Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sermon: 6th Sunday of Easter (Year A)- John 14:15-2, The Advocate

Since the early centuries of Christianity, understanding God as Trinity has been a hallmark of the orthodox faith.  By orthodox I am referring to the faith once received by the Apostles, handed down through the generations, inspirationally written down (codified) in Scripture, and consistently interpreted and used by God’s people, the Church, down through the generations.  The Orthodox Faith has a distinctively Trinitarian shape to it.  This is why the great creeds of the Church have a Trinitarian form.  This church family here on Merovan Drive was named Holy Trinity because there was a deep desire to remind ourselves that we are to faithfully reflect the Trinitarian faith that was once received by the Apostles.

The Gospel this morning is a wonderful expression of this Trinitarian Faith:  Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.   And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…”  Jesus comforts his disciples by telling them that the Father will send the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, which here he calls the Advocate or Counselor.  The word in the original Greek translated here in the NRSV as “Advocate” is Paracletos, or in English, “Paraclete.”  Jesus goes on to talk about the Holy Spirit four more times in this his farewell discourse to His disciples (John 14:25-26, John 15:26-27, John 16:5-11 and John 16:12-15). 

The King James Version of the Bible translates Paracletos as “Comforter.” Although this meant something a bit different when this translation was rendered 400 years ago, to the modern ear this sounds like the Holy Spirit’s job is one of just being a patient, tender and compassionate companion.  God’s indwelling presence is definitely these things to the believer, but those of you who have been intentional about walking the Christian walk know that the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives goes far beyond this.  The Holy Spirit also comes to prod and poke us out of our spiritual lethargy, to rally us forward, change us, give us new heart, to empower us to be the “new creation.”  God meets us where we are not to mollycoddle us but to call us forward into something better. He has a plan to heal us, perfect us, and give us a purpose and a mission.

I have seen the Holy Spirit do this healing, growing and transforming work in many of your lives.  But it is also true that some of you have grown little.  This is the way it is in all fellowships, but how do we explain the difference?  One can say that church is not a priority in one’s life, or that he or she is in a different place spiritually, but for the Christian it comes down to yieldedness to the Holy Spirit.  We all posses the Holy Spirit by virtue of our faith and baptism; so our growing in Christ (or not growing in Christ) is a not a function of how much of the Holy Spirit we have, but a function of how much the Holy Spirit has of us.   

In this passage today, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth.  Sometimes we are guilty of not submitting to the Truth the Holy Spirit brings.  We are guilty of replacing God’s truth with our own version of truth.  Many of us in this world believe what we want to believe rather than what the Lord reveals to us as truth.  Take the huge issue of sexuality today.  The church teaches biblical boundaries around human sexuality.  Why?  On what authority?   To what end?  Until we seek to form our minds around the mind of God and submit to the Truth of God born witness to by the Holy Spirit, we will not see life from God’s perspective nor know the answers to these questions. Again, it is a matter of being yielded to the Holy Spirit and obedient to Christ as Lord of our life.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit as we have talked about it here should saturate every aspect of the life of this church family.  For instance, you should expect my ministry as your priest to take on the same character as of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.  Like the Holy Spirit, I should meet you right where you are in life.  I am to come alongside you and walk with you in whatever pain, trauma, dysfunction, addiction, habitual sin, or woundedness this world has thrown your way, but mine would not be a Spirit-directed priesthood if I didn’t inspire you to move beyond that and open yourself the Holy Spirit’s healing, growing  and transforming work in your life.  Again, I would be failing you as your priest if I did not have the expectation that you submit to the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.  This is why Christian formation and spiritual growth are an expectation of each person in this parish.  Come hear Michael and Keith teach Scripture at the adult forum after Eucharist on Sunday, or listen to Wayne share his faith journey with you on Wednesday evening, or let Julie lead you through Scripture on Saturday morning, or allow Nancy Kenney to instruct you on the healing power of God at the 1st Friday Evening healing services.  These are Spirit inspired and directed ministries of spiritual growth.  Are you yielded to Holy Spirit's call to grow in Christ?

So, the Gospel reading this morning is about the Father sending the Holy Spirit, but the question God is asking us this morning is, are we open to receiving Him?                                                                        

Rob Hartley, May 29, 2011