Summary: Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, intended as the first of three on the Trinity, all based on John 14. The Holy Spirit does not abandon His church, but if we are not obedient before claiming His support, we may forfeit His power. And if we do not acknowledge
If you believe you’ve been abandoned, you have two
choices: either you can indulge in something that may soothe
you temporarily, or you can watch for the power that will lead
you out to success. If someone that matters to you has
walked off and abandoned you, you can either pretend it
hasn’t happened and just play games, or you can wait for the
power to move on.
It must be horrible to be abandoned. Several years ago a
prominent educator, a college president in southern
Maryland, left his office one day and never came back. He
completely disappeared for a long, long while, turning up
eventually, as a garbage collector thousands of miles away.
That college went through a nightmare. There were
decisions to be made that nobody understood. There were
agreements, but no one was clear about what they were.
There were papers and contracts that no one could find.
And most of all, the empowering vision was gone. The man
who had inspired others, who had encouraged faculty and
challenged students, had abandoned them. It would have
been bad enough if he had been in a fight with the trustees
and had given up in disgust. It would have hurt if he had
been in a dispute with the deans and had quit in a fury. But it
hurt much more that he had just walked off and abandoned
them without a word.
If you believe you have been abandoned, you go into a
panic. But remember, when it happens, you have two
choices: either you can indulge in some distraction that will
soothe you for a little while; or you can watch for and receive
the power that will give you success.
Our recent trip to England brought out a lot of stories from
Margaret’s childhood. On one occasion, Margaret’s mother
was sick, and her parents decided she should go to stay with
the grandparents for a while. Margaret’s father was to take
her on the train to the distant town where the grandparents
lived. It was wartime, and the rail station was crowded with
soldiers, and there wasn’t much time between trains. So
Margaret says her dad told her to hold on to his coattails
while he steered her through the crowds to the proper train.
Well, a four-year-old’s grip is not that strong, and soon she
let go and fell behind. Her dad, probably pondering some
deep theological issue, kept right on going and she fell
hopelessly behind. It felt like being abandoned. Margaret
says she was very frightened for a while – but when her
father found her, she was at ease, because four burly
soldiers had taken her over and hd joined her in cutting out
When you think you’ve been abandoned, you can indulge in
something that will soothe you for a while. But it is only a
distraction, and does not get you on to your goal. You have
to watch for and receive the power that will lead you to where
you need to go.
The single most critical issue in contemporary Christianity is
that we act as though we have been abandoned. We seem
to believe that we have been abandoned, so we sit around,
distracting ourselves, cutting out spiritual paper dolls, instead
of watching for and receiving the power that would transform
us and lead us forward.
Why do I say that we act as though we have been
abandoned? Because for all of our pretty language about
being led of the Lord, most of us operate as if everything
depended on us. We settle for distractions and easy
entertainments instead of for serious mission. We do not
deeply believe that it is God who empowers the church. We
think that if something goes well, it’s us. Our energy, our
resourcefulness, and our smarts got it done. We believe that
God has abandoned us, and that if we are going to do
church, well, we’ll have to do it ourselves. And that means
we will end up doing little things, trivial things, self-serving
things, paper doll things, instead of God-sized things.
I am here today, first, to affirm that we are not abandoned.
We are in the presence of the Spirit of the Living God. And
second, to argue that therefore it is time for us to turn from
petty distractions and to turn to serious mission, empowered
by that Spirit. God has not abandoned His church. God has
not abandoned this church. In fact, He has promised that we
will never be abandoned. We are in the presence of the
Spirit. That’s a given.
But when that Holy Spirit comes, He comes not so much to
give us comfort as He comes to empower us for mission. He
comes to make us uncomfortable, not comfortable, and to