Scripture: John 16:12-15; Delivered: May 26, 2013
Surely you’ve seen those Allstate commercials with Mayhem, right?
You know–there’s a normal-looking guy in a nice suit walking by and talking in a normal tone of voice–And he tells you that he is actually some sort of trouble for you–something that will leave you reeling, but if you have Allstate insurance, you are protected from “Mayhem like me.”
In each new commercial the poor guy has new cuts and bruises and bandages signalling all the mayhem he has been causing in our lives.
I think my favorite Mayhem commercial is the one where he is in a tree, and he says, “I am a random wind storm and this is a weak branch above your car…Shaky, shaky, shaky, shaky…”
And suddenly the branch breaks loose and falls with Mayhem in tow, crushing the car below and setting off a loud car alarm. From his place on the roof of the car he says, “Luckily you have Allstate to protect you from Mayhem like me.”
The Mayhem commercials have been hugely successful–and the reason is not JUST because they are funny (although they ARE hilarious).
They are successful because when we watch them, we can relate.
We’ve all been there–when things just can’t seem to go right.
When everything is going wrong.
When nothing in the universe is working in our favor.
But thank heavens for those little blessings in moments of distress!
Sometimes those blessings didn’t feel like blessings just a few days before… but now they are!
Take that insurance check you just wrote…
the one you grumbled about…
but a week later, when Mayhem strikes and a tree branch crushes your car, you are thankful you have insurance…because in the end, it is cheaper than having to pay all those bills on your own.
Sometimes, the things that work to our advantage (like insurance), don’t always feel like they are working to our advantage (like paying bills for insurance) until we need their benefits (like after an accident).
The disciples were living in a world of Mayhem…and for them it wasn’t in the form of a good-looking man in a suit making us laugh…
Their mayhem was serious stuff.
And Jesus had just laid it all out for them in his farewell speech–They were going to have a hard row to hoe.
Just look at the sort of stuff that Jesus had told them in the few verses BEFORE the ones we read today:
They were gong to be persecuted, just as he had been.
The world was going to hate them with the same sort of vitriolic hatred they had hated Jesus.
They would go to the synagogues to worship as they always had, and they would be chased away.
They would suffer.
And some of them… more of them then they cared to think, would be killed.
Before all of that happens, though, they were going to be filled with sorrow at Jesus’ departure from this world.
They were going to have to face all those hardships with broken hearts!
That is not exactly good news.
It’s not exactly the sort of thing a person wants to hear after they’ve just spent three years traveling and learning and worshipping with someone as special as Jesus.
And yet… Jesus tells them that his leaving them is TO THEIR ADVANTAGE?
They are about to face total mayhem–
they are about to suffer
and be persecuted
And he won’t be with them…
And he says it’s FOR THEIR OWN GOOD?
They had no way of really knowing what Jesus was talking about. He had said so much when he told them he had more to tell them, but knew they couldn’t bear it…
They had already seen so much…
lived through so much…
and in the days ahead, they were going to see some terrible things happen:
The arrest and puppet trial of Jesus,
his public humiliation,
and ultimately his death.
With that looming on the horizon, how could they possible bear to hear all the things that Jesus had to teach them– the ways in which this little group of believers would go and change the world?
So much had already been turned upside down in their lives, how could they hear that they were about to lose everything, but gain everything by going to strange places and strange people?
How could they bear it all?
It was hard enough for them to hear their friend, their teacher, and their messiah tell them that he was going to leave them. They didn’t have to wait until he was gone to know that their hearts would break.
Their hearts broke at the very thought of it.
How on earth could that sort of news be GOOD?
How on earth could that be to THEIR ADVANTAGE?
Jesus tried to tell them, but I’m not sure how much they were able to understand… not at that moment, anyway.
In time, we know they did.
In time, they saw everything Jesus promised them come true.
In time, his words rang true and brought a deeper understanding.
But at that moment, it had to be hard to imagine that what he was saying would ever be enough.
He told them that the very same Spirit of Truth that abides in him and that comes forth from the Father, would come to them…
In their times of trouble, that Spirit of Truth would be their comfort.
In their times of weakness, that Spirit of Truth would empower them to do the impossible.
And they need not worry that they didn’t understand every word Jesus had spoken to them, because Jesus’ teaching would not end with his physical departure from this world, but would continue through the Spirit of Truth.
All that Jesus had said in the past, would make more sense once they Spirit had come to them.
And all that Jesus could not speak to them NOW because they could not bear it, would be made known to them through the power of the spirit in time.
We know that they didn’t really understand how this message was one of comfort just by looking at how the disciples reacted to all the devastating things that happened after Jesus’ farewell speech:
They way they scattered after his arrest,
the way they hid in a locked room after his death,
their reluctance to hear the women’s fantastic tale
that they had seen a risen and living Jesus,
Thomas’ hesitation to accept his friends’ witness
that they had visited with Jesus in the flesh and blood…
They had heard Jesus’ words, but they had not really made a lot of sense.
Their courage was slowly building as they encountered the risen Jesus, but then he was lifted away from them and returned to his place in heaven…
And once again they were unsteady… knowing that they could not keep what they knew to themselves, but also not really knowing how to take those first few steps in a world filled with mayhem that was just waiting to get its claws into them.
But then, Jesus’ promises were fulfilled…
Last week we gathered in this room to remember that so long ago the Holy Spirit had entered into another room and fulfilled the promise of Jesus Christ:
The Spirit of Truth had come–and in an instant, with the roar of a might wind, that Spirit undid all the divisions and differences of the believers and united into one body in which they were able to understand and love one another fully.
Followers throughout the generations have felt the power of that same wind–been illuminated by those same tongues of fire–as the Spirit of Truth has risen above our differences and divisions and made us one body, joined together through Jesus Christ all around this globe.
And even today, when two or three gather in his name, we feel that same Spirit of Truth alight on us and breathe an understanding into us as we struggle together to serve the Lord.
Wherever we gather–
wherever we struggle together–
wherever believers are joining to study and pray and praise and wrestle with God, the Spirit is there
opening our minds,
opening our hearts,
and teaching us–
revealing Jesus to us over and over again.
When mayhem moves in and we are left reeling from the craziness of life in this world, it is the Spirit that moves in and gives us comfort.
When the mayhem of this world has fogged our vision and left us feeling lost and alone, it is the Spirit that moves in and guides us to the path God has laid out before us.
It is why we gather in places like this–to feel the Holy Spirit filling us up with God’s grace so that we can go back out and encounter the world around us with courage and confidence.
We come here not to escape or to hide, but to join our hearts and souls together and relish in Jesus’ fulfilled promise: That we have been given an advocate and no matter how crazy things get in this world, we are not alone.
We will never be alone.
And no matter how much mayhem life throws at us, we will never be lost because the Holy Spirit is there, teaching us,comforting us, guiding us…
So… think of this place as the insurance check you write… So that when Mayhem strikes, we are prepared.