Wednesday, May 25, 2016

the best is yet to come

The Pentecost window at Duke Divinity School
After a flash of red, the green is rolling out in our sanctuaries - the Pentecost season is here. And this past Sunday I was preaching on the Holy Spirit, the "down payment of our inheritance" as the redeemed people of God (Eph 1:14). The Spirit has been on my mind lately.

Meanwhile I've been reading Jason Byassee's little book, Trinity: The God We Don't Know, and I'm in the middle of chapter 2: "The Spirit We Don't Know."
Byassee's discussing Jesus' incredible promise in John 14 that "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father" (14:12). Greater works than these? Greater than turning water to wine (John 2), making the lame walk (John 5), feeding thousands with a few morsels (John 6)? Greater than raising the dead (John 11)?

And why does Jesus' exit, his "going to the Father," mean that we will be able to accomplish these greater things?
It must have to do with that insistence in John 16 that "it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (16:7).

The Helper. The Holy Spirit.

While Jesus has to leave his disciples, this Helper will be with you forever (14:16), so do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (14:27). The Helper Jesus is sending to us will bring peace and teach us everything - through the Spirit, those who believe in Jesus will accomplish amazing things.

Then Byassee writes:
The Spirit is powerfully present on Jesus unlike any before or since. And yet the church should wish for Jesus's departure so the Spirit will descend upon us in a way unlike any before or since. There are two sendings of God into human history to give life and save—the Son and the Spirit (John 6:63). And each is better than the previous. Religious communities do have a tendency to look back to a golden era and romanticize a lost time. The church should not. We know greater things are yet to come. God not only grants us knowledge about himself, God progressively comes closer to us, fills us and our world with more of himself. First Son, then Spirit. With God, the best is always yet to come. (38-39)
Greater things, Jesus said. And even the Spirit, the source of these "greater things" from God, even the Spirit with us now is only a down payment: a comforter, the giver of new life (Rom 7:6), an engagement ring, ahead of the day when God wipes away every tear, makes all things new, and God's people come to Jesus like a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:1-5).

A down payment. Just the beginning.

The best is yet to come.

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