing in character, compassion, gratitude, curiosity, friendship, wisdom, in knowing and living out the truth.

Yes, Lord Jesus, we still have many things to learn from you, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you are a God who speaks words of truth and guidance, words we need to know to live life to the full.

Thank you for your reserve and your restraint. The way you hold back things in your compassion and in your wisdom.

Today we bless you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and especially for the Spirit’s work in teaching and guiding.

How we need the Spirit’s guidance as individuals and as a church.

Save us from settling down and stagnating.

Spur us on to take in the lessons from your Spirit.

Stir us up to keep on searching, pursuing and moving the stake in our thinking and acting.

Please disclose to us the things that we need to learn right at this very time,

That part of the solar system where we need to be pointing our telescopes of focus and enquiry.

Show us how we can grow up in all ways into Christ who reveals to us the goodness and the life of God.

Amen.

Benediction

For this reason we bow…

That God may grant us to be strengthened in our inner being with power through God’s Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith as we are being rooted and grounded in love.

We pray that we may have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Amen.

 


[1] Alan Yuhas, ‘More than 1,200 new planets discovered through Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, The Guardian, 11 May 2016.

[2] John Killinger, Fundamentals of Preaching, Fortress Press, 1996, 91.

[3] Aaron Smith, Through Doorways and Forgetfulness, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, 6 December 2012.

[4] Lawrence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, Gutenberg, 657.

[5] Psalm 6: 2 is a good example of this truth.

[6] Edgar Parkyns, ‘His Waiting Bride’ quoted in The Pilgrim Spirit.

[7] This much-loved story by Fred Craddock is found in many places including, William Nieporte, ‘Pulling Up Stakes’, Sermon Central, October 2007; Paul Simpson Duke, ‘Beyond all we can imagine,’ First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, 15 August 2013.