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Our Heavenly Legal Team

May 29th 2011

St. John in our Gospel text today presents us with a legal team that works on our behalf - God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Read or listen to discover what these heavenly Counselors do on your behalf...

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Easter 6A – “Our Heavenly Legal Team” – John 14:15-21 – May 29, 2011 I enjoy watching television shows and movies which depict the work of lawyers. Most of these tv shows and movies depict flashy, dramatic, criminal law courtroom scenes. In reality, most legal work is done outside the courtroom. In fact, in England there is a distinction made between the work certain lawyers do. A barrister is a lawyer who does trial work and a solicitor is a lawyer who counsels clients in civil matters, such as corporate policies or tax law.

St. John in his writings presents us with an image of a legal team which acts on our behalf. Each member of the team provides unique functions. 1 John Jesus is described as our first Counselor: “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1Jn 2:1). He is our advocate before God the Father. He acts as our trial lawyer A public defender pleading our case before God. Jesus intercedes and speaks in our defense.

And in our Gospel lesson today, Jesus reveals the second member of our legal team. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper (or Counselor), to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (v16, 17). The Holy Spirit – the “Spirit of Truth” is our second Counselor. Whereas Jesus is our advocate before God, the Holy Spirit advocates God to us. He teaches and reminds us of Jesus’ Words and guides us in all truth.

Our first Counselor, Jesus, wins freedom for us. Unlike other trials we were guilty until proven innocent. We are guilty before God because God’s Law requires us to be perfect, and we aren’t. All of us break God’s Law on a daily basis. But unlike other Counselors, Jesus went to extreme lengths to make us innocent in God’s eyes. Out of His love for us, Jesus took all of our sin and guilt upon Himself and was judged in our place. He received the punishment we deserved. He paid the price for our sins by dying in our place.

When John purchased a new lawn mower, the company told him that, in a few days, they would send him a bill for the first payment. Since John was always prompt in paying his bills, he watched the mail. After two weeks the bill had not come, so he decided to act. He wrote a check for $200 and sent it to the company with a short note of explanation. In a few days he received his check back with a notation that his balance was zero. There must be a mistake, he thought. So he wrote another check and a longer note of explanation. Again the check came back with a note saying he owed nothing. With a desire to be honest, John sent another check with a picture of him sitting on his new mower. The company thanked him for the picture, returned his check, wrote another note that his account was paid in full, and asked him not to send any more letters. An inexplicable true story.

What a parallel that story is for our lives. In the same way, we, whose accounts are filled with sin, stand before the Judge and receive the judgment: “paid in full!” Paid in full because our Counselor, Jesus, took our punishment on Himself. An inexplicable true story. Today’s epistle lesson from 1 Peter brings this to light: “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” And we do stand as righteous in God sight. When God looks at us from His seat of judgement, He doesn’t see our sin and guilt, for they are covered with the blood of Jesus. We, who were guilty, have been justified, proclaimed innocent! And it is that justification which opens up a new life for us a life as God’s people.

This is where our second Counselor comes into play. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, teaches us how to live this new life. He testifies to and teaches us the truth of God’s Word. It is the Holy Spirit, who came to us at our baptisms, and through water and God’s Word restored us to a right relationship with the Father. As it says in 1 Peter: “Baptism now saves you.” It is the Holy Spirit who comes to us through God’s written and spoken Word, who teaches and counsels us to live as God’s people. This life lived according to the Spirit of Truth encompasses two aspects.

The first aspect of our new life as God’s people, about which the Holy Spirit counsels us is illustrated by a story of a Chinese missionary imprisoned during World War II. She managed to keep a forbidden item during her 3 year imprisonment a copy of the Gospel of John. During those years, she memorized one verse each night, until she knew the entire Gospel. When the prisoners were freed, most of them shuffled out of prison downtrodden, but the missionary was chipper and vivacious.

Why was the missionary able to live in confidence amid the worst problems of life? The difference in this missionary’s attitude was in what our second Counselor had done in her life. The Spirit of Truth had counseled her in the wonderful promises which give God’s people hope and comfort. The Holy Spirit worked through the Truth, that is, through the words of the Father spoken by Jesus. In this way the Spirit brought the truth of God’s freeing grace in Christ Jesus.

The missionary knew, as do we, that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have the victory over sin, death and the power of the devil. No matter what happens to us in this world, the Holy Spirit reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus as Paul writes in Romans 8. And the more we are in the Word, the more the Spirit of Truth teaches us of the hope, and comfort, and confidence we have amid life’s problems.

The second aspect of our new life as God’s people, about which the Holy Spirit counsels us is love. Love is the heart of our new relationship with God. A relationship brought about by our God’s love for us. In our Gospel text, Jesus says that the person who loves Him “has” His commands and makes them his own. Making His commands our own simply means to live a life of love – love for God… love for neighbor.

A great image for us is to imagine the Holy Spirit minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day whispering into your ear, counseling you on what the truth of this love of Christ means as you go about your daily life. St. Paul describes our new life – this life of love – in Ephesians 4:17 and following. Did something anger you when you were preparing for church today? Hear the Spirit whispering in your ear words of Ephesians 4, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” deal with it today(4:26).

You will have some conversations today. Hear the Holy Spirit whisper in your ear, “Don’t gossip; say only what will build the other up according to his or her need” (4:29).

When you look around today, do you feel bitterness toward someone? Will you let the Spirit of Truth confront you in your thoughts and melt that bitterness? St. Paul writes, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every, form of malice” (4:31).

The truth is that God forgave you in Christ. Will you let the Spirit of Truth show you how to forgive others around you? Again the Holy Spirit writes through St. Paul, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:32).

The heart of the truth of God’s love is that He showers it on those who do not deserve it, on people like you and me. Who around you does not deserve your love? The truth is that God wants us to love and act in mercy to all people. Let the Spirit nudge you into something you may never have thought of before. 1) Do you have a relative that you find hard to love? Make a phone call this afternoon. 2) Is there someone at work or school you avoid? Go out of your way tomorrow to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. 3) Do you know someone who doesn’t know the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus? Show them love by telling them that Jesus died for their sins.

Be open to the Spirit’s counsel as He daily reminds us of Jesus’ words, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

Our Counselor, Jesus has set us free from the sin and death to live a new life in Him. Through weekly attendance at worship, weekly Bible study, and daily reading of God’s Word, hear the Holy Spirit’s counsel as He teaches and reminds you of God’s promises in your life and as He teaches and helps you to live a life of love. Amen.

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