Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 16, 2004
The Gospel: John 14:23-29
Sermon: "The Presence of the Holy Spirit Brings Hope"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe."
The Presence of the Holy Spirit Brings Hope
Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 16, 2004
The young boy woke up in the middle of the night. He had a nightmare and he was scared. He got out of bed and headed towards his parentsí room. The house was silent and dark. He became uneasy and scared. When he arrived at their room the bed was empty. Now, he was frightened and began to cry. He started to call out for them and run through the house. He was still running when he felt hands touch him from behind. For a moment, he felt absolute panic. Then he heard his mother's voice and he broke down in sobs. As she held him tight he told her he was scared because he couldn't find her. He thought he was alone. She told him that they had fallen asleep watching the television while sitting on the couch. They had been near him all along. He had nothing to fear.
Do we remember the first time we ever felt afraid and alone. I remember one of my first times. I was walking down a road in the woods at night. My night vision is pretty good. This night was exceptionally dark. I couldn't see a thing. The trees seemed to close in around the road. It was very uncomfortable even though I had walked that road many times before.
We are communal creatures. We were not made to be alone. From the second chapter of Genesis, we learn we were not created to be alone. God created us to be connected to one another. Furthermore, God created us for community with our creator. God will not leave us alone.
If we pay close attention to the reading this morning, this message comes through loud and clear. It is clear like the sound of a bell on a clear crisp morning. The bell rings and the sound carries over the hills and valleys for all to hear. Jesus is sounding that bell for the disciples in this reading.
The final meal is over. Judas is on his way to get the soldiers. It is time for them to go to the garden. It is time for Jesus to leave and go to the Father. The disciples are scared. They know not what lies ahead. They do know the one they have been following is leaving. So, the question has to be in the air around them. What do we do now? Is everything over? How do we continue from this point? They are fearful. They are afraid of what will happen to Jesus. They are afraid of what will happen to them. They are afraid of being alone. Jesus senses their fear. He promises them they will not be alone. Jesus promises them the continued presence of God. God's presence will continue to be with them in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has already told them of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been called the Advocate. The Advocate is to be with the disciples forever. With the presence of the Holy Spirit the disciples are not orphaned when Jesus leaves. They will always have the presence of God with them.
So, the first thing Jesus promises is God's continued presence, his continued presence through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus also tells them one other important detail. He tells them what the Advocate will do. The Advocate will do two things. First, the Advocate will be with them always. They need not ever fear being alone. The presence of God will be with them always even on a dark road in the night. Secondly, the Advocate will teach them. The Advocate will remind them of everything Jesus has taught them. The Advocate will constantly remind them of the teachings of Jesus and assist them in their daily lives.
The promise of the Advocate is incredible at this time in Jesus' life. Jesus is facing his own death. He is facing a death worse than anything we can imagine. Yet, here he is concerned about the disciples fear. He does not concentrate on his own impending torture. Instead, he addresses their fears of loneliness and despair. Jesus addressing the disciples in this way is a wonderful resource and guide to the church of today.
We live in a world that is very broken. The world is in constant distress from international, national and local issues. We see wars and strife in every corner of our world. Hunger and poverty exist in every country. We see distress in our daily lives in the problems in our schools and in our communities. We see constant hurt and pain in our families. Divorce rates are high. Parents have chosen careers to the detriment of their children, and children do not show proper respect to their parents. There seems to be no end to the ways we can find to hurt one another in this world. Sometimes the brokenness of the world seems like it will overwhelm us.
Yet, we can find hope in the words of Christ. Here he is facing death, and he gives the disciples words of comfort and hope. Even in this world of brokenness, even facing his own death, Jesus promises that God will always be present. Furthermore, he promises the disciples that God's presence will not be overcome or defeated by the distress in the world. In fact, God will work through the distress and brokenness of the world to bring something better. The promise of the Advocate is that we are never alone. The promise of the Advocate is that God will be with us even in the brokenness. God will guide us, strengthen us and comfort us even when the world is at its worst. Jesus' promise is that we are never alone and we need not fear. For the love of God offers us all hope. Through the presence of the Holy Spirt we are surrounded, strengthened and sustained in the incredible love of God. The Holy Spirit hovers over us to protect us. The Spirit is beneath us to comfort us. The Spirit is behind us to strengthen us. The Spirit is beside us to guide us on our way. The Spirit is within us to keep us ever mindful of the constant presence and overwhelming love of God. AMEN.