Sunday, May 25, 2014

Advocate - John 12-20

Jefferson Presbyterian Church, Jefferson, GA
In just two short Sundays, the celebration of Pentecost will be upon us; We will have waved good-bye to Jesus on Ascension Day--and then, iron your red dresses and put on your red ties--the HOLY SPIRIT will be upon us - resting above our heads like tongues of fire.
May 25, 2014
But, we’re not there yet.  We’re in an in between period.  In between places can be kind of hard places to be--the already but not yet--something big is going to happen, but…
we have to wait….
The disciples are in an in between place in chapter 14 of John. Here, Jesus begins what is frequently called the Farewell Discourse...
He’s going away, and so he gives this goodbye speech.
Like an elected official, his term is coming to an end..this final address.
Like a graduating senior, he is moving on to something new..was he valedictorian?
Last week, Rev. Evans preached on the first part of Chapter 14, and I would like to begin this morning’s reading with verses 12 and continue onto verse 20;
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 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.
15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
This is the word of the Lord...Thanks be to God
Jesus says he will ask the father to give his followers another Advocate.
He assures his disciples:
I won’t leave you orphaned! You won’t be abandoned!
Enter into the mystery of the divine self….  
You will know the Advocate, because he abides with you; he will be in you.
Because I live; you will live.
I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
John loves to use this mystical language
This is not some external concept;
more than a partnership...more than a co-pilot
this is a mutual indwelling…...a deeper connection than any word can define.
The advocate is with those who love God.
The Advocate works in the world so that the world may experience God.
The greek word used here is Parakletos (παράκλητος)  or paraclete
The Paraclete or advocate means
“in the widest sense, a helper, aider, assistant…
destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth,
and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom” (

So let’s use that as our starting point: A helper, aider, assistant.
Have any of you needed help, aid, or assistance in your life?
What a gift when people are willing to help us, and when we can be receptive to others helping us...a hard thing sometimes.
Was that the Advocate working in this world when someone helped you?
We have to remind ourselves of the Beatles song:
“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.”
You may have that song stuck in your heads the rest of the day...sorry!

How many of you have helped, aided, or assisted someone?  
Maybe for an extended period of time, or maybe just a brief period.
You must be some Holy Spirit filled people here in Jefferson!  Who says the Holy Spirit is not active and alive in the Presbyterian Church...frozen chosen..ha!
Think about the power of God at work in this world:
Could it be anytime we help, aid, or assist someone, is it an act of the Advocate?
Go a step further, could it be that anytime anyone helps, aids or assists someone, the Advocate is at work in our world?  
The way of Jesus was a life of service. When we serve, we are allowing the expression of the Advocate who dwells in us, according to this passage, to become manifest in this world!
That’s awesome!
Paraklete/ Advocate:  a helper, aider, assistant…
destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth,
To lead the disciples to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth,
In times of need, through helping, or when we are helped; we are led into deeper knowledge of the truth.
I saw an interview recently with a mother I know, whose oldest son went missing when he was 20 years old.  
I cannot bear for a moment to think about losing my child...I’m so sorry if any of you have had to endure such a painful experience.
The interview with this mother took place many years after her son had gone missing; he had never returned, he had never been found…
trails led to nowhere, and the police and detectives had done all they could;
an open case, and unsolved mystery.

The interview with the mother was with one of her friends, who was also a spiritual mentor.
The mother was asked, "How did you respond to the realization that your son was not going to be found easily?"  
She replied, "...Of course initially the hope that he would be found was most important...But, he was never found...We could not have survived without the support of the community. People called and brought food by and the hug; so many times I could tell they just plain didn't know what to say, but they were with us, we were never alone."
"There's something about giving and receiving that is important,"
"I know this is a dark path,” the friend said, “but I want to ask you, what kind of thoughts and feelings did you have when you felt "I may never see my boy again."
She forced a smile as she answered, "I actually didn't think I'd never see him again. Initially, I kept hoping that he would be found, that we would know what happened.
Then, I had a very special experience on Valentines day, [about] 10 and a half weeks after he had disappeared. I got a very clear message that day--from him I'm convinced--That he was okay.  I didn't know what that meant.  I didn't know if he was still in his physical body, or if he wasn't. But I got the message that he was okay.  That eased my anxiety to get an answer.  Because what's more important for a mother than to know that her child is okay..."  
, "I may never find out what happened, she said, and that's okay, he's with God."  
the friend asked one more question: "How did you and how do you experience God in this pain?"
Her response: "Some people feel God allows pain or gives us situations that cause pain so that we can grow.  I don't believe that, I believe that  God is with us through the pain. I think God cries with us. He would never cause it to happen to test us, I don't believe. God is with us; and God is with us in the hands and hugs and thoughts and prayers of others, too. I really believe that." (  with Mary Ellen Pendergrast)
The Advocate the helper will lead them into a deeper knowledge of the truth….
the Advocate, will give followers of jesus divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom…
Jesus’ work focused on the divine kingdom...working with and among the most vulnerable of society--lepers, women and children, homeless, prisoners, prostitutes.
Those on the margins, who had little or no voice.  
The Advocate stirred in the heart of Victor Chan.
I met Victor while in seminary.
During his period of discernment and prayer he felt moved to work with children who were victims of domestic or societal violence and abuse.
he organized Hogar Mana: a home of mana for at risk children;
In this home every year, hundreds of children receive shelter,protection, food, counsel, healing and love.
Children who carry some of the most tragic stories you can imagine, stories of desperation and deprivation...but the children endure, and they find a refuge at Hogar Mana.  
Not only does Victor and those he works with help the children, but he also advocates within the local and state government officials to try to improve the conditions in order to help prevent such devastating effects.
It’s like Martin Luther King jr.  said,

“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside….but One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.

Last week, many of us exercised one of the most basic rights of being part of a democratic society.  We voted.  In light of May 20, I watched a film entitled: King: From Montgomery to Memphis; a fascinating filmed documentation of events and speeches, prayers and actions--from the bus boycotts to the march in Washington DC of the civil rights movements of the 1960s.  
Among other types of injustices, people were denied their right to vote, because….? Hard to believe this was just 50 years ago.  
I was amazed by the courage of those who were part of the movement and what they endured.
They were arrested for peaceful demonstrations.
They faced dogs and fire-hydrants, bombs and billy clubs, and the sneers and scorn of those who opposed the efforts.  
Surely the Advocate was with them to give them the strength needed to undergo trials before courts and persecutions by their foes.
In one scene from the film, a group of African American men and women were gathered in an orderly peaceful manner at the steps outside the door of the courthouse in attempt to register to vote.  
Police stood at the top of the stairs and told them they had to leave. The standoff eventually resulted in the police forcing the people off the steps using billy clubs and brute force.
The men and women did fall back, but didn’t fight back. Instead, they straightened their clothes, glasses adjusted their purses and hats, and walked back up the steps....
The police forced them back with greater force….
Again the people collected themselves, straightened their clothes and their backs, and walked up the stairs...only to be forced off again and again.
They were not allowed to register that day…
but one day, those who had been denied unalienable rights,
denied truths self evident,
Denied being treated as equal, even though the words said, “all men are created equal”
Denied even though the words of the Good Book say, I created them, male and female, in my image”
One day, they were given rights….  
A helper, aider, assistant…
destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth,
and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom”
How is the Advocate coming to your aid?
How is the Advocate stirring within your soul to Advocate!?
We are in a unique time in the history of our church.
Much has changed; we no longer carry the influence nor have the prestige we once did.
We encounter empty pews sunday after sunday in our buildings we worked so hard to erect.  
Many go to other churches; many don’t go to church.
But, this is a hopeful time…
a time when really, we have no other choice but to move past our fears and set aside issues which hold us back, and trust the Advocate is calling us to engage the world with reckless abandon…
What have we got to lose?
If we are to die as church, we might as well go out with a Holy Spirit bang doing “Greater things” as Jesus says.  
Why not engage the world, this desperately needy world, with radical love!?  
The Rev. Joanna Adams who served many years as pastor of various churches in Georgia.  
was asked: “Where is the church headed?"

Rev. Adams said:
"I think the church is headed into an era when there will be more and more emphasis on parish ministry.  
Communities of faith that are grounded and directed in their mission by the needs of the communities in which they sit.
"[Sure we] have lost membership in significant ways. But, I see the tide turning:
where the gospel is preached clearly and in an irenic spirit;
when people are given away to serve their neighbor;
when they have an opportunity to have the experience of the transcendent God--they will come and be part of a faith community.
"What churches need to stop doing,” she says, “is looking at every visitor who comes in the door, 'Oh my goodness I hope you'll come to church and pay your pledge and help our numbers grow.'
"People aren't interested in helping your church or your budget grow.
Our job is to be hopeful, joyful, generative, always thinking about what might happen if we come together in the spirit of Christ, the Spirit of compassion.  
People need the experience of God. …”

During a worship service, a young woman shared with her congregation about her experience of God…
She talked about how she had grown up and been baptized in that church; she pointed at the baptismal font, “There, I was baptized there. “I don’t remember it; I was a baby, but my father loved to tell me about the day I was baptized,
what I was wearing, how I reacted to the water,
the people there that day, friends and relatives;
and he would always end the story by exclaiming, “Oh honey, the Holy Spirit was in the church that day!” “I remember as a child,” she continued.
“I would wonder, ‘Where is the Holy Spirit in this church?’”
She pointed to different places in the sanctuary, “Is the Holy Spirit in the rafters? In the organ pipes? In the stained glass windows?”

Her voice softened, “As many of you know, I lost both my parents in the same week last winter.
In the midst of that terrible week, I was driving home from the hospital, having visited my parents, knowing that I might never see them alive again, and I stopped by the church, just to think and to pray.

“Sarah was in the church kitchen, getting ready for a supper, and she saw me sitting by myself in one of the back pews.
She knew what was happening in my life, knew about my parents, and she took off her apron and came and sat beside me, holding my hand and praying with me.
It was then that I knew where the Holy Spirit was in this church.”
Sarah could have left her apron on and gone about her important work; people were counting on her for the supper; people would have continued to think highly of her, a faithful and obedient churchwoman.
But the Advocate stirred within her.
She saw “the grieving young woman sobbing in the sanctuary” was much more in need of loving care than was the kitchen.” (Adapted from Tom Long's “Making Friends,” Journal for Preachers, 52-57.)

Jefferson Presbyterian Church...this is my first time being in worship with you.  But let me say, you will do greater things!
The spirit of God, the Advocate, is with and in you.
The Advocate helps you in your times of need....
The Advocate: leads you to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth,
The Advocate: Gives you divine strength to undergo trials and persecutions in order to advocate to bring about the divine kingdom…here and now

Thanks be to God.

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