This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications and is included here with their permission.
John 14.8-17, (25-27)
“the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send ….. will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14.26)
Michele Guinness is a writer, a Christian, a vicar’s wife. She’s also Jewish. She tells the story of a Passover meal she and her husband organised for their congregation. As one man was leaving the hall he said to her, “Well that was very nice, thank you. It’s good to know that the Jews use our psalms as well”.
Jesus was Jewish, he knew the psalms and he would have celebrated Pentecost as well because Pentecost was a Jewish feast long before the disciples started speaking in tongues. Indeed, it still is a Jewish feast.
For Jews Pentecost celebrates the wheat harvest and the offering to God of the fruits of that harvest.
For the feast of Pentecost we hear about this morning people would have come from far and wide to Jerusalem to celebrate. They would have camped outside the city overnight and there would have been an exciting festive atmosphere with plenty of new wine flowing.
This explains why there were so many people speaking so many different languages in Jerusalem and why others might think the disciples were drunk on the morning of Pentecost itself.
And it’s into this excited and joyful gathering of people that the Holy Spirit descends with vivid tongues of flame and roaring wind. People speak in many different languages as they have done since the ill-fated building of the tower of Babel but now the Holy Spirit unites them in this overwhelming experience and shows them the power of God in their lives.
The Holy Spirit is clearly very powerful and is likened to a violent wind and tongues of blazing fire. It changes people enabling them to speak in languages not their own and fills them with joy and excitement. But what else can we learn from today’s readings about this Holy Spirit and our relationship to it?
In our Gospel reading we hear Jesus promising his disciples that when he is no longer with them they will receive “another Advocate” to be with them, in fact to abide in them, always. He describes this Advocate as the “Spirit of truth” who will teach the disciples about the ways of God and remind them of the words Jesus spoke while he was with them.
So we learn that as our Advocate the Spirit will be alongside us before God and, like an advocate in court, will present our “case”, explain how we see the world and why we respond as we do to events and situations. In and through Jesus the Son of Man, God knows what it’s like to be human and in the Holy Spirit he understands us and has compassion on our weaknesses and failures.
The Holy Spirit as advocate can also be described as a “helper”, someone who supports us, helps us and gives us the energy and strength we need to live in accordance with God’s will for us.
It can also be described as a “Comforter”, someone who brings extra strength to someone in special need. In bereavement or other tragedy we offer comfort to the bereft and stay alongside them to support and reassure. The Comforter brings God’s comfort and support within our very selves so that somehow we are held through dark times.
What Jesus is saying about the Holy Spirit is that this is how he himself will remain with his present and future disciples always. This is how God will always stand alongside and within us teaching us how to stand alongside God, living as he wants us to live.
It might be hard for us to identify with the experience of those early disciples on the feast of Pentecost. Perhaps we find it hard to imagine the crowds of people, celebrations, wine, singing, tongues of fire, mighty winds, preaching in many languages and lives changes so dramatically.
It might be easier for us to identify with the disciples sitting with Jesus in a quiet room somewhere while he talks to them, a small group, about the Spirit that will come to them when they no longer have him with them.
We might long for a stronger sense of having an Advocate at our side, a helper to get us through tough times and a comforter for when our hearts are troubled and afraid.
Perhaps this morning we receive a timely and encouraging reminder of the promises of Jesus to those disciples, and to us, that we will not be left alone, God will not abandon us but will come to us in a new way and make his home within us for ever.
- The Holy Spirit is first poured out on the followers of Jesus at the Jewish feast of Pentecost.
- In their own languages people from all over the world hear the message of Good News spoken by the first disciples.
- Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent by his Father after he had gone to be with him in heaven.
- Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would teach us God’s truth, help us to live in God’s way and comfort us in times of distress.
Jesus has promised that when we pray to God in his name our prayers will be heard and answered. Let us pray in the faith that the Holy Spirit within us will teach us how to pray in the name of Jesus and how to align ourselves with God’s will for us and those for whom we pray.
We pray that through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit God’s church may be united, strengthened and renewed in her proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
We pray that the Holy Spirit will bring renewed willingness among the leaders of our world to seek ways of peace and reconciliation, justice and freedom from oppression.
We pray for the communities in which we live and work that we may be advocates, helpers and comforters for one another and for those who feel excluded and forgotten by people around them.
We pray for all those whose hearts are troubled and afraid that the Holy Spirit will bring them strength and comfort, healing and hope and a sense of the presence of God around and within them always..
Loving God we thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. We ask that you will bless us with that Spirit and teach us how to work with you to bring the fulfilment of your kingdom here on earth. We offer these prayers to you in the name of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.