Spirit And Truth
SPIRIT AND TRUTH
Williamsburg Presbyterian Church is a very traditional church. Big choir, hand bell choir, and a beautiful pipe organ. The minister always whore a robe and a white collar. It was a very liturgical or high church environment. If you grew up Catholic or Episcopalian you would not feel out of place there. Along with the work the ministry of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship ( which was more rock band worship) I came to faith through the ministry of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church and the preacher there Patrick Wilson. I cannot overstate the place of this church in my life. If were not for Williamsburg Presbyterian Church I might not have become a Christian. I might not have entered the ministry.
Once in my second year in seminary I drove forty miles from Richmond to a choir concert at Williamsburg Presbyterian. I must have been around 24 at the time. There was a beautiful bell choir, and traditional singing. I still remember this large black gentleman standing up on in front of the congregation and doing a beautiful solo that went like, “ I’ve been spending all of my time praising my Jesus, all of my time praising my Lord, if I don’t praise him the rocks are going to cry out, glory and honor, glory and honor, I ain’t got time to die!” I still remember that man and that concert ten years later. Perhaps it was because seminary was a very dry time for me spiritually. We loved God with our mind but what about the rest of us, what about our heart, what about our spirit. Hearing that man praise the Lord, hearing those bells, hearing that choir, was like a stream of living water in a desert of doubt. That choir spoke the truth to me in song when I needed to hear it.
On the other end of the Worship spectrum I lived in what amounts to a monastery for a year. Imagine praying and chanting three times a day and washing a lot of dishes. This taught me about the sacredness of everyday life and praying through the simple things. During this time something strange happened to me. I had hurt my shoulder and been diagnosed with early arthritis in my shoulder. During our weekly staff meeting at the monastery I got a strange feeling that I needed to go to a Wednesday night prayer service at a quirky charismatic church that I had visited on occasion. This church met in an old daycare in the middle of an apartment complex thirty minutes from where I lived. It wasn’t a good location. The sanctuary wasn’t really designed to be a sanctuary it was a daycare. I didn’t like the music all that much. The teaching was good but lacked the intellectual depth that I was used to as a Presbyterian. Yet, I visited that church because the Holy Spirit moved in that church. As I have mentioned I have a physical sense of what I have come to conclude is the Holy Spirit of God. This sense goes off when people are worshiping and giving themselves to the Lord. It doesn’t necessarily happen in contemporary worship. I’ve been in Christian rock concerts where I have felt nothing. I have gone to a chapel at Regent College where I expected the Holy Spirit to fill the room and He did not. Once I felt the Spirit strongly in a Presbytery meeting as we prayed for healing. Some would call it the anointing, the revealed glory of God, the manifest presence, being filled with the Spirit, or just God showing up and doing stuff.
That night I felt compelled to go to this weird and quirky charismatic church. When I entered the room it was as if I was taking a bath in the Holy Spirit. When I went to receive prayer I remember the person praying for me saying she felt like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders. I said I had shoulder pain but yes metaphorically I was worrying a lot about my family, career, and future. As this woman prayed for me I felt a strange weight come upon me. I had seen people falling over on TV but I honestly thought it was fake, and sometimes it is. But despite myself I felt weighed down. So I lay down. And when I did the weight increased to the point I found it hard to get up. I was reminded of the scripture in Genesis where it says the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep. That is what it reminded me of. It was as if I was being weighed down by nothing. Indeed, the Hebrew Word for glory in the scriptures means weight, the weight of the Lord. That never made sense to me until that moment. I felt the weight of the LORD and I wondered if this is one of the reasons why people fell on their faces in the scriptures when the LORD appeared. Because His glory is a weight. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit was doing that night. After about half an hour I just started cracking jokes because I was bored and couldn’t get up. After over an hour I forced myself to stand up. My shoulder was healed and if felt lighter. The LORD was doing something internally as well. I still don’t understand what that was.
What is worship? Worship is ascribing worth, honor, and praise, to the one who is worthy, that being God. The various words for worship in the Bible mean to prostrate oneself and bow down, to serve and present sacrifice to the Lord. The word culture actually comes from the Latin cult which means to worship. So culture is that which we worship. John Calvin once said the heart is an idol making factory if we do not worship the Lord we will find something else to worship. Psalm 115:8 says those who worship idols will become like them. And indeed we tend to become like that which we focus on that which we worship. Christ is always with us but in worship we change our focus to focus on Jesus and enter in to his manifest presence. For He is real. As real as the air we breathe. Real enough to give you hope in hard times. Real enough to make you content washing dishes. Real enough to plaster you to the floor with the weight of glory. He is the one true God. The Father is seeking those who will worship him in Spirit and in Truth.
Jesus is having a conversation with the Samaritan woman about Spirit and Truth. And for our purposes today let us focus on the history between the Jews and the Samaritans. 2 Kings 17 tells us that the Hebrew people had broken up into two Kingdoms. The Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judea. During the reign of Hoshea in 722 B.C. the Empire of Assyria conquered Israel. By force there was a mixing of religions and cultures. By the time of Jesus both sides saw the other side as heretics. Jesus intentionally steps into a conflict that is hundreds of years old.
What Jesus says neither satisfies no one. The spiritual would say, “hey no big thing, the Jews didn’t know what they were talking about, and neither do you, so let’s all agree to disagree.” Nor does he satisfy the religious by saying, “ you are completely wrong so give up your entire system of belief and come sacrifice in Jerusalem.” Instead he says the true God first revealed himself to the Jews but that is being fulfilled in me and my promise is for every place and time thus there will be no temple in either place. Spirit and Truth says there are eternal truths that are applied differently depending upon the context. Instead of a well that is stationary Jesus promises a supernatural spring that comes out of the heart of believers, bubbling up into eternal life. The thing about a spring is new water keeps coming, moving and changing, but it comes from the same ancient source.
I think the New Testament suggests that God’s people had the truth but the wrong spirit. And the same holds true for many of us today. It is true in our churches and in our relationships. One marriage counselor I have quoted before put it well, “you can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.” You can have the facts, the truth, but the wrong spirit. Change comes like a river. The Israelites wanted to fight the river. Jesus suggests we are to change the river’s source and flow with the river. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was conquered during the prophet Jeremiah’s time around 597 B.C. All the false prophets said things were going to be great, that Judah would vanquish its enemies. But God said that would not happen. Instead, they would be carried away to other nations. The Lord told them to bless the city they were carried into. Instead, of being afraid of change, go with the flow. By your witness change a river filled with garbage into a stream of living water. Worship should be filled with love, life, and light. Reverence for God is not reverence if it causes us to treat people poorly. As much as we may plan things won’t always go according to our plans and maybe that is part of God’s plan. We need to leave space to allow the Holy Spirit to do what He wants and to change our mind about our plans, assumptions, and traditions. Instead, of thinking of disruptions in worship as a hindrance what if we thought of it as an opportunity? An opportunity to learn? An opportunity to grow? An opportunity to see where the Holy Spirit is leading us? An opportunity not to say I don’t have anything in common with old people or young people or white people or black people or gay people or straight people, but to realize that we can worship anywhere and all circumstances and a disruption is an opportunity to get to know someone I don’t know. Is the Lord asking you to go through Samaria? Is he asking you to get to know someone you rather not know? Is he asking you to be brave, to listen, to speak the truth in love? Is he asking you to look beyond your fear, doubt, offenses, and preferences, and release the river that is bubbling up inside of you?
The words I speak to you are Spirit and Truth but that doesn’t mean that I don’t doubt. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get annoyed. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get lonely. That doesn’t mean that I always know what I am doing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t despair. Sometimes I lay awake at night wondering if my words are enough, if my ministry is enough, if my leadership is enough. There are days I feel the weight of being a shepherd. I love so many of you already. For those of you who are older I weep at the idea of having to let you go be with the Lord. For those of you who are younger I wonder if you will remember my words. If I will inspire you to fear and love the Lord as my minister in College did for me. There are days I wonder when the trials come if I will be a good shepherd or fall flat on my face. In the night I have my doubts. Even I who feels the presence of the LORD like a great fire burning in my body, a weight of glory, has doubts that God is real. While I have my doubts I keep moving. I keep praying. I keep hoping in what I cannot see. I worship to keep living water moving inside of me. Water that does not move is defiled in the well by doubt and bitterness.
An hour is coming. An hour is coming. An hour is coming and is now here. We have been seeking all our lives but while we have been groping in the dark feeling for created things he shines His love, light, and life upon us if we would only look up. The Father is seeking True worshipers who shall worship him in Spirit and Truth. Will you heed His call?
AS a deer pants for flowing streams, so our souls pant for you, O God. Our soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Why are we cast down, O our souls, and why do we have turmoil within us? Hope in God; for we shall again praise him, our salvation and our God. Deep cries out to deep at the thunder of his breakers, his waves wash over us (Psalm 42), oh come Holy Spirit and wash over your people. By the day the LORD commands his steadfast love and by night his song is still with us whether we feel it or not. Let us lift a prayer to the God of our lives, our rock and our salvation. Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD God almighty!!!! Heaven and Earth are full of His glory. Hosanna, Hosanna, in the highest, blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. Our souls magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God our savior. If we don’t praise him the rocks are going to cry out, “glory and honor, glory and honor, glory and honor!” We ain’t got time, we ain’t got time, we ain’t got time to die.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen