“The Promise To Come”
Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
This is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate what became the birth of the church. The day when the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the disciples and Peter went out into the street to preach about Jesus Christ. The day when 3000 people joined the church.
But I’ve chosen to not speak on the traditional reading from Acts 2, the one we read every year around this time, instead I thought we’d look at the Gospel reading for today.
The reading where Jesus tells of the promise of the Spirit. The promise of what is to come, before the disciples can even know fully what is about to happen.
For 3 years Jesus walked and taught these men. They have seen things no one else has ever seen before. They saw miracles upon miracles being performed; they saw people brought back from the dead; the saw thousands of people fed with just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. They were eyewitnesses to it all. They’ve grown pretty attached to this teacher they have been following behind, learning the way in which they should live their lives.
So when Jesus tells them in John 14 that he will be leaving them, they are sad. It’s the passage where Jesus tells the disciples he is going to prepare a place for them, and Thomas asks, “How do we know the way?” and Jesus tries to explain it to them.
As his death approaches, Jesus is trying to prepare the disciples for what is coming. He’s trying to make sure they know what to do, and what will happen, once he leaves them. This morning we read of the promise of the helper, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus acknowledges their pain saying, “But because I have said these things, sorrow has filled you hearts.” Jesus knows emotion, he himself has felt the pain of losing a loved one, but he also has intimate knowledge of where he will be going, and what will be coming in his absence.
So he tries to comfort them by saying, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
Can a helper replace Jesus? What kind of advantage is a helper?
Jesus follows with an explanation of what the helper will do, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
This helper Jesus promises will convict the world of three things we’re told. First, it will convict the world concerning sin. Why? Because people do not believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit will make us aware of the sin inside us. When we believe in Jesus Christ and commit our lives to him, the Spirit dwells within us and we cannot help but change our lives, ridding ourselves of our sin, as best we can.
We cannot become completely sinless, but through receiving the Holy Spirit, we become aware of the sin in our lives, and may God work within us to help us avoid the temptations in the future. Our sins are varied, but they all keep us from fully embracing the love of God in our lives. They all keep us from being the faithful disciples, followers, leaders Jesus calls us to be.
That’s the first promise of the Spirit, to break us from our sins. Something that will happen over and over again.
The second promise of the Spirit is it will convict us concerning righteousness. This pertains to the belief of what happens on the cross and follows in the resurrection. To see the cross as anything less than a gift and the resurrection as anything less than victory is to miss the point.
Jesus died for us. This is our gift. When Jesus was lifted up on the cross, all our sin, our guilt, our shame, he took all of it with him and he died. When Jesus rose from the grave three days later, sin was defeated. The God of righteousness broke the devil’s hold on the earth and defeated sin… on our behalf.
It is through the Spirit we know this deep in our hearts. The Spirit makes us keenly aware of how Jesus Christ is the Son of the Almighty God. Jesus is righteousness.
This leads us to the third promise, that the Spirit will convict the world concerning judgement.
We are not to judge the world. If we judge the world, we are simply perpetuating a problem because we are of this world. While Christ has won victory over the earth, the devil is still active here, still trying to keep us from knowing the true love of God. This is God’s work. God is the judge. Only He knows the stirrings deep in our hearts as to our commitment to him.
In sending us the Spirit, we are not to judge, but to love. To judge is to perpetuate hate and division, which is just what the devil wants us to have. Our God is a god of love, who wishes to bring us all together, united in Jesus Christ through the gift of the Spirit.
These are the promises Jesus makes by sending us the Holy Spirit. To break us of our sins; to bring us into the intimate knowledge of the gift God has given us through the cross and resurrection; and to bring us into healing relationships in love, and especially into relationship with Him.
When we look at the reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we try to bring it together. Paul writes that the whole world has been broken, right back to shortly after creation, when sin slipped into the garden. How we all groan under the stress of the world, just waiting for God to come and save us. This is our hope. Our faith, our belief in the God of Love who will come and rescue us, just as Jesus has promised.
Paul sums up the work of the Spirit, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
We are weak. Too weak to live as God would have us live… at least on our own. God would have us live as his children, sons and daughters of God who sent his Son to show us how deep this love really is. And our God who sends us the Spirit to bring us out of our weakness, to find strength in our relationship with God, our Father, and strength to share this love with others who are in need of His love.
So, on this Pentecost Sunday, they day we remember the disciples receiving the Spirit of the living God on their lips, running out into the streets with the full of understanding, full of strength of the risen Christ within them, full of courage to share this understanding and love with others to birth the church we continue to lead today. Their example is an example to us all.
Pentecost was not a day. It was not a one time event. It was a beginning. The Spirit descended upon the earth that day and has never left. The Spirit continues, from that day until this very day, to be poured out into the hearts of those who believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. It never stops. It never leaves us.
The Holy Spirit worked yesterday, it works today, it will work tomorrow to transform the hearts of men and women around this whole world and bring healing of sins, understanding of significance of the Risen Christ, and victory over the sin of the world by living lives of love for our Father, who is Love.
May we live fully in the Spirit, this gift given to us by God our Father, sent by Jesus Christ the Son. A gift that breaks down the barriers to receiving and sharing this love, this gift, we are so deeply moved to find.
My friend Deb shared these words, and I leave them with you this morning:
“When we look at the church and see only death, we’re not looking with faith filled eyes. Faith filled eyes saw God’s promise stretching across the sky in a rainbow. The faith-filled eyes of social outcasts saw heaven’s choir singing above a pasture; faith-filled eyes went seeking the child of that song and saw him resting swaddled in a manger. Doubt saw that child grow and die–his life, his message, his ministry seeming to end in blood on two crossed beams. But faith filled eyes saw Him live after that death. Faith filled eyes saw those ‘convincing proofs’. Faith filled eyes saw him rise into the clouds speaking ‘the promise of the father’ –faith filled eyes saw the fulfilment of that promise in tongues of flame and rushing wind and people of all nations and times gathering together–listening to one another and understanding one another–barriers of language, culture and time broken by an enlivening spirit that is Life itself and Holy. May that Spirit of life fall upon you and your church and our church and the WHOLE church today–and may we all have eyes to see it.”