Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection All Years, Pentecost (Whitsun), Second Gospel Reading

John 14:8-17
Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 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'? 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. 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. 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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 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."

Reflections on John 14:8-17

How could one include honor or concern for the natural environment in a sermon for today? Some possibilities

Using the terminology, “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” for the Trinity leads toward at least 1/3 of a sermon related to creation. Don't’ forget that Creation is redeemed and sanctified along with humanity according to Paul. and in the John 14 option for the Gospel, one could expand the theme of how we “see” God to include the natural world.

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” That dominical saying in verse 9 maintains, in effect, that the Creator and the mysteries of the creative acts can be recognized and known by seeing who Jesus was.

More importantly, to see Jesus is to perform his ethic, to “do the works that I do.” Yet more, to behold Jesus is to be drawn into his kind of lifestyle so that, under the influence of the Spirit (who came into the early Church when Jesus went “to the Father”), disciples of Jesus “do greater works than these” (14:12).

Following the logic of Jesus’ claim for what his disciples can see and do, care for the creation is all the more important for those who focus on who Jesus was, what his character (“name”) was, and what is entailed in our praying “in [His] name.” That logic corrects the allegedly “evangelical” emphasis on individual intimacy with Jesus.

That logic corrects the tendency, now widespread in Protestantism, to retreat from the complexities of social ethics into the simplicities of quiet meditation, or into reflections that arise in the presence of the creation, but that in fact focus on how one feels when, for instance, one is in the BWCAW or in the presence of a sunset’s awesome beauty. Instead of admiring the sunset, as some wag once observed, one admires oneself admiring the sunset.

The promise of the Holy Spirit leads us beyond ourselves out into the vast Creation. The Spirit that comes into the Church as a result of Jesus’ resurrection is, after all, the same Spirit that moved across the deep before creation was invented, and the same Spirit who was there at Jesus’ baptism, and the same Spirit of whose coming Jesus made promise in this farewell discourse. To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with the Creator Spirit.

Those who listen attentively to classical music would, in this connection, want to hear at Pentecost Gustav Mahler’s enormous celebration of the Creator Spirit in his Symphony #8. Mahler’s focus in the opening chords and words of the chorus, “Veni, veni, Creator Spiritus” (Come, Come, Holy Spirit), is on the coming of the Spirit, that Other One unlike the spirits of the times (Zeitgeisten) and, thus, unlike ourselves.

Our life depends on the coming of that Other Spirit who connects us to the creation at the start of it all. As our bodies must eat and drink (sacrament too!), so our spirits must breathe in that life-giving Spirit of God’s own creative work. The promise of the Holy Spirit bids us to be, in what we see and do, living links between redemption and creation.

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other Readings for Pentecost (Whitsun) Sunday:
Old Testament Year A Ezekiel 11:17-20
no reflection available
Old Testament Year B Isaiah 44: 1-8
Old Testament Year C Joel 2: 28-32
no reflection available
Psalm 104:25-37 or 33:12-15, 18-22
no reflection available
New Testament Acts 2:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 12:4-13
Gospel John 20:19-23 or John 14:8-17
this page

The Rev Tom Harries is the Rector of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Richfield, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 1999. John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2003. Tom, John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Tom Harries or John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC c/o C. Morello 4451 Lakeside Drive Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

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