Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Easter

Text: John 14:26-27
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you.  Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.

Staying in touch

Keeping in touch with people is a priority these days and never before in all of history have we so many ways at our disposal of keeping in touch with other people. 

Many of us can remember when there were only 3 ways that you could stay in touch with people – letters, telephone calls and telegrams.  Telegrams were only sent for very important messages and long distance telephone calls were reserved for special occasions.  The only way most people travelled to visit distant relatives and friends was by car.  To travel by plane was way too costly for most people.  After I was ordained I was sent to Rockhampton here in Queensland – more than 2,500 kms from all family and friends (about 36 hours of non-stop driving).  The only way to travel to visit our families was by car (no air-conditioning) and the cheapest way to communicate was by letter.

How things have changed when it comes to keeping in touch with other people.  Today there is not only the phone we have in the kitchen or whatever room, there are mobile phones, ipads, emails, text messages; there is Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other kinds of social media devices.  We can send photos to families thousands of kilometres across the internet in an instant.  Miriam and I are kept up to date with what our grandchildren in Adelaide, Townsville and Scotland are doing almost daily as we receive photos and news about birthday parties, school events, holidays, outings and the latest antics that the kids have been getting into.    

We have invented all these different gadgets and devices to help us stay in touch with other people who are dear to us.  We are dear to Jesus, how does Jesus stay in touch with us? 
We like to get in touch with people when they are experiencing trouble and hard times, how does Jesus get in touch with us when we are going through similar situations? 
We like to encourage and help people and express our love with a phone call, a text message and email but how does Jesus express his love for us?

Jesus doesn’t use Facebook or email; he has given us a person, the Holy Spirit.  God is a little more personal about communication than all the gadgets we have.

Jesus tells his disciples in today’s gospel reading that he is leaving them; he will soon die and return to heaven.  He tells them that what he has taught them is not something that he invented but that he has passed on what he had received from God the Father.  And now they are to pass on what they have learnt. 

Jesus knows that they will find it difficult to remember everything he had taught.
He knows that at times being a disciple will be really tough going.
He knows they will become upset and discouraged.
He knows that they will get sick, face death, be treated badly, be hungry, be hated and have to stand before judges and rulers and stick up for their faith in Jesus.
He knows they will feel lonely and afraid, confused and anxious.
Being a disciple of Jesus in a non-Christian and pagan world was a tough assignment (and still is) and so Jesus assures them that he will always stay in touch. 
He will communicate his love. 
He will assure them of his presence and power. 
He will give them strength to endure all things.
He won’t send a text message but he sends the Holy Spirit who he says “will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you” (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit is described as a helper, a counsellor, and that means he is one who assists, encourages, comforts, uplifts people who are in trouble.  It is the Holy Spirit who fills us with peace when the world around us is falling to pieces.  It is the Holy Spirit who gives us joy when our hearts are sad and heavy.

How does he do it?  How does he pass on the faith, peace, love and joy that lift us up above our circumstances?

The Spirit points us back to the Bible and what it has to say about how the love and power of God change our lives. 
He points us to Jesus who promises us that he will be close to us no matter what happens in our lives and that he will always answer our prayers.
He points us to the forgiveness that we have through Jesus and the peace that this brings to the guilty, the troubled conscience, those divided by disagreements and pride. 
He points us to the peace that fills our hearts because we know that all is well between us and God – Jesus died for us on the cross.
He points us to the empty tomb when we are fearful of dying or when loved ones enter eternal life and grief is softened with the joy of the resurrection.
Whatever our circumstance in life, there is something in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is ready to remind us about if we have the ears to listen.  “I will not forget you”, God says in the Bible again and again and that’s a promise the Holy Spirit will bring to our attention again and again.  He reminds us of promises like – “I will give you peace. … Do not be worried and upset. Do not be afraid”
(John 14:27).

The Holy Spirit brings us into a special relationship with God through baptism.  In a moment we will see Jonathon and Joshua being baptised.  Even though they have decided that they would like to be baptised, the Holy Spirit has been hard at work in their lives already through what they have learnt through their family and their teachers at school who have pointed them to the love of Jesus.  Jesus makes a promise to us all at our baptism that he will be our Lord and Saviour, our helper and friend through thick and thin and it is just this promise of Jesus that the Holy Spirit loves to point out to us when the road ahead looks tough. 

When we are struggling, confused, sick, dying, guilty and fed up, the Holy Spirit whispers in our ear,
“Remember your baptism.  You have a heavenly Father.  You are loved and you are very special to him.  He even sent Jesus to suffer and die for you and he made a promise at your baptism that no matter what happens, ‘I will be with you always’.  You are not alone.  The water poured on your head at your baptism is the seal of the promise Jesus made to you.  The cross made over you is Jesus permanent mark of friendship and companionship”.

Water being poured over us in baptism happens just once in our lives but Holy Communion is something we can come to every week.  The Holy Spirit brings to us the body and blood of Jesus with bread and wine.  He brings Jesus into our hearts and minds and reminds us that we need his love and peace and joy more than anything else in the world.  We need his strength and reassurance as we leave the communion table and enter the new week. We need the forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus offers in this sacrament.  In Holy Communion the Spirit gives us what we need the most – Jesus and the peace of heart and mind, a peace the world can’t ever give us.  

In the world, peace is often an absence of conflicts, worries and danger.  The peace the Spirit of God brings is peace of heart and mind even though the world is falling in around us and even though we are confused, and anxious, and troubled by all kinds of temptations, the peace of Jesus enables us to be calm and trust in him and his goodness.

Today Natalie, Clayton, Kadey and Lachlan will come to Communion for the first time.  This is part of their continuing journey with Jesus as the Holy Spirit, week by week, whispers in their ear as they come to the altar, “Jesus gave his life for you.  He loves you.  He will never give up on you.  He forgives all your sin.  His body and blood will make you strong in body and soul to face all things in this life until that day you see Jesus face to face in heaven”. 

The Holy Spirit knows that Jonathon, Joshua, Natalie, Clayton, Kadey and Lachlan, in fact all of us, need Jesus and the love and peace and joy that only he can give.  We welcome this gift and give thanks to God.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
5th May 2013
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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