God’s Gift to the Church
Bishop Chris Giesler
In the “Shorter Church Litany” found in the Moravian Book of Worship on page 10, we pray the following petitions:
By your holy incarnation and birth,
By all the merits of your perfect life,
By your cross and atoning death,
By your triumphant resurrection and ascension,
By your sending the Holy Spirit,
By your coming again to your Church on earth, or our being called home to you.
Help us, gracious Lord and God.
In this prayer, we see an affirmation of Jesus being the incarnation of God’s presence in his perfect life and teachings, his sacrifice on the cross, his death, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of his return to the Church. These concepts come right from our Gospel lesson for this week. We must again keep in mind that chapters 13-17 in John’s Gospel occur in the Upper Room and during the Last Supper. These are Jesus’ parting words to his disciples as he is getting them ready for their role in keeping his presence alive in the world for years to come. Something we continue to do today!
In this passage, Jesus begins by saying that he and God the Father will come and make their homes within our hearts and that it is God who sent Jesus into the world. In other words, the coming of Jesus to us is the same thing as God’s love taking up residence in our lives. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit will play a significant role in this process. While the word “Trinity” is never found in scriptures, we can see where our early church leaders got the concept in this text.
As Jesus is preparing to take his physical leave from his friends, he is promising them an eternal presence in the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is indeed a gift that keeps on giving. In this gift, Jesus assures them and us of several essential things. First, the Holy Spirit will help them remember everything he taught them. Next, the Holy Spirit, among other things, will provide a sense of peace that cannot come from any earthly source.
So, how does this tie into mission? First, the Spirit can keep us focused on the task at hand by reminding us what is essential. Here at the Board of World Mission, we have chosen two important teachings of Jesus to keep us on track as we determine priorities and plan for the future. Our mission statement says: “The Board of World Mission builds relationships through Mission Outreach and Mission Engagement to be faithful to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. “
It is the Holy Spirit that calls us back to these texts that remind us to love God with all of who we are and that we should love our neighbor as God calls us to love ourselves (the Great Commandment) and to go into all the world and make disciples (the Great Commission). It also reminds us that the presence of the Savior will be with us to the end of the age.
Jesus also promises his disciples, “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.” Jesus knew that the world was full of uncertainty, opposition, and outright violence. He never promises us that these dynamics will go away, but he promises us that we can find peace in God even during difficult times. Life, in general, will always throw curves at us, but we can also expect those curves when doing mission in Jesus’ name. Those first disciples certainly experienced this, as do we today.
These words from Jesus give us great hope as we share in the mission of the Church in these days.