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One Good Turn

John 20:19-31

The Rev. Jon Roberts

31 May


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


Pentecost by El Greco, c. 1600

Come gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove, with light and comfort from above. Be thou our guardian. Be thou our guide, for every thought and every step you reside. [1]

We live in a day and time when we truly need a gracious Spirit, but where is such a heavenly dove?
Once upon a time, on a hot day of summer, an ant was searching for some water. After walking around for some time, she came near the river. To drink the water, she climbed up on a small rock. While trying to drink a water, she slipped and fell into the river. There was a dove sitting on a branch of a tree who saw the ant falling into the river. The dove quickly plucked a leaf and dropped it into the river near the struggling ant. The ant moved towards the leaf and climbed up onto it. Soon, the leaf drifted to dry ground, and the ant jumped out. She looked up to the tree and thanked the dove. Later, the same day, a bird catcher nearby was about to throw his net over the dove hoping to trap it. An ant saw him and guessed what he was about to do. The dove was resting and he had no idea about the bird catcher. An ant quickly bit him on the foot. Feeling the pain, the bird catcher dropped his net and let out a light scream. The dove noticed it and quickly flew away.

The moral of this story is if you do good, good will come to you. One good turn deserves another. We live in a day and a time when we deserve a good turn. Too much separation. Too much fighting. Too much anger and too much strife. The only thing that can put us back together again is this gracious Spirit, the heavenly dove. The one who brings light and comfort from above. Such light shines upon God’s purpose for creation, which is to restore peace and unity. This can only happen when we see God as our guardian and our guide; O’er every thought and step he is to preside.

St. Irenaeus once wrote about this in a place called Gaul (France) where he makes this allegory about how one good turn deserves another. Relating to a plant that requires water to grow, if only it could get a little assistance it would have great potential. It is the Holy Spirit that sends forth such nourishment and creation gratefully returns the favor by glorifying God. Water and light, nourish God’s creation, the church through Word and Sacrament and we find this in our words of worshiping God.[2]

When we say, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,” we are acknowledging God as our source of life. We are told not to hurt others, so it is much more important for us to send life, rather than take it. Our life is one constant series where God sees us in our time of need and drops down exactly what we need. He does not want us to drown in our sin but rather be engulfed by the love of God’s Holy Spirit. Our purpose, existence and survival depends on such Spirit, says Irenaeus. St. Paul speaks in a similar way and is very clear that God activates us, so that we may activate all. He says we must have God’s spirit, the living water which is the substance to which we all shall live.[3]

Our thoughts and our steps must constantly be nourished by God’s Spirit. Paul says we all have different gifts but if you read carefully his letter to the church in Corinth relies on how we received God’s Spirit. When we assemble our prayers wait for the “Amen” which is the acknowledgement of God’s Spirit. The hardest thing in life is finding peace. This is why Jesus was so clear when he said, “My peace I leave with you.”[4] Without this, we cannot live. If only the unrelenting message of the world would receive such life support.

We are mighty. We may not fill all the pews, but God’s Spirit certainly is. This is to give you charge to go out into the world. It is a fearful thing, as it was for Jesus’ disciples wondering if such news would destroy them. But surely as Christ went through his tribulations, the Spirit strengthened Him. We would do well to receive this promise from above as we “Hail this festival day; a day that is hallowed forever.” When we receive God’s Spirit it is a gift of God’s love, God’s life to us. Let us continue to be open to receive, so that we can be inclined to give. One good turn deserves another.

Come gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove, with light and comfort from above. Be thou our guardian. Be thou our guide, for every thought and every step you reside.

[1] Simon Browne, Come gracious Spirit; 1982 Hymnal #512, Mendon, 1680-1732.
[3] 1 Corinthians 12:3-13
[4] John 20:19-23

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