Kristin LeFeber May 14, 2023
Before I read today’s scripture, I would like to be clear that I view the opportunity to speak with you like this an honor and a privilege. Thank you.
A reading from the gospel according to John: These are the words of Jesus speaking to his disciples not long before his death and resurrection:
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.”
Let us pray:
Holy One, make me a channel of your truth by the power of the holy spirit. Amen.
I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church when I was 14 years old. In all honesty, I only did it because that’s what you were supposed to do. In fact, I even asked my dad if I had to be confirmed in the Catholic Church and he calmly explained that I had gone through so much religious education up until this point I might as well go through with this part, too. So, I did. He explained I could always change my mind later. So, I did.
I wasn’t even confirmed properly, per se. I distinctly remember when the bishop asked my aunt who was my confirmation sponsor my name she replied, Kristin. He replied, “Christian, I confirm you in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” He was supposed to say my name, not name my religion. To show some grace, I was one of about 80 kids being confirmed that day (it was a huge church) he was tired. I still wondered if it counted.
Anyway, my parents, who have always been strong figures of faith in my life, threw me a little party the day I was confirmed. My mom’s good friend made me a beautiful cake on which my dad had asked her to write, “We are one in the Spirit.” He, no doubt, got the inspiration from the well known hymn, but I didn’t know the hymn at the time and believed he was a poetic genius. Wow. How beautiful. We are one in the spirit. I am one in the spirit. Kristin or Christian or whatever my name (or religion) is is one in the spirit. Faith is a family and I’m a part of it. That’s what I take away from that day - It definitely counted. The Spirit was at work…
We often forget about the Holy Spirit though, don’t we? This mysterious breath of the divine. The advocate Jesus promises. Moving in and amongst us. Teaching us. Bolstering us. Beckoning us.
We forget to keep our eyes open for her. We forget to live spirit-led and spirit-filled lives.
Sometimes we do sense her, in our hearts, or in the wind, or in the words of a poem, scripture or friend. Sometimes we see her at work in the moment. Often we realize her ways after the fact.
But she is an eternal resource of sorts that I know I don’t tap into enough or notice enough or acknowledge enough.
The power of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The presence of God.
It is this power, this resource that joins us together as a faith family and spurs us on to do the work to which we’ve collectively been called.
The UCC statement of faith says: God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
People differ on exactly when and how God bestows the Holy Spirit. Is it birth? Baptism? Conversion? Confirmation? I’m not going to go there today because well, I don’t know. I think I know what I believe, but I’m not going to go there either. Where I am going to go is to simply point out that the spirit is among us! People carry the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit around with them! All of the time! As Jesus promised in our scripture this morning - he sent us another advocate, the spirit of truth.
I believe the Holy Spirit is with me. I have an eternal companion. An eternal champion. An eternal advocate. If you believe the Holy Spirit is with you, you have an eternal companion. An eternal champion. An eternal advocate.
Advocate wouldn’t typically be the first word I would choose to describe the Holy Spirit. But after spending time with our reading today, I am quite drawn to it - to this promise of another advocate. And I think it is because instead of being flowery and flowy, the word advocate is different. It has some grit. Some umph. Some strength and sense of action. Public action.
And I think that’s just what the Spirit can give us - some grit. Some umph. Some strength to act - to do the work to which we have collectively been called. She is our advocate. Enabling us to be advocates in return. To publicly stand up for the cause of Christ.
Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandments are to love God, and your neighbor as yourself. He even says in today’s passage that if we keep these commandments he will send us another advocate.
At first I thought Jesus was talking about himself…that he meant that he was a first advocate for us and the holy spirit would be a second. But then I got to thinking: maybe Jesus was talking about us…we are the first advocate and the spirit is the second.
Maybe Jesus was saying to his disciples I am leaving you soon. You will need to be an advocate in my absence and I will send you the power of the presence of the holy spirit of truth to be another advocate.
Regardless, we are called to keep Jesus’ commandments and if we do the work of loving and advocating for God, neighbor and self, the holy spirit will be right alongside us.
Now a few questions and (my) answers:
1. Is advocating for ourselves selfish?
Yes, but in the best way possible. We must look out for our own health, safety and enjoyment.
2. Does God really need an advocate?
Yes. We are called to share the good news which ultimately is God. So don’t hesitate to do so in word or deed.
3. Can advocacy, even so-called Christian advocacy justify bad behavior?
No. Simply: love Jesus, but don’t be a jerk about it.
And finally, as I mentioned earlier, following Christ is not a solo endeavor. We are in this advocacy arena together. Remember: faith is a family. Lean on each other. Show grace to each other. Welcome help in its many forms. How we advocate with one another might be most important of all.
Praise God. We are one in the spirit. We are one in the Lord. And they will know we are Christians by our…(love) AND advocacy…our advocacy by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.