The Real Presence of Christ by Pastor Bob Gochenour
John 16:12-15; Preached at SCUMC on July 6, 2014
Jesus met with his disciples in the upper room for a last supper.
It was Holy Thursday—moments before his betrayal by Judas, the arrest, the denial by Peter, the trial before Caiaphas, and the eventual execution on a Roman cross the next day.
He had predicted his coming death three times already.
The disciples had a difficult time accepting his words.
Jesus prepared them for their future:
Jesus knew that resurrection follows crucifixion;
Jesus knew that they have a glorious future ahead of them;
Jesus knew that he would soon be ascended to the Father’s right hand in heaven.
Jesus knew that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to these disciples.
Jesus knew that the Church would be born on Pentecost.
The words for John 16 are a part of Jesus’ farewell address designed to prepare his followers for the events to come.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:12-13)
Pentecost was the great Christian Holiday where the Holy Spirit fell upon these same disciples—filling them with the “Spirit of Truth.”
We continue to celebrate this great beginning as the Holy Spirit continues to reveal the Spirit of Jesus to His Church.
Pentecost continues as a season of the Church!
Pentecost continues as a reality of God:
Breaking into the world,
Breaking into our lives,
Breaking into our hearts.
Jesus told us this would happen:
“…for the Spirit will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you…”(John 16:13)
The Holy Spirit = the Spirit of Jesus.
This reality is still at work in our daily lives.
This reality is still at work in my life.
It wasn’t always that way.
The first time I experienced the Holy Spirit was when I was 12 years old.
I was raised at First Methodist Church in Morristown, NJ.
This was a big, active church.
I was baptized when I was 6 years old.
This was not because my parents had any great theological reasons for waiting until I was this old, I was the 4th child of 5, and they were just tired of raising children.
I was six because they finally got around to it!
They were faithful in making me attend church every Sunday.
I went to Sunday School and worship every Sunday.
I sang in all the Children’s choirs, cantatas, Christmas pageants.
I attended the MYF every Sunday afternoon.
As a 6th grader, I joined the Pastor’s confirmation class—13 weeks of study every Tuesday night to prepare for full membership in the church.
Dr. Lancy made sure that confirmation class was a big deal.
He required us to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and all 4 verses of “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
He tested us on this—we had to pass in order to join the church.
He required us to take notes on his sermons every Sunday and turn them in at class time to make sure we understood the content.
Dr. Lancy was “old school.” Raised as an Episcopalian he followed the traditions of the Anglican Church.
This meant that none of us children could partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion until we were full members of the church.
When the day came for us to join the church, we were allowed to take Holy Communion for the first time in our lives.
As we gathered around the Communion rail—I received the bread and the juice.
As I ate it and drank it: I felt the Holy Spirit tug on my heart.
It felt like a warm burning in my heart.
I didn’t know what it was!
I had not been prepared for this mystical experience.
On the way home from church, I told my parents what happened.
I asked them: “what was that?”
They made the mistake of saying: “It was nothing, don’t worry about it!”
I do not fault them for their incorrect answer.
As parents of 5 kids—they were preoccupied with getting home, preparing for Sunday dinner, taking the roast out of the oven and other such concerns.
Their mistake is instructive: many people do not know about the Holy Spirit.
Even folks who have been in Church all their lives.
Many people do not understand that the Holy Spirit is still working in us.
Many people do not understand: the Holy Spirit = Spirit of Jesus.
Some people do not understand that the Holy Spirit is still present to work through the various means of grace.
The Holy Spirit works through Holy Communion.
It is far more than a memorial feast—a simple re-creation of Jesus’ last supper from 2000 years ago.
It is a means of grace;
It is an open door for God to break into our lives;
It is an opportunity to experience: Real presence of Christ.
God’s presence is found in the elements of bread and juice.
We experience God’s grace/love/mercy as we receive this
This isn’t magic: we do not teach that the bread and wine miraculously transform into the real body and blood of Jesus.
This is a divine reality: we do teach the real presence of Jesus Christ appears every time we celebrate Holy Communion.
This was what Jesus was explaining to his disciples: when you gather together to worship and celebrate Holy Communion—you invite me into your heart.
You allow the Holy Spirit to break into your life in a new way.
You allow the Spirit of Truth to minster to you in a unique and personal way.
It took me some time to learn this lesson.
After 3 years of rebellion—
Running away from the church;
Running away from my membership vows;
Running away from God;
Doubting that God was really real;
God caught me with his Holy Spirit.
I went to a Christian movie with some of my Christian friends.
In the middle of the movie, I prayed this prayer:
“If you are really real, prove it to me.”
That was all the invitation God needed: instantly I felt the same “warm heart” experience that I had felt at my first communion.
It was the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth teaching me that Jesus is real.
The Spirit has continued to teach me the things of Jesus for 41 years.
He will break into your heart as well—fulfilling Jesus’ words:
“All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15)