The Holy Spirit. John 14.8-17

John 14.8-17

Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit


Jesus says, ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate … This is the Spirit of Truth’ (John 14.15-17)
And we read about the coming of the Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus

1. The Holy Spirit creates a community – the community of God’s people

‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate’ (v15)

We tend to think of the promise of the Holy Spirit as something that is uniquely personal, but we forget that Jesus is talking to his disciples, to his people, to the community gathered around him, ‘to his own’ (John 13:1) on that last evening before he is arrested and crucified. He is talking to the people who he has brought together, who have put their trust in him, and allowed him to wash their feet

And he is saying to them, to the community, ‘If you – if y’all (to use the Americanism) – love me, y’all will keep my commandments, I will ask the Father, and he will give you (collectively) y’all another Advocate’

Several years ago we went on holiday on the west coast of Ireland. We stayed in a castle. Well, it was a mini castle. It was a fortified tower from about the 1550s. It had a spiral staircase, battlements and a dungeon, which was very useful when the children played up. The landscape with littered with these fortified towers. Anybody who was anyone built his tower and waved his fist at his neighbour and shouted at them, ‘I’m bigger and I’m stronger than you’.

Most of us are not in the league of those who build physical fortified towers.

But we still can think of ourselves as a fortified tower standing against other fortified towers. And sometimes we think that the Holy Spirit will come and help us build up the walls of our tower. He will help us make them, make us stronger.

But the first thing that the Holy Spirit would do, if we let him, is not to build up our tower, but to dismantle our tower. He will demolish our defences brick by brick.

But it is OK, because while he has been demolishing our tower, Jesus has been building us a glorious home for us within the royal palace in the Heavenly City. The walls of this city are impenetrable – they make our little towers look rather pathetic - and this city shines with a glory and radiance that is almost unbearable.

And we realise that now living as part of this Heavenly City it is less about me - and my power and my strength and my holiness and my gifts - and more about us.

The Holy Spirit is the one who forms and who keeps together the community of the people of God.

He takes different individuals, you and me, and calls us out of our towers, and forms us into one body, so that we become part of each other, with a single destiny and hope.

He gives us different gifts so that we can serve each other, and build each other up.

Through his Spirit he gives his people a common language – not a physical language, but common spiritual language. So that even though we only speak English or Russian or Swahili, we share in something that is so much bigger.

The Spirit is among us, he is with us

And not just us gathered here today. The community of the Holy Spirit is a community which extends through space and through time. It includes the apostles, and Christian believers who have gone before us and will come after us. It includes those saints on our icon in the chapel. They are representatives of the people of God of the first millennium in the British Isles. It includes the men and women of God who have lived in all places and at all times.

2. The Holy Spirit is the Advocate, the helper, the Comforter

The Greek word is ‘parakletos’, literally the one who comes alongside us

That word has been translated in different ways

In the old language English bible, it is translated as ‘comforter’

In the Bayeux tapestry, which depicts the 1066 Battle of Hastings, there is a scene when Bishop Odo comforts the troops. He was William the Conqueror’s half-brother, and there were rumours that William was dead. So Bishop Odo, who has a helmet but no armour, picks up a club – because he is a bishop he could not shed blood and so has a club and not a spear or sword: he can only bludgeon people to death, not skewer them to death – and the writing says that he ‘comforts the boys’.


This is the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Not making us comfortable.

Far from it. Indeed, often the task of the Spirit is to make us feel uncomfortable when we feel comfortable. His task is to shake our complacency and self-confidence, so that we come to put our confidence and our trust in God.

And the Holy Spirit encourages us to be bold and strong, to put our trust in the promises of God, to fight against sin and evil and the lies of devil, to step out in witness and service.

“God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self-control”

So parakletos can be translated as comforter, but can also be translated as ‘helper’: the one who comes alongside to help us

The Holy Spirit comes to us and, if we let him, he will begin to sort our lives out.

We have friends who, sadly like many people, are packing up their flat to leave Moscow. After many years here they have acquired an awful lot of stuff. And they can only take a small amount back with them. And she was telling us how a friend had recommended a lady who came to help – and this ‘helper’ has been invaluable. She was the one who was able to say, ‘is it important to you – then take it’. ‘No, you don’t need the air fryer – you can give that to someone’. ‘Yes, you probably ought to take the husband’.

As we allow the Holy Spirit, the helper, to work in our lives, he will help us throw out the rubbish, and he will work in us, and with us, to transform us.

He sanctifies us (to use a word that Jesus uses later), he sets us apart and makes us holy. He makes us beautiful on the inside.

He fills us with the wonderful fruits of his Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control

3. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth

Jesus says, ‘This is the Spirit of truth. you know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you’

The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to see the truth

He brings the truths of Jesus to our minds and hearts – through the collective memory of the people of God and through our individual memory.

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us a desire to know God and to know the things of God.

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us assurance, who ‘warms our hearts’.

I recall the story of John Wesley who tells of the time when he was in a chapel on Aldersgate Street in London. Someone was reading from Martin Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. And as the person read, he writes, ‘I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ And he said that his heart was "strangely warmed". That is the work of the Holy Spirit

When you read a passage of the Bible, when you are reflect on our service, when something that the preacher says speaks to you, when you begin to understand something, to see (it might come with an experience like that John Wesley, it might not) – that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The work of the Holy Spirit is to help us to see the truth, to see Jesus.

Alison, as some of you may know, has started to do some colour consultancy. I don’t even begin to understand it, but it does seem to work.
Like all great ideas it is quite simple. People will sit in front of a mirror, and she will put different coloured drapes on them, and they will look at themselves and see what works and what doesn’t work. Sometimes it can be quite a revelation. I didn’t think orange and pink suited me, but wow it makes me look quite good.

The Holy Spirit helps us see the world in a different way. Not with different coloured drapes, but in the light of the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Imagine that you look at yourself in the mirror, and you see them standing beside you.

Wow, we might say. I didn’t realise that God could love me. I have rebelled against him, I have treated him as if he does not exist or as if he is irrelevant; and you cannot imagine how rubbish I feel, or what rubbish I have done to myself or to other people. Yet he loved me, he loves me and he goes on loving me.

It is the Holy Spirit who opens our inner eyes so that we can say, “I am beloved, I am forgiven, I am invited to become a friend of God, I have a deeper identity and a genuine destiny, my heart can be changed, there is the possibility of a new life, I can be set free from sin, I am part of the family of the people of God, there is the promise of peace and joy, this creation will one day be transformed and there is the hope of being with God forever”

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth who helps us to see the truth


4. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray

Jesus says to his disciples, ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it’

We read this verse, we pray for something, and often nothing seems to happens.

Life does not change, I don’t meet the person of my dreams or get a job, the sick person does not get better, there seems to be no inspiration as I prepare the sermon.
And so we think that this is an empty promise, and we either stop believing or we stop praying.

But before we do that, please notice that Jesus does not say ‘I will do whatever you ask for’ but ‘whatever you ask in my name’.
And that doesn’t simply mean adding the words ‘in Jesus name’ to our prayer.

To ask ‘in Jesus name’ is to be so in tune with Jesus, that we ask for the things that he would ask for, when he would ask for them, for the same reason that he would ask them. We ask them as if we were him.

And we can only do that if we allow the Spirit of the Lord Jesus to live in us, and to change our way of thinking and of living.

Paul writes, ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words’. (Romans 8.27)

The Spirit comes to us, lives in us and cries out to the Father from deep within us; it is in our weakness that the Spirit prays for us – when we have no words and we don’t know what to say.

In the Bible Study someone was saying that we have got to have positive energy when we pray. I’m not sure that I agree. The point about prayer is that it is crying out to God when we have no energy, when we are crushed and broken and recognise our weakness. And at that point, we stop trying to pray in our own strength and allow the Spirit who is in us to pray.


In a few weeks’ time we are, God willing, going to have our confirmation service.

The Holy Spirit is central in the confirmation service. The candidates reaffirm their faith in Jesus, their love for him and their desire to live for him and with him. And the Bishop will then pray for the candidates that God will fill them with his Holy Spirit, that God will confirm to them that he has given them his Spirit.

But we do not need to have a Bishop here to ask that God will fill us with his Spirit. We do not need to have a confirmation service. We do not need another Pentecost.

Because of that first Pentecost, because the Spirit was given to the Church, the people of God, each of us can pray, ‘Lord Jesus ask the Father to send us, to send me, his Holy Spirit’. It is a daily prayer that we can pray: to ask God to fill us with his Holy Spirit.

Shape me as a member of your people, help me to grow in holiness, teach me the truth and help me to pray, to know you and to know the Father.’

We praise God today for the gift of His Holy Spirit.
We ask God to fill us anew with His Holy Spirit

And we pray that He will fill us with His Holy Spirit.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the Word Malcom. We, like many in the UK are praying for you and your ministry in Russia . We pray that the Holy Spirit will equip you, your church and all people to pour out the love and peace of Christ to our world in need. God bless you, Alison and all your family.

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