So what's in the box for us today I wonder?
We begin with Paul outside the Areopagus, which was a bit like him standing outside of Westminster or the Capitol building these days, talking to the people gathered there about religion. 'You lot are great,' he says, 'You even have an altar to the 'unknown god' - perhaps you'd like to know who he is'. And so he begins to unwrap Jesus to them in ways that need brain and philosophy and rhetoric and the like. This is what we should be doing today, for the needs haven't changed - only the calendar!
making the words of the Psalm flesh Paul says, 'Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul'. Here's a wonderful hint, for the Psalms as such a source of wealth when it comes to getting our own heads straight and out witnessing sound. Better still, the words he would have used would probably have sounded much like those in the 1 Peter reading (why not have a quick look now?) as he makes Jesus known to them all in the promise and reality of faith, baptism and new life in Him - and in Him is new life indeed from God who is not unknown but is, as the third member of the Trinity, so often thought of as unseen: The Holy Spirit.
Today's Gospel reading is one of my favourites for a number of reasons. Perhaps it's the association with one of my lecturers (now long gone) or the fact that was one of the first passages to make me look past the words on a page and understand how we can, for the best of reasons, lose much because of assumption and learning.
So in a nutshell John tells us that the Holy Spirit is a 'HE' not an it. Now, reading your Bible you might ask me how I work that out, but my notes (still here somewhere) tell me that John uses 'it' (because that's grammatically correct) at the beginning of our passage (in bold) rather than the 'him' that appears. Here we have not a neuter but a masculine entity. But better still - if you go back to the 'another counsellor' bit there's something even more brill'. The term in Greek is 'Allos Parakletos' and this brings two fantastic bits of news to wherever you are reading this:
'Allos' means 'of the same kind or type' - but it's not like the same like body shapes on a car but more like when we do colour printing. If you've ever read something where the printing is slightly off and you get the colours bleed so that's everything is a little blurred and out of focus then you know what allos is not! For allos is what you see when you have a clear and crisp image of the thing because the printing is 'dot for dot' the same (it's all about 'registration').
Jesus and the Holy Spirit (that other comforter, advocate or counsellor) are 'dot for dot' the same - there is not a micron of difference between then and this means that the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, that brooded over creation in Genesis One IS Jesus - they are exactly the same - now that's worthy of a Hallelujah (and me an Anglican too!).
The other state is 'heteros' which means 'of a different kind' - this would fit humans (male and female) car models and the like - they're the same, but they're not identical! Simple really innit?
And the third bit of cool stuff is that 'parakletos' means 'one who comes alongside.
You can't help someone up unless you come alongside and reach out.
You can't comfort someone unless you come alongside and put your arm around them.
You can't bring healing without coming close enough to reach out and touch them.
And today, wherever you are, whatever your situation this is what God, unseen and yet tangible, wants to do for you, for those whom you pray for - to come alongside and bring Jesus (dot for dot) into their presence - coming alongside to bring love, strength, comfort and healing.
Father, we thank you that you, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one and the same and that there is no substantial difference in you. Come close to us, wherever we are, and bring your healing, peace and comfort. Help us to know you as Father, Son and Holy Spirit more each day we pray. Amen,
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’
Bless our God, O you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard, who holds our souls in life and suffers not our feet to slip. For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the snare; you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; but you brought us out into a place of liberty.
I will come into your house with burnt offerings and will pay you my vows, which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. I will offer you fat burnt sacrifices with the smoke of rams; I will sacrifice oxen and goats.
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul. I called out to him with my mouth and his praise was on my tongue.
If I had nursed evil in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me, But in truth God has heard me; he has heeded the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, nor withheld his loving mercy from me.
1 Peter 3.13-22
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows (it) him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father
God our Father, whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you, the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.