Meditation on John 15:26; 16:4-13
May 23, 2021
Pastor Karen Crawford
What a joy it is honor our graduates during worship today—on Pentecost! What better time to celebrate the Spirit’s work in the lives of our youth and young adults?
We have the pleasure today of hearing their voices—their dreams and stories—and encouraging them in a more formal way to keep on going the way God is showing them. To our graduates, I say, “Hold onto your dreams and listen to your heart.”
Sometimes we are tempted to set goals that we think other people want for us—and we want to make them happy. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please your parents and grandparents. But, ultimately, it’s between you and the Lord. Seek God! Trust Him! Trust yourself, as well! You are fearfully and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139)
My heart goes out to each of you. This is both a wonderful and anxious time. I am sure your parents and grandparents are worried about you. The future is not going to be a repeat of the past. You are moving into something new.
I remember how hard it was for me in my teens and 20s—trying to figure out the way I was supposed to go. My future was a mystery. Other people knew exactly what their plans were. Not me.
Scripture and the Spirit helped me find my way. An older, wiser women in the faith showed me Proverbs 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” She explained that God would put His desires in my heart, when I take delight in him. And then, God would give me the desires of my heart. That was reassuring.
I knew only in part then, what I have come to know a little more with the years that have passed. I needed to learn to trust this God who loves us so much that He has come to dwell in us as our Advocate, our Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He lives with us and empowers us to not only shine the light of Christ, but be a flame in the darkness of our world.
This is what the disciples need to learn to be faithful to their calling—to trust the Lord and his everlasting presence with them. The Risen Christ had commissioned them for ministry in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Those who will be his apostles—sent out with the message of salvation through belief in the Risen Christ—often need encouragement on this journey—just as we do—and it comes in many forms. After the Ascension in the first chapter of Acts, they are encouraged by two angels who tell them Jesus is coming back the same way he left.
They return to Jerusalem and gather in an upstairs room to wait and pray for the promised Spirit. It is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a Hebrew word that means “weeks” or pentekostos, a Greek word meaning 50th for it is celebrated on the 50th day after Passover. Pentecost is a harvest festival for first century Jews, the day farmers offered the first sheaf of wheat from the crop to God as a sign of gratitude for God’s provision and as a prayer that the rest of the crop would be safely gathered in. Shavuot or Pentecost was also a celebration of the giving of the Torah 50 days after the Passover when the Israelites came to Mount Sinai and Moses received the law that would shape their life in community and enable them to carry out God’s purposes.
Our Acts passage is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise in John 15 to send One who will remain with the disciples, to be their Advocate—someone who intercedes on the disciples’ behalf and empowers them to testify, a legal term, to the truth of what they have seen and heard and know. He says, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Now what of the languages that are being spoken by the disciples so that every person could hear the gospel in their native tongue? That’s fascinating to me! You would think that God would choose a simpler way to get the message out. Why didn’t the Lord have the disciples speak Greek, which was, at the time, spoken all around the Mediterranean world as a second language, going back to the conquests of Alexander the Great 400 years before?
The answer is because our loving God comes to us, descending from the heavenly places to right where we are—physically, emotionally, mentally—just as he emptied himself of his divinity to take the form of frail humanity, blank slide as Paul says in Philippians 2:5-8. The Spirit, like Jesus Christ our Emmanuel, is God with us. The Lord shows his care of each person by speaking through Christ’s followers in the native languages of each so that everyone receives the message and fully understands! No translation necessary! God who knows us completely wants to be known.
Reading the familiar passage in Acts 2 today about the coming of the Spirit, I am taken by the diversity of the Body of Christ, which includes followers from “every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.” The Spirit, like the Torah, gives shape and unity to the community and empowers them to carry out God’s purposes. This is a fulfillment of Christ’s prayer in John 17:20 for his disciples in every time and place. “My prayer is not for them alone,” he says. “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
This diverse gathering of believers in Christ foreshadows the diversity of Christ’s Body around the world today. It foreshadows the Great Banquet we glimpse every time we celebrate Communion— when Christ’s followers from every time and place come from east and west, north and south to sit at table in the Kingdom of God. When Christ comes down to us, and we recognize his presence with us in the breaking of the bread.
It has been a long journey since my 20s—when I struggled to know God’s will for my life. I didn’t know that I would end up going to seminary to pursue ordination in the PC(USA). This is my dad and me at my graduation 11 years ago from Princeton Theological Seminary.
It seems like a lifetime ago! Of course, it’s hard to not feel emotional when I see this photo, since my dad passed away two years ago August. Dad, even though he was Jewish, was one of my biggest encouragers when I told him that I thought God was calling me to be a pastor.
I have had many encouragers on my journey—and I am so grateful for them! The Spirit has used each one of them to help me on my way. Who are the people who have encouraged you on your journey with the Advocate? Will you take a moment and hold them in your hearts? Maybe you want to whisper their names?
The Spirit of truth, sent to empower the Church on Pentecost, is still very much alive and well with us today, strengthening us to do ministry in ways we never thought we could or would.
Remember to keep on praying for our graduates—our youth and young adults—as they are led by the Spirit to do great things. Remind them that the Spirit that came like a mighty, rushing wind with tongues of fire will always be with them, wherever they go.
May they be faithful to testify to Christ and bear his light. May we all be a FLAME in the darkness of this world.
Let us pray.
Holy Father, thank you for sending your Spirit, the Advocate, on Pentecost to empower the Church to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ at the risk of their very lives. Thank you that your Spirit dwells in and among us now and that wherever we go—your Spirit is with us. Make us one, Lord, though we are a diverse group of people in this community of faith. Make us one in You, in spite of our differences. Thank you for all you have done for us, especially the work of our salvation in Christ when we couldn’t rescue ourselves from our sins and be reconciled with you! Help us to be faithful to our unique callings as we seek your will each day. Place the desires of your heart in our hearts as we delight in you. Watch over our graduates and keep them in your tender care as they come and go. Accomplish your purposes through them and us. In Christ we pray. Amen.