Be Open to God
May 1, 2005
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning. Our theme this morning is “Be Open to God.” I want to tell you a little story about a trip I took not long ago. Back in March I was able to take a real spiritual retreat in a place I love a lot. As you know by now, that’s England. It was a wonderful time. But I have to tell you, there are certain things that people do over in England that are different from what we do here. For one, they talk differently over there. I went into a restaurant and saw an item on the menu, “gammon and eggs.” I asked the waitress, “What is this, gammon?”
She just nodded and said, “Umm.”
I said, “I beg your pardon?”
She said, “Gammon, sir. Umm.”
I said, “Bless my soul, madam, I do not know what you are saying. Could we try again?”
“Umm, sir. Gammon is umm.”
I must have looked totally confused. She thought for a moment and said, in a nasally twang, “Haaam.” Ahh!
Another difference – they take night time seriously. When the sun goes down, everything closes. They think that night is for sleep. What a concept! Here, there are lights; in the distance you can see malls and houses and streets glowing with light. Over there, I tell you, it’s dark. And if you do any traveling over there, get your lodging before the sun goes down, believe me!
Another thing that’s different is this: on Sundays, stores are closed. Now, those of you near my age might remember a time in America when stores were closed on Sundays. It’s amazing. After church, I went to look for a place to eat, and most everything was closed up. I’d like to think that they were closed for business so that the folks who work there could be open to God.
How about you? How about me? Are we really open to God? Look at today’s scripture. John 14:17 says, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” In other words, there are people in the world who are closed to God. They cannot see Him because they will not open their eyes; they cannot know Him because they will not open their minds. You see, everything is closed to God, but open to other things.
But, Jesus goes on to say, “You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be within you.” Notice, too, the last line of today’s gospel: “I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Those are action words, an ongoing action promise. “I will love them” – what could be better than that? – “and reveal myself to them.” In other words, I will make myself known to them more and more, to those who are open to me.
There’s one more verse in the lesson that I want to draw your attention to. Acts 17:28 says, “For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” Friend, we live in Him the way a fish lives within water, within and without. Won’t you meditate on those phrases?
Be open to God. In Him we live and move and have our being. But, is He really allowed to be within us if we are not open to Him? Think about it. Are our lives like a brick wall, where the ideas are so tightly compressed that there’s no room for the Holy Spirit to get in there and inspire us? Are there so many things on our to-do list, so many ideas cluttering our minds, so many demands on our time, that we don’t take the time for breathing room for the Holy Spirit within our spirit? How about you? How about me? Is it time to just stop and let our insides, our souls, be open to the breezes of the Holy Spirit? Would we rather be like a brick wall, with our ideas so tight and compressed, that there’s no room for any new ideas from God? Or, would you rather be like a sail on a sailboat, that does its best while it’s open, open to the invisible breezes that move it along the open seas? Wouldn’t it be great to be like that? Wouldn’t it be great to be that open to the Holy Spirit?
Which is it for you and for me? Friends, I know that you have crowded lives. You’ve got a lot to do. There’s a lot on your mind. There’s a lot competing for your attention. But won’t you consider that, if we’re going to let God into our lives, we have to have a certain openness – in our minds, and in our time.
How is it for you? Can we take some time to be open to God in our minds? Is breakfast really so rushed that we can’t set aside a few minutes at the start of the day to say good morning to God? To place our hands gently over our food and bless it and say, “Thank you, God, for everything.” And in that moment, to feel the peace that brings to you? It changes us, and it changes the food – but there’s going to be more about that in a couple of weeks.
Take that moment in your mind to let the Holy Spirit breeze through you like the wind breezes through the sail. You never know what God wants to tell you. If our ideas are so tightly interlocked that we can’t let the Holy Spirit breeze in, what will happen if God wants to tell you how good you are? What will happen if God wants to remind you that there’s more to you than your problems? What will happen if God wants you to help Him out by doing something for someone else, and there’s just no room?
You can let there be room. Let the breezes of the Holy Spirit flow through you.
And let there be room in your time, my friends. Bless you all in church this morning. [Or perhaps you couldn’t get to church, but you’re taking time to read this sermon.] You’ve taken time that you could have been doing something else with, and you are dedicating time to God. I salute you. Let there be openness in our time, so that our schedules are not so crowded that there is not time for God, but so that there is openness to His Holy Spirit. In Him we live and move and have our being.
There are two beautiful symbols of openness that I’d like to share with you. One is simply this: take a deep, relaxing breath, and then release it. There has to be space within you in order to do that. When you take a deep breath this week, won’t you remember to let the Spirit breeze through you, too?
And the other symbol is this: Cup your hands and take a look at your hands. This is a beautiful symbol that I get to see over and over as people receive Holy Communion. Your hands are open. The useful part is the empty part within them, and this symbol is the one that will receive the holy bread. It is the symbol of your allowing God into your life. See how beautiful, how receptive your hands are. Let that be the reminder for you to be open to God.
In closing, take one more look at the scripture, at the very last phrase of today’s gospel. Here is the promise to those who allow a space to be open for God in their lives. Jesus said, “I will love them and reveal myself to them” – to you. What could be better than that?
God loves you, friend. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski