Easter 7, 2018, New Athens/Darmstadt IL.
John 15:26 When the one called to be along side comes, whom I send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes forth from the Father, that one will witness concerning me.
Come with me, back to a scene in the Garden of Eden. After God created the man, God noticed that something was not good. The man was alone. The man needed someone to be alongside him, an ally. God took a rib from the man and created a woman. Together they would oversee and care for creation as God’s representatives. The man was delighted God’s creation, and he called her Eve, because she was the mother of all living. In more than 900 years of marriage, besides giving birth to Cain, Abel and Seth, Eve also bore other, “sons and daughters.” There we have the first Mother’s Day.
When we turn to our text this morning from John’s Gospel we note that as Jesus neared the hour when his ministry on earth was completed, he did not want his disciples, his church, you and me to be alone in carrying on his ministry in the world as his representatives. “I will not leave you as orphans,” he promised. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another one to be alongside you, who will be with you forever.” Thus, we have the Holy Spirit alongside of us, as an ally in the place of Jesus. God became flesh through Mary and lived among us until he accomplished that for which the heavenly father had sent him, that is, to reconcile, to make peace with the world which had been at odds with God ever since our first mom and dad failed to trust God in the garden of Eden. Jesus’ hour of glory was on the cross, in his resurrection and when he ascended to take his place at the right hand of God.
But the Holy Spirit, poured out on Pentecost and richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ in baptism is with us forever, right now, right here, and no matter where we are the other 167 hours in this coming week. I saw a cartoon on Facebook which was a drawing of people walking, riding a bus, pushing a baby stroller, sitting on a park bench, looking out a window. The caption asked, “Where is the church?” Then throughout the drawing little arrows pointed to various people riding a bike or walking or on park bench or looking out a window and each arrow saying, “Here, here, here.” Wherever we are, there is the church and there is the Holy Spirit alongside us. Okay, but what does the Holy Spirit do as our ally, our advocate, our helper?
Last Thursday was Ascension Day. Gathered with his followers Jesus promised that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and when the Spirit came upon them they would have power to be “my witnesses…to the end of the earth.” We know what happened on Pentecost as people heard that group of Jesus’ followers, who only a few weeks before were hiding behind locked doors, doing nothing. Who only ten days before stood gawking into the sky at Jesus disappearance wondering, “Now what do we do?”. But ten days later, as the result of their Holy Spirit driven witness the church grew by 3,000 in one day and not long after to 5,000.
The Holy Spirit is also a witness. Jesus said, “He will bear witness to me.” The focus of the Spirit’s message is never on himself, but always on Jesus. Jesus and Jesus alone. He witnesses to us about Jesus helps us recall Jesus teachings.
Before followers of Christ were called Christians, they were called followers of the Way. During Jesus night time meeting with Nicodemus Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” And “whoever believes in him is not condemned.” The way to the heavenly Father, the way to God is through Jesus and that means that path runs through the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection. It’s the only way.
But the way is also, a way of living. Jesus calls us his friends. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. However, there are expectations of us as Jesus friends. “That you love one another as I have loved you.” On April 14-15 a huge snowstorm called Evelyn dumped a bunch of snow the one upper Midwest. Eastern Wisconsin received some 30 inches. On the Al Oberstadt farm a 70 by 100 – foot section of his barn roof collapsed. It killed one cow and injured 10 others. About 67 farms were impacted by the storm. One of the people who stepped in to help was Kelli Zahn a member of St. Mary’s parish in Bear Creek. She gathered a group of people, who put together meals to be delivered to fellow farmers in the area. She said, “I just feel it was an act of God. I felt like I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to say, ‘Hey, let’s do something to help people.” Nudged by God to help these people. The Holy Spirit nudges us to love one another as Jesus has loved us. Nudges us to not only believe in Jesus as the Way, but to care for others a way of life. When the Holy Spirit nudges us to reflect Jesus love for us by loving others, that is proof that we belong to Jesus, even in a time of wondering.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth alongside us to teach us that Jesus is the truth. What is the truth? Didn’t someone else ask that question? I think it was Pontius Pilate at Jesus trial. The truth is that when God became flesh and lived among us, He came filled with grace. Grace piled upon grace. Think of the grace we have already received today. We confessed our sins and were promptly forgiven. Poor miserable sinners one minute, saints the next moment, with sin, wiped out, wiped away, sin kaput, alive to Christ. No wonder we respond with, Alleluia, Praise to God. Grace, nothing but grace. In the readings, the Lord says through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you.” So, we sing following the sermon, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” And we receive more grace in, the bread and wine of communion and in the blessing at the end of the service.
The Holy Spirit also shows us Jesus who is our life. His life is like grace, life piled upon life, so abundant it flows over into eternity. What a powerful gift we have with us daily in the Holy Spirit who is available to give all the help we need. Next week we will hear even more about the Spirit’s wonderful work alongside us.