The Holy Spirit, Helper and Teacher

Pentecost Sunday 2016, Bunker Hill, John 14:25-31

14:26, The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.  (CEB)

When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven his disciples had one last question, “Lord, is this the moment when you are going reestablish the Kingdom of Israel?”  Jesus, said, “No, the timing for that is the Father’s business, not yours.  What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit and the power to be my witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout the world.”  Then Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Today we celebrate what happened ten days later.  With the sound of a blast of wind and fire-like tongues resting on the head of each of Jesus’ followers,  His Spirit – filled apostles began to talk about Jesus to the crowd that had gathered.  Those people from across the Roman Empire heard these Galileans, who had never been to Mesopotamia, or Cappadocia or Egypt or Rome, talking about God’s mighty works through Jesus their Savior.  They were heard in multiple languages.  Everyone was amazed and puzzled.  Some thought these followers of Jesus had been raiding the wine cellar a bit early in the day.  Peter, quoting the prophet Joel asserted that this was the day which fulfilled God’s promise to pour out his Spirit on all people, moving the sons and daughters of Israel to proclaim God’s word.   Men, young and old would see visions and dream dreams.  Servants, men and women, would be drenched in the Spirit and prophesy.  Peter concludes, “And whoever calls on the Name of the Lord, will be saved.”  What a day.  The Church is born!  Praise the Lord.

But what about our day?  We still have that same Spirit, not via wind and fire, but by water and word in baptism.  The Spirit is still our companion.  The Spirit still is present as we gather in the fellowship of Jesus Christ to study the scripture, and share in his holy communion.  The Holy Spirit still carries our prayers and speaks in our favor to the Father.  However, we have long grown timid.  In these early years of the 21st century we have grown afraid of what will happen to us who believe and follow Jesus as our Savior.  Our culture has changed.  Christians can no longer count on a privileged position in our society.  And we have few answers.

Those early Christians were not always as bold as they were on that first Pentecost.  They had many questions for Jesus about the future, their future.  They had heard Jesus tell of his nighttime meeting with Nicodemus when he had stated that God had such love for the world that whoever trusts in him would not perish but have eternal life.  To that end God had sent his son Jesus.

But now in the days preceding his arrest, execution on the cross and his resurrection to life again, it seems to Jesus’ followers that their world was crumbling.  Jesus’ was trying to prepare them for what lie ahead.  He said he was going away for a little while and his followers couldn’t come there.  Peter wanted to know, “Where are you going?  Why can’t we come now?”  Isn’t that what we would like to know?  “Where are you going? When are you coming back?  What we supposed do to in the meantime.”  Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  Can you relate to Thomas question? What’s going to happen to us?   A little later, another disciple, Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, that’ll be enough.”  Show us something Jesus.  We’ve been working on that parsonage across the driveway for a year.  Is anybody going to be living there any time soon?  Lord, give us something to go on.

Jesus tells his questioning disciples, that includes you and me, “I’m not going to leave you as orphans.  I will come back to you. I will ask the Father to send a Helper, a Companion, who is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will be my successor.  The Spirit will walk alongside you as I did while I was with you.”

You see, that’s what we have since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  The disciples and the world had God in the flesh, Jesus walking with them, talking with them, teaching them. We have the Holy Spirit who carries on Jesus’ among us. When Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  The Holy Spirit teaches us the depth of Jesus’ way in our lives.  But the Spirit also reminds us, that Jesus said He and the Father will come and make our home with and in you.  Think of that.  God who is higher than the highest heavens, beyond all knowing and comprehension lives in us who believe that Jesus died and rose again for our salvation.  Right now, God is living in us.  Wow, Lord, how you doing in there.

If only those folks living in the land Shinar in our Old Testament lesson had known of God living with and in us.  They devoted themselves to building a tower, using the latest construction materials, to reach to the heavens in order to be saved.  They planned and launched this project out of fear, they were afraid. They needed to secure their future. But any attempts on our part to save ourselves, or our church, or our future does not depend on what we do. Our future is not in the hands of those who seek and hold towers of political power, nor in stacks of laws to protect what we thought would always be our way.  Those folks building the tower of Babel were seeking to make a name for themselves rather than calling on the Name of the Lord.  In Jesus Christ, God has come down to dwell on earth.  Now the Holy Spirit is guiding us in how to build ourselves into a temple bearing the Name of God; built on the witness of the Apostles with Christ Jesus Himself holding the whole project together, making God’s name known in the world.  Acting out of faith not fear.

Jesus’ has left us with the same peace with which he greeted that group of frightened followers after his resurrection.  The Holy Spirit guides us into that peace which the world cannot understand, nor can we fully grasp it.  A peace that is ours even when everything seems to be filled with strife, contention and controversy, in which the powers we had counted on to be our allies have become our adversaries and we are frightened.  The Holy Spirit leads young and old, men and women, young men and young women to consider how they might best carry out Jesus words, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  For those who are younger it might just mean that dreams and visions of the future may include following in the footsteps of those apostles who were witnesses to God’s mighty deeds through Jesus Christ and become full time ministers and teachers in the Lord.  For many of us it could mean not expending our energy lamenting a lost past.  Our hope is not in reestablishing political power, but to be Jesus’ witnesses empowered by the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s power is not along to help us out with our will, but to get into our heads and hearts the will of the Father through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us get it. Then we get on with it.




Our Companion


John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.

The Greek word for the Spirit in verse 16 is “Paraclete.”  What does being a Paraclete mean?  The various translations give us numerous options. The ESV has, “Helper.” “Helper” brings to my mind God’s recognition in Genesis 2, that Adam has no one to help him and proceeds to create Eve who is to be “a helper fit for him.”

Other translations use “Advocate” to describe the Spirit whom the Father will send in Jesus name.  “Advocate,” carries something a judicial meaning.  Someone to speak in our favor, to plead our cause, to defend us.

The NIV and RSV use the term “Counselor” which emphasizes the meaning of “Advisor.”  “Comforter” is the choice of the King James Bible.  The German Bible has Troster, meaning comforter who offers consolation.

So which is it?

When I asked that question in Bible Class, some chose Advocate, others helper, still someone liked counselor or comforter.  All of those names relate to some aspect of what it means to be Paraclete.

I like the Common English Bible, “Companion.”

The Holy Spirit is one called upon to walk with us as a companion who helps us, counsels comforts, defends us speaking in our favor, because we are one who believes in Jesus Christ and thus receives his blessings of forgiveness, and salvation.

There is yet another matter which I noticed for the first time.  Who is the other Paraclete Jesus is referring to in the passage above?  He’s referring to himself.  In I john 2:1 we read, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Jesus is the first Paraclete who walked alongside his disciples.  Now Jesus is leaving for a while.  He promises he will not leave them as orphans.  He will ask the Father who will send another Companion, the Holy Spirit.

Living Sacrifice


Romans 12:1 By the mercies of God…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Because of God’s mercy through Jesus once and for all sacrifice, we are able to make our life a sacrifice and a daily worship.  Peter Chrysologus wrote in the fifth century, “Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by offering your free will.”

The third century North African bishop, Cyprian, wrote once to reprimand a wealthy woman in his church who made no offering of her resources for the care of the poor but who presumed nevertheless to show up at the communion table.  From Cyprian’s perspective, the poor and rich alike must spend themselves on others.  This is the concrete self-gift of the church, the gift celebrated in the Eucharist.

Water flowing from Temples


I heard it raining though out much of the night.  And now a blotch of rain has traveled from the southwest along I-44 and arrived at my yard.  We’re in a period of unsettled weather, so the weather people inform us via their tell and show segment of the news.

There is a passage in Ezekiel 47 in which the prophet is brought to the door of the temple, “and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple.”  The prospect of seeing water flow out of our church or home or any building is usually not regarded as a good thing.  In Ezekiel’s vision water is flowing out of all sides of the temple.  This water forms a river and, in a scene reprised in Revelation 22, continually fruit bearing trees line it banks.  These scenes take us back to Genesis 2:10-14 with the four rivers flowing from Eden. Though we are approaching the end of the Easter season, we are also taken back to Jesus on the cross, where from his spear pierced side water and blood flowed.  This scene is from John’s Gospel where early on Jesus declared that he was God’s temple.

As the water flowed over our heads in baptism, we too became temples of God, earthly homes for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to take up residence in us.  From us, temples of God that we are, the waters of our baptism flow into the world as we live as mobile holy places.   As we go about our daily walk, God goes with us and shows his gracious self to the world through his holy living temples.



Transition Sunday

Easter Seven

The Seventh Sunday of Easter seems to be a lost Sunday.  It’s caught in between Ascension Day and Pentecost.  Jesus has ascended, the apostles have returned to Jerusalem to await the promised Holy Spirit who will come with power.  But what kind of power will it energize the Jesus’ followers.  Nevertheless, the apostles replace Judas with Matthias.

The gospel takes us back to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 prior to his crucifixion.  Jesus prays that those who believe in him will be one, “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.”  He has completed the assignment for which he has been sent, to make known the name of the Father.  Now he requests that his Father would love his followers as He has loved Jesus because “I (am) in them.

The epistle takes us forward to the end of Revelation.  God’s servants will worship him and see his face.  Jesus concludes with a promise,” I am coming soon.”  “Amen.” Writes John. “Let it be so.”  Then he adds a prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

So we end the Easter season, the time of our Lord.  On Pentecost we will enter the time of the Church.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Church goes out into the world. This inspiration by the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event, it is ongoing a daily presence of the Spirit as we the CAhurch seek to live as Christ’s followers and speak his empowered word.

With the apostles we add our prayer on this Transition Sunday:

O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for you live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Our Strength in Christ

Wearing the armor of God

John Chrysostom, the fourth century church leader, included an imagined conversation between a Christian and Christ in one of his sermons, on Ephesians 6:11-18.

Christian: I renounce you, Satan.

Christ: What has happened?  What is this strange and unexpected turn of events?  Although you were all quivering with fear, did you rebel against your master?  Did you look with scorn on his cruelty?  Who has brought you to such madness?  Whence came this boldness of yours?

Christian: I have a weapon. A strong weapon.

Christ: What weapon, what ally? Tell me!

Christian: I enter into your service, O Christ.  From now on, I am bold and rebel against Satan.  For I have a strong place of refuge.  This has made me superior to the demon, although previously I was trembling and afraid.  Therefore, I not only renounce him but also all his pomps.


William Williams wrote the following Hymn-prayer in the eighteenth century:

When I tread the verge of Jordan,

Bid my anxious fears subside;

Dead of death and hell’s destruction,

Land me safe on Canaan’s side

Songs and praises, songs and praises,

I will raise forever,

I will raise for evermore.


Ascension Day

Lifting up His Hands He Blessed them

Luther wrote in regard to Jesus’ ascension:

“Christ is seated on high awaiting the time when His enemies shall be made His footstool…He does not sleep, but He watches us.  He does not ask anyone to deputise for Him.  He does it Himself.  When people incline towards Him, He is present to help.  If a man is tempted and he cries to Christ, he will be helped.  The Last Day is not yet come, and the flesh and sin and death still remain, but on the Last Day Christ will deliver up the Kingdom to His Father.  Now He rules in our hearts.  He comforts us, makes us clean, and intercedes for us.

Here on earth is still unstable faith, anxiety about food, and despair, if ever God shows His displeasure.  What is now our comfort?  Christ, our priest, who has atoned for us and looks upon us and sees our enemies and reminds the Father that He is our portion….  We fail to see this only because our eyes are not sufficiently penetrating to pierce the clouds and look into heaven, and be assured that Christ is our Advocate.”

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Why Me?


While driving to see my cardiologist this afternoon, I was listening to Don Marsh from KMOX interviewing John O’Leary, the author of the best-selling book, “On Fire.” When he was nine years old, O’Leary was burned over nearly 100 percent of his body in a house fire.  He is now a leadership speaker to corporations.

At one point, Marsh asked him whether he asks, “Why Me?”  O’Leary turned the question on its head being thankful that he had such a harrowing experience because he found such great support from so many and gained so many insights into life.

I’ve been seeing Dr. Stronach for nearly 25 years. That I’ve been seeing her for a quarter century is amazing.  I never thought I would reach age 75, as I will later this month.  I’ve never asked, “Why me?” in the sense of questioning why I have diabetes and heart disease.  Though there is much I can’t do, I work in the yard, go for walks and have been able to keep on preaching well beyond retirement.  Beginning on May 15, I’m scheduled to be in the chancel and pulpit 16 of the next 20 Sundays. Yeah, I know, it’s crazy.   Every Friday morning, I try to ride herd on an energetic group of older men in a bible class.  So when I ask, “Why me?” it has to do with being the first generation in our family that something is able to be done – heart wise.  Why am I able to function with only one of 12 by-passes still working and that one from my first surgery in 1988?  Literally, “Only God knows.”

“Sing praises to God sing praises!” (Psalm 47:6)

Dead in the Water


Yesterday Becky dropped her cell phone into the dog’s water dish.  The strange thing was that the drowned phone would periodically call our home phone.  When I answered I only heard the sound like unwrapping a Big Mac, as if it was calling for help.

I thought of the drowning of our old sinful person in baptism.  Yet, our old person keeps calling out to us for rescue.  What do we do?  We answer the call for rescue.

Martin Luther was personally acquainted with his “Old Adam” answering sin’s desperate call. However, sin has nothing more to tell us other than the enticing sound of unwrapping a Big Mac.  Therefore, Luther wrote, “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Luther reminds us through the words of St. Paul what really occurred in the drowning of our old person, “We were therefore buried with (Christ) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

What did we do with the old drowned phone?  We took it to the AT&T store and got a new phone, leaving the old one behind to be destroyed.  One day that will happen to us.  The old sinful self will be left behind in the resurrection and we shall obtain a new self and we shall truly, “live a new life” minus those pestering calls.

Easter Homily


Yesterday was Easter Sunday in the Orthodox Church.  The following is part of an Easter homily from the fourth century.


Join, then all of you, join in our Master’s rejoicing.

You who were the first to come, you who came after,

come and collect now your wages.

The rich and the poor, sing and dance together.

You that are hard on yourselves, you that are easy,

Honor this day.

You that have fasted and you that have not,

Make merry today.


The meal is ready: come and enjoy it.

The calf is a fat one; you will not go hungry away.

There’s kindness for all to partake of and kindness

To spare.


Away with pleading poverty:

The kingdom belongs to us all.

Away with bewailing failings:

Forgiveness has come from the grave.

Away with your fears of dying:

The death of our Savior has freed us from fear.

Death played the master: the Master has mastered death.