Monday, May 16, 2016

Paraclete. . . Helper

Sermon preached for Pentecost C, on Sunday, May 15, 2016.

    John uses the term Holy Spirit three times – once in the mouth of John the Forerunner promising the One to come who will baptized with the Holy Spirit and the last on Easter evening in which Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon His disciples.  And in today's Gospel.  John more frequently uses the term Paracletos - Paraclete - which is translated in today’s Gospel Helper - not an assistant to Jesus but the Helper of those for whom Jesus died.
    The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in Jesus’ name is the fulfillment of the promise that we will not be abandoned or left to our own devices.  This is so important because our great temptation is to treat faith and life in Christ as a do-it-yourself project where we take some raw materials and make of it what we will.  It is nothing of the sort.  God's investment in you is too great to leave it to you what to make of it all.  God is not only source but directs this sanctification and growth in holiness by the power of the Spirit through the means of grace.
    The Paraclete will teach you all things, says Jesus.  The Spirit will not bring new revelation to us but will teach us what Christ has said and done.  He will teach us not simply as one who informs the mind but as the Helper of faith who will teach our fearful and stubborn hearts to believe.  He will teach us by teaching us to believe.  This is not theoretical knowledge but the practical trust of a people who believe but live in the world.
    The Paraclete will bring to remembrance all that Jesus said.  The inventor of the Post It Note (now available even on computer) banked on our need to be reminded of what we need from the store, what time our appointments are, and where we need to be.  Though we are indeed forgetful and need constant reminders, this is less about our forgetfulness and more about a memory which must be daily rekindled to sustain our faith in what Jesus has said, done, and promised.  To bring to remembrance is to open our hearts, minds, and lives to believe that Jesus is who He has claimed to be and done what He has promised to do.
    So came and still comes the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete or there would be no Christians and no Church at all.  The Spirit did not come once but continues to come for you and me.  His promise is living and active and still our Lord delivers to us the Spirit from the Father whom our Lord has promised.  And we still need Him.
    Through the Word of God spoken, preached, and taught the Spirit comes to people still more familiar with and comfortable in darkness than His marvelous light.  Through the means of grace in the Word and the Sacraments, the promise of Christ is still delivered and we are empowered to believe that promise made in words that do what they say, in water that gives new birth and in bread and wine that feed us Christ’s flesh and blood.
    The Paraclete comes to a people whose reason fails us and who need the Spirit to open our eyes to see, recognize, and believe in the Jesus whom the Law and the Prophets promise.  We need Jesus to open the heart of the Scriptures to us.  Just as Jesus opened the Scriptures to His disciples when He ascended to show them how the Word testifies to Him, so do we still need the Spirit to open to us the same living Word so that we may see how the Scriptures testify to Jesus.
    It is not as if the Scriptures are incomplete and we need a new Word or new revelation to lead us beyond Scripture.  We need to be built up in the once, forever, yesterday, today, and tomorrow the same revelation of Christ incarnate to suffer, die, and rise again for us and our salvation.  Christ is the New Revelation and apart from Him is only speculation, doubt, and fear.
    He is come to bring to our remembrance all things that the world, our sinful flesh, and the devil himself work to undo day in and day out.  He rescues us from the distractions of sorrow that would forget our comfort and from the distractions of joy that make us think we do not need this comfort of grace.  He comes to reveal to us anew what we need to know that our hearts may rejoice in sins forgiven, in death over come, and in heaven’s door opened to us and to all who believe.
    The Spirit is no mere encourager who cheers us on from the sidelines but the encourager who walks with us, who picks us up when we fall into sin, who reclaims us when we wander from the truth, who guides us into all things holy, and who teaches our hearts to love the holy and desire it and do it.  The Spirit is para kletos – the Helper who walks beside us – as the ever vigilant guarantor of faith to a people prone to fear and doubt, skeptical of nearly everything and everyone.
    The comfort of the Spirit is not some promise that one day we will understand all things or that everything will work out in a fairy tale happy ending to this mortal life but that God is with us, the Spirit and Christ, to keep us in this baptismal life where we were made new, to nurture us to growth in the Kingdom through Word and Supper, and to keep us blameless to the day of judgment.  The Spirit united us to Christ and keeps us in Christ and will deliver us to Christ still covered in His blood, clothed with His righteousness, and marked as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father forever.
    Let not your hearts be troubled, neither be afraid.  You are not alone.  Christ has give us the promise of His Spirit and the Father has kept this promise so that we may know the truth and the truth may set us free.  He is the inspirer of our holy joy and He is the peace that passes our every understanding and He will keep us holy and blameless until the day of Christ’s appearing when all our journeys come to their blessed end.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

1 comment:

John J. Flanagan said...

Indeed, a very insightful article and extremely important. Few sermons have I heard over 40 years that have even come close to reminding us and teaching us about the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Thank you so very much. God bless you. Why do so few pastors mention the Third Person of the Trinity....when it is so essential for them to dedicate a yearly message or two?