A Sermon for the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, May 24, 2015
(Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:26-36; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15)
In a court of law, an ‘advocate’ is one who joins with and testifies alongside one who is accused. The two become a team witnessing together.
Advocacy is the role of the coming ‘Spirit of truth’. So much so that Jesus names this third member of the God-head ‘the Advocate’.
It is impossible for us to testify to the work of Jesus alone. There is always a divine witness alongside.
This is the kind of thought that should dramatically empower our mission. We are never isolated or alone as we testify to the work of God. The Spirit loose in the world is already at work in each and every life and situation.
Yet it is precisely this aloneness that the disciples fear.
Jesus is making noises about going. The disciples are so filled with sorrow at this prospect that they don’t even ask the obvious: ‘Where are you going?’ It is left to Jesus to point this out!
Yet Jesus sees his leaving as – of all things – an ‘advantage’. His arrival in heaven will signal the release, the sending, of the Spirit into the world.
If true, then in every situation you find yourself the Spirit of God is already at work.
And his job: to ‘…prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment’. I guess we often get these things wrong!
Here, however, a true understanding of each of these is found in direct relation to the person of Jesus. Sin and faith are linked; righteousness and Jesus’ placed alongside the Father; judgment in the hands of the Jesus who overcame of the evil one.
Who could honestly address personal and corporate sin without trusting the one who generously forgives? Who could accept Jesus’ declaration of our ‘righteousness’ without seeing him enthroned alongside the Father? I would rather be judged by Jesus than an undefeated ‘evil one’.
Jesus is certainly right to say that the Advocate will ‘testify on my behalf’. This Spirit seems to be simply telling the great story of Jesus!
This ‘Spirit of truth’ keeps the teaching, guiding, truth-revealing work of Jesus going. He is Jesus’ mouthpiece loose in the world. A continuation of the work of Jesus.
What a tragedy if we leave the ministry of Jesus in ancient history. Through the wild, loose, Spirit of truth Jesus ministry is surely broader and deeper than ever before.
So I wonder what it was like to be gathered with the early church on that first Day of Pentecost?
Did Jesus’ words: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’ create a sense of expectation? Are they waiting in fear or hope? Are they praying for or dreading this coming reality? Indeed, are they even capable of imagining this descent of, and empowering by, God? What do they make of this Advocate?
Perhaps it is only fair to assume that across the eleven disciples each of these responses are represented. After all, they all remain a part of the life of the church today. Some respond in fear, some joy, some bafflement.
I take hope, however, from the simple fact that our passage opens with the words ‘…they were all together in one place.’ The apostles stick together in location even if not in heart!
And there God descends in power, grace, and gift. Even in their diversity, there is a gift for each.
Amidst the fiery tongues and the sound of wind each person is equipped to take their place alongside the world-witness of the ‘Advocate’. None is left out. None forgotten: ‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…’
And as they praised God in their new-found tongues the world was drawn in around them. They are brimming with questions: ‘Are not these who are speaking Galileans?’ ‘How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?’ ‘What does this mean?’
To be sure, others mocked.
But perhaps they re-considered their rushed appraisal as Peter stood and spoke: sober, considered, researched. Like a well trained scribe tapping into both old and new, Peter, selects his text and begins his recital of the prophet Joel:
This is what was spoken…In the last days, it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
God’s Spirit empowering young and old, slave and free, men and women. And the result: people loose in the world speaking from the heart of God. The ancient creator Spirit renewing ‘the face of the ground’.
Is this Paul’s ‘first-fruits of the Spirit’? Here calling the apostles to witness and teaming up with the first disciples to testify to the world. In Romans calling God’s people into groaning prayer for the creation God came to save. The Spirit empowering our mission to the world.
This Pentecost may you encounter again Jesus’ promised Advocate!