Sunday the 15th of May 2016
John 14: 8-17, 25-27
Today is the day in the church year we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost. Pentecost is often a time where many think about the very powerful way that our Triune God began to work through his disciples and how the church began. The focus of course is on the coming of the Holy Spirit and what he was doing, where he worked in some miraculous ways to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ.
In Lutheran circles, the Holy Spirit is not focused on very much, unlike other Christian denominations, and in some ways we see the Holy Spirit as the ‘shy member of the Trinity’.
When other Christians speak of and focus on the Holy Spirit, it can easily make many of us uncomfortable and sometimes make us feel out of our depth. This morning I am going to preach on the Gospel reading from John chapter 14, as I believe that this can greatly encourage us and help us understand what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives as Christians.
Jesus begins chapter 14 by saying: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. And he repeats this in verse 27 saying: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. In verse 18 he says: “ I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”
Jesus was speaking to his disciples just before he was about walk his journey to that cross. He was speaking to them about what would happen after this; after his ascension to heaven. Jesus was not talking about heaven here; he was talking to them about life here on this earth. Jesus gave his Word of promise, that he would be present with the disciples, just in a different way. He says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”, that is the He will give them the Holy Spirit.
Now when Jesus says forever here, he does not mean that we will receive him only after we die and go to heaven. No when he says forever it includes life on this earth. The Holy Spirit of truth, our Advocate is here with us in the present, on this earth where we are. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus’ presence is with us here today
If you think about all the different religions in this world, and perhaps voices within all religions, there seems to be and underlying claim that life-with-god can only be achieved by being freed from the bonds of earth and the body. To get closer to god it is like we need to be in some other place, if not an actual location, then in a spiritual trance, an out-of-body experience where we will be closer to god and farther from this earth.
Too many Christians get caught up in this way of thinking focussing only on heaven, giving attention on the other worldly, and when it comes to the Holy Spirit focusing on the gifts that he gives us from heaven, exclusively. Many seem to think that to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to lead a spiritual life, a life that is sometimes seen as being separated from this world. But this is not Jesus Word of promise. In fact he says in 17:15 when praying to his Father he says: “15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” Jesus promise is that the Holy Spirit comes to us in midst of our lives here on earth. In doing this it means that our Triune God will forever be involved and messed up with this body-life of ours here on the earth. This is what he means when Jesus is with us.
Not only do you and I have the promise that Jesus presence is with us through the Holy Spirit, but Jesus also says: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”
Living life as followers of Jesus was very difficult for those disciples, but it is also very difficult for you and me. Many of us have struggles, hardships, battles with sin, and unanswered questions. This is a fact of living life. Those of us who are part of the church know, all too well that we are not what Jesus called us to be. Take a look at any church community and you will see that: we spend too much and share too little; we judge too many and love too few; we often wait too long and act too late. We have arguments, with each other, we don’t forgive others as we know we should. Those outside the Christian faith say: “Show me a church where ministers aren’t self-serving, where there is not hypocrisy, where love is genuine, and then I will think about coming to Church.” The thing is that they will have to wait a long time, because this is never going to happen. But this is precisely why the Holy Spirit is sent to us in our midst. This is precisely why the Holy Spirit is advocating and helping us, pointing out the truth of our sin against God and our need for Jesus, but also teaching us about how to grow in our Christian lives. It is in these places of ordinary everyday life that our Lord’s presence is with us through the Holy Spirit.
The fact that we have the Holy Spirit in us, helping us, guiding us, convicting us and comforting us, gives you and me confidence as Christians in journeying through this life; because we have the promise that we are never alone and that we always have help in our times of trouble. As Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.
Because many Christians emphasize different things about the Holy Spirit, it can often lead to some being confused. So I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some important things about what scripture says and what we believe. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says: Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Luther in the small catechism says: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel , enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in true faith”
For all of us who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, this is evidence that we have the Holy Spirit in us, because we cannot believe without his help. This fact should give you confidence, that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life.
This day of Pentecost in the church year is about reflecting on the coming of the Holy Spirit on his disciples, it is about reflecting on the how the Christian Church began grew and is still spreading to day as the Holy Spirit is still working. And yes it is about thinking about the miraculous and mysterious ways that the Holy Spirit convicted people and brought them to faith in Jesus Christ, but it is also about reflecting on how the Holy Spirit is working in everyday ordinary ways through the Word, working in everyday ordinary people, in their everyday ordinary lives here on this earth. Every person who belongs to this congregation, and this parish, is here because the Holy Spirit has called you here. This congregation and parish are being sustained in the faith, not because I am such a great pastor to you all, rather it is because the Holy Spirit is present with us, sustaining us.
As you think about your life as a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to walk in your faith confidently, not matter what trials, or struggles you are facing, because you can know that the Holy Spirit is with you always helping you through this life by pointing you to Jesus.