This morning, I must admit something to you all. As I looked back over the themes of the sermons from the last few weeks, I admit that what we have talked about in this series has been very challenging.
I know that it has been challenging for me and I am sure it has also been challenging for each of you. They have been challenging in that each of these sermons have asked us, in a way, to look at where we are, where we are going, and what Christ desires of us today and tomorrow.
Perhaps it is not ideal to preach a series of challenging sermons as the boxes are mounting at the house. It would easy to blame the lectionary for its selection of Easter season passages for this year, but that would not be fair to anyone. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of fluff. In my journalism days, I cringed at assignments that seemed to be space fillers, such as covering a local fair, before moving on to something else. I believe the Good News of Jesus Christ desires us all to be challenged to grow daily in our faith and what it means to be the church today.
As a result, we’ve examined some difficult and challenging themes over the last few weeks. We’ve looked at how the Resurrection gives us hope to live our lives in response to God’s love. We also saw how the Resurrection calls each of us to be holy as our Lord is holy. We’ve looked at what it means to be a community, and we’ve thought about what it means to work as one and to see how we all have a role to play in God’s kingdom.
Each of these are challenging topics and to properly dig into them we need more than 20 minutes on a Sunday morning. Yet, these are some of what God desires for us to live into as a living response to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not easy. Nothing that God desires for us is easy. Living out the challenging aspects of life Jesus desires of us is hard. Because of that, we’re not going to get any of this right on a daily basis. We’re going to make as many mistakes living out these desires God has for us as we get things right.
Yet, Jesus doesn’t give us a pass. He doesn’t lessen the calling upon our lives in response to the Resurrection. In our passage from John 14:15-21, Jesus says if we love him then we would obey his desires. Obedience, living out these challenging ideas and others, is what God desires of those who seek to follow in the Lord’s footsteps. God doesn’t lessen the demands of his word based upon what we think we can live into. Instead, Jesus says our love of him will be lived out in how we keep and do his will.
How can we? How can we be obedient to the Lord’s commands? We cannot on our own. On our own, we are unable to be people of hope, holiness, community, or kingdom building. We cannot live out God’s desires and the hope of Easter by our own accord. We need the help of an Advocate. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
What we see in John 14:15-21 is Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit being with those who claim life in God’s love. This comes in the middle of Jesus’ final teaching with his disciples in the Upper Room. It happens just before his arrest and betrayal. Prior to these words, Jesus informed his disciples that he would leave them for a little while (which alludes to his death). In doing so, he encourages them in their mission to live out his teaching and to build the church.
It was a new life that Jesus was calling the disciples to live into. They had always had Jesus with them as their advocate helping them with this. They always had Jesus physically with them guiding them, teaching them, and showing them they way to the Father. Now, Jesus says that another Advocate will come and show them the way to living out the truth. This is the promise Jesus leaves them. An Advocate who will come and show them the way to living out the hope of the Resurrection and to live out our love in obedience to God’s desires.
That Advocate is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who came upon the world at Pentecost, comes as the breath of God that gives comfort and guidance to all who seek to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The Third Person of the Trinity is the one who brings power, movement, and energy behind the words of Jesus and our hope in the Father. These words anticipates the presence of the Holy Spirit and the direction he will provide for those who love the Lord.
Pentecost Sunday, which is the celebration of the church’s birth when the Holy Spirit came down to earth, is a few weeks away. Looking at this passage we see that Spirit will come and has come to make his home in each of us. Those who claim to love the Lord, those who seek to be known by Christ’s name, will find the Spirit of God living in us. The Holy Spirit seeks to move into our lives and give direction, hope, and guidance to who we are and how we seek to live out Jesus’ desires. That is what happens at our baptism. We claim the power of the Holy Spirit to live and guide us as we seek to live in response to the Resurrection and our hope in the Lord.
Thus, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and serves as another Advocate for us. Jesus is our Advocate in the heavenly courts praying on our behalf, while the Holy Spirit is at work here to show us the way of hope. The Holy Spirit does this by giving guidance through the grace that goes before us and by reminding us of what Jesus desires for us. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is our teacher who is constantly teaching us not just what Jesus said but, more importantly, the meaning of those words and what it means to live them out in our lives and communities. The Holy Spirit is the power and agency that shows us the way to being a presence in our communities and to have hope spring forth through our communities.
The Holy Spirit lives in each of us and is actively at work, today, in showing us the way to being God’s children. Even though Jesus is not physically with us today, we are never alone and are not orphaned by our Lord. We have the living presence of our God with us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, helping us, shaping us, guiding us, teaching us, and showing us the way forward of being people who take on the challenging words of Christ in our lives today. The Holy Spirit is in our souls to make us the people and the community Jesus desires us to be.
Sounds easy, right? The Holy Spirit guides us to live as Jesus desires. There is a catch to all of this. Even though the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have to want the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction of our lives. We have to want to be led by the promise of the Holy Spirit and to give of ourselves completely over to the Spirit’s leaning and desires. We cannot hold back any of ourselves and seek to follow God’s desires. The Spirit desires to lead all of us, every part of who we are and desire to be, and show us the way of being God’s people.
To do this means to let go of the things we often allow to control our lives. We have to let go of ideologies that seek to define us or things that take us away from the Lord’s complete focus and direction of our lives. At the same time, we have to be willing to let go of our own lives in order for God’s life for us and our communities to become real. God desires for us to do the challenging and difficult, to take on these hard words, and make them be real and transformative for us, our neighborhoods, and our communities.
The only way this can happen, the only way we can live out Jesus’ challenging desires, is if we allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. It is the only way of true obedience to the Lord’s word. No other way will accomplish what God desires to do in us than by us allowing the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate, to be our teacher, to be our guide, and to be our comfort. Nothing we can do on our own will do what the Holy Spirit wants, can, and desires to do in our lives. True growth in our lives and communities when we allow the Holy Spirit to do his work and to guide us into being the people God desires for us to be.
That is my hope for each of us today. That is my hope for you, for me, for our church, for the global church, and our communities. My earnest desire is that we will all be known as people who cling to the Spirit’s indwelling and to be guided by the Lord to take on the challenging. Yes, we will get it wrong at times. Yes, we will make mistakes along the way. Hope comes in that as we are led by the Spirit lives will be changed, the church will be made known, and true hope will become realized in our communities and in the places of darkness in our lives.
May we be people who are led by the Holy Spirit to take on Jesus’ challenging words and desires and make them be a part of our lives today, tomorrow, and always.