Pentecost Sunday 2018 – John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Greenfield Lutheran Church, ELCA – Harmony, Minnesota
Sermon by Rev Dr Rolf Svanoe
I imagine that many of you HS seniors are busy preparing for end of year finals. It’s probably taking every last bit of strength you have as you fight senioritis. Your parents are busy planning your graduation party. They are putting photos collages together showing you at each stage of your growth. It’s kind of fun for visitors to look over the past 18 years in one glance. You students have been waiting all your life for this moment. Your parents are wondering how did it go by so fast. It seems like you were just born yesterday.
This is a transition time in your life: from being a child to being an adult; from being protected by your parents to being on your own; from being guided by your parents wisdom to making your own choices.
This is a scary time for other reasons. Friday there was another school shooting. Ten dead and ten injured. Parents get the call and drive frantically to the school wanting desperately to shield their children from harm. It is a parent’s worst nightmare. And sometimes bad things happen through simple carelessness. A young man was killed in a car accident just outside town. Was he talking on the phone? Was he texting? His life ended in an instant. And we learn that life is precious and fragile.
This is a scary time for your parents too. They watch you leave home and it isn’t easy for them to let go. They love you and want you to succeed and be happy. They are learning that there are just some things you have to learn on your own. They are learning to transition from being a parent to being a friend, an adviser.
There is a similar situation in our Gospel reading today. Jesus was getting ready to leave his disciples and return to heaven. He knew it would be hard for them to be on their own without his guidance. He promised them the Holy Spirit. He called the Spirit an Advocate, a guide and helper, a teacher, a conscience. We aren’t really alone because the Holy Spirit will be with us. The Spirit will take the words of Jesus and help us to hear them in each new situation that we face.
Do you know what an advocate is? An advocate is the opposite of an accuser. An accuser wants to convince us that we are worthless and no good, that we are unworthy of anything and that the world would be better off without us. An accuser is a bully. But an advocate is just the opposite. An advocate reminds us who we really are. The Holy Spirit reminds us that we are children of the most high God, who loves us unconditionally. When we are down an advocate comes to encourage and lift us up. An advocate speaks the truth to us. No matter what mistakes we may have made, we are forgiven. Our guilt does not define us. God defines us and God says to us that we are his children. That is what the Spirit does. The Spirit is our advocate who reminds us what is really true in life- the words that God speaks to us in Jesus.
As I was thinking about this I remembered the story of Pinnochio. Do you know that story? Pinocchio is a little wooden puppet whose creator, Jipeto, wishes him to be real. A fairy comes to make his wish come true. She gives life to Pinocchio and says to him. “Pinocchio, I have given you life because tonight Jipeto wished for a real boy.” “Am I a real boy?” Pinocchio asked. “No Pinocchio,” the fairy replied. “To make Jipeto’s wish come true will be entirely up to you. Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy. You must learn to choose between right and wrong. Your conscience will tell you.” “What’s a conscience?” Pinocchio asked. Suddenly Jiminy Cricket appears and says, “I’ll tell you. A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to.” Then the fairy gives Jiminy Cricket the job of being Pinocchio’s conscience, and she says, “I dub you Pinocchio’s conscience, Lord and high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path.” It doesn’t take long before Pinocchio runs into temptation after temptation. And with each temptation he faces, it is Jiminy Cricket who comes to his rescue.
Jiminy sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit, doesn’t he? The Holy Spirit is our conscience helping us determine right and wrong. But the Holy Spirit is so much more. Jesus used the word advocate to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the word is translated as helper, or comforter. The Holy Spirit is given to us to remind us of the love of God, to remind us of the work of Jesus, to tell us again and again that we are God’s beloved children and that our sins are forgiven. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is called the “Shy person of the Trinity” because the Holy Spirit is always pointing us to Jesus and what Jesus has done for us on the cross. And when we face temptations, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to resist temptation and say “no.”
You High School seniors are just trying to figure out what you want to do with your lives. What does God want me to do with my life? What is God’s will for me? Many years ago, I read a quote that has stuck with me. It is by an author named Elisabeth O’Connor who wrote, “We ask to know the will of God without guessing that His will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts.” God has given you the Holy Spirit. The New Testament talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has given each one of you gifts. You are all wonderfully gifted and unique. Why would God give you those gifts if God didn’t want you to use them? What Elisabeth O’Connor is saying is that when you discover your gifts, you discover the reason God made you. You discover your place and purpose in the world.
The last thing I want to say is that God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can make a difference in the world. We may all have different gifts and serve in different ways, but we all have the same mission- to tell others of the love of Jesus. The Spirit gives us power to love one another. The Spirit gives power to tear down the walls that divide us. The Spirit wants to bring all human beings together and overcome the barriers of race and religion, culture and language, gender and age. That is your mission whether you are a high school senior or a senior citizen. Your mission is to share the love of God in Jesus Christ. So let’s do it. Let’s go from this place fed and nourished by God’s word and Holy Communion. Let’s go and use our gifts and share the love of God with everyone we meet.
Pentecost Sunday 2018 – John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15