Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Help of the Holy Spirit – Romans 5:1-5 and John 16:12-15

Last week in worship we celebrated Pentecost. And to add emphasis to that celebration most of us wore red as a reminder of the flames that descended like tongues of fire upon the apostles. That fire was the visible sign that accompanied the audible “sound like the rush of a violent wind”, and all of this was to mark the arrival of the Advocate, the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Today we are going to spend our time together trying to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the Holy Spirit as well as the role the Holy Spirit can play in our lives.

Do You Have Enough Fuel?
Several years ago in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, a float stalled. Frustrations quickly increased because the other floats could not move and this event was being televised around the world. Mechanics quickly descended upon the stalled float, searching all over for the problem. Finally, someone had the presence of mind to check on the fuel level of the vehicle. It was empty, out of gas. Even more embarrassing was when the crowd realized that the float’s sponsor was one of the major oil companies.

Well just as that float ran out of fuel, we as Christians can run out of fuel too. This life can overtake us through stress, temptation, weakness, grief, and loneliness. And this state is not reserved for the marginal believers, or the new believers, or the un-churched. It happens to all of us; pastors, Sunday School teachers, pillars of the church...everyone. However, we have access to a renewable source of energy, a never ending well spring of help, the Holy Spirit.

What is the Holy Spirit?
So what exactly is the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit some sort of paranormal phenomenon? When I was a child we referred to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. And I can tell you there were not too many of us kids that really wanted to get to know the Holy Ghost. Is the Holy Spirit an entirely different entity from God and Jesus Christ? For years humanity has been trying to find a way to explain this part of the Trinity.

One thing we did to better our understanding was to change the name we use to try and make it more apropos. We went from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit so as not to encourage people to associate the Holy Spirit with any kind of paranormal apparitions or use a name that might cause fear. Some people went the visual route and artists have painted pictures to try and capture the essence or person of the Holy Spirit. One of my professors from seminary had a picture hanging in his office of a gazebo in a garden. At first glance you just saw this large white figure in the middle of the gazebo. But if you looked closer you could tell it was three distinct entities holding hands going around in a circle. That picture was trying to capture the three in one perspective. And yet others rely on certain adjectives or descriptive terms, based on theology or ancient language, to deepen and broaden their understanding; terms like Advocate or Helper.

But whatever method you use, whatever theology or term you feel comfortable with, there is one aspect that I think is the most important to understand. And that is the role of the Holy Spirit. Names are going to come and go over time, pictures and new insights are going to rise up as new people come on the scene, new and “hot” terms will be used as our culture changes and transforms. But the one thing that will not change, the one thing that will stay constant forever, is the role of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was sent to be many things for us as believers; our connection to God, our helper from on high, our advocate when relating to God. Bottom line, the Holy Spirit is here to help. “In fact 'The Helper' was one of Jesus' favorite names for the Holy Spirit. Jesus used the term Paraclete, meaning 'Helper,' to describe the Holy Spirit to His disciples. Perhaps more than any other, this name consistently describes the character of the Holy Spirit in His relationship to us prior to our conversion, at the time of our conversion and following our conversion.”

In the beginning the Holy Spirit was there, when Christ came to earth, fully human and fully divine, the Spirit was there. When Christ left this earth and ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit came in His place. The Spirit is there before you know you need help, is there the second you need help, and is there when life is calm to remind you of God's love. The Holy Spirit is our constant companion, sent from the Father, spoken of by the Son, and ever present in His own right.

Role > Definition
Folks. Our quest, our thirst for knowledge, is a powerful draw. But we cannot allow it to shift our primary focus from the role of the Holy Spirit to a definition of the Holy Spirit. The role is primary, the role is center stage, the role is paramount. Mike Anders once wrote, “John Wesley once said, 'Show me a worm that can comprehend a human being, and then I will show you a human being that can comprehend the Triune God.' Luther's comment was even more to the point. 'To try to comprehend the Trinity endangers your sanity.' I tend to agree with Justo Gonzalez who once said, 'Trinity is a mystery, not a puzzle. You try to solve the puzzle, you stand in awe before a mystery.' "

One of the biggest challenges we face today is ourselves. You see we have extraordinary power and influence. God created us with an incredibly complex intellect, allows us to have the power of free will, and leaves the relationship He has with each of us in our control. That's power! And times I fear too much. But God's love for us is not to be undersold. We have The Helper. We have the Advocate. We have the Holy Spirit.

I want to leave you with a few words from Luke Bouman's book, Difficult Things, that help to describe and put a point on the Holy Spirit as our helper. “But in the context of God's loving action in the world, the Trinity describes a God with characteristics that go far beyond our knowledge and sight: a God who gives his life for his creation; a God who uses love, not force, to change that creation from within; a God whose Spirit moved through that creation from before the dawn of time, and moves through that creation now; a God that is not observing us from a distance, but is present and active in all of life; a God that does not exist only in the powerful and the beautiful things of this world, but also in the weak, the outcast, the ugly and the failed things. The Trinity is the story of an unexpected God, in relationship with us in unexpected places and unexpected ways.

Expect the unexpected, seek out the Holy Spirit in new ways, allow God through the Spirit to lead you into a new encounter, a deeper relationship. The Helper is here!

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