The song of the Gospel
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, 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.
"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."John 14:15-21
I don’t usually use the lectionary when preparing sermons but something made me turn it for todays service and I found this scripture so comforting and so encouraging I couldn’t wait to pray about it and listen to what God wanted to say to us and how He wanted to use it to encourage us in our walk with Him.
This reading preceded the Pentecost, that amazing moment in the history of the church, the beginning of Gods commission. Jesus is offering words of comfort to his disciples, telling them that they will not be alone when he has to leave them and that soon they will share a remarkable relationship with Him through another advocate or counsellor. Jesus asks his disciples to have faith and to trust him, to trust that he will be with them forever, but at this point they don’t understand what this relationship will look like and they have no understanding of what He means. They had no idea that soon they were to encounter the Holy Spirit and in that moment they would come out of a world of slavery and be set free. That on the day of Pentecost God would change them forever and things would never be the same again, they would never be alone again and in that moment their lives would completely change forever. We follow a God who is interested in change. He’s interested in changing you and I can testify to how He is changing me. The promise Jesus makes to his disciples in this scripture today is not exclusive it is inclusive because we too can have that relationship if we invite Him into our lives and by doing so he can change us too.
To put this scripture in context, lets look at what happens in the chapter before, when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. This is one of my favorite moments in scripture and I keep this picture (on screen) by my desk at work and by my desk at home. I keep it close by me to remind me that serving and loving are the most important parts of my walk with Jesus and I feel that the powerful image of his humility and service to others is in capsulated in this painting; and humility and service are at the heart of Christian love. In this scripture Jesus comforts his disciples with the promise to send another Person; the Holy Spirit. He wanted his disciples to know that he would not forsake them, that he loved them and that he would be with them always and he makes a promise that He would send another advocate or Counselor, which is used in other translations. However, the original Greek word which Jesus uses was “Paraclete”, this Greek word means ‘one who walks along side of you, encouraging and teaching’. It’s a picture of someone who cares for us, who loves us and who journeys with us. It’s a wonderful word isn’t it, and for me I can’t think of a better way for Jesus to describe God’s care and concern than this description of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised this to his first disciples and he promises it to us too.
I love the determination in his words: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” In this promise Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit will make a home in our hearts and once there, He will journey with us, walking alongside us moving us to love each other as we have been loved by God. Jesus promises to Be with us and he made this clear when he said that the Spirit both dwells with us and will be in us so that we can share His message of love by willingly responding to the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.
Have you ever been driving in the car, when suddenly an old familiar song came on the radio – one you hadn’t heard in years – and it makes you smile because it brings back a memory and a feeling, the Holy Spirit is the same as it keeps whispering the song of the Gospel in our hearts. Jesus keeps his promise of abiding love by continuing to send the Holy Spirit to whisper the lyrics of the Gospel song in our ears, all we have to do is listen.
So what stops us from hearing the song of the Gospel, the lyrics of love what stops us from being filled with the spirit? What stops us from being changed? What stops us from living this message of love? I would say in my own experience it is fear. It was fear that sent the disciples into hiding and I believe that fear is the biggest stumbling block in our lives as well. Who isn’t frightened of change who isn’t frightened of rejection? The fear of the unknown, of failure the fear of what God might do and where it might lead us. Maybe some of us may feel they don’t need to change, that they are fine the way they are and that is how they want to remain, they are doing nothing wrong, so why do they need to change. Others feel change is impossible for them, they feel they have to accept the life they are in and the people that they are because they don’t deserve a better life. Fear stops them from seeing how they could make a difference. But it’s like those amazing moments on TV talent shows like the X factor or the Voice, when some unassuming person with no confidence walks onto the stage, opens their mouth and rocks the world with their God given gift. I will never forget the moment when Susan Boil sang for the first time, everyone was laughing at her and mocking her because of the way she looked and her lack of confidence and then she sang. It was an amazing life changing moment.
Denying the Holy spirit to enter us and transform us is allowing the devil to win. When those people walk onto the stage of those TV programmes they are taking a huge risk they are afraid of rejection of being laughed at and mocked; but the I believe the Holy spirit whispers to them and whether they know it or not they refuse to deny the gift that God gave them and from being the men and women that God made them to be. God has a plan for each and every one of us, He is a God of wonder, a God of love and a God of change. Through his love for us He wants to change us and make us into the people He intended us to be before the world got in in the way and started rubbing its views and opinions off on us, chipping away at our confidence and self-worth and pulling us away from the incredible journey that God intends us to have with him.
There is nothing to be afraid of because God means to prosper us, He means for us to fulfill his mission for us on earth. When the disciples met with the Holy Spirit it was spectacular, it was miraculous, life changing - but don’t be afraid or intimidated by their experience of the Holy Spirit. Yes, for some it may be spectacular but for others it is in those quiet and in those still moments that we meet with the Spirit and He gently and beautifully works within us…don’t be afraid of meeting with the Holy Spirit, He will meet with you at just the right time in just the right moment because He has been waiting, and waiting for you to open your lives up to Him and invite Him in.
I recently read that the Holy Spirit is; ‘like the air we breathe’, I loved that analogy, so simple and yet so true, because without air we can’t exist and without the Holy Spirit we can’t have the relationship God intended us to have with Him. The Holy spirit completes the Trinity, it completes us, it gives us life, it restores us, it is the reason for life ; the Holy Spirit is to the Church what air is to every human being. The Holy Spirit empowers our lives, deepens our faith, motivates our mission. The Holy Spirit freed the first Christians from the slavery to fear and it can free us, it can free us today and inviting the Holy spirit to work within us is as easy as breathing - it is that simple. So I encourage you to read this scripture each day for the next week during your prayer time and as you do remember that promise that Jesus made to the disciples and also makes to you, and ask the Holy spirit to set you free from whatever you are a slave to, what ever worldly thing is binding you and holding you back from being the man or woman that God intended you to be. Let the Holy Spirit restore you, change you and complete you.
Every day this week I encourage you to breathe in the spirit, and breath out the blessings that it will bring. Because when you ask the Spirit to enter into a relationship with you on a daily basis; you life will change forever and you will never be alone or afraid again.