Scots Church Adelaide

Pentecost
Gospel: John 15:26 - 16:15 (For context, I begin at 15:8)

15:8 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.19If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16:1 ‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

I intend to use the readings from Acts and John when we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday. I am astonished at how different they are from each other.

Acts 2, says Bill Loader is

a symbolic narrative which wants to tell us of something much more than a once-off historical event... celebrating the presence of the Spirit in the early Christian movement.

It is full of rejoicing and triumph, and rightly so. As Peter says

this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions...

Luke tells the story with imagery which guarantees people will remember the old stories and promises from God which were in their history. As I said in my first post this week,

The drama is not simply one of God giving the spirit. It is of a people recognising the God of old coming to them again; like recognising and remembering the tune of an old hymn not heard for a long time.

Whatever else is happening in the community of Luke, there is a joyful recognition of the presence of God among them. Whatever the problems they face there is a spirit of optimism. We often read the first chapters of Acts and wonder what we are missing.

The contrast with the John reading is shocking.

Read John 15, beginning from verse 12. The great gospel of Love continues its theme: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ and immediately inserts a sombre note: ‘13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’

The rest of the chapter is about how the world will hate the community of Love:  ‘If the world hates you...” begins verse 18. In the beginning of the next chapter it is clear that in the experience of the people of John, the word if is barely appropriate.

2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.  (16:2-3)

There is triumph of sorts in John; “It is accomplished,” says Jesus as he dies, and “I have conquered the world,” (16:33) but the community of John is clearly suffering greatly. Verse 7 reveals a great sorrow:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 

You write these words only because people are missing Jesus badly. Why is Jesus gone? Why has he left us to suffer alone? The answer John gives is that we would not have the Spirit, the one who helps us in our struggles, if Jesus had not left us...

... which begs a question. If the Spirit has come, why are they missing Jesus so much? I can’t help feeling that this community is uncertain about the presence of the Spirit among them.

They cannot understand why the world hates them so much. Remember that in this context ‘the world’ is not so much the pagan Romans— you expect them to hate you— the world  is their own Jewish kin; they will put you out of the synagogues. These folk are being rejected by their own people.

They are losing the battle. Jesus says (16:4) “But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.”

I am telling you this so that when the religious authorities, and even your very friends,  are attacking you, and you are losing the battle, even being killed, you will remember this must happen. They do not know God, (15:3) they do not believe in me. (15:9)

The paracletos, what NRSV calls The Advocate, is a legal defender. The Advocate is God alongside us, even at the time we are being destroyed. It does not say we will win in court, only that,

26 When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

We are to keep from stumbling by testifying about Jesus and God as Jesus has shown God to us. Even when it is the hour of our accusers and persecutors.

In this appalling situation, John was convinced that God was still present to his people. God had not forgotten them. Even as they were being killed, they could still make God known.

There is a promise at the end of chapter 16. ‘In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (16:33)

I thought about my life this morning. Mostly I just poddle along; that’s the word which came to me. I thought I’d made it up from plodding and puddling, but it’s really a word apparently; “fossicking about, doing a little of this and that, moving slowly and dare I say it probably in a rather ungainly fashion.” Sometimes I wonder if I live like cats, which also poddle; that’s that kneading they do as they get comfortable on our laps.

I have no idea, really, about persecution. And I often feel like I’m not in any triumphant mode; no great victories for me! If anything, I wonder if the Spirit is real! Is God really with me?

Certainly, I see plenty of evidence of ‘the world’ have its hour. Perhaps I am called to witness to the God of Love despite doubting my ability to talk to a world that does not seem to want to listen, and where it seems I could make no difference; a world where one would think our little congregation of twenty people, on a good day, are insignificant.

Perhaps I would stumble (16:1) if I said nothing because I though no one would listen. Or if I said nothing because then perhaps they would listen, and my comfortable poddling might be disrupted and have me cast out.

Perhaps I am called to be like the people of John, and speak up, and live love, even when it seems the Spirit is not present, and Jesus is long gone. 

Andrew Prior
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

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