Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on July 7, 2019. Title: The Paraclete Comes Alongside. Text: Acts:16:6-8, John 14:12-17. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy] Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]
We find these words in Zechariah in the Old Testament: Zechariah 4:6b Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. They talk about God’s method. We human beings have lots of methods; we have lots of recipes. We’re going to form a committee. We’re going to conduct a study. The Pastor’s going to do this, and the laity are going to do that.
But God’s method is actually much simpler. God accomplishes God’s will by sending the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. Not by human mind, not by human power, not by rulers of political power, but by my Spirit (says the Lord of hosts). That’s God’s method.
And so we hear in Acts 2 that it is God’s desire to pour out the Holy Spirit on the whole Earth, while at the same time, it’s God’s desire to send the disciples of Jesus out to do his will, not by might, not by their own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working through them just as the power of the Holy Spirit worked through Jesus. Last week I told you about this time that I was stranded on the side of the road, and a trucker came by, and I had no headlights. The car would run, but I had no headlights. And this trucker came by, and came alongside of me, and put his brights up and lit the whole road so that I could drive.
Now, the light did not come out of the trucker, but there was a human being that was a part of that light shining. And in the same way, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, most often in another person. And God’s light shines through them.
Here’s the first commandment, which describes God’s goal, which is that love should flow. Where does love flow first? It flows toward God. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” And in Luke, it adds all your physical strength. And Jesus says, verse 38, “This is the great and first commandment.” This is the rule. Our love flows up to God, and by the way, later this fall we can see a referee on the field do this. What’s that called? Touchdown. That’s a good thing. That’s what we’re supposed to see. Both hands up like that.
This is a traditional form of praise. We’ll see it all through the Old Testament. There’s a psalm that says that what God wants is for people to lift holy hands in his sanctuary … to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.
And God’s love flows down into our lives. A few weeks ago, we talked about how Jesus said, “Come to me and drink,” and it will flow in. And then out from you, this is John 7:37-38, will flow rivers of living water. God’s love comes into us, but this is not the only commandment; there’s a second one. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. So some of that love that comes down comes to us, but some of that love that comes down is supposed to be for somebody else. And that’s a goal too. On the football field, when the referee goes like that, what’s that called? It’s called a first down. You get four chances. But every time you get a first down, you get four more chances. That’s like getting four more wishes. And if you keep getting first downs, you’re going to get the touchdown because the love is meant to flow into us and then out to someone else. It’s not supposed to stay within us. It’s supposed to go out to someone else.
Jesus goes on to say, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” In other words, you can take the whole Old Testament, the entire Bible as they understood it, it’s covered in these two. This is what God wants. And what I want to suggest to you is the paraclete, which is the word that’s translated counselor in the Revised Standard Version. It’s translated comforter in the King James. It’s translated a whole lot of different ways, but what it literally means is the one who comes alongside so that you’re not alone. And the one who comes alongside is there to provide exactly what is needed because sometimes it’s comfort, when that’s what we most need. Sometimes it’s a counselor because that’s what we most need.
If God comes alongside of us to provide what we most need– now, here’s the thing that might not have occurred to you, but God, the Holy Spirit, not only comes alongside of you, but sometimes God, the Holy Spirit, comes alongside of someone else through you, just like that trucker made the decision to light my way through the darkness. A human being made the decision to light my way through darkness.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit comes alongside of people through you. Now, we are pretty fallible human beings. We are not people who have a perfect day. I had a perfect day, gosh, a long time ago. I think it was my wedding day. But since then, it’s all been downhill … (laughter). No, my day. I had been less than perfect. I have been less than perfect. Boy, I could get in– I think we just had an example of what less than perfect means (laughter).
But even though we human beings are less than perfect, sometimes we’re pretty good. Less than perfect. Even though we human beings are less than perfect, God has chosen to work through less than perfect human beings. You can read about that in 1 Corinthians 1. You know why? Because when God works through less than perfect human beings, it’s really clear that it’s not us, but it’s God who is at work – the Holy Spirit will come alongside of you to provide you with what you need. But the Holy Spirit will come alongside of someone else in your presence so that light can shine in every darkness through fallible human people like you and I.
Here’s our scripture for today. Who and what does the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, do when he comes alongside? Here’s the first thing out of five: John 14:23. Jesus answered him. If a man loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my word. Jesus told us what to do. And here he goes on to say this– and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. Jesus said in another place that every word he said was the word that the Father gave him to say. He was very scrupulous to share what God told him to say. And all of those things that Jesus said to us– verse 25 — These things I’ve spoken to you while it is still with you. And now, he’s going up to Heaven– verse 26. But the Paraclete, the comforter, the counselor, all those words– the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name– he will teach you all things.
So far, Jesus has been their teacher. Now, the Holy Spirit is going to teach you all things. And bring them to your remembrance– all that Jesus has said. And what will be the result of that teaching? Verse 27. Peace I leave with you. My peace, I give to you— don’t we live in a world that is full of anxiety? Don’t we live in a world that is full of tension and argument and sometimes downright viciousness? Don’t live in a world– where all we’re going to have to do is turn on the radio, turn on the television, open up the newspaper, open up Facebook, and one person after another will try to stir you up and make you afraid. Jesus said these words that I’m giving to you. They come with a blessing, and here it is– peace. Peace I leave with you. Not as the world give do I give to you– let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The words of Jesus Christ, come straight from the Father, and they come to comfort us and counsel us and help us. They come to bring us peace, and God is still speaking into our hearts through the Holy Spirit still today.
There’s an old phrase from computer programming– garbage in, garbage out. You put garbage in, the computer is not going to fix it. It’s just going to put out more garbage. If you ever thought about how much garbage we human beings put into our mind every single day, there’s all kinds of statistics. And the fact that children spend 12 hours a day watching TV, listening to media and commercials and online. But I love this one. The average adult today consumes five times more information every day than your counterparts did 50 years ago. How much of that information is really information that you need? What’s astonishing to me is how I get drawn into one thing after another. It’s almost as if my curiosity drags me into one piece of information after another after another after another. I don’t need it. But the trouble is when garbage comes in, garbage flows out.
If I intentionally put scripture in, then all of a sudden, scripture will be coming out. And you see, that’s what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. How will the Holy Spirit do that? Oh, your brain will remember everything that Jesus has said. That’s how the Holy Spirit will teach.
And so, you heard me say last week when I talked about this experience of hitting a deer and being stranded on the side of the road without headlights, that has that trucker light up the road in front of me, all the way forward I was chuckling because being a pastor, I was remembering a scripture that fit with this! Because, as I said to you last week, everything that happens to pastors, especially all the bad things, so they can go into a sermon.
What makes you think that your life is any different? When something happens to you, why isn’t it normal for the Holy Spirit to remind you, “Oh, remember what Jesus said about this?” Why should that happen all the time? Because the Holy Spirit connects our lives with something Jesus said. The Holy Spirit connects what happens to us with something from the Bible. This tap, tap, tap on the shoulder, “Hey, remember what Jesus said. Remember when this happened in the Bible,” and I told you these things happen to me so that I can put them into a sermon, but don’t you also have sermons that you get. If nothing else (talks?) to yourself, the Holy Spirit does these. With all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, you raise your hands up to God, and you’re going to get something because God is a generous God. Two hands up, you’re going to get something. Two hands up, you’re going to get two pieces of knowledge or happiness or insight or I don’t know what you might call it, because sometimes when God reminds you of a scripture, it’s for you. It’s to remind you.
But there is something that we have to keep in mind because it’s very, very easy for us to forget. Sometimes what God gives you is not for you. It’s for someone you love who needs to hear this. The Holy Spirit will connect you with things that God wants you to hear, but sometimes the Holy Spirit will connect someone you love with what they need to hear … only guess what? It’s going to come through you as God’s gift to them.
But you know the problem that happens when God gives us something for someone else? See the picture? Goes right into your own pocket. It’s meant for you to give it to another person. And here’s the thing you realize when the Holy Spirit is acting most often. That other person, just like dry ground welcomes water, they will welcome this little word. The Bible calls it a word of wisdom. Sometimes the New Testament calls it a word of knowledge. This little truth that comes from God to bless your neighbor, it will be welcomed by them with appreciation because God has prepared their hearts to receive it. So the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us to remind us of what Jesus said sometimes for our benefit, and sometimes for the benefit of someone else.
Jesus will speak to you today. What did he say to you? What did he say that is for your neighbor? Because these truths bring light into darkness just like that trucker’s light let me drive forward when I was unable because my headlights were out.
The Holy Spirit comes alongside to remind us of the words of Jesus again, Please pray. with me: Lord Jesus, when we read the Scripture, sometimes it feels like the words just go in one ear and out the other, but sometimes, Lord, a phrase will stick. It will just seem, perhaps for a reason that we don’t understand, to be very important to us. Help us, Lord to think on these things. Help us to discern if this is for us. Are we the one that needs to hear this, or is this word from the Lord something that is meant to bless a child, a family member, encourage a neighbor or a co-worker who’s discouraged? Help us, Lord to know, is this word that we’ve been reminded of for us, or for someone who needs your help and your love? We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.