Sixth Sunday of Easter
June 14, 2020
I Want To Hold Your Hand
June 14, 2020
I Want To Hold Your Hand
John 14: 15-21
TEXT: "He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever"
In John's Gospel, Jesus prepares His disciples for the time when He will be gone. "I will not leave you orphaned," He said. "I shall ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever" (Jn. 14:16). No single English word can fully capture the richness and depth of the word, "Advocate" in our text for today. In the original Greek, it meant one who comes to a person’s aid as a patron or one who intercedes on the behalf of another. Here the role of the Advocate is understood primarily as a legal defender. In the language of our day, it is the one who has our back. But the fullness of this word suggests at least three ways in which the Advocate (Holy Spirit) is with us, now and forever.
The Holy Spirit comforts us; the Holy Spirit strengthens us; the Holy Spirit equips us for our Christian Ministry of Service.
The Holy Spirit is our comforter. Through the Holy Spirit, God gives us comfort by sitting beside us in our sorrows. We have all had the experience of wanting to comfort someone in a time of pain and discovering that we can't think of the right words to say. So, we end up holding hands, or hugging, or just sitting quietly beside the person and sharing his or her pain. In life's darkest valleys what we need most is to have someone beside us. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God sits beside us in even the bitterest grief.
There is a story told of Albert Schweitzer when his medical missionary work already was underway in Africa during World War II. One day he saw an African woman sitting on the bank of the Lambarene River weeping openly as she stared downstream. The authorities had taken her son away on a boat to fight in the war, and she knew she might never see him again. Schweitzer couldn't find words to blunt her sorrow, so he just sat down beside her and together they stared after the departing boat. Together they watched the sun set. And together they cried.
When we weep, the Spirit weeps with us. In Christ, God has gone to the heart of human suffering. Christ knows what it is to face the second mile so used up in body and soul that you can't put one foot in front of the other. Christ knows how lonely it is when your closest friends misunderstand you, and those you trust turn against you. Christ knows what it is to face your own approaching death. Christ knows how it feels to surrender to the grave someone you love with all your soul. The Holy Spirit of God has charted the very depths of your soul.
But the Spirit does even more than comfort us in grief. The Spirit also strengthens us in times of trial and temptation. Trials and temptations in life come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easily dealt with, and some seem overwhelming. But in every trial, we have the promise of Christ that the Spirit will see us faithfully through.
There was a time early in the ministry of Martin Luther King when he was tempted to give up his work. King got a phone call one night. A gravelly voice said, "You'd better get out of town or else." King had received other such anonymous calls, but for some reason this one really shook him. Somehow, this one rang true. The Civil Rights leader fretted all evening. He was still pacing the floor after midnight. He made coffee to calm himself and think things through, but it didn't help his frame of mind.
In despair, King laid his head on the kitchen table and cried, "God, I'm too scared to go on. I have reached the end!" In later years King would recall how the Holy Spirit spoke to him in that dark moment. In his heart there came a whisper, "You stand for justice, and I will stand beside you." King said from that time on, while he was often scared, fear never conquered him again.
Our lives are never free from enticements to sin, and it is often a mighty struggle to be our best selves. But we are not alone in that struggle. No matter what temptation seizes us, the Spirit will give us the courage to resist anything which would lure us from the way of Christ.
The Spirit is our Comforter and our Strengthener, and the Spirit equips us for our Christian Ministry of Service.
Ironically, our struggles with temptation and weakness may be the means by which the Spirit shapes us into more effective disciples. Jesus once said that it is necessary for temptations to come. Perhaps our Lord meant that we grow in faithfulness through being tested. Each time the Spirit helps us to overcome some temptation or pass through some trial, we grow a little, we become better servants of Christ, we become more sensitive to the struggles of those around us.
In one of the "Peanuts" cartoons, Charlie Brown is leaning against a tree talking to Lucy. She asks, "What do you think security is Charlie Brown?" He says, "Security is sleeping in the back seat of a car when you're a little kid and you've been somewhere with your mom and dad and it's night. You don't have to worry about anything. Your mom and dad are in the front seat and they're doing all the worrying. They take care of everything." Lucy smiles and says, "That's real neat." Charlie Brown, who never seems to know when to stop, gets a serious look on his face and says, "But it doesn't last. Suddenly you're grown up and it can never be that way again. Suddenly it's all over and you'll never get to sleep in the back seat again. Never!" And Lucy replies, "Never!" As they stand there, sensing the terrible loneliness that goes with being an adult, Lucy reaches over and says, "Hold my hand, Charlie Brown."
The Holy Spirit of God is with you now. He wants to hold your hand! Amen.