I don’t like “goodbyes.” Leaving is “change” and “change is difficult.”
The last time my mother saw her mother, several years before I was born, Mama said, she stood in the dusty road in front of their farm house and watched and waved as her mother's horse-drawn carriage could be seen as just a puff of dust down the long country road.
A few months later she got word that her mother was dying and she took a train to go to Griffin from their farm near Covington and when she got there her mother had already died. It was so traumatic for my mother that she would never again watch anyone out of sight.
Even when she was old and we would visit, Mama would kiss us goodbye in the house or on the porch but she would always turn to go back inside before we got in our car. Mama was never a superstitious type person. But this continued to be a sad memory of the long goodbye to her dear mother for the last time.
It occures to me as I write, that my way of saying “goodbye” is not to stand in driveways and wave as my husband always did. And it probably goes back to this model from my early childhood.
Most of us are not that extreme about goodbyes, but we often say “I’ll see you again” or “you all come” or something besides “goodbye.” Actually the word “goodbye” is a comforting thought. In just about every language it is a blessing. It is really a shortened form of “God be with you.”
I could stand up here and bore you with many accounts of goodbyes and “going away times” because Charles and I were in the Itinerant ministry of the Methodist Church for 35 years and I alone in the years since 1986 when my husband died. We never said goodbye from any pastorate without tears and prayers. Often we have received "going away" gifts.
When my husband and I and our family were moving from Rome Georgia in 1968 after nearly 6 years at Trinity, the ladies of the church gave me (as their pastor’s wife) a surprise “Going Away Shower” of personal gifts like gowns, jewelry and hose.
Today I want us to look at this Scripture in the Gospel of John about Jesus going away from his disciples. The disciples did not give Jesus a “going away gift” but Jesus gave them and all of us a gift and it occurs to me it was not just a gift but a shower of gifts that keeps on giving!
Jesus had great concern for these frightened, grieving disciples. He called them His “little children” and he told them He is not leaving them comfortless. Jesus is not leaving them “orphans” with no one to care for them. Jesus assures them and us that he is sending a “helper.”
Have you ever wished for a “helper?” Husbands and wives are often helpers to one another. When I think of all the things I used to do for my husband, especially when he was to conduct a funeral. A funeral is so very important to most people, and the pastor doesn’t have much notice and there are all kinds of emotions, Often, he/she has many other things to do at the same time and his or her other work goes on.
I used to check and lay out my husband’s clothes to wear. Even when he had a secretary, he usually prepared at home for a funeral, would often ask me to type up a poem or an order of worship so as to give a copy to the organist, the soloist and the funeral director. I have cleaned out and sometimes washed his car so it would not be the dirtiest car in the funeral procession.
Much of this, people can now hire someone to do, but to have someone at our fingertips to anticipate the need and do whatever needs to be done is what many good wives and husbands do for each other.
There are times when we need help beyond just a physical helper. So Jesus anticipated our greatest need and he sent us a “helper”. He sent the Holy Spirit, closer than breathing and nearer than hands and feet.
This helper, this Paraclete is God’s gift to us…a going away gift from Jesus to His disciples and to us who come after them. PARACLETE is the English translation for the title John uses for the Holy Spirit…this “Holy Companion.” Paraclete is a wonderful word. There is no single word in our English that can express the rich and powerful meaning of “paraclete.” “Para” in the Greek means “alongside” and the root of “kletos” is “to call, ” So this Paraclete, the HOLY SPIRIT, is a helper “alongside,” When we try to describe the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Helper, we need a bunch of words, not just one word; Encourager, Counselor, an Advocate, a Witness , truly a “shower of gifts”
In verses 18-and 19 Jesus says, “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” We all search for peace. We all search for something to help us cope with the problems of life. This peace that Jesus gives is not always a force to protect us from the wounds of life, but a force inside to empower us for living. Jesus said, “You shall receive Power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
This “going away” gift of the Holy Spirit is not only for the Disciples but for all believers who come after them. POWER, PEACE, ENCOURAGEMENT, HELP, COUNCIL, ADVOCACY . . .this is the wonderful going away shower of gifts that is just right for all and more far reaching and wonderful than any loving spouse or pastor or friend. This is not a gift to the world because the world neither sees God nor knows Him. As the world is blind to Jesus, so they are blind to the Holy Spirit, The Paraclete, the Helper.
A story I like to tell, is about a little girl in the days when people rode trains with sleepers. She was put to bed in a top bunk and because she was very fearful in her strange surroundings, she was told that that God would watch over her. As everyone got quiet trying to sleep, the little girl became afraid and called out, “Mommy, are you there?” The mother assured her that she was there. A little later, she called out louder, “Daddy, are you there?” The father tried to reassure her that he was nearby also. After this went on for a while, one of the other passengers on the train lost his patience and said, “Yes, we are all here. Your mommy, your daddy, your brother, all your aunts and cousins. Now please settle down and go to sleep!”
The little girl was silent for a moment and then quietly asked, “Mommy, was that God?”
Jesus, in offering us the gift of peace, does not say, “I’m here, God is here, the Holy Spirit is here. Now be at peace!” In other words, Jesus does not treat us like a frightened child saying, “Shut up and get quiet. I’m giving you whatever you want"
Sometimes God has to say “no” to our requests…like a loving parent who understands our needs and who wants to “grow us up. Part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to grow us up to “Christian maturity”. … maturity that manifests itself with love, joy , peace and the other fruits of the spirit.
Too many of us are still babies in Christ. God wants to grow us up into mature and happy, witnessing Christians
I am a long time student and taught Methodist and Christian history in many of the churches where my husband served as pastor. The early Methodist circuit riders rode west with the first settlers in this country… and their spirit filled sermons were used of God to changed the face of America…there is at least one Methodist church in every county in the United States.
We read that early Methodist sermons had 4 points:
1. All of us are sinners,
2. All of us can be saved. In contrast to the Calvinist doctrine that some are predestined to be lost and are never quite sure if they are among the "saved."
3. All of us can know we are saved… “the doctrine of Assurance .
4, The 4th point had to do with the work of the holy spirit in daily life… that is …that people can lived like “saved” or Christian people, This is not “ sinless perfection” but “perfect love” or Christian maturity.
None of us are without sin but too many of us like to wallow in our sins, saying, "Well none of us are perfect" and “He’ll understand and say well done.”
John Wesley talked about “perfect love”…not always perfect judgment or perfect ability …but perfect intentions and “perfect love” for God and others.
I like the story the little boy who was tagging along in a field as his dad was plowing on a hot humid day. Soon the little boy ran to the house to get his dad a glass of ice water. He returned to the field smiling as he gave the glass to his dad. The dad noticed the little boy’s muddy fingers had been holding on the inside of the glass and mud was seeping down inside the large glass of water. The child’s love for his dad was perfect, his intensions were perfect but his performance, his ability, sometimes like ours was not perfect.
The boy’s father took the glass, and thankfully drank every drop of the ice water. The Lord can use even our imperfect actions when our heart is right.
Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace that Jesus offers is a gift that is a by-product of faith. We receive this gift by faith in Christ. As some of us have been blind to Jesus, so we are blind to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Helper.
One of the reasons all the bad things happen in our world… The “world” is blind to the “Helper.”
Many of us see peace as an end in itself and search like “orphaned street children” searching for food in garbage cans. We struggle to find peace by taking pills and/or alcohol and other drugs, in all kinds of entertainment and activities, new wives, new husbands, or affairs. We frantically drive seventy miles an hour for hundreds of miles to get to a vacation spot and grit our teeth and say, “I’m going to have a good time if it kills me!”
I read this week that college students interviewed about what they most wanted in life stated’ “What I want most in life is love, happiness and peace.” I have wonderful news today
The 3 most prized possessions student are seeking in life are found in the first 3 of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galations 5: 22. The list is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
While America has never been a quote Christian nation, unquote. This basket full of fruits of the Spirit of God was practiced by enough of our founders; they were able to build the greatest nation the world has ever seen. God bless America and may we see this kind of change again in our great country again.
Carl Frazier received a call that his church had been broken into. He rushed over to see what was missing. He and a church member and the police went through the building and saw that nothing was missing. When they got outside, he realized that his car had been broken into and the robber was still in his car. They called to the burglar and he stood up and pointed a gun at them. Frazier said he was not sure who was more frightened, the robber or them, but the robber for some reason chose to turn and run.
Later when someone said to him, “Somebody sure was watching over you,” Frazier said that was a comforting thought that God was watching over him. And later he thought about it and wondered what the attitude would have been if the guy had pulled the trigger.
Carl concluded that even if the man had pulled the trigger, God would have been watching over him because the love, joy and peace that God offers to us is not the absence of all conflict not the absence of all sorrow, not an escape from worry, but the power to overcome it. The Christian dies like everyone else, but the Christian lives through his death. Paul said, for me to live is Christ but to die is gain.
The Helper that Christ gives us, the peace that the Lord showers upon us in the power of the Holy Spirit, is something that the world cannot give and cannot take away. Even in the midst of an uncivil world of terror and suicide bombers and fanatic enemies.
Into our burdened world of war and terror, of “dog eat dog” work places, of hospitals and nursing homes and funeral parlors, and war, Jesus offers the Paraclete, the Helper alongside us with a shower of gifts like love, joy and peace.
It is more than a beauty rest mattress, or a Lazy Boy recliner at the end of a long and tiring day. It is more than a devoted husband, a cleaning lady, a gardener or a secretary. All of which I sometimes wish for: they are valuable but transient. God is a Helper always present. He abides!.
I love the old camp meeting hymn, “He Abides.”
I’m rejoicing night and day,
As I walk this Pilgrim way.
For the Hand of God in all my life I see.
And the reason for my bliss,
Yes, the reason is all this;
The Comforterer abides with me.
He abides, He abides!
Halleluia He abides with me!
Paul tells it like it is in Romans 8. “Nothing, neither life with all it’s problems and pains, nor death with all its fear and uncertainty, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, nothing can separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus.”
A.Z. Tozier, a theologian and author, said, “The heart of the world is breaking under a load of pride and pretense.” “Pride and pretense” fuels much of our terror and sorrow. “Pride and Pretense is often so strong in our life that if you push it down in one place, it will come up somewhere else. There is no release from this burden apart from the humility of Christ.
On May 24, 1738, John Wesley was a highly educated Oxford don. He was fearful with no peace in his heart. He went quite unwillingly to a church meeting in Altersgate. Someone was reading Luther’s preface to the Book of Romans. Wesley tells us he felt his heart strangely warmed and he knew that Christ had died for the world and also died for him. He knew God had forgiven his sins and saved him from "the law of sin and death." And as we say, the rest is history. Wesley went out from this encounter with the Living Lord to change the World.
I don’t know about you, but I say again, “O God, shower my life with the gift of the Comforter, the Advocate, the Helper to walk with me every day of my life, to fill my heart and my life with your love, Joy and Peace (your shalom)
As we surrender our burdens to God, They are replaced with the going away gift that Jesus left for us, His followers...a shower of gifts that keeps on giving every day of our life and on into eternity with him, Amen.