Sermon: May 14, 2023

“It’s A Promise”

After a worship service a mother with a fidgety seven-year-old boy told her Pastor how she finally got her son to sit still and be quiet. About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered: “If you don’t be quiet, the Preacher is going to lose his place and will have to start his sermon all over again!” It worked.

John 14:15-21

In an edition of The Christian Century Rev. Michael Lindvall writes about a time that he took his son Benjamin to the New York Auto Show at the vast Jacob Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan. By the time they arrived mid-morning the place was already packed. Within half an hour Lindvall found himself separated from his son; he had lost his child in the crowd.

With his head swimming and his stomach-churning Lindvall broke out in a sweat. He dashed to the Ford exhibit looking for a little blond boy in a mass of humanity. When he couldn’t find him, he decided to expand his search. He went to security and asked them to announce his name on the PA system. They informed him that they didn’t do that and directed him to the Lost Child Center. When Ben wasn’t there, he began to panic. He went back to security and raised his voice but still got no help. So, he then started a systematic search of the Jacob Javits Center.

Two horrendous hours later he found him. He was at the Mercury exhibit listening to a six-foot robot stutter out the praises of the latest Cougar. He wasn’t 200 feet from where he had last seen him, and he wasn’t crying. When Ben saw his dad he ran to him, and as dad lifted him in his arms a tear or two trickled down his cheeks.

After the hug Lindvall put his son down and asked him, “Benjamin, weren’t you afraid?” “Only a little,” he answered. “What did you do all this time?” Lindvall asked. “I waited here; I knew you would come back.”

Very soon Jesus will be leaving the disciples, yet He would remain with them. Maybe you’re thinking, “How can this be, leaving but yet still there.

If you are new to this Christianity thing you may have some questions. So, Jesus is born, and He comes along around the age of thirty and finally realizes His purpose in life. He starts preaching and teaching. He develops a small team of assistants. He performs miracles like turning water into wine. He heals folks with withered hands and tired eyes. He brings folks back to life and teaches others how to be born again. He starts a revival, or a renewal, or whatever you may want to call it. But He steps on some toes and gets in the pockets of some of the religious elite and dies on a cross. But He willingly (how can someone do that?) allows it to happen so that we can be forgiven of our sins. They bury Him, and three days later He returns. But now, you’re saying that He’s going to leave again, why?

Well, you get a hint in the 17th verse of our text this morning that says, “But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” He, Jesus, lived with them and will be in them. Still not clear? There are seven verses in the Gospel of John alone that explain why Jesus must leave (John 16:5—16:10—16:17— 16:28—17:11—17:13—and 20:17) and they all point to the fact that Jesus must return to the Father so that the disciples could receive the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, often times misunderstood, is the very presence of God within us and all believers, helping us to live as God wants and building Christ’s Church on earth. By faith we can have access to the Spirit’s power each day.

Most people don’t understand the Holy Spirit because they don’t want to understand it. If we understand it, we might come to rely on it. Many people, even those who are in Church every Sunday fear the Holy Spirit. Why? Well, they’re afraid that the Holy Spirit might change them. The Holy Spirit might lead them to do something that might require them to leave their comfort zone. The Holy Spirit might take ahold of them. It might even lead them to raise their hands in worship. Or say Amen to something the preacher says. The Holy Spirit is the very power of God in us working for and with us.

Changing gears just a bit, I don’t understand the concept of being an orphan, simply because I have never been one. In my hometown, right next to my grandparent’s house was what we referred to as “The Children’s Home,” which was full of orphans, including siblings in some cases. I went to school with some of them. I played sports with some of them. The couple who ran the home were called Mom and Dad by the children and they tried their best to provide a normal childhood for all the kids. But I have to wonder how normal it was for them.

If you Google the term “famous orphans” on your computer, phone, or tablet you’ll find a surprising list of folks who went on to become outstanding people in many different fields and were able to accomplish much in spite of their misfortune.

Some of those famous orphans are: Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, and President Andrew Jackson, to name a few. These people found themselves orphaned—not by the death of their parents but because of a break-up of their families which resulted in them being put up for adoption.

Our Methodist Children’s Home deals with those who have been orphaned. Some are sent there by the courts because their parents are in jail, and some are sent there by different agencies because they have no family capable of taking care of them. I heard one of the administrators at the home say once that there is nothing that will tear at your heart more than to have a child say to you, “Nobody wants me.” I don’t understand being orphaned.

But thankfully, the disciples, and now us, don’t need to worry. Because Jesus made a promise that is extended to us as well: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).

But in the meantime, we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, which has been active among people from the beginning of time, but after Pentecost, which we will celebrate in two weeks, He came to live in all believers. Most folks are unaware of the Holy Spirit’s activities, but to those who understand Jesus’ words and the Spirit’s power, the Spirit gives a whole new way to look at life.

As believers, we will recognize the Spirit because His ministry will be a continuation of the life and teaching of Jesus.

No one is as tender as the Holy Spirit—so tender and so patient. And yet He comes to rally us—to bring us to our feet again—to help us face life unafraid.

Make no mistake: God will not pamper us. Maybe you remember what I said a couple of weeks ago when I spoke about being comfortable in church. The Spirit whom the Father sends is a strong Spirit, with rousing calls upon us. He braces—He revives—He reinvigorates—He puts new heart and courage into those who are dispirited—and rallying the broken ranks enables us to snatch victory out of defeat. So it was with the first disciples and so it will be for us!

I overheard a conversation that Connie was having with her mom this week. They were talking about when school would be out for the summer and Connie said they had 12 and a half days left. It didn’t hit me right then but the Holy Spirit spoke to me the next morning about how we set all these temporary goals for ourselves. How many days of school are left. How many payments we have left on our vehicle. How many treatments we have left at the clinic. How many sessions of Physical Therapy do I have?

I say all of that to say this: yes, we have these temporary goals, but our focus should be on one goal. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Yes, my friends, Jesus is coming back for us, whether we are ready or not. It’s a promise! It may be an individual thing, or He may return for all of us at one time, but He is coming back to take us to be with Him in His Father’s house where there are many rooms with one of those rooms being prepared just for you and just for me. But in the interim, He’s making another promise—the promise of the Holy Spirit!
In closing, there was a man who underwent open-heart surgery and told his friend about the experience. The day before his surgery a nurse came into his room to visit. She took hold of his hand and told him to feel it and hold it.

She told him he would be immobile for as many as six hours and unable to move—speak—or even open his eyes, but he would be perfectly conscious. She said he would hear and know everything that would be going on around him.

During those six hours, she said she would be at his side, holding his hand just like she was doing then. She said she would stay with him until fully recovered. Even though he would feel absolutely helpless, she would be holding his hand and promised not to leave him alone.

On the day of the surgery everything happened just like the nurse told him it would. When he woke up, he couldn’t do anything but he felt her hand holding his for hours and that made all the difference.

We are called to come alongside people we don’t even know. Why? Because that is what Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit has done and continues to do for us. Jesus promised to those who love Him that He wouldn’t leave us as orphans. He promised that He would send us a counselor—an advocate—a comforter—a companion—and a friend to help us get through the everyday challenges of life. Whatever you choose to call Him—it’s a promise that He continues to keep.

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