Year A, Easter 6
Have you ever seen the Holy Spirit?
Do you know what the Holy Spirit looks like?
We each have an image of Jesus in our minds. He was a man. We can imagine him, even if we don’t know exactly what he looked like.
We can even have an image of God the Father or God the Creator. If we don’t have an image in our minds of what God the Creator looks like, at least we have the creation itself.
But the Holy Spirit is harder to imagine. The images used in scripture are so poetic and metaphorical. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove to rest on Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes in tongues of fire to rest on each of the apostles. These are beautiful and powerful images, but they are not very concrete.
John’s Gospel can help us with this dilemma. John speaks of the Holy Spirit as an Advocate sent by the Father. In today’s Gospel reading we hear,
Jesus said to his disciples, “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. (John 14:15-17)
In John’s Gospel the Holy Spirit is referred to as an Advocate. The Greek word is paraklete. I’d like to look at that word for a moment. Paraklete. Para – Klete. Para means along side of or with. For instance, a “paramedic” is a medic that comes to your aide, coming along side you to aide you.
Klete is from the Greek word kletos, which means to call, to speak, to encourage or to inspire.
So, at the root, paraclete means someone who comes alongside you to call you, speak for you, encourage you and inspire you. In its usage, paraklete is a legal term. A paraklete is someone who speaks for you in a trial. The accused stands before the judge and the paraklete speaks for him. The paraklete has the ear of the judge! “Yes, your honor, I know he is guilty, but I have taken care of it. I have paid his debt.” The Paraklete knows something important. This judge already wants to forgive. This judge is already ready to forgive and bless.
So the advocate stands up for us and speaks for us, encourages us and teaches us. That’s certainly more concrete than an image of wind or breath. That’s more approachable or meaningful than an image of a dove descending or tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit is an advocate that speaks for us and lets us know that Christ is with us.
But there is an even more helpful clue in today’s reading that can help us to understand the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that if we keep his commandments, the Father will send another advocate. Jesus is the first advocate. So, the Holy Spirit is an advocate, or another advocate, like Jesus. The Holy Spirit will abide with us just as Jesus has abided with us. The Spirit is sent in Jesus’ name and reminds us of what he taught (14:25). In a very real way, the Spirit reveals and makes real for us Jesus’ presence and helps to keep his promise that he will not leave us orphaned and will come to us.
So, The Holy Spirit looks like Jesus. And that means I can show you what the Holy Spirit looks like. Right now. I have something here that will help us see exactly what the paraclete, the advocate, the Holy Spirit looks like. (Hold up mirror. Turn the mirror so all see themselves reflected in the mirror.)
The Holy Spirit is an advocate that looks a whole lot like Jesus. Which means that we’ve actually seen the Spirit lots of times. Anytime, in fact, someone stands up for another… Anytime someone acts like Jesus… Anytime someone bears the love of Christ to another… we’ve seen the Holy Spirit.
- When you reach out in compassion and love to someone who is suffering,
- When you participate on one of our Care Teams, responding to the needs of our congregation and our friends and families with prayer and love,
- When you bring treats to share in our social time after the service,
- When you contribute to the financial needs of your congregation,
- When you help out at the food bank or contribute to Matthew’s house,
These are all the ways that the advocate works with us and encourages us and sends us into the world to be Christ’s heart and hands.
Take a look. (Hold mirror again.) Here is the Holy Spirit. Here is Jesus Christ working among us. Together we continue Christ’s mission. Together we do Christ’s work. Together we advocate for the needy, pray for one another, and go forth into the world to do God’s work and share God’s love.
The Rev. David Marshall, Rector
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline, WA
May 29, 2011