The World’s Best Counselor
Pentecost Sunday 2019
First in a series of two
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is John 14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, remembering this question that launches us into the discussion of the Spirit, or the Helper, or (as our sermon title describes it) the Counselor. “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are on a two-week journey through Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sunday (which is also Father’s Day), as we consider the World’s Best Counselor and the World’s Best Father.
So, now, we get to this question, the question of the day today, Who is the Holy Spirit? And the answer begins with our sermon theme, that he’s the World’s Best Counselor.
I can tell you, as far as counselors go, that when I was in Seminary school, we took a pastoral counseling class, and one of the requirements was that we go through counseling ourselves, so that when we recommend that people go to a counselor we can say we’ve done it, so I did. I went to three sessions with a very good therapist.
I wasn’t having any particular crisis so speak of, nothing that kept me up all night, but I can tell you that we started talking about nothing in particular, and then about my insecurities, then about my hopes, then about my deepest fears. Would I ever get married, was I good enough to become a pastor, was I in the right place?
This therapist, she didn’t answer any of my questions, really, but she listened. She asked really good questions. She reminded me, in the middle of my doubts, that what God says about me is more important than what I think. She reminded me that what God calls important is more important than what I think is important.
Today we consider the Holy Spirit, the counselor, the comforter, or as our translation would have it, the Helper.
Two ways that we would consider the work of this Holy Spirit. First, he convicts us. Second, he comforts us.
First, he convicts us. Or, to say it in another way, he lets us see things clearly. That’s the image behind the first little sentence of verse 27 in our text. Let not your hearts be troubled. That word, troubled, that means to be muddy, to be unclear, to be full of sand and silt borne up from the bottom of a stream. Let not your hearts be troubled, Jesus is saying, let your hearts be settled and still. Let your hearts be clear and deep.
I remember being out at Lake Michigan in my days of being a chaplain at Camp Arcadia. And there was a difference between clear and troubled. When the winds would pick up, then the waves would start to roll, and you could see it in the waves coming ashore that the sand was all kicked up, the water was cloudy, you stepped into the gray of the lake and you couldn’t see your feet, much less the lake bottom. It was troubled.
But I also remember going out on a still, blue day, water as clear as crystal, kayaking out where the water was forty feet deep or more and being able to see all the way to the bottom.
How often do you find yourself with a cloudy heart? How often do you find yourself longing for clarity? How often do you find yourself to be without a compass, without a direction, without a way?
The Holy Spirit convicts us by showing the clear way, showing us the right way, and showing us every time we fall short of it.
First, the Holy Spirit convicts. Second, he comforts. He comes alongside of us with strength. That’s what it means to comfort, cum forte, with strength. It’s in the second little phrase in verse 27. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not fear. That word for fear is different than the word the angels use when people fall on their faces. When Gabriel says that to Mary, he says, “Don't be terrified.” Here, the word means, “Don’t be cowardly.” Or to say it in a positive way, “Take courage.”
The Holy Spirit comforts. But, how does he comfort?
Let me go back to my earlier example. Oftentimes, when we find ourselves in a place of confusion, when we are longing for clarity, we end up asking for someone to give us the answer. “Tell me where to go. I don’t want to think, I just need you to tell me.” No. That’s not the answer.
The answer’s not so much a “What” but a “Who.” Let me explain. In all this discourse, you’ll notice that much of it doesn’t have anything to do with describing the Holy Spirit. Jesus is mostly talking about going to God the Father. But that’s the point.
Jesus said, “I am sent by the Father and I am going back to the Father.” He says, “I am leaving so that you can have something better, the Holy Spirit, whom I will ask the Father to give to you when I leave.” Jesus says, “You aren’t on your own, and you never were. You have always been in me and I in you, like a vine and its branches, and I have always been loved by the Father who loves you because he loves me, and I have always been sending to you the Holy Spirit, because he is with me and with the Father, and so, you are never alone. You never have been. You never will be.”
Do you see the dance? Do you see the Father and the Son and the Spirit together, drawing you into their midst?
Your God is always by your side. Let his word always be in your mouth. Let his strength matter more than your strength. Let his love overpower your love. Let his peace rule your hearts and your minds. Let his courage be your courage.
On the cross, Jesus jumped over all that would separate you from God. In the open tomb, he promises to walk with you to life eternal. In his ascension, he promises that his Holy Spirit will never leave you.
In Jesus, you are not alone, because the “Who” of Who God Is and the “Who” of Who he sent as your helper matters far, far more than the “what” of your situation.
This is the hope that I share with folks whose loved ones are slipping away, that they can hear for a lot longer than they can respond, but that whether or not they can respond, Jesus is still their Good Shepherd, and even when they are out of our grasp, no one can ever snatch them out of his hand. Even in our loneliest days, in Jesus, we are never alone.
Perhaps you have been through hopeless situations yourself. Perhaps you are feeling the inevitable decline of your body. Perhaps you are knowing the extent of how your sin leads to death.
Before any of that, let us always and ever remember that Jesus died for our sins and is raised for our life. Because of Jesus, God is our Father. Because of Jesus, we can call upon him as dear children call upon their dear Father who is in heaven. Because Jesus promises, we are given the promise of the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we are never alone.
Amen and Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters