Joke written by Ben Powell:
One Sunday while serving as a guest minister to a local church, I noticed in the program an order of worship that which I was unfamiliar. Since the service had already begun, I was unable to ask anybody about it. So, when we reached that particular moment, I swallowed my pride and asked from the pulpit,
What do I do now?
Someone in the congregation shouted back,
You say something and we respond.
Embarrassed, I admitted,
For the first time in my life, I’m speechless.
And the congregation responded,
Thanks be to God!
Have you ever conquered one of your biggest fears?
- Picked up a frog or a snake?
- Talked in front of a large crowd?
- Explained why 2 + 2 might equal 5? Never mind! But you know what I mean!
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read a continuation from last weekend’s readings. Of how seven Deacons were ordained to serve the community, making sure widows and orphans received treatment for assistance, making sure that whether one was Jewish or Greek, both received equal assistance. In this reading, Deacon Steven had already been martyred by being stoned to death. You would think this would be a deterrent, but just the opposite happened, his death and final actions and words repeated what Jesus himself experienced on the cross, and as a result many more were converting to the Christian faith.
Do you remember when Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria to get to Jerusalem and they had to had to change directions, seeing that they were not accepted in Samaria? In today’s readings we hear the apostles proclaiming that Jesus died out of love for the Samaritan people as well! And, that many Samaritans were responding to the teachings and healings of the risen Christ through the Apostles. We also hear that Peter and John travel to Samaria to Confirm the newly baptized. That they too received the Holy Spirit! The fear of the Apostles — gone! The fear and anxiety of the Samaritan people — gone!
The Gospel of John continues with Jesus giving his disciples his final discourse. Again, that means his plan for them is being explained and unfolded. This passage centers in on the early Church receiving the Holy Spirit. An Advocate, the Paraclete! Of course, the first advocate was Jesus himself. If you want to understand this in contemporary terminology you would think of an advocate as a defense attorney, you know, someone on your side who will guide and advise you, but also protect you. This advocate, the Holy Spirit will remain with them forever. The Holy Spirit will teach them and witness to Jesus, the fulness of the truth.
Jesus knew that the apostles were very ordinary men. They promised to never leave his side. We all know the event of the crucifixion, of how all of them abandoned Jesus and hid in fear. And, yet Jesus came to them and relieved them of their fear and shame. He breathed on them, and offered not only forgiveness, but also the grace of conversion, and charged them to go beyond being followers and to be leaders!
In our 2nd reading from Peter, he encourages all of us to be informed in our faith, so much so that we can patiently explain it to anyone asking about it. Key is the emphasis that merely knowing the words and teachings of Jesus cannot be enough. People must observe them.
Yes, we are people with fears and anxieties, and we are more aware of this with everything that is going on in our world today. When we know the Truth and allow the Truth to guide us, then the truth (Jesus), shows us the way.