“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”

Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth!

A sermon/reflection for 6th Sunday of Easter – Year A – 2020

The readings for today are the following: 

  • Acts 17. 22-31

  • Psalm 66. 7-18

  • 1 Peter 3. 13-22

  • John 14.15-21

You might like to use the link below to find the above readings for Sunday 17th May Easter 6 and click on the reading you wish to use:

http://www.katapi.org.uk/CommonWorship/CWLectionarySelV.php

Prayer 

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for the words you have given us today. We know that your words are words of life and salvation. Open our hearts Father, touch our souls, forgive us our sins, our lack of faith, help us to respond to your word. Help us to know that you are our Shepherd who leads us to green pastures, and may we experience in our hearts how we are loved and saved by you.

Amen. 

Introduction

To start with: Any story of your walk with Christ in the previous week? (Pause…)

In the sermons of last four Sundays we have reflected that that Jesus is walking with you in the journey of your life, that we can recognise Jesus in the Word of God (Bible) and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, that the result of meeting (recognising) the Lord is conversion of heart and testifying to the Risen Lord in your life. And in the last Sunday we reflected on Heaven as being with God, being with Jesus, in this life as well as after.

Today, the Word of God is teaching us again.  The theme of today’s sermon is – Jesus promises us The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth. A Christian who belongs to the Risen Christ and to His Church, The Kingdom of God, is promised the Spirit of God.

John 14:15-21: Jesus Promises The Holy Spirit

15 ‘If you love me, you will keep* my commandments. 16And 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. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

Context:

These words were pronounced in the context of the Last Supper. Jesus is to return to the Father. He was about to accomplish his mission through his passion, death and resurrection. The apostles were sad and were beginning to feel already the forthcoming separation.

Introduction

As you know, I spent ten happy years of ministry in Tanzania, East Africa. And I had to learn the language, of course, which is Kiswahili. But, in the school that we established there, we had to teach the students basics of English. I taught English to primary school leavers who were admitted into our “O” level secondary school. Before they began “O” level, they had to spend one whole year just to study English. I taught them basic English Grammar, not quite the English literature that I had graduated in. As you well know, in early English Grammar we learn the interrogative pronouns, pronouns used to ask questions, like ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘how’ and so on. While they are good for grammar, today I thought I could use some of these interrogative pronouns to understand the Word of God.

The first interrogative pronoun that helps us to understand the Word of God is:

“WHAT”: What is the promise that Jesus makes to us before he ascends to the Father?

The answer is found in verse 16: 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever.”  “Another Counsellor” because Jesus himself is our Counsellor! The Greek word is “Para’cletos”, “Paraclete”which signifies the one who is near, who assists, who defends an accused before a tribunal. So, an “advocate”, assistant, defender, protector, consoler.

The word advocate today has legal connotations, but it is also used for those who speak up for others.  We speak of advocacy as helping those who cannot speak for themselves.  Most of us have had a feeling of inarticulacy at some time or another.  We have wanted to speak up for ourselves and have found that the right words just don’t come.  An advocate who would step forward and make a case on our behalf sounds like a good idea!

The second interrogative pronoun that we can use to understand the Word of God today is: 

“WHO”?  Who is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Comfortor?

Verse 17 answers this question: 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. But Jesus has also assured us that he has overcome the world: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33)

See also verse 16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever.” 

The Catechism of Adults states: “He is the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity – the Love-Gift which proceeds from the Father and the Son.” That gift is shared with us. Paul writes to the Romans; “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.” (Romans 5.5)

Our heavenly Father has given us his own son Jesus, who through his suffering and death has made us worthy of the gift of the Holy Spirit making us children of God and heirs of heaven. This gift has been given us at our Baptism and confirmed in Confirmation which is sometimes called the “Christian Pentecost” for the believer. Christian life, from the beginning to the end, is to be lived in the enlightening and sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit.

The third interrogative pronoun we use to understand the Word of God today is:

“WHY?” Why does Jesus promise us the Holy Spirit?

Verse 18 points to the answer to this question: 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. The Holy Spirit is to be the helper, comforter and advocate. We can think of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate in two ways. 

First of all, we need someone to plead for us before God. This is not an argument about our merits.  No, when pleading for us before God, the Holy Spirit presents the same case always: the love of Christ for us as shown in his life, death and resurrection.  In fact, the Holy Spirit is the love of Christ that joins the Son with the Father.  We are caught up in that love.

Second, the Spirit is also our advocate before the world.  We live in a difficult time for the Church.  Its frailties are always on public view.  What can we say when asked why we believe in Christ, why we belong to the Church?  At such challenging moments we have to trust in the presence of God within us.  The Spirit, the advocate, will be stirred up within us as we make our reply.  This does not mean that we will be given powerful words.  It does not require flashy presentations.  It means, simply, that we will have the inspiration of grace within us to help us as we speak.  Honest words spoken hesitantly by a man or woman of faith can often have greater impact than the grandest words spoken by clergy.  

The next interrogative pronoun that we use this morning to understand the Word of God is:

“WHEN?”  When is He going to give us the Holy Spirit?

Verses 19 and 20 could point to an answer: 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

The last interrogative pronoun that I am using to understand the Word of God is:

“HOW?”  How do we receive the Holy Spirit?

Verse 15 and verse 21point to the answer: 15 If you love me, you will obey what I command   21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

The words of Jesus are so clear as to what we have to do in order to receive the Holy Spirit. We show our love for God when we live according to his will and in his ways and above all when we live his commandment to love. Saint John says in his first letter to his Christian community: “if you say you love God and then you hate your brother, you are a liar.”Loving Jesus Christ means that you ought to love your brother and sister as well. It is when we do that that we are loved by the Father as well as Jesus himself says, “I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (21)

Jesus will love and reveal himself to us when we love God and serve others.

If your heart does not go out to the needy and the poor, in no way can we say that we love God. One of the outstanding definitions of God, if we may say so, is found in 1 John 4.16 when he writes: “God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God and God lives in him.” Love is not just the divine character of God but God himself.  Jesus has repeatedly told us: “This is my commandment that you love one another.” Paul summarises the 10 commandments when he writes: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word – you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Keeping of the commandment to love God is a condition for us to receive the Holy Spirit and have a revelation of God.  This is so clear in the verse that we have read, namely verse 21.

Conclusion

We are just two weeks away from Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God already begins to predispose us to this feast. These 15 days before Pentecost can be considered a bit like a small season of Advent. Like the Season of Advent prepared us for the coming of Jesus (Christmas), the liturgy of these coming weeks prepares us for the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is important that we prepare ourselves well, with intensity of fervour, for this appointment with the Holy Spirit as the apostles did with the Virgin Mother after the ascension of Jesus. Jesus tells us today: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit

Prayer

A Prayer you can say now:

Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for coming to us at Christmas. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Thank you for rising from the dead to give me hope. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life.  I invite you into heart and my life as my Lord and Saviour. Please grant me your Holy Spirit so that I may know you, love you and follow you every day of my life. Amen.

Amen.

[ST Mattapally]

in our thoughts and prayers

 

Some Prayers/ Intercessions for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

As services are now suspended in churches, do use/ share these intercessions at home or on line.

“Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.

If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected,

it will wither and die.”

 

Jesus is alive.
Love has won the victory over evil and death.

As we continue to celebrate the risen Christ on this sixth Sunday of Easter,
we bring all our concerns, worries and fears to the Risen Jesus, the one who give us true hope and deep peace.

He has told us “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you”
and has promised us the Holy Spirit and life in all its fullness.

We pray for the stillness to listen and to recognise the voice of the Spirit in our hearts, who brings us peace.  

We pray for all who strive to proclaim the Good News of Jesus especially in these most difficult times when we cannot meet together in our church buildings.

After a short silence …

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Creator God, we pray for the leaders of all nations that they may be guided by the Spirit of Truth as they continue to do their best during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve.

Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks.

After a short silence …

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Father God, we pray for family, colleagues, friends, for all those we miss and with whom we normally would share life: at home, at work, in the community, and in our Church.

We pray for all who grow, harvest and prepare the food we eat and for those who continue to deliver to shops and supermarkets. 

We give especial thanks for those who continue to risk their lives, in those shops and supermarkets and in delivery and postal service.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

After a short silence …

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” Come to our aid now in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.

After a short silence …

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow. May we know your peace.

Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Jesus Christ, heal us and grant us your Spirit..

After a short silence …

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

After a silent, slightly longer pause …

Father,
we feel loved,
we feel forgiven,
we feel saved.
Thank you for Jesus Christ your Son
who died for us on the cross
and rose again from the dead
and who offers us
true peace and true hope.
Help us to hold on to him
and to follow him the way, the truth and the life.                                                                                   

Amen.                                                            

[ST Mattapally]