Pentecost May 20, 2018
Acts 2:1-11; Psalms 104; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
This is probably my favorite Sunday of the year. That may seem like a strange thing to say, given most people would choose Christmas or Easter. But when you think about it, Christmas is the birth of Jesus, the joyful day we celebrate that God came to earth to be with us. And Pentecost is the day that the Holy Spirit came to be with us on earth.
So why did the Holy Spirit come and what does the Holy Spirit do? Good questions!
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and that the Spirit comes to us personally to tell us the truth. The Holy Spirit is the “Advocate”. That title gives us some clues of what the Spirit does. An advocate is a supporter or defender. When we are having a difficult time, it’s really good to have a supporter. A supporter tells you the truth about how you’re doing. A supporter says things like, “That was really good. Your hard work is really paying off and you’re really improving.” A defender says things like, “Don’t worry about someone laughing at you. You’re doing the right thing. I will stand with you no matter what.” We all need supporters and defenders in our life.
An advocate also does things like ask if we can have a second chance to do something. An advocate really believes that we can learn to do things right after we have made a mess of something. An Advocate prays and intercedes for us.
Let’s look more closely at our Gospel. Jesus says that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father.” This is not to be confused with the theology of our Apostle’s Creed. The point of what he is saying here is that the disciples… and all Christians… need the help of the Spirit as we share the Gospel in the world around us. The Spirit “will testify” the truth to Jesus, and the disciples “will (also) testify” the truth to everyone around them – because they had heard the truth directly from Jesus all the time they had been with him. We then carry that Truth forward, generation to generation. WE can testify/ give witness/ share this truth because the Spirit is sent to us to personally tell us the Truth.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” The image that comes to mind is one of being in court on the witness stand, having sworn on the Bible to tell the truth. We live in the “court” of the world, where we are witnesses about the Truth of Jesus. We can do this with confidence only because we have the assurance that the Spirit does not speak on its own. What the Spirit speaks is exactly what the Creator has spoken.
When Jesus tells us that the Spirit “will declare to you the things that are coming,” he is telling us in yet another way that the truth the Spirit tells us is from God. There are many verses in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 46:9, which state that only God can declare the future. Declaring things to come is not a privilege that false gods have. An example is the dream Joseph had to take Mary and the Christ child to Egypt; God knew that Bethlehem would not be a safe place for them in the near future.
Jesus really presses this all home as he prepares to leave his disciples. It would be normal and natural if we felt we could not possibly understand everything we need to know to share the Truth of God fully and correctly. And Jesus assured the disciples, that there was more to know; he said, (there is) “much more” or “still many things” to learn, and we are just not able to learn it all at once. That is why the Spirit stays with us, to guide us along the “way of truth”, reminding us that Jesus told us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
We cannot begin to understand or even image all that Jesus did for us, until we live our lives, mature, experience many things, pray, and study the scriptures. As we grow in our faith, we grow in our ability to understand what seemed impossible when we were children or new in the faith. “I have more to tell you” is a promise that we will have a deeper and fuller faith as time passes. The things we cannot accept at one time are the things we may find to be a source of real consolation later. God knows and has always known all truth; we struggle to grasp truth by bits and pieces at a time. The Spirit is there to give us the precise truth we need at the moment we need it. We might think of it in terms of always being fed the ideal food our bodies need in the exact way we will most enjoy at every single meal.
Then Jesus says, “(The Spirit) will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it you. I get confused when I read that. When we glorify someone, we given them honor or high praise; it also means to worship someone as greater than ourselves. We make clear our praise by doing something people can hear or see, like clapping our hands or bowing, by giving our very best things as a gift. We glorify God when we worship, by kneeling or bowing or giving thanks, and also by sharing what we believe with other people and encouraging them to glorify God. Likewise, the Spirit glorifies Christ by sharing with us the truth that we in turn share with our neighbors. It becomes, not a duty or a burden, but a great honor and a privilege to be able to share the faith.
And this completes a pattern we have seen over the last three weeks. 2 weeks ago we talked about being chosen by God and remaining in Jesus. Last week we read that as Jesus ascended, he told us to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Now, Jesus sends us the Spirit from God to better enable us to awaken our neighbors that they too have been chosen. The Spirit remains with us so that we might grow in awareness of the teachings of Jesus and the fullness of truth in God. In turn, we honor God as the Spirit honors Jesus.
May the truth which the Spirit speaks to you fill you with joy.