Sunday, May 25, 2014

“God’s Little Helper” (John 14:15-21)

Some times in life we all need a little help.  For many years I voluntarily worked for an organization in Nebraska that provided help to those individuals with disabilities.  The name of the organization was Citizen Advocacy and its purpose was to help people with disabilities to have lives that were independent just like everyone else.  The only problem is, they needed a little help.  Some needed help with medications . . . some with cooking meals . . . others with their finances, just to name a few of the areas in life where help was needed.  To provide this help Citizen Advocacy would recruit individuals—citizens—with strengths in those areas to advocate for these people.  It was a wonderful system that brought independence into the lives of these people.  After all, we all need a little help.

Now I want you to hear the word that I used . . . advocate . . . advocacy.  An advocate is a person who works for, argues for, supports a cause or a person.  An advocate provides a little help to assist the cause or person to succeed . . . to accomplish the goal.  In many translations of the Bible the Holy Spirit is often referred to as the “advocate” . . . ours, this morning, uses the descriptor of “counselor” . . . both work.  Both are helpers.

Knowing that he was going to be leaving Jesus attempts to reassure the disciples that he would not leave them alone . . . no, he would give to them a “helper” . . . he would give to them the Spirit.  I am not sure if this was too assuring for the disciples . . . after all, the Spirit is not something that any of us can embrace and hold tightly onto like cross or a chalice.  The Spirit has not shape or form . . . the Spirit is invisible and moves where it wants to . . . the Spirit cannot be seen . . . cannot be held . . . it is like the air that we breathe.  Yet, this is the best that Jesus can do . . . to offer to them the Spirit.

Yet, the Spirit is the key to it all.  The Spirit is the key that reveals the living Jesus . . . the resurrected Jesus . . . the Jesus who never abandons us.  It is the Spirit who makes the presence of the living Jesus and God known.

I am no Greek scholar, but the writer of John’s Gospel calls the Spirit parakletos . . . which means “advocate”.  It is a term for someone who is called to one’s side as a source of help.  Often this Spirit gets mistaken as one who will step up to the plate for the faithful before the throne of God to argue for God’s mercy, grace, and love.  But, this is wrong . . . this is wrong because God has already given the give of mercy, grace, and love through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This is what creates genuine life for the faithful.  The Spirit is the advocate who brings truth of that love and life . . . the one who reminds us of that love and life . . . which makes faith possible.  The Spirit is our advocate . . . our counselor . . . our little helper.

I know what you are thinking . . . probably the same thing that the disciples were thinking, “Great! But it would be so much better if you gave us something we could hold onto . . . another person . . . a book . . . or even a website that we could refer to on our computers.  But, no!  You give us something that we cannot even see or touch!”  Which is true, but, the Spirit is there . . . always there . . . and, the way that we know it is because we can feel the Spirit.

Let me explain.

The Spirit is to advocate . . . to advocate the way of Jesus . . . to advocate the words of Jesus . . . the love and the grace . . . to advocate for Jesus.  Thus the Spirit is there to remind us of these things about Jesus.  Most often the Spirit—as the advocate—challenges us, makes us feel uncomfortable, frustrates us, prods us, and pushes us to remember Jesus and his life in our lives.

The Spirit is to be a counselor.  Counselors are individuals who help us to understand ourselves . . . help us to understand our lives . . . help us to hear the questions we need to answer in our lives . . . to point out directions to go.  Counselors do not make these decisions and choices for us; no, the counselor is just there to set the table and allow us to make the choices of what we are going to do next.  The counselor’s role is to help guide us through life.

Again, it would be wonderful if the advocate and the counselor—the Spirit—would just go ahead and make the choices and decisions for us.  But, they don’t and won’t.  Yet, the Spirit’s presence is with us . . . and, we feel that presence.

We feel the presence of the Spirit in our lives all of the time . . . the problem is we probably are not giving credit where credit is due.  For example, as most of you know, I commute to Billings to work at Montana State University Billings during the week.  That means that I make the daily drive down 212 to Laurel, take Interstate 90 on into Billings, get off at the 27th Street exit, and haul myself down to the university.  It is not a popular drive for anyone as it often has a variety of drivers moving up and down it.  Some drivers who are slow, some who are fast . . . some who are texting . . . some who are just daydreaming.  It can be a frustrating drive.  Frustration can lead to words and gestures that are best left unsaid.  I know . . . I have done both.

I have spoken words about the heredity of those drivers who frustrate me.  I have used gestures wishing those drivers a “good day”.  Probably nothing that I would want to repeat from the pulpit this morning.  And, it never fails, the second that I speak those words or use those gestures . . . a sickly feeling comes over me.  I am ashamed of myself.  It is the Spirit at work.

Feeling like a heel, I think that those people don’t deserve such treatment from me . . . they probably come from a fine line of genetics . . . they don’t need obscene gestures wishing them a “good day” . . . I probably just made their day worse.  Besides, who knows what sort of day they are having . . . what things are going on in their lives.  And, then the topper: Jesus wouldn’t act that way. 

Have you ever had that feeling come over you after you said something or did something.  This is the Spirit at work.  We have all felt it.  It is just the Spirit reminding us the way and love of Jesus.  It is the Spirit helping us to walk with Jesus.

This is the “little helper” Jesus leaves for each of us.  This is the one who is there to challenge us . . . prod us . . . chide us . . . encourage us . . . support us . . . to make us think . . . as we attempt to live our lives in such a way that we are truly reflective of the living presence of Jesus.  The journey of faith—like life—is not easy . . . we all could use a little help from time to time to stay the course.  The Spirit will do this . . . Jesus promises this . . . we are not alone.  Through the Spirit we come to know the presence of Jesus and God in our lives.  Amen.

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