Not orphaned

Reading
John 14.15–21

 

Jesus calls the Spirit ‘another’ Advocate, which assumes that Jesus himself is already an Advocate (14:16). Giving Jesus and the Spirit the same distinctive title means they share some of the same functions. The Spirit will keep doing the work that Jesus began on earth after Jesus’ return to the Father.… After Jesus’ return to the Father, the Spirit remains with the disciples; but this does not mean the Spirit replaces Jesus. Rather, the Spirit discloses the presence of the risen Jesus and his Father to the community of faith. — Craig R Koester, The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel

____________________

Last week, we saw that Jesus was going away from the disciples; and he needed to remind the disciples of where he was going — to the Father — and remind them that they knew the way. It was the way of Jesus, the way of the cross. 

Jesus was leaving. But, he said, ‘I will not leave you orphaned’. There will be Another with them. This Other is coming from the Father through the Son. This Other is the Holy Spirit. 

John has a particular perspective on the Spirit, and a particular name for the Spirit. Here, in the final discourse, he calls the Spirit ‘Paraklete’. 

That’s Paraklete. Not parakeet. 

A paraklete is someone who is called to be with us, called to be by our side. Different English versions of the Gospel According to John translate ‘Paraklete’ with different words. Words like:  

Advocate;
Comforter;
Helper
, or
Counsellor.

You see, no one English word can translate ‘Paraklete’. All of these words have one thing in common: they are relational. The Spirit as Paraklete mediates Jesus to us by advocating on our behalf, coming to our aid, giving us counsel or comfort where needed. 

The Paraklete is with us, on our side, even if that means showing us that we are wrong sometimes. 

For three years, the disciples had learned from Jesus in a relational way. They hadn’t learnt principles, rules, laws so much as learning the way the Teacher did things. They had learnt to pattern their lives on him, though not necessarily very well. Imitating Jesus, they were on the way to eternal life. 

Through the Spirit they were learning the deep ways of God in a relationship with God’s Son, Jesus. 

Without the Paraklete, it would have been very different when Jesus went. They would likely have to go to rules and regulations. Or maybe their memories of Jesus. Jesus’ mission would have been carried forward in a very different way. 

So, Jesus would send the Paraklete. Another Helper, Counsellor, Comforter, Advocate. They would not be orphaned. 

This Paraklete is not Jesus, but brings the truth of Jesus to the disciples. This Paraklete is not Jesus, but reminds the disciples of Jesus and his ways. This Paraklete moulds the disciples into the image of Jesus. 

The Spirit as Paraklete abides in us so we are centred on Jesus, rather than being centred on our egos. It’s a tough job to be decentred from ourselves in a liberating way! — a job only the Spirit can do. 

John is the only New Testament author who names the Spirit as Paraklete. There are other perspectives on the Spirit elsewhere in the New Testament, mainly from the Apostle Paul. 

The Spirit gives us various gifts, he says in 1 Corinthians 12, some to teach, others to help, some to heal but all to build up the body of Christ. 

Or, in Galatians 5 he speaks of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, fidelity, gentleness, goodness, kindness, patience, self-control. 

Or in Romans 8, the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. 

These ways of speaking of the Spirit are also relational. They speak of working together to build up the body of Christ, or relating to one another in the love of Christ. Or simply being a child of God.

We are people of the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit abides in us, and calls us to abide in Christ. The Spirit brings the things of Christ to life for us and in us. We in turn bring the things of Christ to one another. 

We remind one another of Jesus, we build each other up, whether by word or example. 

We don’t channel the Spirit by appealing to rules and regulations, though they have a place in setting boundaries to our life together. 

We bring the Spirit to one another by allowing the Spirit to mould us into the image of Jesus. 

In this way, we become a community channeling the love of God to the world around us. 

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’ We are not alone. The Paraklete, the Advocate, Comforter, Counsellor, Helper, is with us and among us and in us. Thanks be to God.

 

West End Uniting Church 17 May 2020

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Filed under church year, Pentecost, RCL, sermon

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