Last weekend, all around the world, #runwithMaud was trending. Many of you know the story of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old African American man gunned down by two white men while he was jogging in February. They were finally arrested, 74 days after the murder. To be completely honest, I’m not that confident the system is going to deliver justice.
On May 8, Ahmaud’s birthday, I joined with hundreds of thousands of others to honor this young man’s life by walking 2.23 miles; 2/23 was the day he was killed. It was heartwarming to raise awareness alongside so many others around the globe. This is one form of advocacy—to raise awareness.
In the final days of Jesus’ life, he said that the Father would give us another Advocate to take his place. He showed us what the role looks like. He was the one who listened to the story of the hemorrhaging woman, and the woman at the well. He was the one who saw enough value in others to forgive them, even when they crucified him. Jesus, the Advocate, promised to send another that would be with us forever.
That’s a long time. And his promise ties into the constant theme of “abiding” in this section of scripture. Jesus abides with the Father. The Father abides in him. We abide with Jesus. Jesus abides with us. You get the picture.
In v. 18, Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” The ever-present spirit plays the role of Advocate within us; she bears witness to the image of God stamped in all of our lives by being in us and living through us. The Spirit, the second Advocate, is the continuation of Jesus’ promise of a deep and engaged presence in our lives.
So What does this mean for us?
Well, first of all, the Advocate models for us how to listen, deeply, to another person’s story. She teaches us to recognize God’s image in the other, which allows us to create a safe, trusted and hospitable space to hear them. And she validates where God’s love is at work in that story. Then, she helps us stand with AND stand up for the other, especially those who are helpless and vulnerable. She pushes us to embody “thoughts and prayers” with action and commitment.
The Advocate Spirit lives in us and with us, to love people and pray for people, and to care for their immediate needs—both physical and spiritual. AND, she gives us power and authority to challenge the systems and structures that perpetuate evil in this world, in our communities and in our neighborhoods, like the systems whose racialized lenses benefit and privilege whiteness. She drives us to name this injustice, to stand with those who suffer from it, and work for change.
No. Really. What does this mean for me? Where do I begin?
Thankfully, God’s Spirit is far bigger than us. We know there are countless examples in scripture of God working outside his own people to get things done. The Advocate Spirit may already be moving.
She moves in beautiful ways in our communities. I see this movement among public school teachers who are working toward equity in the school system. I see it in community coalitions that organize for renters’ rights. I see it in community efforts to ensure students have internet access in order to do their school work during this time of quarantine. The Spirit is already working.
With that, may we go with humility, creativity, energy and resolve into the world to listen and engage. She abides in and with us. She will never leave us. And she’s calling us.