What’s Her Name Again? – Pastor Robert’s sermon for Sunday, May 27

A while back, a friend of mine kept calling me on the phone to complain that people had not been returning her e-mails or her phone calls.  And because of this, she reached the conclusion, that she must be invisible.

I think she likes to call me just to make sure that she really isn’t invisible.

Have you ever felt invisible, where nobody seems to notice your presence?

You’re at a meeting and as you’re reading over the minutes of the previous meeting which you attended and you notice that your name is the only name that is not included as being present.  And yet you know you had attended the last meeting.

Maybe you were invisible at that previous meeting, you conclude.

People say that it’s important for leaders of committees and small groups to include as many people in the discussion as possible especially since, some people are more prone to speak out than others. But what about those other people around the table who have good thoughts, but for whatever reason, are reluctant to share them?

And this is why you will often hear a conscientious leader say in the midst of a group discussion, “Bill, I’m curious about what you think about all of this?”  Or, “Karen, do you have any thoughts to add to our discussion?”

I remember one time when a staff member came to me and said, “I’ve been pretty quiet the past several weeks because I’ve been going through a tough time in my life, and yet, nobody has seemed to notice.  I was wondering if anybody really cared.”

Or have you ever tried to contact your phone company or your medical insurance company, and you end up being put on hold, and after about 30 minutes, you hear this “click” on the other end. And you realize that somebody forgot about you.  You must be invisible.

This morning, I would like us to think about someone who comes to our church week after week after week, and who many times goes unnoticed.  And that someone is the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever thought about how easy it can be for us to ignore the presence of the One who has called us to gather for worship in the first place?

I was reading a wonderful book on preaching by Adam Hamilton who pastors Church of the Resurrection United Methodist Church in Kansas City.  And in this book, he talks about a Sunday in which he preached a pretty good sermon.  It had a clear theme, a good opening, it was rooted in scripture, and it had excellent illustrations.

But he said, the problem with the sermon was, that he preached it without depending on the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He said that he just kind of went through the motions.  And even though it was a pretty good sermon by most people’s expectations, it lacked the presence and the power of the Spirit to bring about real transformation.

And this has made me wonder, how many sermons are delivered that have no business of making their way into the pulpit on a Sunday morning, and yet because of the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, awesome things happened as a result of that message.

Now, that’s no excuse for poor planning in preaching, but it is to say that sometimes, the Holy Spirit goes unnoticed in church.  Sometimes we forget that the Holy Spirit is real and present and here in the middle of all that we do.

Does this ever happen to you when you begin your day? You get up, drink some coffee, eat your cheerios, get dressed, go out the door, and at some point during the day, it hits you, “Oh.  I forgot all about you today God.  Sorry about that.”

Today is Trinity Sunday.  And particularly, it’s a day to remember the third person of the Trinity.  Oh, what’s her name again?  Oh yeah.  The Holy Spirit.  I keep forgetting.  We know the Father.  We know Jesus.  But we often forget that third member of the big three.

How can we ever forget the presence and power of the Holy Spirit?  How can we ever worship God and forget the presence of the Holy Spirit?  I mean, it was just last Sunday, that we celebrated the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the early disciples.  And yet it’s so easy to forget her name only one week later.  What’s her name again? I refer to the Holy Spirit as “her” because the word for “Spirit” in the Bible is a feminine noun.

If you want to read a great chapter in the Bible that focuses on the third person of the Trinity, just read Romans chapter 8.  The word “Spirit” appears twenty-two times in this one chapter alone and it is the focus of our scripture reading this morning.

The Apostle Paul knows how easy it can be for us to forget the Spirit.  And to keep us from forgetting the Spirit, Paul tells us to do one of the most basic things we can ever do.  Pray.

Every time we offer a prayer, the Holy Spirit connects with our spirit reminding us that we are children of God.   And once we are reminded that we are children of God – just look at the chain of events that happen.  We realize that in addition to being children, we are heirs with Jesus Christ.

In other words, every time you and I say a prayer, we are practicing the presence of the Trinity.  We pray to God and the Spirit witnesses to our spirit.  And the result is new life because we realize that as children, we are heirs of Christ.  There you have it.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just by praying.

The Holy Spirit brings life.  Not just a pulse.  But life in all its fullness.

In addition to prayer, Paul tells us something else very important about the Holy Spirit in our scripture reading for today.  He says that the Spirit leads us.  Isn’t that a great thought?  The Spirit leads us.

And to emphasize this thought, Paul has us think back to the Old Testament and specifically to the period of time when God was with the Israelites in the wilderness following their exodus from slavery in Egypt.

It was while the Israelites were in the wilderness that many of them were tempted to fall back into fear because the wilderness can be a scary place.  Many of them were ready to go back to Egypt and be slaves again.  They thought that they were going to die out there in the middle of nowhere.

And Paul says that instead of depending on God’s Spirit to guide them through the wilderness, they were more interested in depending on their own strength and upon what they could feel and touch, even if that meant going back to slavery.  At least they knew what they were up against back in Egypt.  Even after all of God’s miracles in delivering them from slavery, they still didn’t really depend on God’s Spirit to lead them to a better place.

How was God’s Spirit at work in the wilderness?  During the heat of the day, God provided them with air conditioning, in the form of a protective cloud and during the night, they were led by a pillar of fire.

The Holy Spirit is not invisible.  The Holy Spirit is at work guiding and leading us to the next place that God wants us to go.

This is both scary and thrilling at the same time.

Where is God calling you to go in your journey of faith?  Instead of falling back into fear, God wants us to depend on the Spirit to see us through.

The Christian author and speaker, Tony Campolo tells the story of a friend of his who had a layperson in his church and he was trying to help this layperson open up and let the spirit of God lead him in ministry.

And this layperson thought of something that he could do.  He could take the youth group to a nursing home.  And so, once a month, the youth group of this church went to this nursing home and they would put on a church service for the people who were there.

During one of those services at the nursing home, he was standing in the back of the room when he noticed an old man in a wheel chair was coming straight toward him.  When he made it over to this layperson, this old man took him by the hand and held it the entire service.

This was repeated the next month and the next month and the next month.  Every month, this old man in a wheelchair would come over to him and hold his hand during the service.

But one month, the old man in the wheelchair didn’t come to the service.  And so this layperson asked the nurse in charge, “What happened to that man in the wheelchair who would always come over and take my hand?”  And she said, “He’s probably going to die soon.  He’s just down the hall, the third room.  Maybe you should go in and visit him.  He’s unconscious, though.”

This layperson went into the room and he saw all of these tubes.  It was all that he could do to keep moving toward the bed because he didn’t like the sight of all of those tubes and he was afraid of this whole situation.

But he did make his way toward the bed, and he felt led by the Spirit to take the hand of this man and just say a little prayer for him.  He was surprised when the old man squeezed his hand and it moved him so much that he began to cry.

After a few moments of holding this man’s hand, he decided to leave the room and as he was leaving he bumped into a woman who was coming into the room.

And she said, “He’s been waiting for you.  He said that he didn’t want to die until Jesus came and held his hand and I tried to tell him that after death he would have a chance to meet Jesus and talk to Jesus and hold Jesus’ hand.  But he said, ‘No.  Once a month Jesus comes and holds my hand and I don’t want to leave until I have a chance to hold the hand of Jesus once more.’”

On this Trinity Sunday, let’s not forget the third member of the Trinity.

When we come to church each Sunday, let’s not forgot the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we serve at Monday Lunch, let’s not forget the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we greet someone at the door, let’s not forget the Holy Spirit. When we have a conversation with a neighbor, let’s not forget the Holy Spirit. When we wake up in the morning, let’s not forget the Holy Spirit.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  One God. Three persons.

Father, Son AND Holy Spirit.

What’s Her Name Again?

Small Group Questions

Romans 8:12-17

May 27, 2018

It has been said that of the three persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the most difficult to describe or put into words.

In your own words, how do you describe the Holy Spirit?

Theologically and biblically speaking, the Holy Spirit has been described as the presence of the Risen Christ.

Share a time where you have sensed the Holy Spirit (the presence of the Risen Christ) in your life. What was that like?

In Romans chapter 8, the Apostle Paul mentions the word, “Spirit” twenty-two times! To help us not forget the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, he encourages us to pray. When we pray, our spirit connects with God’s spirit (Holy Spirit) which reminds us that we are children of God (God, the Father), and that we are heirs with Jesus Christ. There you have it! The doctrine of the Trinity just by praying! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Take time to think about your prayer life. How does prayer help you connect with the Holy Spirit?

In Romans chapter 8, the Apostle Paul also connects the Holy Spirit to the exodus story from the Old Testament where the Spirit led the Israelites through the wilderness by protecting them with a fire by night to help them see and a cloud during the extremely hot days to protect them from the sun.

Share a time when God guided you through a difficult time in your life and share how you were able to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Close your time together by praying this prayer:

Forgive us, O Lord, when we allow ourselves to doubt. We sometimes forget that you are with us, present through your Holy Spirit. Remind us that there is nothing impossible to those who hold fast to their faith in you. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.