Come, Holy Ghost, who inspires our souls with your celestial brightness; teach us to know the Father and transform us into the image of the Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.
As Christians, as those faithful people of the New Covenant living after Pentecost, we believe and we know that God the Holy Spirit is with us and in us. We believe and we know that the Holy Spirit is – as Jesus promised – our “Helper”.
That’s part of our core doctrine, one of those things we all agree to believe if we want to call ourselves Christians.
But what does it mean to say that the Holy Spirit is your helper?
If someone who was curious about the faith asked you, maybe someone whose parents never brought them to Sunday School, or someone who showed up at GriefShare or Alpha and started to explore these things for the first time, how would you explain what it means to have the Holy Spirit as your helper?
And, if it’s true that the Holy Spirit is not just with, but is actually in you – right now – could it be that you actually have access to more divine help than you realize?
What does it means to say that the Holy Spirit is your helper?
I want to suggest three ways, three words that all start with the letter ‘A’ to help us remember exactly how the Holy Spirit is at work inside of you, even here this morning.
And those words are Awareness, Attunement, and Ability.
Throughout scripture, the biggest work of the Holy Spirit is making God’s people aware of their situation. Whether it’s the Spirit inspiring prophets to open people’s eyes to the path they’re on, whether it’s the Spirit enlightening kings to accomplish what God has in store for his people, or whether it’s the Spirit at work in the Apostles to give them the words to say to bring the message of hope and healing and forgiveness in Jesus to many different peoples and nations and cultures, the constant thing the Holy Spirit is doing in you is making you aware of your situation, from God’s perspective.
You know, the human mind is a wonderful thing. As the Bible says, we really are fearfully and wonderfully made: we have incredible power to shape the world around us, but the same hands and the same tongue that can create and build something beautiful can also be used to tear down and destroy.
But even the sharpest human mind can never be fully aware of our surroundings or the effects of our actions. Our mind is dependent on our senses, and that’s where we are limited. I only have one set of eyes – I can’t see all sides of a situation; and like it or not, my senses are often clouded. Relationships, desires, passions, hurts, past failures, scars, lessons “learned the hard way” are like lenses that block our senses. It’s like coming inside with your sunglasses still on and instinctively reaching over to turn on the lights. Our minds are only as good as the information coming in, but the shields and scars and coping strategies that we put on to make our way through the world really do prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
This is where the Holy Spirit helps us – but only if we’re willing to listen.
We believe that, right here, right now, the Holy Spirit is in us, making us aware of the bigger picture; making us aware of how things really are from God’s perspective.
…ok, so that all sounds nice, but how does this “Awareness” actually help us?
The Holy Spirit is at work in you when you have a great plan to put someone in their place, when you have a great plan (at least from your perspective) to show how you’re right and someone else is wrong… and then you get that feeling in your gut. That feeling that makes you say “darn” (or perhaps something more colourful), that feeling that puts you in your place; that feeling that doesn’t come from your mind, and more often than not is the furthest thing from what your mind wants; that feeling that says, “hold on now, there’s more to the story. Yeah, what they did was wrong, yes you’re right – at least partially. But there’s a broken person behind that action, a person that God wants to build up, a person that enough people have already tried to tear down. …So shut your mouth and say your prayers”.
That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. To bring that awareness, and that stinging, frustrating gut feeling that you need to open your eyes, shut your mouth, get over yourself, and say your prayers.
Have you ever thought about the work of the Holy Spirit in those terms? You know, speaking in tongues might be pretty flashy, or having a tongue of fire appear over your head would be pretty cool, but I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit dwelling within me to say “…shut up, Alex. There’s more to the story. See things from God’s perspective. See the brokenness in that person’s action… and see the brokenness in your reaction, so now get over yourself and trust in God.” That’s the help of the Holy Spirit – the gift of Awareness of how things really are.
The next way the Holy Spirit helps us is what I call “Attunement”.
Now if you know anything at all about music, you know the importance of being in tune. You can be a star musician, you can have the best technique, the best instrument, the greatest skill, but if the strings aren’t in tune, it’s never going to turn out the way it was supposed to.
But, beyond that, an engineer would tell you that poor tuning is actually destructive. If you build a bridge and you don’t take the vibration of the cables into account, what’s going to happen when a strong wind blows? Same thing with a skyscraper or designing a car or anything else.
All the beautiful sounds on earth are created by vibrations – but when things aren’t well-tuned, vibrations can bring down a building or a bridge, they become not just destructive, but self-destructive.
So how does the Holy Spirit help us with being attuned to God?
Well, remember as we read through the Old Testament, and even as we read through the Gospels, all the countless, countless times when people are heading in the wrong direction, missing the point, headed for their own destruction, making their bad situation worse than it was before, and we shake our heads and say “why are they so stubborn?”.
…and then, maybe, we look at our own lives and wonder the same thing.
A big part of the Holy Spirit’s work is to be, more or less, a sort of built-in tuner. As we gain awareness of how things really are, from God’s perspective, He also calls us to tune in to His will. It’s that voice of God within that says “trust me to work all things together for good; come and be part of it, don’t get in my way”.
And that’s a tall order. God’s ways are not our ways, and when we look back and see God’s wisdom at work, it’s rarely the way any rational human would have guessed – I mean really, it’s Pentecost; we’re here today because God sent out some Galilean fishermen to change the world! Not a great plan by human standards. And, like it or not, God wants to use a couple of dozen, mostly grey-haired people in this room to bring hope and healing to Fort Smith. Again, not a great plan by human standards. But, if we allow the Holy Spirit within us to tune us in, when the wind of God blows, we’ll work together to create the most beautiful harmony.
That’s the attunement that the Holy Spirit provides, dwelling within us to point us and call us to tune in to God’s will, to align our own wills with His, so that rather than making a dangerous or destructive dissonance, we’re working with God to create something beyond what we can ask or imagine.
And when that happens, when we have Awareness and Attunement with God’s will, the Holy Spirit brings…
I’ve known people who’ve been really frustrated. They want the fruit of the Spirit, they pray for the fruit of the Spirit, asking God for joy and peace, for love and kindness and gentleness and self-control. I’ve known people who have earnestly offered themselves to be pastors and teachers and evangelists… but they hadn’t opened their eyes to that awareness that the Holy Spirit brings, and their own will wasn’t attuned to God’s, so of course a loving God wouldn’t say yes to their prayers, since they’d only end up worse off than they were before.
But when we’re aware and attuned with God, that’s when he gives us the ability to rise to the occasion. And sometimes it’s dramatic – there are those in this room who have seen real miracles in their lives. But often it’s much more mundane. It’s me, having a terrible speech impediment, stuttering and being too shy to speak, to the point where half of my teachers going through school never heard my voice.
I was a musical kid, but ask my mother, how many times did I enter the music festival or be set to play in a year-end recital, only to be crippled by fear and an upset stomach. But when I stepped up to lead the church in singing, when I became aware of a real need and tuned myself in to God’s will, even as a child of 12, that fear went away. God gave the ability.
I would actually skip school when there was public speaking to be done. But when God, through the Church, said ‘I’m calling you to ordained ministry’, and I tuned in and said ‘I don’t know about this, but if it’s God’s will, then ok’, suddenly the fear was gone.
…And you know what? In just the three years I’ve been here, there are at least a half a dozen others in this room who have had the same experience. When we’re aware, when we’re attuned, God will give the ability to do more than we asked or imagined, and all for his glory.
So on this feast of Pentecost, store away those three “A”s. If you’ve been baptized and have faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is already in you… let him make you aware of how things are from God’s perspective; let him tune you in to God’s will; and then don’t be surprised when God gives the ability to do the work you’ve been given to do.
To God be the glory, now and forevermore. Amen.