I don’t know if I’m a very good communicator. Now I know that is probably not the thing you want to hear from a person who has just got up to speak.
So I should quantify that by saying I’m not sure, As a husband and a father if I’m a good communicator…Because I often find myself in situations like this.
“But I told you this”… I’ve told people things and they forget them… and I’m the one who ends up in trouble for not communicating properly. There is a tui billboard in there somewhere I think.
And to be fair there are many times when it is like this
“We told you about that…” and for the life of me I can’t remember being told and I find myself in trouble.
I’m pleased to say it’s usually not important things. Sometimes I feel like I’m going senile and sometimes I wonder if there is a conspiracy amongst certain teenagers to make me think I’m going mad.
Jesus words were so important, that he did not leave it up to his disciples’ memory or our memory alone to remember and to keep his words. He sent someone like himself to come alongside us to remind us and teach us all he had said. In what Leon Morris calls the fullest description of the Spirit found in this gospel, Jesus tells us “But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. My peace I give you my peace i leave with you… ”
We are working our way through what Jesus has to say about the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel. So that we may have a greater understanding of who the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity is, and what he has been sent by the father to do in our midst. We are doing that not just for an academic exercise, but that we may know more and more of the Spirit’s presence and power with and within us. There are, I believe, misconceptions and misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit that stop us from experiencing that presence and power.
Our vision as a church is that we are called to be a vibrant, authentic, sustainable community, growing as followers of Christ, and inspiring others to join us on that journey’ and it is as we allow the Spirit to fill us more and more that we will see that vision be a reality.
Last week we asked the question ‘who is the Holy Spirit?’ we used Jesus introduction of the Spirit of Truth as another paraclete, a trusted friend who comes alongside and gives legal advice, and saw that the Holy Spirit, like Christ, is divine; part of the trinity. That the Holy Spirit is a person, not just a weird and wonderful force in the universe, but is a being and is knowable. We saw that in the person of the Holy Spirit God is at work in the world. In particular we saw that the Holy Spirit comes and dwells with and within us, but not like some sort of takeover bid, rather comes alongside us, and invites us to go and be alongside the Spirit as he works out God purposes and love in the world.
Today we are going to start to look at the question What is the work of the Holy Spirit, what is the Paraclete’s role in the life of the believer, and the church.
In the passage we had read out to us today, which flows straight on from last week’s passage we see that Jesus says, the Paraclete, which he identifies this time as the Holy Spirit, will teach us everything and bring to mind the things that Jesus has said. The key role of the Spirit is that of teacher. On top of that the Spirit is also the means by which we experience the peace of Christ in our lives. Paul Metzger sums up this dual function with a theatrical metaphor…
‘ The Spirit has no need to prove he’s in charge when he takes centre stage. In fact, the Spirit’ aim on centre stage is to make sure Jesus remains in the spotlight and to prove to Jesus followers the constancy of God’s Holy Love and abiding presence.”
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Spirit will teach us. Because as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Spirit has been doing this all along. Paul says the scriptures are spirit breathed. One of the key ways in which the Spirit teaches us has been in inspiring the writing of the scriptures, both the Hebrew ones and the gospels and epistles we have in the New Testament.
We know the words of Jesus and how they are to be applied to a community of faith, because of the gospels, Luke’s history of the early church, the epistles and the book of revelation.
Now the mechanics of that Inspiration are hard for us to understand, in fact I would say they are a mystery in the full sense of the word. I had a discussion after the service last week which focused round this. If the Holy Spirit inspired people to write the books and parts of the bible, or bring collections of writings together, does that mean God overrode their freewill? Looking at the word teacher here however provides us with some insights.
When some of youth group leaders in Rotorua found out I was going to be a mature student at University they told me ‘don’t act like those other mature students and always want to ask questions and dialogue with the lecturer, you never learn like that, just shut up and take notes.’ Some people see inspiration and the Holy Spirit as teacher like this. “just shut up and take notes’ they see inspiration as auto dictation.
I’m old enough to remember the 1960’s puppet show ‘Joe 90’, made by the same people who made thunderbirds. The premise of the show was that a kid called Joe was a super spy and was able to have his brainwaves altered by a special machine so he could do all these amazing things, like fly planes or preform advanced neurosurgery. For those of you who are younger, I guess it’s like the downloading skills programmes in the Matrix trilogy. But the Spirit as teacher is not about some sort of data dump, instant sainthood thing. It is a call for us to be alongside the one who is alongside us, it’s an invitation to a learning relationship. It takes time alongside each other in scripture study, in prayer and reflection. Like with the disciples in the farewell discourse it in wrestling with questions and being willing to seek and be led to answers.
But in the Ancient Near east, and also today, the style of teaching was very different, the Hebrews called it ‘midrash’… It was more than a student would live with their rabbi and in the process of life and discussion and questioning that they would learn. Being alongside their teacher. The group in the image (right) is a Jewish womens' midrash group, and you can see it illustrates this quite well its a lot more interactive.
In fact the passage we are looking at Illustrates that process very well. Jesus says something and we have the rest of his teaching in response to his disciple’s questions of clarification. In this case, the other Judas… and I’m sure he must of got fed up with having to differentiate himself from the Judas who betrayed Jesus, in fact in the other gospels he is identified with Thaddeus…asks Jesus why he is only going to reveal himself to his disciples not the world? The answer that Jesus gives is that he will reveal himself to those who love him by keeping his commandments. It is in this relationship carried on by the Paraclete that Jesus will be revealed.
So Inspiration of scripture is more the Spirit comes alongside the writer and editor or compiler and being is in step with who that person is and is involved in their reflecting and writing and alongside, in such a way that what results, we believe, is scripture. Writings that are both the work of man but also spirit breathed. The more I know about the production of scripture and how we have the cannon we have now the more I see it as human work, and at the same time am amazed at the mystery that it also God’s Spirit at work. It is the Holy Spirit breath that makes them trustworthy and authoritative.
Not only does the spirit provide the scriptures, the Spirit opens up the scriptures and what Jesus has said to us. One of the ways he does that for the body of Christ is through the Gifts that he gives people. In Ephesians 4 Paul says Christ himself through the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors so that we may be equipped and built up for every good deed and bought to maturity in love. In 1 Corinthians we get another list of Gift’s through which the spirit is able to speak to us and work in us, witnessing to Jesus. We are going to look at that more fully later in the year when we look at the book of 1 Corinthians. One thing I want to say today is that it is very much a reflection of the Holy Spirit as one who comes alongside that we need the gifts that the Spirit gives to each other to grow and mature and be the Body of Christ together.
On another level the spirit also brings to mind what Jesus has said when we need it. Not in a way that will over ride our free will but so that it’s there when we need it; in time of temptation, or difficulty, or when we are called to bear witness to Jesus.
I just want to touch on ‘my peace I leave with you’ The peace that Jesus is talking about here is not simply the absence of conflict and hostility, the peace that the world gives. I don’t know about you but if that was what Jesus was offering here I’d have to say I’m not getting it Jesus. But the peace that Jesus is talking about is the peace that comes from the presence of the father and Son, mediated by the Spirit in our lives. The Hebrew idea of peace is right relationship with God. So we have peace through God’s abiding presence with us through what Jesus has done for us.
But that peace is also linked to the Holy Spirit as teacher, because it’s not just about proposition truth or information about God, but applying it in our lives… The spirit leads us to maturity and wholeness. It’s not just book learning its life learning.
Ok how does this connect with where we are at now?
It’s a relationship of trust and truth… I’m not sure I like that old bumper sticker ‘Be patient God’s not finished with me yet’ particularly on a car that swerves into my lane right in front of me without indicating…because it is often seen as an excuse, but I like what it expresses that to be a follower means to be a learner and we need to know that we need to learn and grow. This is an awkward way of putting it but…We need to be open to the truth for the spirit of truth to teach us truth.
Secondly, we need each other. One of the heresy’s of today is that the individual is the authority when it comes to what the spirit is saying. The idea that God has said this to me it’s got to be true and right. Right. We forget Jesus teaching about the Paraclete is communal, it’s always “you plural”, in the west we suffer from a disease I call “you-sing-it is” we focus on a personal relationship with Jesus, the Spirit speaking to me, God with me, that we forget we are called to the people of God.
when Grahame Henry took over being the All Black's coach he made a comment that "once you made the All Black's you hadn't made it as a rugby player rather you had graduated to rugby university. You were a learner.' the church like that team is a learning community. I really appreciated the fact that at the same time Grahame Henry modelled what he was saying by having Brian Lachore, along time All Black's coach who had actually won the world cup and pioneered team coaching on his coaching panel as a mentor.
I love the honest of Leonard Sweet’s comment ‘I’m sure 80% of my theology is right, I’m just not sure which 80%’… We need each other, the Spirit is alongside in and within us… the key component of Jesus truth is how to be the new people of God. We need each other for the spirit to teach us… How can we learn to love sacrificially, serve, forgive and care, , unless we are doing it in community. But also I need the gifts and insights the spirit has given you and you need the gifts and insights the spirit has given me so we can learn and grow. We can make sure we are hearing correctly. It is one of the reasons I believe we need to be in life groups, and am starting 4X4 groups here, with one of the elements being a hear life… we hear from God’s word by his Spirit together.