Homily for Christ’s Chapel on Sunday after the Ascension, 16 May, 2021
Dr. T. Y. Hiter
St. John 15:26
The Ascension of Jesus Christ, bodily, literally ascending into the heavens, is one of those things that the so-called “modern” Church tends to be embarrassed about, and on occasion, to deny, outright. We Continuing Anglicans do not do that. We believe it happened exactly the way the Gospels say it did. Besides, there are many other things that really are difficult; People in the 1700s may have had a problem with ascending into space, but we’ve seen it happen too often to be deniers, haven’t we? Who knows what we may or may not believe, a year from now? The Ascension is real. One of the most fascinating things about the Ascension, if a bit perplexing, is that without it, the Holy Ghost could not have come, and without Him, the Church could never have become what it has become, whatever that is.
What is the role of the Holy Ghost? We know who He is—he’s the third person of the Trinity; the Comforter; the Advocate. Though we have raised some questions during the past few weeks about just exactly what those words mean, we know that He is the paraclete, an anglicization of the ancient Greek word that means “one who stands alongside and gives advice”. But, advice about what? That’s the topic of our lesson this morning.
Actually, Jesus answered the question, already. It’s right here in the 15th Chapter of John: “he shall testify of me:” Ah! But what does that mean? To “testify”, according to one excellent on-line dictionary, Merriman-Webster, means “1 : to make a solemn declaration under oath for the purpose of establishing a fact (as in a court) 2 a : to make a statement based on personal knowledge or belief : bear witness. b : to serve as evidence or proof. Wow. That’s a lot, isn’t it?
“To make a solemn declaration under oath for the purpose of establishing a fact”. Testimony can be relied upon. Testimony is true. It is factual. Giving false testimony is called perjury, and it is a serious crime. You can go to jail for longer for perjury than for the original crime, if you testify falsely. Testimony is reliable. We may not like it, and it may not fit our own individual picture of what happened in any given situation, but “testimony” is true, as far as the law is concerned. Its given under oath, in courts of law. If the Holy Ghost “testifies of [Jesus Christ], then we can and must take that testimony as fact. So, what does the Holy Ghost say about Jesus Christ? Well, He testified what we read in the New Testament! That’s how we know the Gospels and Epistles are true. They were inspired by the Holy Ghost. With a few exceptions, the New Testament was not written by men who were actually there, during Jesus’s ministry. How can they be accurate? By the inspiration of the Holy Ghost! He testified concerning Jesus Christ, just as Jesus said He would.
“To make a statement based on personal knowledge or belief”. That’s the second variation on the theme of Holy Ghost testimony. We know His testimony is true based on the fact that it’s testimony, but furthermore, we must remember, He is the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Ghost can testify concerning Jesus Christ because He knows Jesus Christ. He has known him since the beginning of time. He, along with the Father and the Son, is God! The Holy Ghost testified through the words and pages of the New Testament writers, but He remains available to testify to us, today, as well! Directly. He is still alive, just as Jesus is still alive. The difference is that Jesus is alive in Heaven, seated alongside the Father, but the Holy Ghost is alive in our hearts. He is real. He is the paraclete. He is alongside us, ready to advise us; to comfort us, in King James terms, whenever we need it. He’s in the words on the pages of the Bible and He’s in our hearts. And, He can be relied upon.
And, finally, in terms of definitions, “: to serve as evidence or proof.” We don’t need to prove the existence of, the message of, or the power of the Holy Ghost. His very existence is proof. Remember the old Evangelical Hymn, “He Lives!”? The refrain goes, “He lives! He lives” Christ Jesus lives, today. He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way. He lives, he lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart!” Exactly. We know Jesus Christ is alive because the Holy ghost tells us he’s alive. That’s all the proof we need. The testimony of the Holy Ghost is all the evidence we need. Like Jesus the Son and like God the Father, He is God!
So, that’s what He does. But so what? So, we have proof concerning Jesus. So what? What are we supposed to do with that? The lesson goes on to address that, too: “And ye also shall bear witness…,” The Holy Ghost is not in our hearts just to make us feel good. He’s there to strengthen (“comfort”, in King James verbiage) us to do what we’re supposed to be doing! “And ye also shall bear witness”. We’ve said before that the Great Commission was not just to the twelve. We, too, are “sent”. We, too, are supposed to “go into the world and make disciples”. Each and every one of us is supposed to be an evangelist. We are each “sent” into the world with the mission of bringing souls to Jesus Christ. That’s what the Holy ghost is for. He gives us the words we need when we need them. He reinforces us. He gives us courage, when we need courage. He gives us strength when we are about to fail. How does he do all of that? He testifies to us concerning Jesus. He suggests that we need to pick up the Bible and read it. The words we need are there. He urges us to read them. Sometimes the words aren’t clear. He will give us clarity. Sometimes, people don’t want to listen. He will give us backbone. As Jesus said at the close of our lesson, “these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” Jesus told us. The Holy Ghost will bring them to mind. We serve an awesome God!