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Comforter Descending

John 14:15-21

The Rev. Jon Roberts

23 May


Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”


The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Anthony van Dyk, c.1618-1620 Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany

Flames of fire burning,
Vision clear and bright.
Winds of Spirit blowing,
Whirlwind in my sight.

What can be their meaning?
What the reason be?
Comforter descending,
Burn your truth in me.

Now my tongue is telling
God’s own works of might.
Spirit take me forward,
Lead me to the Light.

Breath of God receive me:
I retain no sin.
Comforter descending,
Bring your peace within.

Now behold the mystery
That His love would give.
Wind and fire of Spirit,
Make my spirit live.

Now my tongue confesses
You alone as King.
Comforter descending
Gifts to me will bring. [1]

Those who do not confess God alone as King
are in the greatest need of a comforter.
Those who do confess God alone as King
are the comforter to the greatest need.[2]

There was a young man by the name of Joshua. It was the final day of his summer missions trip with his high school youth group and they had some free time to explore the Mexican town in which they were staying. That afternoon in the central plaza, his friend Steve, took out his guitar and started playing and they sang fragments of any song they could remember. Their repertoire included "The Star Spangled Banner", "Amazing Grace" and a few rock songs. Their cacophony drew many curious glances from the passersby, and to their delight a few passing tourists threw money into Steve's open guitar case. By the end of the concert, a group of raggedly dressed children had gathered around, staring in wide-eyed amazement at the pile of pesos in the guitar case. Hoping to make them smile, they took the money to a corner store where they purchased nine cans of soda. Eight of the children jumped for joy when they handed them the drinks, but one little girl wouldn't take it until Joshua spoke to her father. Thinking that the free soda must come with strings attached, he asked him in Spanish who had given it to her. Joshua replied with the first words he could think of: It was "un regalo de Jesus Cristo" - a gift from Jesus Christ. He nodded slowly at the little girl, and she drank excitedly. Two months later he began his freshman year of college, quickly involved in a long list of activities. As there were times when he reached the brink of burnout, he remembered that day on the plaza and saw how much of his life had now become an attempt at proving he was worthy of God's love. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that Jesus’ love is un regalo, with no strings attached.[3]

Last week we had the great commencement as Jesus ascended into heaven. It was the great graduation celebration and now is the moment of Pentecost. It's the time when the light of Christ is passed along. It does not fade away but rather it is ignited by God's Holy Spirit and His truth burns in us. We strive to obtain an eternal light, one which never burns out when our tongue confesses God is King but it is hard, especially as time passes and we may forget. Recently, some of us discovered a rubric in our Prayer Book regarding the Paschal candle. This is the light of Christ brought in at the time of the Easter Vigil by the Deacon. It stays with us for nearly seven weeks, or fifty days, following that moment. It stays lit during the Ascension, forty days after Easter and at one moment someone said they were going to extinguish it because Jesus had left. A faithful servant then presented the rubric in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that specifically stated that such an action must wait until the day of Pentecost when the Comforter arrives and lights the spiritual fire within us. Apparently the practice of extinguishing the light of Christ on the day of the Ascension was revised because too many were saddened to think they had to wait an entire week before they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This must have been the feeling of those disciples who once again were feeling sad and alone. They were perplexed. They wondered "What can the meaning be?" A week later they would ask a different question, “How has the Holy Comforter descended upon us?"

We have a reflective moment in the Gospel today as Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." "But how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? I am in the Father and the Father is in me", says Jesus.[4] It is to be as He foretold. He gave us another Counselor at Pentecost. The light never was removed from the world, but instead became located in those who believed in Him. Only when they had faith that He as always with them, no matter what and with no strings attached, could their tongues confess. In the same way, it is our own native tongue that is telling "God’s own works of might. Spirit take me forward, lead me to the Light." We can place all doubt, all fear and uncertainty upon the Lord in order that the Holy Spirit may edify and counsel us in our darkest hour. He teaches you of God's unfailing love that comes to those who believe he is the way, the truth and the life. In such a way as this, let your tongue confess that God alone is King as the Comforter descends; this gift to you, will He bring.

[1] Mrs. Sandra Davis, Pentecost, 21 March 1986.
[2] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[3] Joshua Sundquist, Daily Guideposts 2007, Guideposts Books: NY, p.207
[4] John 14:8-17

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