Larry, a photographer for a newspaper, had scheduled a plane to meet him on the runway. When he arrived he jogged out onto the runway he climbed into the first plane he saw. “Hi, I’m Larry; hit it,” said Larry as soon as he had climbed in and buckled his seat belt. The pilot took off, and the plane was soon in the air. “OK,” said Larry, “fly low over the trees over there, I need to take a few pictures from that angle.” “What do you mean?” asked the pilot. Larry looked at the pilot and answered a little annoyed, “I am up here to take pictures for the paper, that’s why I hired you. So please go back there,” and he pointed back to where he wanted to pilot to fly. There was a long pause, before the pilot asked in a shaky voice, “You mean you’re not my new flying instructor?”
I think there are times we feel like that. We look around in our church or look around in our life and wonder who’s in charge here? Is there someone to whom we can turn who knows what to do or where to go next?
It is Pentecost Sunday (weekend) and we are familiar with the mighty wind and the tongues of fire and then the speaking in tongues that came upon all those believers who had gathered together on that first Pentecost. And it is an amazing story! As they were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in different languages and they spoke about God’s wonderful and powerful deeds. Everyone who saw and heard them was amazed. And power and courage is one side of the Holy Spirit.
But in our Gospel reading Jesus talks of another side of the Holy Spirit. Here he talks about the Holy Spirit and describes Him not as a violent wind or as a fire but as an Advocate. The Greek word translated as Advocate can also be translated as Helper or Strengthener or Counselor. It means someone who comes next to you who will give advice or help or strength. Jesus told his disciples that although he has to go away he will send someone else to take his place; he will not leave them alone, on their own like half-trained pilots of an airplane. He is going away, but he will send a replacement for himself. You see, Jesus loves his disciples; he loves us. So he is going to continue to care for the disciples; he is going to continue guide them, give them counsel, encourage and strengthen but now he will that through the Holy Spirit. As the church grows he cannot be everyone at once. But the Holy Spirit is able to be everywhere at once and He remains alongside of us like a wise friend.
Not only will the Holy Spirit stand alongside of us Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit comes he will guide us into all the truth. In this context, Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will help us figure out what is right and what is wrong; how to think about an issue. How does this happen? Similar to what we talked about last week, as we are still and quiet before God, as we form our questions and ask for his help, God through the Holy Spirit helps us to see the situation more clearly. He helps us to see the situation from God’s point of view. As we study through the Scripture and ask for clarity the Holy Spirit helps us to see and understand what it is he wants us to understand from the passage. He is the one right next to us. He is right there to strengthen and steady your arm as you do God’s work and help those around you. He stands or sits or lies close to us when we whisper to him and then he whispers back. He whispers back using the words of Scripture; he whispers back by giving us a feeling of what we really ought to do. Sometimes he whispers back through others.
Jesus tells his disciples that “the Holy Spirit will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” What does this mean? It means that the Holy Spirit’s main job is to spotlight Jesus. The Holy Spirit wants us to focus on Jesus. The Holy Spirit wants us to understand the love of Jesus better. So those times when we are feeling and sensing how wonderful Jesus is, when we are feeling and sensing how much Jesus loves us—well, then we are feeling the work of the Holy Spirit.
We see the Holy Spirit as a mighty wind and flames of fire. We see him as an Advocate or Helper or Strengthener. One who is our close friend who helps us as we ask him but our Old Testament reading gives us even more information about the Holy Spirit. Today we heard the dry bones passage from Ezekiel. I love this story! The prophet is brought into a valley where there had apparently been some sort of battle and there had been hundreds of people who had been killed. The bodies had simply been left out in the open after the battle and now, months, perhaps years; all that are left of these dead bodies are the bones. These bones are dry and brittle. Ezekiel looks out and sees all these bones and God asks him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Ezekiel is smart enough to answer God with a good answer. “God, you know.” The implication is “I don’t know and I would guess certainly not, but you, after all, are God. Maybe?” God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones—speak to the bones in God’s name and so he does and then there is this incredible sight of the bones all coming together—Ezekiel says there is this rattling, this noise because the bones are snapping into place then the muscles and the bodies’ organs start coming into and onto the bones and then finally skin covers them up. There they all are—these bodies are all lying on the ground but they are still dead. It had to be really eerie! And then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again and so Ezekiel speaks in the name of God and the winds come and the bodies all come to life and stand on their feet, hundreds of them. What an amazing story! So, what is the point? The first point God was making to Ezekiel is that he was going to bring the nation of Israel back to life. It looks to the entire world like Israel as a nation is finished, gone, all over. The Babylonians had wiped out the Jewish nation and deported the people. But God says He is going to bring the nation back to life. How is that possible? It is possible because God is God. And in fact, Israel once again does become a nation. In 538 BC God had Cyrus the king of the Persians send the Jews back from Babylon to Israel and Israel was reborn. It lasts for around 500 years and then nation Israel was once again destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans and once again the Jews are dispersed all over the world. And yet in 1948 almost 2,000 years later God again brought the Jews back into Israel and once again made them into a nation. But there is another point for us today from this passage. The point is that God brings the spiritually dead to life. This is the point Jesus made in John chapter 3 when he referenced this prophecy to Nicodemus. It is God’s Spirit that brings people to spiritual life and into the kingdom of God. It is not something humans can do only God. And that is what happened to you and me when we became Christians. God brought his Spirit into our lives and gave us new life just like he did those bones before Ezekiel.
But he didn’t just give us new life; He gives us his Holy Spirit to live within us and to stay beside us. He helps us and strengthens us, and guides us. He gives us wisdom as we ask for it and shows us how much we are loved as we meditate on it.
It is the Day of Pentecost today. We are not in a plane without a pilot. We do not have to worry who is going to help us get home. Because Jesus loves us He sent us the Holy Spirit and He is with us to guide, help, strengthen, and show us how much we are loved. Amen 180520_001