The Promise, the Pouring Out, the Power

Imagine driving in your car at night in the pouring rain with windshield wipers that don’t work and you are having the same experience that I had this past week.
A week ago, on a sunny Friday, I noticed that my windshield wipers were coming apart and completely useless so I took them off, threw them away, and went to AutoZone to get new windshield wipers for my 2012 Subaru Outback. The man at the counter gave me the new wipers, and I threw them in the backseat of my car and drove home. Later that day I spent about a half hour trying to figure out how to put them on. My Dad happened to be in town and I asked for his help, but we couldn’t figure it out and so I decided they probably gave me the wrong wipers and that I’d take them back the first chance I got. But it stopped raining and I forgot about it.
A few days later, on Monday night at our Young Adult Bible Study, we were sitting in the Urban Farmhouse and thunder and lightning came cracking through the sky and the rain came pouring down. So, I got in my car and drove home from Scott’s Addition to our home in Glen Allen with my driver’s side window down, leaning forward, and trying to use my arm as a windshield wiper, wiping away as much rain as I could. I got home and I gave God thanks for that.
Sometimes life can be like driving at night in the pouring rain without windshield wipers, which to say we can’t see the way forward. We never know the future, but sometimes in our life we come upon situations that we just can’t imagine getting out of. We can’t see a way forward.
Think about these 16 young men and women who are confirmed today and how much of their lives can’t be seen yet, how much of the path is unknown, and yet how they respond to God’s initiative in their life and say “Yes!” to the God who said “Yes!” to them first in their baptism. Think about how much of the road ahead of them they can’t see. And yet they have the faith to respond to God and say, “Wherever you lead me, I will follow.” They can do this because God has promised that he will make a way.
Jesus promises us on the last night of his life, before he lays his life down for us and for the world, that he will send his Spirit to be with us and to help us see the way forward. He calls it the Paraclete or the Advocate and he says, “It is good that I am going away, because I will send the Holy Spirit to be with you and he will make a way for you and help you see a way forward, remind you of me, and lead you into all truth, and he will be your Advocate.”
This past week in North Carolina, teachers poured into the Legislature and into the street to advocate for their students. Wearing Pentecost Red, they advocated for their students with the message that schools need more counselors, nurses, and social workers; health care for the most vulnerable students, and more resources for their students so that these teens can do more that cover the material that will be on the end of year tests – they can thrive as students and uncover the truth of the world God has made and who God has made them to be.
We have the Holy Spirit as our advocate poured into our lives and into the streets of this world to make a way for us so that we have the resource of faith and the gifts of the Spirit to make God known by telling the difference that Jesus Christ has made in our life.
On the first Pentecost Day, God fulfilled Jesus’ promise and poured out the Holy Spirit on this group of disciples and apostles in Jerusalem who could not imagine a way forward. They knew that Christ was alive, as we do, but they were afraid and hopeless and didn’t know what to say and what to do about it, and they didn’t know the way forward, so God pours out the Spirit on them.
And the description of that day is somewhat mysterious: a rush of mighty wind, tongues of fire over their heads, and while everybody there is gathered from all over the world – people who speak different languages – the Spirit gives the ability for all to understand what they disciples are saying as they testify to God in Christ. But some people who stand outside of what’s happening are skeptical and they dismiss them and say “You guys must be drunk!”
About 50 of us gathered at Strangeways Brewing Company for Beer & Hymns on Friday night. It was pouring rain as it had been all week and creeks had been forming where there never were any before and so we decided at the last minute to sing this song called “Arky, Arky,” about Noah and the Flood.
The verses talk about the floody, floody; animals going on the boat by twosy, twosies; and coming off by threesie, threesies, but the chorus of the song is “so, rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!”
And Dan Erickson happened to be there with us and he took it upon himself, just as we do at Virginia Synod youth gatherings, to break everyone into three groups. One group was “RISE,” one group was “SHINE,” and one group was “GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY,” and as we sang the song, when we got to each groups part, that group was to stand and throw their hands in the air as we all sang. We were having a great time and someone yelled out, “Y’all must be drunk!” But we weren’t because we had just gotten started, and we simply love life together.
People may be skeptical of our message, or look at us funny, but we are witness to Jesus, and have been called to throw off the shackles of worry about what others might think, and to tell the hope and the joy we have in him.
He has freed us to rise, and to shine, and to give God the glory, and he has poured out the Holy Spirit on us not only when we gather in a sanctuary, but in bars and homes and schools and every place we lift up the name of Jesus and give our witness — even in the midst of suffering. Even when we feel hopeless and can’t see the way forward.
Paul says, even in our weakness Christ will be with us through his Spirit – because this world groans in labor pains and we groan with it.
This world groans with millions of tons of garbage and plastic swirling around in the seas that are a sign of the sickness of the planet, this world groans with wars that rage on, young people in Santa Fe groan and students across our country groan knowing that we can’t or won’t figure out a way to make them safe. This world groans and we groan with it in our own life, with our sickness and addiction and depression and hopelessness, and when we come to those places in our lives where we can’t see the way forward, but the Spirit groans with us, and takes the little bit of the prayer we can muster or the absence of anything we can muster to God our Father and to his heart.
The Spirit will help us and be our advocate when we can’t see the path forward.
Having lived through driving home in the rain on Monday night, on Tuesday morning I went to AutoZone and I said, “Can you please help me?”, and a man named Lane O. who is a couple inches taller than me, with a big afro and wide smile ambled out to the car with me and put those windshield wipers on may car in 20 seconds each. We laughed and we talked and he said, “We’re here to help.” And I drove home and I made my way through this rainy week able to see.
The Holy Spirit will help you see and help us to see the way forward. He will help our confirmands see the way forward. He will help our congregation see the way forward. He will help his church and all his people see the way forward. He will remind us of Jesus and remind us of his love.
So, may the wideness of God’s mercy lead us on the narrow path.