“Learning to Listen to the Advocate”
Rev. Mark Vickers
May 1, 2016
John 14:23-29: 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
Apart from this being one of my favorite texts in the New Testament, it is a text that sets before us one of the most ominous and questioned New Testament concepts; the work of the Holy Spirit and, in this case, The Advocate. It’s a text about love, the love that God has for all of us! It’s a text that reminds us that God is the Supreme giver of love and ultimately knows those that love God and those that do not. It is a text that dictates God’s love for us in a way that no other text can do.
Any time we mention or speak of the Holy Spirit, we, as United Methodist’s tend to pucker up and shy away from what might be revealed to us. Honestly, we have not done a very good job teaching about the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit. We have left it up to be a mysterious item of the Christian journey. We tend to dismiss our readings and sometimes our dealings with the Holy Spirit because we want something concrete! We want something tangible, something we can sink our teeth into, in order to gain a little bit of security and surety of our faith! But sometimes we need to let the Spirit be the Spirit. As the writer of John depicts with this text this morning, our task is to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit or, in this case, the Advocate. We are to be reminded of what we have been told! When we look at this text on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, we see it as the perfect Post-Easter text. It is the reminder that God. through the Holy Spirit, who is the Advocate, is continually with us on our behalf.
The Advocate is seen as the one who goes with us, teaches us, and works with us on our journey.
Will Willimon, theologian and U.M. Bishop, reminds us that, “we are not born Christian.” We may be born into a Christian family, but it is through the work of the Advocate that we come to see the work of God in our life. It becomes the work of the Advocate that enables us to be faithful. The Advocate gives us what we need to be faithful.
Here in the Gospel text this morning, Jesus reminds us that He is leaving and those who lay claim to loving God will have a continual presence of the Holy Spirit/Advocate. They will have something even greater in their presence and their life.
Jesus calls us to be compassionate front-running people, living counter-cultural lives in the midst of an already rambuncious world, but in the words of Willimon,“he does not expect us to do those demanding tasks or to live and to die by ourselves.”
As humans, we need to be reminded that we are not in this journey by ourselves. We have the Advocate, the helper. Throughout our life we live in the presence of Christ embodied for us. If we encounter the work of Christ in our lives we cannot deny the Holy Spirit! We cannot work in our Christian format without the help of the Advocate.
Stanley Hauerwas says, “The Holy Spirit is the agent of God’s Kingdom.” So, to live within the draws of the Advocate we have to live life in the midst of the Spirit. “Life in the Spirit, Christian discipleship is rightly construed as life out of our control, because we live by borrowed breath. The modern world enjoys thinking that we have come to the point of human development when we live under no control other than self-control.” We think we can do it ourselves, that we don’t need anything to assist us. When the Holy Spirit, the Advocate enters a life, we are seized, guided, and commanded by God. Therein is our hope and our peace.
Just as we hear in the Gospel of John this morning, we are challenged to live in that relationship of God, Self, and Others. We cannot just live in a relationship with God alone. We cannot live by ourselves. We have to live in a “relationship” that requires we engage in a world with both God and others. Hence comes the work of the Holy Spirit/Advocate that enables us to live in that relationship. John Wesley said in one of his sermons, “When the witness and the fruit of the Spirit meet together, there can be no stronger proof that we are of God.” It is when all things “click” that we have that wonderful understanding that God through the Advocate, continue to work in our lives beyond our understanding.
Yes, the Holy Spirit/Advocate is mysterious. It is a work of God that requires us to be the ones who act when the Advocate works in our lives. We must certainly understand that the Advocate is not working just for us, but the Advocate is working for our Christian journey and faith.
As the Christian community of faith, we are motivated and prompted by the work of the Holy Spirit/Advocate to do “our” work! Therefore, may our hearts be open and our minds clear, in order that what God through Christ has promised us, will be completed with our help!
AMEN & AMEN.