Pastor Sherry’s Message for May 17, 2020
Scriptures: Acts 17:22-31; Ps 66:8-20; 1 Pet 3:13-22; Jn 14:15-21
As parents, we are all used to hearing from the backseat, “Are we there yet?” But there’s another frequently asked question that you hear, especially when you assign your kids/grandkids (or students) a task–“Are we done yet?” Husbands and wives also ask this of each other. It indicates boredom and impatience, doesn’t it? It indicates a desire to get on with the next, hopefully, more fun, entertaining, or exciting activity.
The following story illustratrates this issue:
It seems that one day a kindergarten teacher was helping one of her students put on his cowboy boots. He asked for help and she could see why. Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. So she almost cried when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked down and sure enough, they were.
It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it had been putting them on. But she managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on – this time on the right feet. And it was only then that he announced, “These aren’t my boots.”
She bit her tongue rather than scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to. And, once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner had they gotten the boots off then he said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear ’em….”
I’m sure this teacher wanted to know when she might be done getting this child into somebody’s boots.
Our Gospel lesson today is a continuation of Jesus’ final words of wisdom and reassurance to his disciples, prior to His death on the Cross (John 14:15-21). Jesus knows His hour has come, but the disciples don’t really get it. He is trying to encourage them in advance of His arrest and execution. He doesn’t want them or us to lose heart in the face of overwhelming disappointment, fear, or grief.
One of His final teachings is on the role the Holy Spirit will play in their (and our) lives once He has gone to heaven. Jesus knows He will have 40 more days with them after His Resurrection and prior to His Ascension;
He wants them to know that, despite His coming death, they are not yet done with Him or with their own spiritual growth. Actually, this side of heaven, none of us is done yet!
Let’s look more carefully at what Jesus says the Holy Spirit will do for and with us. In verse 15, Jesus states, If you love Me, you will obey my commands. As I stressed in my blog message last Sunday, out of Jesus’ love for us—and ours for Him—we obey His commands. Now this does not mean we abide by the 10 Commandments, then dust our hands off and consider we’ve got it. No, remember Jesus told the attorney that the first and greatest commandment was to love God, with our entire person and above all things; then the next to the greatest was to love others as we love ourselves. This admonition implies that obeying Jesus goes beyond
simply adhering to the 10. Just as we learn from Him, in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), that Thou shalt not kill also means we are not to get so angry that we sin, cuss someone out, or hold a grudge. Love for neighbors requires that we value those with whom we have interpersonal relationships and we tend to them with care. In fact, our LORD would probably like us to demonstrate love daily. So, out of our love and devotion to Christ, we conform to or obey His expectations for or commands to us.
In verses 16-17, Jesus continues…And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. Jesus left this earth for Heaven, but did not abandon them and He has not abandoned us. He asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to remain with us forever–without a time limit. The word for Counselor in the original Greek is parakletos and it meant (1) Advocate, in the sense of a defense attorney who is on our side, arguing for our rights; (2) It also carries the sense of a helper; and (3) of a comforter…He is our Holy Comforter. (4) Jesus also calls Him the Spirit of Truth. This means He will never steer us wrong. This means He will never give us incorrect advice. We don’t have to fear bias or distortion from Him—everything He tells us will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
The Holy Spirit’s chief jobs, among others, are to (1) remind us of the teachings of Jesus; (2) to help us rightly discern people, spirits, and situations; and (3) to empower us for service to Christ & His church–including gifting people to sing, play music, preach, or teach. All of our talents and gifts come from the Holy Spirit. Whenever we encounter persons who have been healed through prayer, we can credit the Holy Spirit for their healing anointing. Early on, as I began my practice in 1990 as a licensed psychologist, I would listen to a client and despite having learned “standard of practice,” research-based interventions, I would realize that I didn’t know what to do to help some individuals. I learned to get quiet, to silently pray, and to listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. I cannot adequately explain it, but an answer would “drop” into my head. Often it was not in words I tended to use. Occasionally it went against my training. Always, however, it was exactly the right thing to do. Those were “words of knowledge” and were provided to me by the Holy Spirit. I was grateful and I believe my clients were too.
Jesus also warns His disciples (and us) that the world will recognize neither the Holy Spirit nor the work of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it ironic that the culture today seems to believe in ghosts, zombies, and werewolves–and even looks to the power of witches and consults mediums–but fails to appreciate the reality of the Holy Spirit? In fact, the work of the Holy Spirit is often explained away as the efforts of humans, of science, or of nature (example: the Covid-19 virus). Our God works through people, science and even nature but seldom gets the credit. (On Good Friday, many Christians agreed to pray against the virus. What if it is prayer that has decreased the expected number of deaths in American or flattened the curve?) People will even credit an angel before they give credit to God, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit really is the invisible and unsung hero of the Trinity.
Jesus goes on to declare in verses 19-20àBefore long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. Jesus is affirming that He will indeed transition out of this world into the next. Because of His Resurrection, His triumph over death, we will also leave this life to live forever with Him eternally. What comfort! We know there is life after death and since we love Jesus, we too will enjoy it with Him. When we are reunited with Him in Heaven, we will see the Trinity in all of its glory. We will then comprehend Their unity and Their oneness of purpose. We will see that the Father and Son are truly united, and that—due to the Holy Spirit–we are in Christ and Christ has been and is in us.
Jesus concludes this discourse with the summary assertion that(v.21), Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him. We demonstrate to Jesus that we believe Him and love Him by being obedient to Him. We gain Jesus’ love (and the Father’s as well) by loving Christ. It really is all about love, isn’t it?
Back in the 1960’s the Beatles sang, “All we need is love;” I’m not sure they were celebrating AGAPE or Godly love, but they were perhaps on the right track. A pastor I know of has put John 14:15-21 into verse:
If you love Me, keep My commands;
I’ll pray that from the Father’s hands
He’ll give you another Helper
To abide with you forever.
Spirit of Truth, the world can’t take
To His presence it’s not awake.
But you know Him, He dwells with you.
What men can’t see will be in you.
I came across the story of a poor man who developed the habit of slipping into a certain church at a certain time of day, regularity, without fail. Day after day, he would sit and apparently do nothing [my note: Could he have been praying?] The pastor of that church, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, asked the old man one day why he came to the church, alone, day in, day out. What was the draw [My note: Good grief! Such a question from a pastor. Yikes!] The old man looked at the pastor and, with a knowing twinkle in his eye, explained, “I look at Him. He looks at me. And we tell each other that we love each other.” How beautiful! How loving!
Are we done yet? No, but becoming intentional about loving Jesus and God the Father puts us on the right road. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has given us the means to love God and others more effectively. Two Sundays from now, we will celebrate Pentecost, the anniversary of the birth of the Christian Church. It’s the day that the disciples all received the Holy Spirit. Between now and then, let’s focus on loving God and others, and upon thanking God for the gift of His Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ–and by means of the power of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams