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The Rev. Dr. Patrick Keen The Rev. Dr. Patrick Keen

The Rev. Dr. Patrick Keen is pastor of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI.

Member of:

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Representative of:

Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI


The Comforter Has Come

John 15:26-27; 16:1-15

Pentecost Sunday

June 08, 2003

The day of Pentecost is the 50th day after the Sabbath of the Passover week, according to Leviticus 23:15-16. Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks in Deuteronomy 16:10. In Exodus 23:16 it is known as the Festival of the Harvest and the Day of First Fruits in Numbers 28:20.

Even these ancient festivals were borrowed upon by the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures, borrowed from the different cultures they were exposed to -- those cultures that had heavy influence on them--the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian cultures, traditions that go back even before recorded time.

So, you see, this is an ancient festival celebrated years before the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this festival is a continuation of a promise made by God in Jesus Christ and promised by Jesus in his last days and hours with his disciples.

On this day we celebrate the help, the hope, the confidence, the guidance, the freedom, and the empowering presence of God's promise, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Advocate, the Helper.

In our Gospel reading, the words of Scripture are now being revealed and fulfilled--the law, the prophets, and the psalms. Jesus is now revealing to his disciples what has been kept from them except from the miraculous work Jesus performed.

In those last days we find Jesus in the upper room with his disciples. We give thanks to God for the Gospel writer John, who provides for us a detailed account of the things that have happened at that time in the Upper Room. The central theme of this time, the discourse Jesus has with his beloved disciples, is love. Love is spoken of 31 times in chapters 13-17 in the Gospel of John, only six times in chapters 1-12.

This love is not just spoken of but is displayed by Jesus in that present time and for future times. In other words, Jesus was speaking to the now and the not yet.

He displays his love by washing the disciples' feet, a sign of servanthood, but also a sign of baptism as Jesus told them, "Unless I do this, you have no part with me." He said,

I have set you an example.

He shows his love to a friend who is bent on betraying him by giving him permission to do what this betrayer has determined in his heart to do. Can you love a friend through betrayal?

I have set you an example.

Jesus demonstrated his love again by telling another dear, close friend and confidante that he would deny him. Peter claimed, "Lord, I will lay down my life for you." Jesus was letting him know that though Peter would deny him, he would love Peter through the denial and they would be reconciled. Can you love someone who has denied you, turned away from you?

I have set you an example.

We move from this conversation of denial in the 14th chapter of John where those great words of comfort are spoken. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God; trust also me. "Believe God. Believe me. Hope in God, hope in me. Can we dare speak these words into the hearing of someone who needs to be consoled, comforted, reassured? Do we have a testimony that will allow us to, with assurance, declare, "Believe God. Believe me. You can believe God"?

I have set you an example.

In the 15th verse Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

This word obey is a difficult word for this modern culture to absorb. We don't feel as if we are obligated to obey anyone or anything anymore. Rules that applied to our society and culture, the standards that were set for past generations, do not apply to this new or what we call postmodern generation.

I don't understand a need for guns in our streets, in the hands of our children. I don't understand the government's inability to move on this issue at any level. I don't understand the church's silence on this issue. But, yet, I hear Jesus saying,

I have set you an example.

But this verse continues with, "And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth." Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. The Counselor, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Helper. A legal term, but with a broader meaning than just the counsel for the defense, no, this term is used for anyone in trouble with the law. The Spirit of Truth, in essence and in action. The Spirit is characterized by truth. The Counselor.

I have set you an example.

Jesus has lived the truth and represented the truth in God's ancient promise to Israel and all creation. The coming of the Counselor is a sign of God's promise being fulfilled, the promise to reconcile all of creation back unto God. "Lord, we need a Pentecost."

Words of love came from the lips of Jesus as time wound down upon his journey with his followers and his era among mortals. Words like:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

You see, the world gives expecting that you will give something in return. God gives us and we receive out of pure love -- God's love for God's creation. In chapter 15, Jesus reminds them of their and our connectedness with him and to God through him. "I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener." He tells them that the world will hate them because the world hates him. The world hates the truth and Jesus is the truth and it is the Spirit of Truth that is being promised to be poured out upon humanity. Truth that exposes sin and evil. Truth that calls for accountability and responsibility. Truth that beckons God's people to faith and faithfulness.

Buy why is Jesus telling the disciples this now? And what has this to do with Pentecost? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Historically, God's problem with God's people has been their inability to believe in the power and ability of God to perform in their and our lives. God comes to us on this Day of Pentecost with power saying, "I am able. I am is able. Able to do the impossible, to reach the unreachable. I am is able!"

John 15:26-27 says, "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify for you have been with me from the beginning." We have a responsibility to give our testimony regarding Jesus' presence in our lives.

In John 14:16-17, Jesus has said, "I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. The Spirit of Truth." In this passage, Jesus is presenting the first of a series of passages regarding the Holy Spirit. Others follow in verse 22, chapter 15:26, and in chapter 16:7-15, our present text. The gift of the Father. That is what we celebrate today. The gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost.

And so now, again, we have these same words. Why? Because teaching is repetition. Repetition is important. It was for them. It is for us and for all disciples in and of every discipline.

Jesus says he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. Jesus is known by the name Wonderful Counselor. He proved to be that. Just ask the woman accused of adultery. Wonderful Counselor. Or the children who were told to stay away from the Lord. He interceded for them. Wonderful Counselor! The woman en route to bury her son, the centurion's daughter, Mary Magdalene, all would call him Wonderful Counselor.

But he will give another counselor.

In my ministry, I have had the opportunity to minister to individuals involved with the legal system at various levels. I'm in the courts and I see the difference in treatment between those who have representation and those who don't, those who have paid lawyers and those who have court-appointed lawyers.

I know what it means to have an advocate, to be an advocate, to need an advocate. If you don't think a good or great advocate is important, you just ask O.J. Simpson. I know times when I have come into the courtroom and the defendant was happier to see me than their lawyer. You see, in the courtrooms I have served as a counselor, an advocate, a comforter. Jesus says to us today, on this Pentecost:

I have set you an example.

People in a nursing or convalescent home or other institution providing care who have family members visiting often are assured quality care, even if you have to provide it.

I have set you an example.

Parents should know that making surprise visits to the schools keeps the students and the faculty on their toes. It's time we give up Oprah, Jenny, and All My Children, and get off your butts and go to see about all your children. Our children, our teachers, and our schools need advocates.

I have set you an example.

And why would this be a message for the Day of Pentecost? Well, in John 16:4-5, Jesus says to the disciples, "I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you." As long as Jesus is with us, we have a great advocate. But Jesus has said,

I will send another Comforter.

John 16:6-7: "Because I have said these things you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." Jesus has told them that the time is coming and is at hand when trouble, problems, difficulties will come. Opposition to the message of Jesus' life-giving grace and mercies will arise. The disciples of Jesus will need some powerful help to overcome these obstacles. Christ's disciples need a power that has the ability to penetrate the layers of lies, sin, and evil and get to the truth of any matter or situation.

We find the disciples in Act 2:1-20 ready to take on the challenges of the world they now face without Jesus. They are on one accord with one mission, one vision and only one agenda and one purpose. To work as agents of God, agents of reconciliation, promoters of this same love Jesus displayed to his disciples passing that love on to others. The Holy Spirit -- a way maker.

So on this day of Pentecost, when many students and youth are being confirmed as full partners in the ministry of Jesus Christ, we pass onto them the power of the Holy Spirit, this advocate who will lead them and guide them from this time through each day in every circumstance they will encounter in life. We celebrate what Christ has done in our behalf and continues to do, for the promise continues that Christ now sits on the right hand of God the Father making intercessions in our behalf.

Our Old Testament lesson asks, "Can these dry bones live?" Yes, Lord, now that the Comforter has come. All things are possible since the Comforter has come. I don't know about you, but I'm glad that the Comforter has come. Amen.

Most merciful God, we give you thanks for this day of the Festival of Pentecost when we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate. Lord, we ask in your mercy and your grace that your Holy Spirit will continue to lead us, guide us, and direct us to the fulfilling of your perfect will in our lives. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


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