“The Forever Advocate”
John 15:26 – 16:15 (selected verses)
May 23, 2021
‘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…
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
But now I am going to him who sent me…
it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong
about sin and righteousness and judgment…
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;
for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
What if we had a Forever Advocate?
What if we had Someone who would come alongside of us, walk with us every day,
and guide us into truth? What if we had Someone who would speak to us, as if directly from God,
and would declare to us that which is yet to come?
One of the most challenging things for me about this past year was how hard it has been
to parse out the truth. In those first months of the pandemic,
with the potential dangers of the coronavirus, it was difficult to parse out truth from opinion.
Later, when it came to the arrival of the vaccines and their supposed safety,
the breadth of human opinions was spread all over the map.
Many of the opinions were offered from fact-based studies and experience in epidemiology.
Other opinions grew from what seemed to be crazed conspiracy theories.
The dangers and protocols and treatments of a worldwide corona virus take time to parse out;
they require scientific studies that need months or even years of data.
This prolonged search for truth made it very difficult for schools and business and churches to plan.
In former years, we could look out six months, or a year, or more.
We could set dates and make concrete plans for some church event or family vacation
and we would be reasonably assured that those plans would come to fruition.
But over the past year, we have had to take it month by month, sometimes week by week,
trying to read every article that would offer some glimpse of truth.
We had involved discussions about protocols; we made careful plans,
and sometimes we would find those plans irrelevant in just a short period of time.
Looking forward to this coming August, thanks to God’s gift of science and technology,
we know so much more now than we did a year ago,
and we are very hopeful that the plans we are making now will come to fruition.
We are planning for the whole month of August to be a welcome and reconnection month,
We are going to have a church picnic and a retreat for young families.
The youth group will restart. Small groups will be meeting in person again.
We will once again enjoy sharing meals and receptions with our church family.
If we had known in March of 2020 all that we would come to experience over the ensuing months,
I am not at all sure that we could have borne the truth at that time.
Do you remember talking about how long the shutdown would last?
Last March, over a year ago, the staff and I were talking about how we would probably be back
in the sanctuary within weeks!
Then, we thought, surely the virus would die down during last summer
and we would be back to normal by the fall of 2020.
Here we are, 14 months later, still wearing masks and spatially distancing in large groups,
but finally beginning to feel some sense of normalcy return to our daily lives.
Do you remember that movie A Few Good Men?
It featured an all-star cast of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon,
and Keiffer Southerland among others.
At the peak of the cinematic drama, Tom Cruise, the young military lawyer
questions the senior Jack Nicholson, a powerful Marine Colonel about a “code red” order.
Nicholson has been tasked with guarding the walls at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
and takes the challenges and dangers of his job very seriously.
On the witness stand, young Cruise pushes Nicholson to anger.
“You want the truth?!”, Nicholson famously cries. “You can’t handle the truth!”
The much-heralded movie was about the abuse of power and loyalty;
it was about the challenge and discomfort of parsing out the truth.
You may not have realized at the time, but Nicholson’s quote was a biblical reference.
Before his death on the cross,
Jesus told his disciples that they could not bear everything he had to say to them at the time.
He told them that the Spirit, the Advocate, would come alongside them to guide them into all truth.
Jesus told his disciples, in so many words, “you want the truth?…you can’t handle the truth!”
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’
Later in John’s gospel, there is a poignant scene between Jesus and Pontius Pilate.
Jesus, the itinerant rabbi from “nowheresville” Nazareth is brought on trial before Pilate.
Pilate is a powerful man, charged with keeping the peace in Jerusalem,
a challenge that extends even unto this day.
With a wave of his hand, Pilate could have spelled death of thousands.
Jesus and Pilate engage in a verbal cat and mouse game as Pilate questions Jesus.
Pilate asks: “Are you the King of the Jews?…What have you done?”
Jesus answers: “My kingdom is not from this world…
For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate famously replies: “Que es veritas? What is truth?”
The truth is that Jesus embodied the very words and will of Almighty God.
As human beings, we are limited and fallible. We do not know it all. We never will know it all.
Whether it comes to nuclear fission or the possible presence of UFO’s
or God’s will for humankind in this world, or God’s will for you or me for the coming months,
we are on a journey towards truth; we simply do not know all the truth.
Jesus promised that the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would come alongside us
to guide us into truth, to lead us on a journey of discovery,
so that we may know truth about God, truth about humankind,
so that we may discern truth that leads to hope and joy,
truth that can lead to freedom and shalom, to peace among all.
You shall know the truth, Jesus said, and the truth shall set you free.
Today is Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. Today, we celebrate the birthday of the Church,
the day when the disciples came out of their hiding in Jerusalem and began to preach.
Peter and the others stood in the streets at 9:00am during a large festival gathering,
and they proclaimed in many different languages, as the Spirit enabled them,
the good news of Jesus Christ, the truth of Jesus Christ.
They announced truth to the crowds, the truth that God had made Jesus of Nazareth,
the one whom they had crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
Many were cut to the heart by Peter’s sermon and they asked the disciples: “What should we do?”
Peter told them to “Repent, (turn, change, be transformed).
Receive baptism in the name of Jesus Christ; receive forgiveness of sins,
and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38)
And on that day the Church was born.
On that day, the Lord added about three thousand persons to those who were being saved.
On that day, those early believers committed themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of the bread and prayers. (Acts 2:41-42)
One of the great truths of the Church, throughout the ages,
is that not everything Jesus had to say to us would be written in Holy Scripture.
Jesus said it himself, ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
This is another way of saying that Holy Scripture is incomplete.
Issues like slavery or the equality of women or questions regarding a divisive issue like abortion
remind us that not everything we would need to know
would be written down in specifics in Holy Scripture.
News reports from this week reveal that we are still seeking truth…
-the truth about how to broker lasting peace – with justice – in Israel,
-the truth about how arrange our economic structures and our government programs and taxes
so that vulnerable people, including children, are not left out and left behind,
-the truth about how we as individuals, regardless of our skin color,
may live with equity and protect ourselves from needless violence.
-the truth about God’s will for our daily lives, guidance you and I may be needing this very day.
Jesus told his disciples and still tells us now, “I still have many things to say to you.”
In this 21st century, more than ever, we need the divine guidance and wisdom
of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The pace of change in the world today is staggering; the needs of humanity continue to evolve;
the earth itself cries out for relief from human consumption.
We need the Forever Advocate to come alongside and add to what Jesus taught those first disciples.
Our worship series since Easter has been focused upon the primary questions of John’s Gospel:
Who is Jesus? And who are we because of who Jesus is?
We have been reminded that Jesus is our Good Shepherd who leads us in right paths.
Jesus is the True Vine in whom we abide, through whom we bear good fruit.
Jesus is our Loving Friend who will never let us go.
Jesus is the Prayerful Intercessor who knows our needs even before we utter them.
And today, we are reminded that Jesus is the Forever Advocate who comes alongside of us
and continues to lead us into truth. We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.
In the coming weeks, we will be exploring God’s truth as written in the minor prophets.
This summer series promises to bring both comfort and some measure of “holy discomfort”.
The hard, but truthful prophetic writings may at times make us uncomfortable,
and yet, they will always offer us divine hope for a world in need,
and remind us of who we are called to be because of the truth of Jesus Christ.
Friends, the truth is that we have a Forever Advocate.
In addition to the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareath,
in addition to the law and the prophets from of old,
we have been given Holy Spirit to come alongside of us, to walk with us every day,
and to guide us further into truth. What a gift we have been given!
What a friend we have in the Spirit of Jesus, who continues to speak to us,
and who will declare to us that which is yet to come.
May we listen carefully, so that, by God’s grace, we may parse out truth from falsehood.
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church