Jesus taught using parables, one author says, “So that instead of religious discourse being a type of drink designed to satisfy our thirst for answers, his teachings would be salty, evoking thirst.”
This Pentecost Sunday, as we celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church, I want to share with you two parables attributed to Danish philosopher Soren Kierkagaard, that these teachings might evoke thirst for the Holy Spirit.
“There was a rich man. At an outrageous price he bought a team of entirely flawless, splendid horses, which he had wanted for his own pleasure and for the pleasure of driving himself. About a year or two passed by. If anyone who had known the horses earlier now saw him driving them, he would not be able to recognize them: their eyes had become dull and drowsy; their gait lacked style and precision; they had no staying power, no endurance; he could drive them scarcely four miles without having to stop on the way, and sometimes they came to a standstill just when he was driving his best; moreover, they had acquired all sorts of quirks and bad habits, and although they of course had plenty of feed they grew thinner day by day.
Then he called the royal coachman. He drove them for a month. In the whole countryside there was not a team of horses that carried their heads so proudly, whose eyes were so fiery, who gait was so beautiful; there was no team of horses that could hold out running as they did, even thirty miles in a stretch without stopping. How did this happen? It is easy to see: the owner, who without being a coachman meddled with being a coachman, drove the horses according to the horses’ understanding of what it is to drive; the royal coachman drove them according to the coachman’s understanding of what it is to drive.”
So ends the parable. Kierkegaard follows this parable saying, “So also with us human beings. When I think of myself and the countless people I have come to know, I have often said to myself sadly: here are capacities and talents and qualifications enough, but the coachman is lacking.”
Today, 2000 years removed from the day of Pentecost, we are in dire need of submission to the divine coachman, the Holy Spirit; the same Spirit that drove the Apostles to preach, heal, and serve in the face of great uncertainty and even physical harm. We, like the Apostles, must first die to self, and die to the notion that we can drive these bodies of ours through the perils of life, on our own, without aid, without God. We must die to self, that we might allow the Spirit of life, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit of God to be our guide, our driver, our coachman.
In John 14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to those who would keep his commands and remain in him. In this chapter, Jesus makes two statements I find quite interesting. First, he says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Even greater things. Whoever believes in me will do not only the things Jesus has been doing, but more. The second thing I find fascinating is when Jesus says that it is actually better that he leaves. It is better for us that Jesus go to the Father. He says, “If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” This is most certainly interesting. It seems reasonable that life would be much better if Jesus were to stay, but Jesus seems to say that it is better that he leaves, for the presence of the Holy Spirit will allow us to do GREATER things that even Jesus did.
To further evoke thirst, allow me to share the second parable.
There was a certain town where all the residents are ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, and then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible.He reads to them: "Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings, and you can fly like birds!"All the ducks shout, "Amen!"And then they all waddle home.