The Holy Spirit, the One who Comes Alongside

The Rev. Robert P. Travis Pentecost Sunday Sermon with Baptisms  –10am Church of the Ascension, Wakefield RCL Year B 5/23/2021 Scripture Text: Acts 1:15-17,21-26, Psalm 1, 1 John 5:9-13, John 17:6-19

Sermon Text:

A rush of mighty wind, suddenly blowing through a closed room, tongues of fire appearing over the heads of people.

People suddenly speaking in other languages!

The coming of the Holy Spirit, even though it was announced, was a shock to all who observed it.

Kind of like the shock of being allowed to come back to church, and remove our masks and hug our friends, after so long of being told not to. The guidance from the health department came suddenly, and has changed everything.

In a much greater way, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus happened suddenly, and changed everything.


Someone called, the Advocate showed up that day,

who was so important

Jesus himself said, it is to your advantage that I go away, because if I do not go away the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.


So Who is this Holy Spirit, who we worship?

One might think that after thousands of years,

Any Christian would be able to describe the Holy Spirit.

But I bet if someone came up to you on the street,

And said “tell me about the Holy Spirit,”

You might wonder how to answer that question, or

You might at least not know where to start.

The Spirit we worship is of his very being,

Not defined physically the way Jesus was,

And so He can be hard to describe,

Yet with the Father and the Son,

There is no one greater or more important to our lives

And especially to our lives as followers of Jesus.


It can be especially confusing for us in this day and age,

In this country, because we use the term “spirit” in

So many different ways.

People often say words of comfort to those they love,

When they are about to die, or leave.

It’s common to say “I’ll be with you in spirit.”

And that is comforting,

But it’s not the same as what Jesus was saying,

When he said “if I do not go away, the Advocate

Will not come to you; but if I go,

I will send him to you.”


This is not Jesus saying, “I’ll be with you in spirit.”

Not just a comforting way of saying, “remember me,”

Or I will stay in your memory.

Jesus was talking about an actual person,

With his own will, and intellect, and feelings,

But who exists as pure Spirit.

What Jesus was saying to those who had followed him,

In the flesh, was that Jesus needed to go away,

So that the Holy Spirit could continue

The plan of salvation in a way that only the Spirit could.


The easiest way I have come to understand this role,

Is to say that by taking on our flesh, by limiting Himself

In becoming fully human, Jesus was limited to acting,

In that time and place.

The Holy Spirit is not limited in the same way,

But can literally move all around the world

At the same time.

While we are worshipping and celebrating the Holy Spirit

Here today, and being filled and refilled with that same Spirit,

There are millions of Christians in other parts of the world,

Experiencing the same Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit’s work in the world that makes it possible, for the Gospel to reach the ends of the earth.


And in individual Christians, the Holy Spirit comes as an Advocate to each of us.

That word Advocate, is the Greek word Parakletos,

Which is a legal term meaning advocate,

But is also actually a nautical term.

A Parakletos was a kind of rescue boat.

If a ship was distressed, or sinking,

A boat called a parakletos would be called alongside

That boat, and would fasten itself to the distressed boat,

And keep it from sinking.

So when Jesus promises that the paraclete will come

Alongside us, he is showing us another important way the Holy Spirit acts.


So Jesus leaving us in the flesh, to make room for the Spirit,

Offering us that guidance, that advocacy, that rescue when we’re sinking,

That comfort and care,

Was a tremendous gift.

Perhaps the greatest gift one can receive.

For when one has the gift of the Holy Spirit,

As Paul describes in that wonderful chapter

Of his letter to the Romans,

There is truly nothing to fear.

The Spirit guides us into all truth,

Because he is perfectly connected to the Father and the Son,

And he speaks whatever he hears in that loving relationship.

It is the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible,

For Christians of all education levels,

And backgrounds to declare boldly the word of God,

In all sorts of situations and conditions.


Those who learn that there is nothing to fear,

Stand in stark contrast to the rest of the world,

Because especially coming out of this last 15 months of global pandemic and a divisive election year, all around us there are and have been messages that seek to make us afraid,

Or to manipulate us out of fear.

But the Spirit is the essence of that perfect love,

Which casts away fear.

When the paraclete comes alongside, He casts away fear, and he is there for us whenever we call him.


And this gift of the Spirit that Jesus offers us

is available not to a select few,

But to all of us.

That is one of the differences between this outpouring

Of the Spirit on Pentecost,

And the ways the Holy Spirit was active before that time.

In the past the Holy Spirit had been active on particular people, in particular times,

For particular purposes.

But as Peter references from the Prophet Joel

in the sermon Peter preached on that Pentecost day,

“God declares that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

And your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

These children we are baptizing today, can expect to receive the Holy Spirit, just as adults do.

They can receive the fullness of God in their own selves,

Even though they are young.


Because the Lord promises to pour out the Spirit on everyone

Who desires him,

We can be assured that there are millions of people

Walking around this world, full of the Spirit

Full of the one who testifies about Jesus.

These people are in all denominations,

In all walks of life.

And because they have the Spirit living in them,

The one who is perfectly unified with the Father and the Son,

We can confidently say that Jesus lives

In all of his followers now.

Not just as a memory, but as a real, spiritual person.

That’s why we have the ability to see the face of Jesus

In others.


After one of my children was baptized, I believe it was Evan, a long time ago. My seminary professor came up to me a week later and said to me “Did the baptism  take?”

I was like, “what?”, thinking about my infant baby, and really not understanding what he meant.

He said, “did it take, you know, the baptism of your child, do you notice a difference?”

And he meant it.

He meant that when a person is baptized, if the Holy Spirit comes, as Jesus promised he would, for he told his people,

“I will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,”

We should see the difference.

We should see the face of Christ in that person.

That is part of what makes it easier for us to love each other in the church, as we love the Lord Jesus, for we see his face in our brothers and sisters in Christ.


What do you do when you do not see the face of Christ

In someone, when for example,

You know that they are hostile to Christ,

And do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them?

Then that is where the charge,

difficult as it is, is to be even more intentionally loving

Of those people. To Choose to love them, even if we don’t feel it.

Because it is through loving others that we win

Others to follow Christ,

And invite them to welcome the Spirit into their hearts.


So today, as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit,

And we prepare to invite the Holy Spirit into the lives of these children,

If you have not yet invited the Spirit to live in your heart,

Or if you feel like you need to be refilled with the Spirit.

I invite you to pray in this very service,

To be filled with the Spirit.

And then as you leave this place,

Look for him in everyone you meet.

Now before we invite the candidates for baptism forward,

I am going to offer you

A moment of silence to pray that

Ancient prayer for all of us and be filled or refilled

With the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit!




The Rev. Robert P. Travis

Father Rob goes by Father so that he remembers his duty to the people of God whom he serves. He’s been ordained since 2006, serving in Florida and Tennessee and before that served as a youth minister in Long Island, NY. More details