by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca)
"Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2:2-4).
Some people complain that in our church congregation we don’t see a rushing mighty wind, or tongues of fire, or people speaking in other languages. But that is like saying that you don’t believe in the Queen because you never see the pomp and pageantry of her coronation in the daily work of the Royal Family. We love the pageantry of a wedding, but what counts is the day to day love for each other.
Similarly we are often tempted to think we are unspiritual because we don’t have spectacular things going on as evidence of our faith. That is why our Gospel reading today reminds of the daily work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Notice the words ADVOCATE, SPIRIT OF TRUTH, IN YOU.
Jesus said "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him, nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you" (John14:16-17).
1 ADVOCATE When we think of the word advocate, we picture a lawyer who pleads our case in a court of justice. The Greek word is paraklytos which means one who is called alongside to help. And standing by us in a law court is certainly one of the ways in which the Holy Spirit is willing to help us. As Jesus said, "when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say" (Luke 12:11-12).
But there are many other ways in which the Holy Spirit is eager to come alongside to help. When we are worried about what to do, he wants to give us wisdom. When we don’t know what to write or what to say, he can suggest just the right words. When we feel paralyzed, scared, discouraged, he will come alongside, take us by the hand, and give us the new direction we need.
Prayer : So let’s bow our heads, and turn that into a silent prayer. Jesus said :
"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate." So right now think of some situation in which you can say, "Yes, Holy Spirit, I want you to come alongside to help me."
2 SPIRIT OF TRUTH We are bombarded everyday with advertising. And the world makes sure we see it’s way of looking at things. As a result we are in a fog. We cannot grasp the truth from God’s point of view. But Jesus reminds us that God the Holy Spirit is the teacher who loves to clarify our mind to see what is really going on.
God has put us in a world full of parables. We see the parables, but we fail to see what they mean. We enjoy the daffodils coming out in spring. We are astonished to watch little birds one by one pecking their way out of their eggs. Every year in Vineland west of Hamilton a million dried up sticks begin to put out leaves, and then produce fat juicy grapes. Little children are so free and full of fun. And the Bible has hundreds of stories, which need the Holy Spirit to lead us into their inner truth.
We also need to know the truth about people that we find hard to understand. Most of all we need to discover the truth about ourselves. "What is really bothering me? Is there some reason why I keep slipping back into bad habits? Why do people seem to avoid me? I wonder why I am so dull and such a bore?" The problem is we are afraid of really knowing the truth. But the Holy Spirit of Truth can help us very gently learn to be happy, creative, effective people.
Prayer : Jesus offered us the Spirit of Truth. So right now I suggest you admit some area in which you feel confused and cannot understand what is going on. "Holy Spirit, please give me insight, clarify my mind."
3 IN YOU We have thought about the Holy Spirit coming alongside to help us. But then Jesus gave us an even deeper experience. "You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you." What does it mean for the Holy Spirit as a Person to be in us? I still remember what happened after I had turned from Atheism to faith at the age of 23. I found myself looking to the Holy Spirit for help in my studies, in money matters, in loving unattractive people, and other ways. As I looked to the Spirit of Truth, I was excited by the wonderful new truths that came alive in the Bible. But five or six months later I was amazed to find the Holy Spirit not just helping me but working in me. A prayer would come from the very depths of my heart which I would never have dreamed of thinking up myself. A strange unexpected love for others would bubble up. I found myself saying "That’s not me. I could never have thought and loved in that way."
In the next chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus compared this to sap suddenly coming into the deadness of a vine branch. Soon leaves appear and then the branch finds itself producing fruit that it could never have imagined possible. "Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). And here again the Holy Spirit is just waiting for us to open our hearts so that he can work in us what we could never produce of ourselves.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, my prayers seem to be so ineffective. Jesus said you could be IN ME. Right now I am asking you to give me a prayer before we go on with this service. Please begin to pray in the depths of my heart.