+ 6 Easter A
TEXT: John 14:15-21
DATE: May 21, 2017
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
We all know about loss.
It’s one of those common experiences
that come with being a human being.
In our gospel reading today,
Jesus is preparing his disciples for a loss –
for losing him.
This coming Thursday,
we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord,
and Jesus completes the salvation act of God
that began with the incarnation,
and continued with the crucifixion,
then the resurrection,
and finally, now, the ascension.
And Jesus will leave his disciples
and ascend back to heaven.
But that’s not the loss
he is preparing his disciples for
here in our story from John’s gospel.
It’s a little confusing, I know,
but our gospel story takes place
on Thursday night – Holy Week Thursday night –
when he’s gathered with his disciples around the last supper
and washes their feet,
and gives them a new commandment to love,
and then he will be arrested,
and then crucified, dead, and buried.
He’s leaving them to die.
That’s the loss these disciples are facing.
We all have our own losses, too.
Maybe your loss is about
losing a loved one by death.
But there are many other ways we experience loss.
Maybe your loss is losing a relationship through a break-up,
losing a colleague who moved to a new job,
losing a job,
losing an ability you once had,
losing memories or the ability to recall them,
losing a sense of security by someone else’s abuse,
losing a part of your health.
Even losing the comfort of the past
to strike out into a new beginning is a loss.
We all know about loss.
Because we’re human.
And sometimes, it makes us feel alone.
That’s what the disciples of Jesus feared,
losing their teacher, mentor, guide.
And it’s a terrible thing to feel that way.
That’s why Jesus assured them, specifically,
that he would not leave them orphaned.
But it wasn’t just a promise
that he’d come back again some day.
It wasn’t like he was headed off to the new country
to find a job,
and when he did, he’d send for them
and they’d be reunited.
No, he assured them that he would not abandon them
because he would send “another Advocate”.
Another one, like he was.
He would send the Spirit of truth,
which, in John’s story, means the Spirit of Jesus himself.
Jesus is the truth.
He told us that last week, remember?
I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life.
This other Advocate
is everything Jesus has been to them
Because this Spirit will abide with them and in them.
See, this Spirit – this Advocate –
is an unusual word in the Greek: paraklete.
It means one who is called alongside.
This advocate paraklete is one who accompanies
to do two particular things:
to counsel and to comfort.
The first thing the Advocate does
is to act as a legal advisor who advocates for you.
One who defends your cause like a defense attorney.
One who knows the ropes
and steers and guides you in the way –
in the truth. In the life.
And the other function is to comfort –
and the image behind this particular word
is to act like a mother holding you in her arms
with the rhythm of her breath
calming you and assuring you
of her presence and care.
(Frederick Niedner, Jr., “Preaching the Series A Easter Gospels”, 1987.)
Jesus promises his disciples
that he will not abandon them like an orphan,
but will take their side like a counselor
and hold them tight like the comforting arms of a loving mother.
He will do that by the Spirit he will send
to be with them
and to be in them.
When you were baptized,
that same Spirit was poured into you
by the same Lord Jesus
who took you into the arms of God
as a child of God
to hold on to you in love and comfort,
to breathe the spirit of life into you,
and to take your side and defend you
and guide you in the truth.
And one example of what that can look like in your everyday life
is the person next to you
or across from you
who bears that Spirit,
who obeys and lives out the commandment of Christ
to love one another,
by loving you.
That’s what it means
to be the community of Christ’s body,
the community of believers,
the community of disciples in relationship with Jesus,
the community of the baptized,
the community of the Spirit of God.
See, we can listen to the losses we share
and pray for one another,
support and comfort one another
because the Spirit, advocate, paraklete accompanies us.
And the world may not recognize that
as the work of the Spirit of Christ among us,
because they don’t see.
But we can see.
We can see that our obedience to Jesus’ command to love
unites us with him and with God the Father
and with one another
in a holy unity that can only be explained
by God’s merciful and loving work among us.
The opposite is also true:
by the same Spirit, Advocate, paraklete,
we, of course, are also the ones
who are the presence and love of Christ to others.
So look at the person next to you
or the person across from you
and pray for that person this week.
For whatever loss they endure,
and for the holy comfort they need.
Accompany someone you encounter this week
with the comfort, peace, love, and presence of Jesus
through his word of forgiveness,
through his message of hope,
through his glory in the cross.
That, at least is part,
is one way the Spirit of truth
does its incredible work among us.