Forever Your Advocate

John 14:15-21
Confirmation – 5th Sunday of Easter
Elizabeth M. Deibert

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

When you were an infant, you had all your needs provided. Your only job was to cry, and one of your parents or caregivers would feed you, rock you, or change your diaper. Your adoring parents were your advocates, proud when anyone else noticed just how beautiful or how amazing you were.

When you were a toddler, you wandered off close to danger many times. You nearly touched the hot stove. You nearly pulled the lamp over on top of you. You nearly ran out in the road to be hit by a car. You threw temper tantrums, sometimes hurting yourself, sometimes others. We hope you’ve outgrown those. And in those moments of risk, your parents or caregivers were your advocates swooping you up at just the last moment, guarding your life and teaching you about its dangers
When Tim, Amanda, Liz, and Rebecca were little, their parents brought them to church for baptism, promising along with the congregation to nurture them in Christian faith. We entrusted them to God’s care, hoping that one day these children of ours would grow up to profess their own faith. At your baptism, confirmands, the minister or priest prayed that the Holy Spirit would descend upon you to guard and protect you, to fill you with wisdom and grace, that you would grow in the ways of Christ and be part of the communion of the faithful.

And here you are today, claiming that responsibility for yourselves today. Here you are, today, after years of Christian nurture, after years of advocacy in your life by your parents, after years filled with both good choices and bad, here you are, standing before God in the presence of these witnesses to say that the Christian faith into which you were born is now what you claim now for yourself. In the company of these people, this congregation called Peace gathered with others who love and support you, you are stepping out in faith by the power and the counsel or advocacy of the Holy Spirit.

You are becoming fellow believers, not just children of the church. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ now. When you were baptized, your parents dedicated you to Jesus Christ. Now you are dedicating yourself to Christ. They’ve been carrying you around in this glorious an arduous marathon called the Christian life, and now you are saying, “I’m ready to run the race with my own two feet.”

As you take this significant step, it is crucial that you understand that you are promising to do your best to live according to God’s truth with the support of God’s people, to live according to the mercy and grace which is yours in Christ. Further, you need to appreciate the gift of the Advocate, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit who promises always to be with you. Hear the words of Christ to his disciples, as words to you today:

John 14:15-21

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,

to be with you forever.

17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,

because it neither sees him nor knows him.

You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me;

because I live, you also will live.

20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me;

and those who love me will be loved by my Father,

and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

In these six verses, we see the essential nature of the Triune God. Jesus asks his Father who sends the Spirit. Jesus says, “I am coming to you,” helping us to appreciate that the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He says that one day we will know this communal nature. One day we will know, Jesus says, that “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Not only do we see the mystery of our Triune God in this passage, but we see the paradox of our Christian life. That God promises us the reliable loving, guiding presence of the Spirit, but also asks for our loving obedience. Some Christians dwell on the promises of God. They emphasize the grace of God, by which we are saved. It is not our faith, but God’s grace by which we are saved. In this passage, we are promised not to be orphaned. No we have a forever advocate, a lasting supportive presence in the Holy Spirit.

But there’s another side to the story. We are called to obedience. We are called to live according to the commandments of Christ, like the song we just sang with the children. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind. And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor just as you love yourself.”

You see, Tim, Liz, Rebecca, and Amanda, it is wonderful for you to know that God loves you. That was the message of your baptism – that God’s love for you is endless. When you were little, nothing could be expected of you, so the emphasis of your baptism was on what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful message of grace, forgiveness, and love – a message we want to share with all who have not heard. It is great news.

But the confirmation of your baptism is your commitment to love God back. When you love people, you care what they think, what they want. You want to make them happy. You cannot say you love God, Christians, if you don’t care enough about Christ to worship and pray, to serve and forgive others, to study God’s word and be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. This is work, sometimes joyful work and sometimes really difficult work. So while God loves you and nobody and no thing can ever take that away from you, you have a responsibility to respond to that love with obedience. Not a popular word these days – obedience – but when we live as God intends, the mysteries of God’s goodness are more fully revealed to us. We live then more fully because Christ is living in us.

I want to end with a story that Nancy Hogue sent to me this week. It is a great testimony to the power of Christian love in the life of a teen:

There was this new kid, a freshman in high school, on the way home from school one Friday. As he was carrying a big pile of books, a group of bullies, approached with insults. They knocked all the books out of his arms and tripped him up, so that his glasses went flying. Another freshman saw this and because of his Christian compassion, he was moved to help this nerdy guy named Kyle. Afterwards, their friendship grew, and when they graduated from high school four years later, Kyle was the valedictorian and gave the speech at graduation. He opened his speech with a story that shocked everyone. He told the story of the week-end Freshman year that he had planned to kill himself. He explained how his friend’s compassion on that Friday afternoon and the days that followed had made all the difference in his life.

We are called to be that kind of people, people who love God and love others with deep compassion. We are given the Holy Spirit as our forever advocate, that we might be advocates for others, especially those in greatest need.

Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who Is everywhere present, filling all things, Treasury of Good Things and Giver of Life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us from all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.