The Sixth Sunday of Easter
The Rev. George Pejakovich
John 14:15-21

IT MAY SEEM A BIT ODD THAT IN THE MIDST OF OUR CELEBRATION OF THE RESURRECTION OUR LECTIONARY SUDDENLY TAKES US BACK TO JESUS’ FAREWELL DISCOURSE TO HIS DISCIPLES. HERE WE ARE, NOT THROUGH WITH CELEBRATING EASTER, AND NOT YET AT THE CELEBRATION OF PENTECOST, WHEN WE FIND OURSELVES HEARING JESUS TALK ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT. THERE IS A REASON FOR THIS, AND IT IS NOT TO BE A PREVIEW FOR PENTECOST, BUT BECAUSE THE CELEBRATION OF THE RESURRECTION AND THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE INTIMATELY ENTWINED. WE DO, IN FACT, CELEBRATE THE RESURRECTION EACH AND EVERY SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, AND EVERY TIME WE CELEBRATE THE EUCHARIST, BUT, WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT, THERE WOULD BE NO SUCH CELEBRATION.

IN THE ARTWORK OF OUR CHURCHES, LIKE THE BEAUTIFUL WINDOWS OF GRACE CATHEDRAL, THE EVENTS OF JESUS’ LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION ARE ON DISPLAY. THE DEPICTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, HOWEVER, IS LIMITED TO THE PICTURE OF A DOVE OR OF TONGUES OF FIRE COMING DOWN FROM HEAVEN. IT IS HARD TO GET A HANDLE ON THE SPIRIT. IT IS EVEN HARD TO GET A HANDLE ON THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT, SINCE MOST OF US TEND TO EQUATE THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT WITH SPEAKING IN TONGUES, SOME SORT OF ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE, A PARTICULAR ENERGETIC KIND OF WORSHIP, OR A VAGUE KIND OF SPIRITUALITY AND A SENSE OF SOMETHING WE JUST CAN’T GRASP. FOR SOME PEOPLE, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE ONE PART OF THE FAITH THAT IS THE HARDEST TO UNDERSTAND, OR EVEN ACCEPT AS A REALITY.

JOHN WROTE HIS GOSPEL FOR PEOPLE WHO WERE TWO GENERATIONS DISTANT FROM THOSE WHO WALKED WITH JESUS, AND FROM THOSE WHO WITNESSED HIS LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION. HE WROTE FOR THOSE WHO NEVER SET FOOT IN JERUSALEM, WHO WERE SEPARATED BY TIME, DISTANCE, LANGUAGE, AND NATIONALITY FROM THE JEWISH CARPENTER PUT TO DEATH BY PONTIUS PILATE. HE WROTE SO THOSE WHO READ OR HEARD HIS WORDS MIGHT BELIEVE THAT JESUS WAS THE SON OF GOD, AND THAT IN HIM, AND IN HIM ALONE, WAS TRUE LIFE. HOW, AND WHY, WOULD ANYONE BELIEVE THIS? HOW, INDEED, WOULD ANY OF US, TWO MILLENNIA LATER, BELIEVE THIS? THIS IS THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

IN HIS FAREWELL DISCOURSE, JESUS ANTICIPATED THE EASTER MOMENT AND THE RESURRECTION APPEARANCES; BUT ALSO THE TIME TO COME AFTER HIS ASCENSION WHEN THE DISCIPLES, AND ALL HIS FOLLOWERS, WOULD BEGIN TO FEEL AS IF THEY WERE ABANDONED AND ORPHANS. “IF YOU LOVE ME,” HE SAID, “YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS. AND I WILL ASK THE FATHER, AND HE WILL GIVE YOU ANOTHER ADVOCATE, TO BE WITH YOU FOREVER.” THE WORD HE USED IS LITERALLY UNTRANSLATABLE TO ENGLISH. THE WORD IS PARACLETUS; SOMEONE TO STAND BESIDE YOU. WE TRANSLATE IT AS ADVOCATE, HELPER, ADVISER, SUPPORTER, OR COMFORTER, BUT THE WORD CONTAINS ALL THESE MEANINGS AND MORE. THE SENSE IS THAT THE FATHER WILL SEND SOMEONE TO DO FOR THEM ALL THAT JESUS HAS DONE IN TEACHING THEM AND LEADING THEM TO THE TRUTH. NOT TO DO THE SPECIFIC WORK OF THE INCARNATE SON, WHO WILL GIVE HIS LIFE FOR THE WORLD AS AN ATONEMENT FOR SIN, BUT TO LEAD THEM TO THE TRUTH THAT JESUS WAS IN THE FATHER AND THE FATHER WAS IN HIM. EVEN THOUGH THE RESURRECTED JESUS WILL LEAVE THEM, THROUGH THE ONE WHO WILL COME TO THEM, THEY WILL ALWAYS KNOW, BY THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, THAT JESUS LIVES IN THEM AND WITH THEM.

IN AN INDIFFERENT AND OFTEN HOSTILE WORLD, BY THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, THE DISCIPLES WILL KNOW THAT THE RISEN LORD LIVES. THE EASTER MOMENT WILL NOT BE MERELY A REMEMBRANCE OF WHAT HAPPENED ONCE UPON A TIME, A REMEMBRANCE THAT WOULD DIM OVER THE LONG YEARS, BUT WOULD BE AN EVER PRESENT REALITY IN THE LIVES OF THE DISCIPLES, AND IN THE LIVES OF ALL WHO THE SPIRIT LEADS TO BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO DISCLOSE THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS’ LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION, BUT DOES NOT REPLICATE THESE EVENTS. THE SPIRIT DOES NOT REPLACE JESUS, BUT RATHER OPENS THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS, AND DISCLOSES THE PRESENCE OF THE RISEN CHRIST AND HIS HEAVENLY FATHER TO THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH. THUS WE HAVE AN ETERNAL ADVOCATE FROM THE FATHER, THE SUPPORTER, TEACHER, COMFORTER, AND GUIDE WHO LEADS US TO THE TRUTH WHICH THE WORLD, WITHOUT THE SPIRIT, CAN NOT SEE OR ACKNOWLEDGE. THIS SPIRIT WAS WITH THE DISCIPLES, WITH EVERY BELIEVER OVER THE LONG CENTURIES, AND IS WITH US NOW AND FOREVER.

WE NEED NO ARTISTIC DEPICTIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE ADVOCATE, BECAUSE THE SPIRIT IS ALWAYS WITH US. IN BAPTISM WE HAVE RECEIVED THE SPIRIT OF GOD, AND THE ADVOCATE HAS COME TO US. NO GREAT OPENING OF THE HEAVENS IS NEEDED, NOR ANY SPECIAL ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE, ALTHOUGH I WILL NOT DISMISS THE POSSIBILITY THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE HAD THEM, BECAUSE IT WOULD BE VERY UNWISE TO TRY TO CONSTRAIN GOD’S GRACE AND PURPOSE BY THE LIMITS OF MY UNDERSTANDING. THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IS TO DISCLOSE TO US THE TRUTH ABOUT WHO JESUS IS AND WHAT JESUS HAS DONE FOR US. AS JESUS TESTIFIED TO AND GLORIFIED THE FATHER, SO TOO DOES THE SPIRIT TESTIFY TO AND GLORIFY JESUS, AND IN SO DOING MAKE US THE CHILDREN OF GOD; THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE KING. ALL WHO KNOW JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOR HAVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD WITH THEM AND IN THEM. IF YOU NEED TO HAVE A DEPICTION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THE ADVOCATE, JUST LOOK AROUND AT YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST. IN THEM, IN US, IN YOU IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD TESTIFYING TO THE TRUTH; AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD WILL BE WITH YOU FOREVER.

THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES THE RESURRECTION THE PRESENT REALITY IN THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER, AND THE EASTER MOMENT THE CONTINUAL AND ETERNAL CELEBRATION OF THE VICTORY OF LIFE OVER DEATH.
CHRIST HAS DIED, CHRIST IS RISEN, CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN.
AMEN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>