Sermon: I So Thank God for a Drafty Church!
Scripture: John 14:15-21
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: May 17, 2020
15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This 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.
18”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Open the window. It’s just a little thing, really, but there is something refreshing when the inside air is still and stale and then you open windows on each end of the home; air begins to flow and lovely breezes begin to fill the rooms.
Living in southeast Florida this week, we have heard the blustery and gusty winds up and down the coast. This morning as I sat during my prayer time, I could hear the wind howling outside. Tree branches were battering the windows. There was some heavy drizzle getting blown about giving everything outside a thin sheen and coating of water. But I was dry and safe. My window was closed. The winds remained outdoors and I was safely covered by my quilt with the shades drawn like some valetudinarian wanting to keep all illness and the ill effects of the world “out there!”
Listening to the gusty winds over the last few days has given me an insight into our scripture from John’s Story today. Let me explain a bit.
John chapters 13 -17 all contain a singular scene of Jesus and the disciples having dinner together and a heartfelt crucial conversation. This time tomorrow, Jesus would be dead. He was using this table talk in a strategic way to impress upon the disciples things were about to get really different. It was his expression of what’s called an Ethical Will whereby a person bequeaths not money or property per se to those they love; instead, they bequeath and leave their loved ones with a set of ethics and values, lessons and blessings they don’t want the other to forget. What is it that Jesus wanted them to remember?
He wanted them to remember that things were going to get a little swirly. He wanted them to remember to look out and care for each other. He wanted them to remember the culmination of the commandments of God which is found in John 13:34 where Jesus says:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.
He also wanted them to remember that both he, Jesus, and the Father in Heaven were One. If you knew one, then you knew the other. And finally, he wanted to remind them that they would never be left alone but that God would send the Helper, the Spirit, to live within them. In other words, Jesus was reminding them, that from now on, the divine dance between the Father, Son, and the disciple would be sewn together and intertwined by the Spirit. Jesus describes this sweet, mystical fusion between heavenly reality and our physical presence. And yet, if we read too quickly, we will miss the conditional clause placed by Jesus for this dance to occur in the life of the disciple. What’s the condition he placed as to whether or not this dance between the Divine and humanity can occur? The conditional clause is for you and me to open the window. Our lesson’s opening words today are Jesus declaring,
15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
In other words, if you love one another as the Father and I have loved you, THEN you are able to open the window of your life and allow the Holy Wind, the Spirit, the Helper, to blow into and out of your life and into and out of the house called the Church!
Beloved, the key to opening the window for the Spirit to come blowing is to open the windows of our hearts and let the breath of our discipleship be carried outside by the Holy Breezes of the Spirit in ever-widening circles of love and grace! To have faith in Jesus is so much more than saying, “I believe!” For you and me to have a fully-formed dynamic faith means for us we not only mentally assent to who Jesus is, but it also means for us to throw open the doors and windows of our hearts and let the Spirit who lives within us to take our expressions of love for and to others out of our houses and into the world. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus but it’s entirely something else to put skin on the bones of our faith by expressing love to not only Jesus but to each other! It’s at that point the doors and windows of our lives, our Church, are thrown open and the beatific breezes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit blow more powerfully impacting more and more people.
But if we keep our doors and windows shut, the air will grow stale inside of the house and the air becomes still and stagnant, and stuffy. The Holy Spirit of Jesus cannot live in a stuffy house; we have to open the windows to let the love of Christ’s Spirit flow out the windows!
Over the years in ministry, a pastor learns the difference between mediocre churches and great churches. Mediocre churches keep their windows nailed shut and locked tight. Great churches have learned to open their windows and allow themselves to be drafty whereby the Spirit of Jesus enters in and carries out the love of Christ to a broader world. It’s a church that takes the storyline from Leviticus 19:34 seriously when it says,
The alien that resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
In order to be a drafty church, we have to love each other as well as the aliens, the strangers in our midst. Great churches, drafty churches, throw open the windows, and let the Spirit blow blessings to whomever it wills! As pastor of First Pres Fort Lauderdale, I am overwhelmed that you, the members of this congregation, make us a drafty church, a great church! You’re a church that has learned the importance of opening the windows and letting the Spirit of Life blow unhindered through this place and in and throughout Broward County! Like a gloating parent awash in the pride for a child, I am overwhelmed with how this church has kept the Spirit blowing even during a time of lockdown!
On Thursday of this week, I woke up to read the headline from a nationally released press story entitled, A visible mission against an invisible enemy. Fort Lauderdale’s First Presbyterian Church enlists an army of volunteers to make thousands of protective masks. The article goes on to outline how you, Church, began a movement of Spirit to help people in our community you will never know to safely care for thousands of patients and strangers you will never know during a time of forced lockdown. As Christ-Followers, we know that a lockdown cannot lock up Holy Spirit work, especially when the Church throws open her windows and lets the Wind blow through! You, beloved, produced nearly 11,000 HEPA-quality face-covering for medical professionals in Broward County, along with her firefighters, first responders, police officers, and sheriff deputies. Singles, widowed, married adults, and their children have all come together and have made a huge dent in the COVID-19’s spread in our community. Jesus saves and you definitely help him! Families sewed together. Others who could not sew drove supplies all over the county to people who could stitch and sew in order that our production of these life-saving masks could continue. Others delivered masks to the hospitals, sheriff’s department, firehouses, and assisted living centers. How I thank God for being a part of a drafty…no, windy Church that lets the Spirit blow through!
Friends, as your pastor and friend I want you to know I thank God for each and every one of you! You give of yourself, of your time, and of your resources…not until it hurts but until it feels good!
This week, look for the closed windows in your life and be conscious to opening them up to let the Spirit blow through! This week, let’s ask the Spirit to guide us to what we are called to do next in and through this place! Who are the other strangers, aliens in our midst we are to love on in the Name of Jesus? Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Tammy Warren, Presbyterian News Service, May 14, 2020, accessed at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/a-visible-mission-against-an-invisible-enemy/?fbclid=IwAR3vEcmejnfSvWNEoPtkdGzMghZyIB-j6o-4Fz7jMzmDbBQqWnOfTtKuuNM