The Civic and Parish Church of Bournemouth

A Sermon for Penecost – 20th May 2018

Jesus said, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.’ John 16: 13) 

A lady calls the police to report her husband is missing. The police arrive and ask for a description. She tells them he’s 6 feet 2 inches tall, blonde wavy hair and has a smile that makes everybody love him.

The police then go to the next door neighbour to verify this report and the lady next door tells the police, “You can’t believe her. He’s 5 feet 4 inches tall, has no hair and he wears a perpetual frown on his face.”

The neighbour then goes and asks the lady why she gave the police such a false report. She replies, “Just because I reported him missing, doesn’t mean I wanted him back!”

…………..

A Vicar told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark chapter 17.”

The following Sunday the Vicar asked for a show of hands. He wanted to know how many had read Mark 17. Almost every hand went up. He smiled and said, “Mark has only sixteen chapters. …..”

Jesus said, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.’ Hmm

Are you one of those gifted salespeople who could sell a fridge to an Eskimo? I mean : Can you fool other people? No offence, but : Are you good at ‘pulling the wool’ over the eyes of others? 

Try this: will you?   Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.

Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides an inevitably rough measure of a concept known as “self-monitoring”. High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them; they can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.  They come across as being the “same person” in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and are not so skilled at deliberate deceit.

Jesus said, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.’

So we ask, ‘What is God’s truth for us?’

Try this: Bernard of Clairvaux lived in the 10th century (died in 1153) and some of the truths that he taught will never age.  He writes, ‘On loving God’, and suggests that the greatest height of love is not simply loving God for God’s own sake; the higher state, he says, is to love oneself for God’s sake.  That is, to find ‘the truth’ about who you are – not in what he calls ‘the cramped self of self-loathing’, but, rather, seeing yourself as supremely loved by God.

That is the truth we claim today for Dominic: we are celebrating that Dominic is supremely loved by God. (And it is no less true for each one of us!)

Jesus said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32) That is the most basic truth, that God wants us to know each day (each moment!) of our lives!

But we find it hard to believe. We need each other’s help.

In this way, Dominic will learn, if we will teach him, that he must come to love himself in God before he can truly love others ‘as he loves himself’.

When we begin to do that, Ezekiel’s dry bones start to come to life, so that we are no longer what TS Eliot called ‘Hollow men (and women)’  – do you know the poem:

Before the liberating wind of the Spirit of truth blows through us it is as though:

Our dried voices, when

we whisper together

are quiet and meaningless

as wind in dry grass

or rats’ feet over broken glass

in our dry celler.

Shape without form, shade without colour,

paralysed force, gesture without motion.

We content ourselves too readily with these hollow unrealities.

But    ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.’

We must help Dominic to know that the Spirit of truth is the Spirit of love and of light:

Eliot again:

O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!

Too bright for mortal vision.

O Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less,

The eastern light our spires touch at morning,

The light that slants upon our western doors at evening,

The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight.

Moon light and star light, owl and moth light.

Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.

O Light Invisible, we worship Thee!

‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.’

Jesus said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

So that the tongues of fire above the heads of Jesus’ friends in the upper room on the day of Pentecost were the fires of the passion of God’s love, descending upon us, swelling up within us, bringing the Godly-truth of life and love and light to dry bones.

So it is that at Jesus’ birth and his baptism, and at each birth and each baptism,

The Spirit of God descends, perhaps seen in Biblical times as an angel or as a dove.

Eliot: ‘The dove descending breaks the air

with flame of incandescent terror

of which, the tongues declare  …..

  to be consumed from fire by fire.

 ‘Love is the unfamiliar name’ 

That’s what the tongues of fire are about!

The truth of Pentecost lies in seeing the joy of Jesus’ resurrection through the fire of the cross; such is the costly truth of self-giving love.

Jesus said, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.’

And so we pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit!’

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