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Scripture: Acts 16:9-15 Psalm 67 Revelation 21:10 and 21:22-22:5 John 14:23-29
Jesus said, “I will send an Advocate.” He was talking to the disciples during the Last Supper, the last night he was alive before the day of the cross. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each wrote about the Last Supper in the Upper Room. However, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are concise with their stories. John goes on and on and on. It is no wonder the disciples could not stay awake later when they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
An advocate is someone who helps us, who stands in our place for us, who is the middle person negotiating on our behalf. So there are these eleven disciples sitting at the table, hearing that they will receive an Advocate. They probably did not realize that they needed an Advocate. Actually, they probably still had not grasped the idea that Jesus was leaving.
But, Jesus is saying that he will send an Advocate to the disciples. Jesus means that the Holy Spirit is being given to the disciples to help them. In the Contemporary English Version, John writes the words of Jesus this way in John 14. “If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. … Then you will know that I am one with the Father. You will know that you are one with me, and I am one with you. If you love me, you will do what I have said, and my Father will love you. I will also love you … ” “But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.”
This is the Trinity right in this passage. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in one. This is God.
Jesus is not finished. Jesus said, “I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.” Did you hear this? “So don’t be worried or afraid.” The familiar words in the NRSV of the Bible are, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
I once knew Elizabeth. She liked to be called Liz. Liz had much to fear. Little did she know when she married Bernie that he had a violent streak in him. They were only a few days into the marriage when she experienced that streak in living technicolor. Liz was not one to admit that she had made a mistake at that early date. So she pretended that all was well. Liz could pretend just so long until reality simply became too real. The good news is that Liz had already experienced the Holy Spirit within her as Comforter and Guide. There was wisdom, there was trust, there was this presence of peace and calmness. Liz was guided to be loving and fair, all the while being firm as she moved to extricate herself. Liz had this Advocate that most victims do not have; other victims may not have been invited to receive the Advocate, this Holy Spirit.
That is our fault. We can rejoice with Liz but we need to feel ashamed that we did not reach Joan and Jill and Jessica and on and on. It is time to spread the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to worry about spreading this presence so much that it becomes thin. Remember the theory about love – the more we give love, the more love flows into our reservoir. The same is true of this Advocate.
So let us take this presence to all the Liz’s in our circle of influence. Do you think I am being exclusive to only name victims as females? Well, I know Lloyd who was caught in a turmoil that he did not create. His house was on the banks of a river. Why was he so foolish as to live in a house on the banks of a river? Because he could afford that house. It was ridiculously cheap simply because the river frequently overflowed the banks and headed straight for Lloyd’s house – right into the kitchen, then the living room, moving upward to cover the stove, then the refrigerator. It crept right up the stairs into the bathroom and the bedrooms. Picture the water that high inside the house. The height of the water on the outside is equally devastating. Are you holding your breath yet? Is Lloyd still inside the house? If so, where is he. If not, it means he had wisdom in time to save himself. Oh, there he is, over there on higher ground. Is he beside himself or is he taking this calmly? It appears that he is calm.
Let us move our cameras and microphone and ourselves to come close to Lloyd. You are right! We are news people covering this disaster. We are hoping that this disaster will prove to be good for our TV station. We need to get this personal story before our competing TV station gets here.
What do you think we did when we got close to Lloyd? It is obvious that we were not filled with the Holy Spirit. We wasted no time to get that camera up close and running with the microphone practically touching Lloyd’s nose. This man, Lloyd, appears to be okay. Is he really okay? How can anyone be okay when water is definitely ruining this home. He had just painted and had added beautiful wallpaper; add an almost-new second-hand sofa and matching recliner.
Can you guess what Lloyd said when we asked, “What are you thinking? What are you feeling?” Lloyd said calmly with grateful tears running down his cheeks, “I thank God that all of my neighbors escaped unhurt – even their pets are on safe ground!” This is another example of the Holy Spirit working a miracle of sorts. Having Lloyd see the good side of what is a truly big problem is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Are you ready for yet another example of the work of the Holy Spirit? Maybe you have an example fairly bouncing around in your head waiting for an opportunity to share it with us.
I knew Betty and Bob who already had three children when another child was forming. Early in the process, Betty and Bob learned that this baby would not be what we call “normal.” It was quite early, early enough to abort if they believed in abortion. They were led to make the decision not to abort. They were doing this partly out of obedience to their beliefs and partly because they already loved the child.
However a bit of anxiousness could be expected, but the minute they saw and held the newborn baby, all doubts left them. This baby had a soul, this baby had beautiful eyes, this baby had the beginnings of a smile immediately. As the years moved along, this family declared over and over, “We don’t know what we would have done without “Blessing!” They had named the baby “Blessing” and the baby lived the name. Why? How? Yes, the Holy Spirit was present the whole way. This Advocate had inspired, had guided, had given strength to make a decision based on established beliefs.
When does the Holy Spirit work in you? When was the most recent time that you said, “Thank you, God!” Think for a minute. I have a tendency to be very busy with commitments I voluntarily make. The busier I become, the more things I lose and the more I need notes to get through the day. But, when I make my list of expectations for the day, I know before I start that it is too much for one day. I don’t even know which way to turn from my driveway. Should I go left or should I go right? I say to God, “This day is in your hands. I don’t know where and how to begin.”
So the day is now in God’s hands. I hold my breath and turn my wheels. The day is started. I am on the road. So turn by turn, I am moving through the day. Ten hours or so later, my wheels are turning into my driveway. I let the car drift in front of the garage door, I place the car in park, unbuckle my seat belt, and breathe a tired sigh of relief while saying, “Thank you, God. I don’t know how you did it again but here we are at the end of a completed day with everything accomplished on the list. How do you do this?” And then I realize that the Holy Spirit was with me in huge measure once again.
And you know, this is the very same day that the Holy Spirit was with you and with you and with you, doing what the Holy Spirit does so well – comforting, guiding, giving peace and wisdom! Yes, the Advocate stands in our place. The Advocate negotiates for us, is firm with us and with the bad spirits of the world. The Advocate shields us.
As Peter and Paul and the other apostles and missionaries walked the gospel to the land around the Mediterranean Sea, the Holy Spirit guided them to the right people, to say the right words, to baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit and the Son and the Father – the Trinity. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. However, when studying the Bible it becomes a beam of light declaring that God is being revealed as three persons each having separate responsibilities and yet all three being one Being – one God.
Today we read about Paul finding Lydia – the seller of purple cloth. Lydia is one of the influential women who spread the news about Jesus dying to save us from our own sins, followed by the resurrection and the ascension and the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit moved ahead, with, and behind these apostles and the people they found and the churches which were started. The Holy Spirit is not limited to starting churches. The Holy Spirit can transform people and even nations. From Psalm 67 (NRSV): Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations on earth. The nations will walk by the light of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So let it be! Amen