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Someone on your side



This Sunday's Gospel reading for the sixth Sunday of Easter continues last week’s section of John 14. It continues Jesus’ farewell discourse. Judas has left to betray him, Peter’s denial has been predicted, and now Jesus is saying goodbye to his followers, his friends, and is preparing them for what is to come.


Just as last week he promised that there is a place for each and every one of us, today he makes another promise: to give us an Advocate.


Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

That word Advocate has particularly interesting connotations in today’s social and political climate. In the world of 24/7 news, and social media gone amuck, everyone is advocating constantly for something. Some of that is for good: people have used Facebook to fund raise incredible money for medical research, world poverty, and other amazing causes.


Social media encourages you to spread the word for what makes you passionate, but there is also the dark side of social media advocacy: posting some article that clearly identifies what is wrong with those you disagree with, whether the political left or right wing, a clever post you wrote, or an undeniable argument you thought up to either praise or belittle whatever is trending in the news.


But here’s the thing, in a world so full of opinion, and so full of personal advocacy, I think its easy to fall between the cracks. In a world glued to smartphones, computers, and TVs, endlessly arguing politics or following the latest trends, it is easy to feel left behind or left out.


Maybe today you are feeling that way. Maybe you feel disenfranchised, unheard, or misunderstood. Perhaps you feel abandoned, alone and orphaned, left to get by all on your own. There may be a lot of advocates out there today, but it seems to me there aren’t that many paracletes.


Paraclete is the word in Greek that we translate into English here in John’s Gospel as advocate, but that word in Greek more literally means someone who is called to come alongside of. While there are many people today who want their voice to be heard and their view considered, and their cause to spread, there are far fewer people out there ready and willing to come alongside another.


There are few people willing to walk in someone else’s shoes, to be really with someone, especially when things get tough. There are few people willing to be with those who have been disenfranchised, who are unpopular, or forgotten, or left outside, on the margins.


There are so few willing to come alongside the widow whose upcoming surgery was forgotten by her children, sitting alone in a hospital room, or to sit at the lunch table with the picked on kid who nobody else wants to sit with, or make a phone call to the grieving son who just buried his father.


There are far too few of us willing to sit and have a cup of coffee with the transgender teen whose parents just disowned her, or sit bedside as someone takes their final breath.


The world needs paracletes, those who are called to come alongside of another.


The good news for all those who feel abandoned or alone or marginalized or forgotten, in grief or pain or suffering is that we have a paraclete, we have an advocate. You have an advocate! You have someone who is looking out for you, someone who is on your side, who encourages you and supports you, who speaks up for you and is willing to hang in there with you through thick and thin.


This is what Jesus was for his disciples. He was the one who came from alongside God the Father came to be alongside them, calling each of them by name to be by his side, to walk with him, learn from him, and live with him. And he promised that through him, when he would return to God’s right hand, they would be there as well.


Because he was leaving them, Jesus promises them to send them another advocate, another paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, sent to be alongside them, to abide with them, to be abide with us, and to abide with you.


God knows you, knows where you are at, knows that you feel alone or abandoned or forgotten. God came in Christ and lived and offered this abundant life even when it cost Jesus his life. In fact, God came in Christ and was willing to suffer and die on the cross in order that we might know just how much God loves us and just how far God is willing to go to show us his profound love.


But that wasn’t enough. So God also raised Jesus from the dead to show us that nothing – not even death itself – can keep God from loving us and redeeming the whole world. And that still wasn’t enough. God continues to come in the Holy Spirit in order to encourage us and look out for us and care for us and stay with us and walk alongside of us.


In short, God comes in the Holy Spirit to be like Christ for us every day, to be another paraclete, your paraclete, your Advocate, who will not give up on you, ever. So having received God’s Spirit in us in our baptism, we are all called to be paracletes also, to come alongside others and to be with them where they are: our friends, family members, family of faith at IHS, and especially those who are on the margins of our society, those who are left out and forgotten.


Think about who the paracletes are in your life, those who walk alongside you in your daily life. Think of those who know you and abide with you. As Emilie Townes says, “Keep integrated, resist pulling apart. Have friends tell you when they see pieces of you drifting away.”


Who are those friends who will say to you, “I don’t see you anymore?” Who are those friends who will tell you when they see you being fully you?


We are called to paraclete discipleship, paraclete ministry, paraclete leadership. Not leadership that establishes power over, because Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, but friends," not leadership that blames or shames, guilts or goads. not ministry that instills fear or demands silence, not discipleship that seeks only to preserve the self or that demands agreement at all costs, and not leadership that holds others captive.


No, we are called to be paracletes, and that is recognized by one primary way of being -- accompaniment.


Accompaniment: not just in the good times, but in the hardest as well -- those times when you see and share the pain of another.


We are called to accompany and be alongside others even when people walk away because the truth is too much to bear, those times when others can’t hear the truth of who you are, those times when you find the one that the world casts out and say, “I will be your friend," those times when dear friends die, at those times when you experience abundant love.


You are called to this paraclete kind of life. May you experience God’s Spirit alongside you in your life, and may you be the work of God’s Spirit in the life of another. Amen.



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