15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17This 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.
18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They 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.”
Life can be crazy. It can also seem like we are alone at times in trying to figure it out. We all want to know if there is someone there for us. Our culture is crying out to know if we are alone. As one lyric of a popular song a few years ago said, “does anyone really care?” This morning’s passage gives us some sense that we are not alone. This passage comes to us while we are still in the season of Easter. It is a part of the Farewell Discourse of scripture that we’ve been reading from quite a bit this year. It is where Jesus is encouraging his disciples that they have a deeper power at work within them and all around them. He has this curious question at the beginning, “if you love me?” We should ponder that question. We talk a lot about church in the church, but do we ask the questions, the deeper questions, do we love God, do we love ourselves, are we willing to go deep with this whole concept of love? If we are, then are we willing to listen to the Divine voice within and without and love as God created us to love? Are we willing to grow and change? Jesus encourages the disciples, and us, to love one another, that they, and we, will not be left alone or orphaned, but that an advocate is being given to them.The Greek word for “advocate” in this morning’s passage in John is beautiful. Greek words often have many different meanings. The word for advocate in Greek is “paraclete”. It means to come alongside, to help, to counsel.
Coming alongside? What does that mean? Samuel Wells, an author and Anglican priest uses a term call “with-ness” rather than “witness” in describing God’s presence with us. As the body of Christ, we find our being in the relational flow of the Trinity by being recipients of God’s emptying into us. This flow fills us and calls us to be our truest selves to then empty into one another. We are connected to an embodied Jesus that’s somewhere out there in the cosmos, it’s a mystery, but someday this will all be revealed.
God demonstrated to us God’s love by entering humanity through Jesus, taking on flesh as described in the first book of John. Immanuel, God incarnate, God in the flesh. We are connected to Jesus because He is the head of the church. The church has a particular role as part of the Body of Christ. We are called to emulate and model Jesus’ emptying by simply doing what Jesus did: by being “with” others or practicing “with-ness.” By allowing God to pour God’s life into us and to allow that life to flow into others. To live in Christ by living in this relationship with God’s flow through God’s relationship within the Trinity.
“Being with” is a central tenant of the outpouring, the emptying of God’s Spirit through the Trinitarian flow. Samuel Wells notes, “Being with the dynamic of the inner relations of the Trinity – God being with God; it is the essence of God being with us in Christ; and it is the fulfillment of the Spirit’s work in our being with one another.” Scripture reminds us that Christ resides within humanity: “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11b). Jesus is the Christ, flowing from the Trinity, residing with us, as well as our neighbors, and in all things. As we live into Jesus being made present with us, we can then be present with ourselves and others, with everything. As we practice “being with,” of “living in,” and have a theological understanding that Christ is in all things and people, then we can understand being one, or in communion with others.
We have this Spirit of the Divine calling us to be with and to come alongside others. We have the power of God calling us to others even as it calls us deeper to ourselves. How do we come alongside? Cormac Russel wrote a great book called “Rekindling Democracy”. He is a friend and asked me to review an early chapter of it a few years ago, he says this about coming alongside:
In getting alongside communities the challenge is not to pre-script the conversation. Here are some tips we can follow.
1. Don’t pretend to know, ask.
2. Don’t assume to know, ask.
3. Don’t offer answers, ask; then….
4. Don’t talk, listen…
I gave everyone a handout this morning, it’s more detailed from his book. Take it home, check it out. It’s what we’ve been practicing in many ways over the past 5 1/2 years that I’ve been here. Really, in a lot of ways, the basis of my doctoral work as well. Many of you have been practicing this intentionally and unintentionally.
Living this kind of coming alongside requires two things: faith and connection. Jesus knew that death was approaching on the night before he was crucified. Jesus also hoped and understood that death needed to happen before resurrection. We, even 2000 years later, don’t always have that kind of faith. Even as we see it written out scripture. Jesus also knew that we would need to stay connected to each other and to him. Again, that’s why he said that an advocate would be with us, the very spirit of God. The way the Spirit works, it comes alongside, it advocates for us, it helps us to see things about ourselves, others, and God that may not make sense at times, but always seems to work towards deeper awareness eventually. Our congregation, and our world, are going through death and resurrection and we are crying out. Not to have everything figured out, but to know that someone does care. We’re not alone, the very power of God, the deep love of God that is radically inclusive of all of us in this room and outside these doors and windows, presides within us and all around us.
This spirit, this advocate that is with us won’t settle for comfortable, this advocate will push us towards growth…may we cultivate our awareness of God and ourselves as the advocate emboldens us and gives us confidence as it did the disciples. The disciples faced hard things, their friend was encouraging them as he knew that they would need one another…we can do hard things. May we love one another and may we trust this advocate.