The church I co-pastor with my husband has been following the wider Church’s common lectionary since January. This has been the first time I have followed the lectionary and if you get a chance to check it out please do so. It is a great resource on giving direction towards reading the Bible. http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu
Today’s passage is from the gospel of John 14:15-21. I wanted to share some thoughts from it and I’m honored you would read what I will share. My hope is to bring encouragement to you today.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.
18 “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
I have a bit of religious baggage left with me from my upbringing when it comes to keeping commandments. In my experience, the Church makes lists to follow and rule to try keep, like “don’t sleep with your girlfriend or boyfriend,” “don’t drink or do drugs,” “don’t swear,” “don’t go to parties,” “don’t wear short skirts,” “always read your Bible and pray and go to church.” So when I read a passage like this it makes me think of laws and rules, many which can be good and helpful towards the path of discipleship. But, truthfully, many of them can get in the way of experiencing the Divine. Interestingly, though, Jesus calls people to an ethic, to a way of life, not to a set of rules. Jesus says in the next chapter, “This is my commandment: love each other as I have loved you.”
Out of a worldview of love, we can look to the next piece of this passage on the Holy Spirit.
The word for the Companion or Holy Spirit used here in Greek is parakletos, translated as Councilor, Advocate, Helper, Comforter, an Intercessor and Guide to truth. I wonder if the world cannot recognize this Companion because we live in a world that is “just fine, thank you very much.” A world that doesn’t need anything or anyone. A world that scorns vulnerability and looks down on those who need. A world that would see the need for help as a shameful request. I wonder if that is why those who follow closest to Christ are usually the poor, the outcast, the needy, the orphan and the widow, the forgotten and looked-over. I wonder if that’s why Jesus tells his followers how difficult it is for someone who has life served on a silver platter to see and enter the Kingdom of God. The world has no use for an Advocate, so they turn a blind eye because it’s just easier to not see the brokenness and hurt in this world.
When have you experienced the Advocate in your life, the Helper, the Intercessor, the Comforter? I have experienced the tangible, palpable comfort of the Holy Spirit when life has become so painful I can barely stand any longer. When we found conceiving a child would never happen. When we had 13 failed adoptions in 9 months. When crippling anxiety was destroying my husband and hurting our marriage. That is when I felt the comfort of Christ’s Spirit. That’s when I felt the Body of Christ, the Church surround me and hold me up.
How many times in your life should you have just died from overwhelming, crushing grief? Where you feel as if your very breath is being sucked out from your lungs and it might just be easier to stay in bed forever? Feelings of abandonment, betrayal, the loss of your spouse, that time you were let go, anger and bitterness because of what your loved one did, when your child was so sick and you didn’t know if she would make it. There have been times in your life when it feels like you are drowning, head underwater, gulping air that is not sustaining you.
Do you remember what this felt like? Do you remember how scary that time was or maybe is now? Do you remember feeling a sliver of hope, of comfort, slipping under your feet, providing just enough buoyancy so darkness doesn’t win? Do you remember that supernatural, mysterious, unexplainable Hope which allowed you to move forward through the darkness? That Hope, that sliver of comfort, that mysterious presence of light and warmth, that is the Spirit of Jesus saying, “You are not forgotten, you are not alone. Open your eyes and heart to me”.
May you look back to those dark times of great pain and allow God to open your eyes and see Hope. May you allow your heart to soften and embrace the truth that we are meant to love each other. May you know you are not forgotten and not alone. And may you know how loved you are by the Mysterious Divine.