The Holy Spirit (and Mother’s Day)

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I’m going to be honest with you all.

Mother’s Day is a tricky day for the church.

For some of you,  it is pretty straightforward. On Mother’s Day you celebrate your mom with lunch together, or you are celebrated by your children, some cards, some flowers.  To you all, I wish you a wonderful Mothers Day celebrating together. Being a mom isn’t easy, and a lot of you aren’t just moms, you are great, hard working (and probably exhausted) moms, and you are pouring into your children everyday, or supporting your children as they raise up their own. Make sure your family appreciates you. Or at least grab a nap.

For some, Mother’s Day is great.   And for some it’s really, really hard.

Some of you have had to say goodbye to your mom.

Some of you have battled with infertility, maybe for a really long time, wanting to be a mom.

Some of you are moms who have lost children.

Some of you might not want to be a mom and  people get really judgey about that.

Some of you have a mom who is sick, or who the relationship there is….not what you’d like to it to be.

Some of you are finding a role change in your life, where now you are taking care of the mom who took care of you.

So for Mother’s Day, we could  focus on the mothering side of God .Or one year I preached about how God is like a mother hippo. But that didn’t go over so well.  Or we could have gone the way of one pastor I knew, who totally forgot it was mother’s day at all….and preached on hell.

But this year we are focusing on everything Jesus taught. Looking back to January, we have looked at how Jesus’ teachings can help us live our lives to the fullest. We have studied forgiveness.  But what does Jesus say about mothers?

Not a lot, it turns out.

But one of the most well known teachings is from Matthew 12, when someone approaches Jesus to let him know his mother is outside wanting to talk to him, along with his brothers. He replies:

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then he points to the disciples and says “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Don’t you wonder if Jesus’ mom Mary was like “wait a second….”

Don’t mishear this, Jesus loved and valued his mom. Even as he is on the cross in the gospel of John, so close to his death, he sees his mom standing there with John, and as he dies, he says “Woman, here is your son and to John, “here is your mother.” Even in death, he looks out for his mom. It isn’t that Jesus doesn’t think moms are important. It is certainly also not a statement diminishing women. Jesus, in a way that often made other people mad,  treated women like equals and advocated for them. He defended widows and healed a woman who was hemorrhaging and sent out women as evangelists and affirmed a woman who sat in the place of a disciple which wasn’t a place women were found.

So it’s not that Jesus didn’t love his mom. Or that he didn’t regard women, in general.

But what we see in Matthew’s  story is Jesus’ ongoing focus that goes above and beyond our flesh and blood families, and into the importance of our relationship with him.  “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Since we are looking at everything Jesus taught this year, how do we do this? How do we put ourselves into the place of being in the family of Jesus Christ?  How do we follow Jesus in doing God’s will when he isn’t even here to show us how?

Glad you asked.

Next week is Pentecost, but we are going to get a start on the Holy Spirit this week, because the Holy Spirit, this mysterious, seldomly talked about (at least in the Presbyterian Church) member of the trinity of God, helps us answer our question of how we become a part of Jesus’ family. The Spirit is what Jesus promises us will be here when he dies and rises from the dead and then goes to be with God the Father. It’s the one thing we really have to hold onto, so it’s really important.

Then who is the Holy Spirit? More particularly, what did Jesus teach about the Holy Spirit?

Our scripture today answers a big part of that question. It is from John 14. Jesus has been telling his disciples that he is about to die, and this has put the disciples in a serious crisis. They knew that when Jesus was born that they way we interact with God had fundamentally changed. . When God came in the person of Jesus, in what we call the incarnation, God went from God out there, to God right here, standing in front of me. Put yourself in their shoes, for a minute. God incarnate in Jesus Christ is literally standing right in front of them. They have been following him from place to place, seeing him do amazing things. But now he has told them he is going to die, and leave.

They are devastated.

Would this mean the end of this revelation from God? Would the stories of Jesus die with them? Was this really it? What would they do now? Then Jesus begins to teach:

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,  to be with you forever.

First, Jesus answers the question of what it will mean to love him when he is gone. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” You won’t just tell stories about him, or sit around remembering the days when he was there. No, you will go out and live the way he taught you. But Jesus knows this won’t be easy for them. The disciples forget what Jesus taught as soon as he leaves the room! They are going to need help. They may feel like he is abandoning them, but he assures them that he isn’t. Because they are going to have another Advocate.

Take a look at that word, advocate, from verse 16. This word comes from Paraclete, which can mean an exhorter or encourager or comforter or one who appeals on your behalf. All of these are good interpretations, which is why our English Bibles use any number of them. For us, whatever English Bible translation we use makes the choice for us. The NRSV uses Advocate. But the disciples would have heard all of those meanings in the one word. Jesus is leaving, but they will be given the Paraclete, a comforter, advocate, counselor, appealer. It’s interesting that these are all words that described Jesus too.

Jesus is assuring them that first, they won’t be alone, because the Paraclete is coming and second, that the ministry of Jesus doesn’t end with his death and resurrection, but instead this will be the beginning of a new era for God’s people until he returns again. That they will be guided by this Paraclete, who will keep Jesus’ life and teachings alive with them. He goes on:

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.  “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

In other words, he tells them again that if you want to keep loving me once I am not standing right in front of you, do the things I taught you to do. Keep to the teachings, live out what you know I am about. Hold on to your faith.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Here John connects the word Paraclete with one we are more familiar with, the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that connects God’s people with Jesus after he leaves them. Jesus, in the gospel of John, tells us two specific things this spirit does. One, here in verse 26, is reminding the disciples, and us, of Jesus’ teaching, conserving all that they have heard. The Spirit will be the one to help them remember, and pass on the teachings of Jesus to others. Later, in John 16:12-13 Jesus goes one step further saying

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When 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.

Jesus knows his time is short, and that the disciples can’t process everything he needs to tell them. After Jesus is gone the spirit will help them understand Jesus’ life and teachings in new ways, when they are ready.

Then we see two things in the gospel of John: The Paraclete, or the Holy Spirit, helps us do the will of God by reminding us of Jesus’ teachings, and helps us interpret those teachings today.

But if you have done any study of the holy spirit, you might have noticed there are some things we think about the Holy Spirit doing that aren’t mentioned here.  What about the Holy Spirit’s role in spiritual gifts? What about baptism? What about God speaking to each of us?

These are all true functions of the spirit. Some of you here have had these things happen in your life. You have felt God speak to you. Or you have experienced God gifting you to serve. This all comes up later in the Bible, in Acts and in the letters.  All of these are things the Holy Spirit does within each of us, individually.  These are important.  But they aren’t Jesus’ concern in this teaching.  These two specific teachings on the Paraclete, or the Holy Spirit, have one specific thing that we may have missed.

Every time Jesus says “you” in this passage, it is second person, plural.

We don’t have a clear way to show that in English the way they do in other languages like Greek, or Spanish. For us, “you” as in one person, and “you” as in you a group are the same.  So we have improvised. In California, it’s you guys. In New York, it’s youse guys. And in Kentucky, it’s youens. If we were to reread this passage in the south, Jesus isn’t saying the Holy Spirit is coming to you, and you, and you, separately, to read and interpret the word. No.

 Jesus is saying the Holy Spirit is coming to all ya’ll.

The Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ teachings and helps us interpret them when we get together.

That sure sounds like the church to me.

When we come together, here, as the church, we get to see the promise Jesus made here, happen. This means what we do here together matters, that this is a place where we can experience the work of the Holy Spirit as we are connected to Jesus Christ.  God the Holy Spirit turned you into  y’all. Not just any kind of y’all, but a y’all that thinks, and speaks, and acts like Jesus. God the Holy Spirit is the one that moves us from being a bunch of separate Jesus fans, and turns us into a Jesus community.

Let’s go back to where we started, with Mother’s Day:

For those of you who are actively parenting right, you are in the right place. I know that telling you to make time to bring your kids to church might sound like guilt, like one more thing you need to add to your list. But actually, bringing your kids to church gives us a chance to share the load with you. If you are parenting kids or teenagers right now, I can guarantee you are busy, and your schedule is full. Mine is too. But I can tell you that when we make time, as parents, to bring our kids to church, even though it adds something to our schedule, it somehow lightens the load. There is a roomful of people here who can help carry the burden, who want to encourage and support you, who can love and encourage you and your kids. When we get together, as a church, we can hear and interpret God’s word, together, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

This means the responsibility to raise up your kids and tell them God loves them isn’t something you have to do alone. It’s not even something you are supposed to do alone. Because Jesus’ teaching was second person, plural. This is what the church does, together. All you have to do is get them here. Then let the church be the church.

If you are in that group where Mother’s Day is a hard day for you, then you are in the right place too. Because in the church you can experience the comforter, the counselor, the holy spirit, at work in a unique way when we’re all together. God absolutely is everywhere, and can walk with you when you are alone and lifting you up.

But when we get together as a church, we can be reminded that God binds up the brokenhearted and mends our wounds. That you are not alone. Your family is so much bigger than you think. Because it includes the people all around you, here. And the way we love Jesus is by living out that love with one another.

So give us a chance to walk with you.


About the Author

Megan Collins is the co-pastor of Maitland Presbyterian Church near Orlando, FL. Find her on Twitter @pastormegan


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