"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever."
John 14:8-17, (25-27)
June 3, 2022, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: Unknown
It’s Pentecost, the great celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s quieter in John than in Acts. There’s no sound of a violent, rushing wind, no tongues of fire, no crowd and foreign languages and accusations of drunkenness. In place of all that, there’s a promise uttered to a grieving group.
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
The word here is notoriously hard to translate. The Greek is paraclete which means to come alongside. Sometimes translators say Advocate, sometimes Counselor, sometimes Comforter, or Helper, or Friend, or Companion. I love that it can’t really be pinned down, that there’s no one perfect word that captures it.
This is how it is with the Spirit. It defies all efforts to pin it down. The Spirit is the side of God that’s completely beyond logic or systems or even words. The Spirit is a companion for all of those who feel like their experience of God doesn’t fit neatly in categories. It’s for those of us who struggle to put our faith into words. That’s not a deficit; it’s a sign you’re in touch with the Spirit. The Spirit always defies words and easy categorization.
I think everyone has an experience of the Spirit whether they call it that or not. It’s the sense that there’s something more. It’s the sense of overarching mystery. It’s the experience of being in the flow—a sense of connection with everyone and everything else. The Spirit is the sense of liveliness within and around us.
It’s what comes and intercedes and gives us the ability to let go and admit our powerlessness. It’s comfort when we’re afraid and peace that passes understanding. The Spirit is no respecter of boundaries and crosses any boxes or categories we might have. This passage says the world doesn’t recognize the Spirit, and I take that to mean that we have different ways of naming these experiences. Some of us call it Spirit and some of us don’t, but whether we do or not, the Spirit blows where it will, and no one knows where it comes from or where it goes.
But in all this unpredictability and wildness, Jesus makes a promise. The Spirit will always be with you. The Spirit is your Advocate, your Counselor, your Companion. Come what may, the Spirit is with you—not because of anything you do or don’t do, but simply because that is the way of God.
And I think it’s important to acknowledge that the Spirit is not just pretty sunsets and warm fuzzies. Come what may, the Spirit is with you.
A friend of mine went through a period of profound suffering. Every area of their life was in upheaval and distress. Reflecting on that time and this passage she said, “During that time I wasn’t looking for a God who could fix everything. What I wanted was something bigger than myself who knew what it was to suffer so that I wouldn’t be so alone. This, to me, is the Spirit.” Something bigger than ourselves that accompanies us through deep suffering, undergoing it with us, our companion so that we aren’t alone in the worst.
The Spirit is present in the hardest moments of our lives. That’s what the community that wrote this gospel experienced. In their fear and their aloneness, the Spirit was their Companion, their Friend, their Helper.
This is a promise that lives on both sides of the cross. We think of it as a gift of the resurrection, and it is that. But it is also a promise made by one facing a shameful death as he sat with his most dear friends, scared and grieving.
Maybe you need the loud, ebullient Pentecost this year. But maybe, just maybe, you need this Pentecost: the Friend, Counselor, Companion who comes to us in doubt and despair carrying words of life on fluttering wings. May you be met by the Spirit wherever and however you find yourself this year.
Dwelling Among Us
In what ways would you like the Spirit to meet you at this moment in your life and the life of your community?