15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This 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. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They 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.”
22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.’ 29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Last week, we talked about how God is all around us. How we are never separate or distant from God. Because God is in you. And God is in me. And together we all live and move and have our being in God. It is like we are the kids in a summer swimming pool, and God is the water. Without all the chlorine and urine, of course. Together, we are constantly swimming in the divine. God is all around us. If we have eyes to see.
Now, just in case you thought I was crazy and completely making all of that up, listen again to parts of today’s texts.
In John, we heard these words: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This 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. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
And then in Acts, from the Apostle Paul…. “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being’”
At that last supper, Jesus says to his disciples, and to us, that he is sending us an Advocate – the Holy Spirit- to be with you forever. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you….On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
Jesus says he is sending an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Now this word, advocate. It can have several overlapping meanings. It can function in a legal sense, meaning literally one who advocates for you before a court of law. One who stands up to defend you. But it can also function more relationally by meaning one who brings help, consolation, comfort, and encouragement. All of these however, come from the most basic meaning of the word to “come along side another.”
This is the Holy Spirit. The one Jesus sends to be with you forever. To defend you and abide with you. The who will come alongside you. But if I have learned anything in my lifetime about the Holy Spirit, it is this: the good news is that the Spirit of God will never leave you alone. The bad news is that the Spirit of God will never leave you alone. It is going to be like that younger brother or sister, constantly asking you to go out and play. That friend or neighbor who is always coming over just to see what you’re doing. You see, when the Holy Spirit shows up, when it comes to work on us, to dislocate us from our comfortable lives, the primary tool the Holy Spirit uses is annoyance.
In the 1970s, Edward Bennett Williams was a prominent criminal lawyer in Washington DC. He was also the owner of the Washington Redskins. Together, he and his friend, Paul Detrick, were the principal officers of a charitable foundation. One day, they were visited by Mother Teresa. She was on a tour of the country raising money for an AIDS hospice. She was visiting all of the charities and she went to visit Edwin Bennett Williams. Before she came, Williams said to Detrick, “You know, AIDS is not my favorite disease. And I don’t want to give any money to this woman, but I got a Saint from the Roman Catholic church coming and I don’t know what to do.”
Detrick said, “Well let’s listen to her respectfully, thank her for what she said, and then say that we have no surplus of money, I’m sorry we can’t help you.”
In came Mother Teresa. Williams and Detrick were seated in leather chairs, on one side of a large mahogany desk, with the small and frail Mother Teresa on the other. She told of the AIDs Hospice, she made an appeal for money. Williams then said, “We’re moved by what you said. We’re touched by your compassion. But we don’t have any money. I’m sorry.”
“Let us pray…” said Mother Teresa.
The men rolled their eyes but they bowed their heads in prayer. When she finished her prayer, she gave exactly the same appeal as the first time.
“Thank you very much. We are touched by what you’ve said. But we don’t have any money.”
Mother Teresa nodded, and said, “Let us pray.” And finally Edwin Bennett Williams said, “Alright, alright! Get me my checkbook.”
And that’s how the Holy Spirit works. With an incredible capacity to annoy. By never leaving you alone.
I don’t know if you have ever experience someone like this or not, but in our neighborhood there is a child who has this incredible ability to sneak up on you. All the time. You go out to the mailbox, you turn around, and she’s there. You go out into your garage, you put your shoes on, and suddenly, her little head pops out from behind the freezer. Or you’re out mowing the lawn, and you can just feel these eyes on you. You glance down the street and there she is staring at you. And you know it is only a matter of time before she arrives.
Now, it isn’t so much her presence that can be annoying, it’s the lingering. It’s the hanging around and persistent questions: What are you doing? Can I do it? What is this? Can I have it? Do you have something to drink? I’m thirsty.
Needless to say, she can feel like a pest. But then last week, something happened. We learned something about her we didn’t know – she is fantastic at helping us look after Elliot. It was a busy Saturday afternoon. I was in and out with errands. Lauren was desperately trying to plant her garden before the weekend was over. And you can image how it is trying to do anything productive with a 2-year old to constant monitor.
Well, just like every time we’re outside, our neighborhood pest showed up. Only this time, she was not a pest. But more of a Godsend. She took Elliot off of Lauren’s hands and played with him. Soccer, tag, rolling around in the grass. And as they played, one thing became clear: Elliot. Loves. Her. Not in the boy meets girl, kind of way, but in that young kid looking up to the older kid who is willing to play with him.
The good news is that the Spirit of God will never leave you alone. The bad news is that the Spirit of God will never leave you alone. In fact, the Holy Spirit will annoy you until it gets what it wants. And what the Holy Spirit has taught us, is that that neighbor who annoys us, also has an incredible capacity to be a gift to us. Oh yeah, and our son also looks up to her. And suddenly our boundaries, our patience, our love for her were stretched much wider.
Do you have anything or anyone like that in your life? Something or someone who annoys you to no end? Maybe it is someone who calls all the time and you are hesitant to pick up. Or maybe it is some nagging thing that wears on you like a thorn in your side. Or maybe you are the annoying work of the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life? Might that be the Spirit of God at work? That thing, that person that makes you go, “Oh boy. Here we go.”
The hard part of the Holy Spirit, when it comes and annoys us, it will always expect one thing from us that we are so often not wanting to give: change.
This past week, I was at a preaching conference in the cities. And for three days, Lauren and I soaked in great sermons and lectures on preaching and great worship. The first day of worship was really my cup of tea. Great hymns, a big booming organ, hundreds and hundreds of worshipers singing. It was great. But then…the next Tuesday, it was contemporary worship music. With clapping. Now don’t get me wrong – this was good music. Powerful music. Spirit-filled music. But the Spirit was asking me to change something that I was not ready to change. As I was shyly clapping my hands along with a song, I realized that my elbows were anchored to my sides. And I couldn’t help but laugh at myself, because it was like I believed that if you don’t move your elbows than you are not really participating in it, and I was still okay. But finally, the Spirit got to me, with the help from some of my friends’ elbows hitting me in the ribs. Eventually, I loosened up.
But that’s how the Spirit of God is. It is persistent in working on us. Nudging us. Guiding us. Elbowing us in the ribs, so that we might be transformed – changed – into a new creation, for the sake of creating a better world for tomorrow.
Here is the real thing about the Holy Spirit. It might always expect change from us. And its primary tool in getting that change may be annoyance. But it’s all for good reason. Because the primary goal of all of this is to create us into a community of advocates. ”When the disciples experience Jesus as risen from the dead, they recognize his Spirit as gathering them into something new: they become a church, a community of people who are bound together by the Spirit in love for one another. The love of God, given and received in a community like that, offers healing and belonging where there was isolation before.” The Advocate creates us into a community of advocates. A community that comes alongside one another in times of celebration and joy, but also in times of disappointment and loss. When comfort and encouragement are needed.
So what would it look like for us to function as advocates? Might we become a community of the Spirit? Might we, in fact, recognize that in coming along side each other to be each other’s advocates we are loving Jesus most fully by conforming our lives to his and keeping his commandments – to love one another as we have been loved?
I want to share with you one way that I already see this happening within our community. This past week our “Life’s Stresses” group met. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it is an open group that was formed just last month. It is designed to be a place where anyone who is experiencing too much stress in their life can come to share their struggle, be supported, and, while they are there, support others as well.
This past week, two people showed up. Now these days, when everything needs to be counted and charted…when numbers are all the rage, you might think that only two people showing up is a failure. You might think that starting the group was a waste of time. But you’d be wrong.
Because that night, two parents, who both know how hard and unexpected parenting can be, came together to share and to support one another. And in the end, one invited the other to church. But not just to church. But to sit together too. Side by side. Together. In worship. To come alongside one another. I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like the work of an Advocate. The Advocate. The One whom Jesus sends. Amen.
 David Lose, http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3226