Day of Pentecost | May 23, 2010
Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (30)
Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21
John 14:8-17 [25-27]
Prayer of the Day
God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of the earth. By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts | of your faithful,
and kindle in us the fire | of your love. Alleluia.
1a. CONTEXT: John 14:8-17 (25-27)
This ‘new’ Gospel for the Day of Pentecost closely parallels the text used in several lectionaries for the commemoration of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles, as follows:
Lutheran (ELW) May 1 - John 14: 8-14
Episcopal (BCP) May 1 - John 14: 6-13a
Roman Catholic (Ordo) May 3 - John 14: 6-14
It is interesting, by the way, that the Roman Catholic date for this Saint Day derives from social concern: St. Philip (not the Philip in Acts 8:4) and St. James ("the less," and not the brother of Jesus or James) were originally commemorated on May 1st, but this was replaced by the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, designed post-1917 as an answer to Soviet May Day fests. The conjunction of the two apostles derives from their common interment in Rome in the 6th Century. The longer Roman Catholic reading includes the phrase "you will know my Father," which makes for a more logical entry into the dialogue between Jesus and Philip. Both the LBW and BCP pericopes omit verses 6-7, as does the Pentecost reading in the Common Lectionary.
Texts from John 14 (chiefly vs. 1-6) are frequently read at funeral services, but there is nothing in this passage that necessarily implies anything having to do with comfort for the bereaved, nor is it solely meant as a stirring theological defense of monotheism, which in any event Jesus would not have seen as debatable. Rather, the focus is on Philip's request for a glimpse of God the Father, and Jesus's refusal to oblige him. This is in keeping with the expression of misunderstanding (misverstaendnis) of the disciples, a typical motif in John's Gospel. Like Thomas, who asked "how can we know the Way?" in vs. 5, Philip seems unable to grasp or discern the Father in the Son. Put another way, there is a distinction here between what the followers of Jesus want and what Jesus deems needful for them.
For this reason, the Inclusive Language Lectionary reading in vs. 8 ("show us God"), if a little bit daring in passing over the issue of Father, has the ring of truth in reflecting this hunger for theophany in the people of God. (No wonder the Common Lectionary offers as a variant for the First Lesson of Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel. )Jesus, of course, is disappointed and even irritated with this "show me" attitude and so a central theme here has to do with what is needful,necessary, or sufficient for discerning divinity. Philip and Thomas and many of the proponents of "New Age spirituality" hanker for an unmediated apprehension of God. But what they desire is not necessarily what it needful.
Yoking the John 14:8-17 text with verses 25-27, which emphasizes the helpful and intercessory role of the Paraclete, this pericope is an appropriate and excellent gospel message for celebrating the Coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.
1b. TEXT: John 14:8-17, 25-27
Jn. 14:8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
Jn. 14:9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'?
Jn. 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
Jn. 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
Jn. 14:12 Very truly, I tell you, 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.
Jn. 14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Jn. 14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Jn. 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Jn. 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
Jn. 14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
[ Jn. 14:25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
Jn. 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Jn. 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. ]
8λέγει αὐτῷ Φίλιππος, Κύριε, δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα, καὶ ἀρκεῖ ἡμῖν. 9λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τοσούτῳ χρόνῳ μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωκάς με, Φίλιππε; ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα: πῶς σὺ λέγεις, Δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα; 10οὐ πιστεύεις ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί ἐστιν; τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ οὐ λαλῶ: ὁ δὲ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένων ποιεῖ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ. 11πιστεύετέ μοι ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί: εἰ δὲ μή, διὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτὰ πιστεύετε. 12ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ κἀκεῖνος ποιήσει, καὶ μείζονα τούτων ποιήσει, ὅτι ἐγὼ πρὸς τὸν πατέρα πορεύομαι: 13καὶ ὅ τι ἂν αἰτήσητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου τοῦτο ποιήσω, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ υἱῷ: 14ἐάν τι αἰτήσητέ με ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐγὼ ποιήσω. 15Ἐὰν ἀγαπᾶτέ με, τὰς ἐντολὰς τὰς ἐμὰς τηρήσετε: 16κἀγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν ἵνα μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ᾖ, 17τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὃ ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν, ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτὸ οὐδὲ γινώσκει: ὑμεῖς γινώσκετε αὐτό, ὅτι παρ' ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται.
25Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν παρ' ὑμῖν μένων: 26ὁ δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν [ἐγώ]. 27Εἰρήνην ἀφίημι ὑμῖν, εἰρήνην τὴν ἐμὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν: οὐ καθὼς ὁ κόσμος δίδωσιν ἐγὼ δίδωμι ὑμῖν. μὴ ταρασσέσθω ὑμῶν ἡ καρδία μηδὲ δειλιάτω.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975,
United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: John 14:8-17, 25-27
Jn. 14:8 - arkei - to be adequate, sufficient, enough - this word appears twice in John and 8 times in the New Testament.
14:9 - tousoutos chronos - for a long time; so long, so great, so much -
this implies that Jesus is irritated or at least tired and disappointed with his followers' slowness of heart and mind.
14:12 - kakeinos - by crasis for kai ekeinos - meaning even that one - or that even works like Jesus did will be done by his followers.
14:16, 14:26 - parakletos - helper, advocate, intercessor - perhaps it is well to leave the term untranslated and do some teaching about the concept of the Spirit-Paraclete; "helper," while surely a good and popular translation, seems a bit understated, something like calling the Messiah one's "friend"; the key concept here seems to be the intercessory and mediating role of the Spirit, which derives in part from legal imagery (cf., "vindicator" in Job 19:25). Four of the five New Testament uses of this word appear in the Fourth Gospel.
14:26 - hupomimneisko - call to mind, remind - AILL: "bring to your remembrance" strikes me as a little bit too liturgical-sounding....TEV's
"make you remember" is a little too stark. Perhaps the best translation would be that the Spirit will "remind you of me and all I have told you." This seems a fair reading in keeping with the "Quicunque Vult" or Athanasian Creed tone of this passage, in that "What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit."
14:27 - deiliao - to be fearful or cowardly - the only use of this word in the New Testament - AILL: "afraid."
3. STRATEGY: John 8-17, 25-27
Whether one is hearing this gospel as a message for Pentecost or as part of a commemoration of Philip and James, certain themes suggest themselves as pre-eminent. A basic idea is the desire on the part of Philip and perhaps all of us to "see God" or in some sense to apprehend and experience God at first hand. This is what Jesus finds so disappointing and even irritating about his followers, and sets in motion a continual struggle within Christendom regarding appearance, epiphany and transcendence of God. This is not only a question of iconoclasm and the aesthetic experience of the divine. It is also, seen through Jesus' eyes a conflict between our dependence upon God and our desire (which we take to be a need) to know God.
Given the above, two themes which could be treated separately or blended together have to do with the "show me" attitude toward the Father which is so evident in the Church today and the need to own up to the ineffability of God and to realize that sometimes "enough is enough." Yet many today are chasing false messiahs and pursuing outlandish "spiritualities" [The Law of Attraction, The Secret, et cetera ad infinitem ] in the name of a quest for God. The danger as always is that our "spirituality" merely becomes a prospective attempt to build Babel anew, rather than a retrospective "remembrance" of Christ. And isn't this why we need the Spirit, a "helper" go-between who can intercede for us where we are inadequate to the encounter with God? Of course, all too often we have seen the "Spirit" become a code word for a brand of spiritual arrogance and superiority which does not bring others into the circle of understanding but only walls them out (a reversal of the Pentecost story).
If the text is followed as part of a Pentecost celebration, then surely it needs to include an evangelical thrust, noting that the Spirit comes to bring Christ into the hearts of all kinds of people who live in faraway places with strange-sounding names--which is precisely where every single human being lives, whether we know it or not!
Finally, a tangential theme to explore in this passage is the nature of fear and the fear of God. The word for fear in verse 27 (deiliato) is a very precise and special Johannine usage and far different from the way we ordinarily use this word. This is a fear that implies a kind of grief and a fear of letting go or in some way surrendering our own selfishness and pride. Perhaps this,too, is why we need a Paraclete and comforter in our weakness and the spiritual confusion of our times.
4. REFERENCES: John 14:8-17, 25-27
Haenchen, Ernst. JOHN 2. Hermeneia Commentary on the Gopspel of John, Chapters 7-21. transl. Robert W. Funk. Phila.: Fortress, 1984.
Pfatteicher. PROCLAMATION: Lesser Festivals 1. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975.
5. HYMN SUGGESTIONS: John 14:8-17, 25-27
Some hymns suggested by the Day of Pentecost and /or by this Pericope include the following :
A MIGHTY SOUND FROM HEAVEN (HB 230)
COME, GRACIOUS SPIRIT, HEAV'NLY DOVE (LBW 475)
COME, HOLY GHOST, OUR SOULS INSPIRE (HB 503/4;
LBW 472/3; WORSHIP BOOK/WB 335)
COME, HOLY SPIRIT, GOD AND LORD (LBW 163)
COME THOU HOLY SPIRIT BRIGHT (HB 226/7)
CREATOR SPIRIT, BY WHOSE AID (HB 500; LBW 164)
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT'S POW'R (LBW 160)
HAIL THEE, FESTIVAL DAY! (HB 225; LBW 142)
LIKE THE MURMUR OF THE DOVE'S SONG (HB 513)
LORD GOD, THE HOLY GHOST (LBW 162)
O HOLY SPIRIT, BY WHOSE BREATH (HB 501/2)
O SPIRIT OF LIFE, O SPIRIT OF GOD (HB 505)
O SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD (HB 531; LBW 388; WB 528)
PRAISE THE SPIRIT IN CREATION (HB 506/7)
SPIRIT OF GOD, UNLEASHED ON EARTH (HB 299; LBW 387)
SPIRIT OF MERCY, TRUTH AND LOVE (HB 229)
TO GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT LET US PRAY (LBW 317)
THE DAY OF PENTECOST ARRIVED (WORSHIPBOOK 583)
TO THEE O COMFORTER DIVINE (HB 514)
If this turns out to be a commemoration of Philip & James:
BY ALL YOUR SAINTS IN WARFARE (LBW 177/8),
BY ALL YOUR SAINTS STILL STRIVING (HB 231/2), or
FOR ALL YOUR , O LORD (LBW 176)
would be appropriate as well.
Exegete: Rev. Carol M. Worthing, D.Min. (ELCA, RT)
6. Against Syncretism (Redux)
I have never thought that a syncretic (or syncretistic) faith could be viable, not even in a world which styles itself as "postmodern." The reason for this seems obvious to me: no theology-- like no philosophy--can operate in the kosmos without having a distinctly different voice for itself. Every infant contains within herself the making of a unique message or voice in the world, so why should every faith not have this same dimension of uniqueness? It could also be argued (and often has) that ancient traditions cannot, by their very nature, be merged or connected with later ones. I am not absolutely certain about the latter, since I have seen the Church--both evangelical and catholic—gladly merge ancient and modern in worship and music, though often reluctant to do so over issues of Faith and Order. Suffice it to say that “the old becomes new,” by and by (Rev. 21:5).
That said, I do not mean that we ought to isolate ourselves from the world or its ever flowing stream of differing faiths. Indeed, I believe that we need one another so much that our own distinct faith cannot be heard a world where dialogical conversation falls silent. In light of the exegetical remarks above by Dr. Worthing, it nevertheless appears to me that we can live in this new Age without having to move into the New Age and similar movements, insofar as these manifest Syncretism. In other words, as one of my theology professors was fond of saying, differences DO make a difference. Three good recent examples of the kind of fruitful “exploring” we might consider are the following:
a) ODE magazine, which began in the Netherlands, is one of the most au courant sources I know for discussion of emerging ideas in world culture. One issue included a free CD of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I first discovered while still in college in 1965. He has since written numerous books on meditation and Buddhist philosophy and has many helpful insights about living in this world of war and violence.
b) Matthew Fox, a former priest who was silenced by the Pope many years ago, has finally seen (through a glass darkly, one suspects) of the Protestant Principle (semper reformanda) in his engaging little paperback, A NEW REFOPRMATION ( Rochester, VT: 2006). Following the tradition of his earlier books on Prayer and Work in the world, this one addresses the application of a “Creation Spirituality” in the Nova Ecclesia emerging today. To his credit, Fox appends his own 95 Theses for today and the result is calculated to rouse depleted or drowsy Christians once and for all.
c) “And On Earth, Peace” – The new Interfaith Mass by the group Chasnticleer—
see my review at < http://yourobdtsvt.blogspot.com/2007/04/and-on-earth-peace-chanticleer-mass.html >
There is much here that would appeal to Lutheran, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic hearts and minds and voices—along with at least some that will provoke debate or disagreement. But isn’t that the whole point!? Semper Reformanda!
Davebuehler | yourobdtsvt.blogspot.com
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