Saturday after Proper 23 – October 20, 2018 – Mark 12:8-12 – St. Mary’s Convent, Sewanee
When I first read the final lines of this passage I was relieved. “Do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”
I guess I don’t have to prepare a sermon, I thought, the Holy Spirit will take care of it when the time comes. Alas, that’s not quite what Jesus is saying. Jesus is actually talking about coming times of persecution. The full quote goes like this: “When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”
He’s telling them that God will be with them, even when the evil days come. The Holy Spirit will aid them even when they think they have no hope. That’s precisely why blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is such a grave sin.
The Holy Spirit, Jesus tells his disciples, is what will give them the power to stay faithful. These words are just as applicable to us as they were to Jesus’ disciples. In fact, they may be even more applicable on this side of the resurrection.
The Holy Spirit gives the Church the guidance to say what it needs to say and the power to say it. This is especially important to us during personal or corporate times of trial. If we denounce the Holy Spirit, or blaspheme against it, then we curse the source of the Church’s lifeblood. If we run around profaning the Spirit, then that will be fatal for the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit is our hope, and hope is not to be mocked. If you give in to blaspheming the very life-giving Spirit of the Church then what other life will there be? What other hope will you have?
This Holy Spirit stuff is serious business. It’s not just this thing that grabs ahold of the preacher when he preaches. It’s not just this thing that swoops down on the priest when she is ordained.
It is God, the holy and life-giving one, who sustains the Church on earth. His disciples didn’t know it that day, but we know it today; we know how the story ends. There will be persecution. But there will also be victory. There will be death, but there will also be glorious resurrection.
I have a friend who wears a t-shirt that says, “Prisoner of Hope.” Prisoner of Hope. That pretty much says it all. It tell us that he knows the whole story. You may be held hostage by the things of this world, but not me. The only thing that controls me is hope. That’s profound and hard.
If you really know your bible, then you might recognize that phrase from the ninth chapter of Zechariah. “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” It speaks of God’s people who await a king who will speak peace to the nations.
What if you heard that same word from God today? Could you claim that moniker for yourself? Are you a prisoner of hope?
Might as well be. What better option do you have?