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The Invisible Hand

John 15:26-16:15

The Rev. Jon Roberts

23 May

2021

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. 16:1 “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince[a] the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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Pentecost, Jen Norton, 2020

The Holy Spirit is God, the invisible caring hand,
No matter where you go, no matter where you hide,
the Spirit of truth will find you, for this is God’s command.[1]

A young man and his friend, one late evening, decided to go fishing. Fish bite best, late at night, don’t you know? They gathered all of their gear, loaded it on the back of their truck and made the journey to this bridge that stretched four miles across the island. It has a tall span in the middle, and on the other side, there was a “catwalk”, with a railing to which many, many times they would drop their lines. This was a familiar place. With it being so familiar of a routine, they knew where to stop and unload. They did not go all the way to the parking lot. Oh no. They went at such an hour, there was hardly any traffic. They often would stop on the bridge as it was most convenient. They knew right what to do; the sequence of which items needed to be unloaded first. The cooler, the tackle box, a generator, a bucket full of cords and lights, a large net to lower down when they hooked “the big one” and of course the rods & reels.

This night would be like any other, with the exception of course of unforeseen weather patterns. It just so happened that a huge fog had rolled into the inlet and so thick it was, they could barely see the signage on the side. They were looking for one in particular, indicating where they were to stop. Driving about 30mph, and with minimal visibility they took their time. The eeriness of the cloak of fog in this evening, with a still air gave a heightened sense of expectation. They would have the only light for the fish to respond and the temptation for those trout, blues and drum would be too great to pass up, so they thought. This hurried them to get to their destination, but there was still the fog. The sign they were looking for came up on the right side and they quickly stopped, got out and unloaded. One person would then drive the truck to the parking lot and the other would take all the gear and lower over the side where the side, catwalk was “presumably” located. As the taillights disappeared into the fog, the young man left behind gathered the rods & reels first, and being most assertive decided he would jump over the rail to the catwalk. No flashlight in hand. His friend was still parking the truck. No one else was around. Not able to see hardly three feet in front, he swung his legs over the side and almost jumped down, but then something came over him. There was the presence of an invisible hand and a calm voice only he could hear spoke, “You do not want to go there.”

A chill ran up his spine as he took a longer moment to look below, only to be scared to death by what he saw. They miscalculated their stop. They were way short of where they were supposed to be and if he had jumped he would have fallen about sixty feet into a swift current, possibly to his death. If it had not been for the invisible caring hand of the Holy Spirit, who knows, I may have never been here today, preaching before you. [2]

St. Basil the Great put a hand on the shoulder of the church in the fourth century during a time of great fog, a bitter controversy over the essence of God’s being. Many were ready to take the plunge into the assertion that Jesus was not God; that he was merely sent by God, in the flesh to be solely human. In his writings, he referred to how we are to be attentive to the routine of our worship, not falling short of what we believe. He used the Latin phrase, a native tongue in the empire of his day, lex orandi lex est credendi, meaning “the law of what is prayed is the law of what is believed.”[3] We must pray in the right order, for the manner of worship to be declared faithfully and true. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, all things will be made known. The Spirit of truth will be given.

When the Spirit of truth is given to the individual, there is an effect. It gives us hope for what we do not see and sometimes the touch can be “ghostly.’ Paul wrote about this. He said that if, “we hope for what we do not see, we wait in patience. Who hopes for what they see?”[4] The glory of what awaits us, what is declared and promised by Jesus is what we can hardly wait to receive, and sometimes there is the fog. That which surrounds us is the conflict of the day. This is why we need the invisible caring hand of our Savior to be advocated by His Spirit. If we trust and have patience in his touch, then we can be bold to tell others about Christ. We can live by example of how we know he saves us and does not want us to plummet to our death.

When the Spirit of truth is given to the church, there is an effect. It gives us hope for what we do not see. Like those disciples, hiding out in the upper room, scared, petrified of what they saw as their death below, it was courage that they needed.[5] It was hope for what they did not see. Through the Spirit of truth, they were touched, awakened, restored and empowered to find sure and certain means of salvation. We, likewise, are moved in such a way to offer benefits to the community, through our own touch by his grace and mercy. In his book, “The Invisible Caring Hand” by Dr. Ram Cnaan, professor in the school of Social Work and for the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, his dissertation goes to great lengths, describing how well the church helps our society.[6] God’s Holy Spirit touches us so that we may touch the lives of others. Some close and some far away. We provide a priest to offer pastoral care to the sick, the poor and the dying; for those in need of a counselor. We provide lay members who give counsel as well, listening to the needs of others and offering support. We gather gifts for children at Christmas. We provide hospitality to those traveling and in need of refreshment. We feed the poor with our food pantry. All of these, we provide through praying what we believe and hope to obtain. It is in the routine fishing expedition, to which we are able to witness Christ to others and to be touched by the Holy Spirit. In good order, God supplies us with proper commands as the Father, through loving sacrifice as the Son and now advocates truth and sincerity for the love of others through the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is enough for the time being. Maybe that is the only sign we need to guide us through this world, sometimes engulfed in fog, when at times we have lost our way. We, the church, are the living reminders of what Jesus did for us. Remember this:

The Holy Spirit is God, the invisible caring hand,
No matter where you go, no matter where you hide,
the Spirit of truth will find you, for this is God’s command.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] The Rev. Jon Roberts; true story of event that took place in 1988 at the Oregon Inlet Bridge, NC with family friend, Pete Champion.
[3] St. Basil the Great “On The Holy Spirit”, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980, p.11.
[4] Romans 8:22-27
[5] John 15:26-16:15
[6} Ram Cnaan, “The Invisible Caring Hand”, 2002.

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