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An Advocate for Non-Orphans

May 27, 2014

John 14:15-21 our daughter will be an orphan

Last week Jesus anticipated going to his death, in order to prepare a place for us, for many people, and talks of coming back from his death, in resurrection, in order to be with them, in the Father’s house, to be the Way in which we live with the Father.

In this week’s reading Jesus promises them the Spirit

What does it mean that we have the Spirit? Is it about warm feelings in our heart? Is it about special gifts or powers? Maybe… maybe its about both of those things… We have no idea about the limit’s of human possibility set free by the presence of God – or what a truly human life would look like in the power of the Spirit of God (except of course we know that it is in Jesus own life)… But today I want to suggest something more specific… rather I think our text from John suggests something more than both of these things.

 Jesus says “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.”

 Jesus is our advocate… but he promises another advocate

Let’s take that word Advocate. Some translations have ‘comforter’ and ‘helper’ and ‘counsellor’. Some don’t even translate it at all. They just put the Greek word paracletos into English and invent a new word, Paraclete. You may have come across that term. The fact is paracletos (in its basic meaning) simply means Advocate, or perhaps even better, ‘Public Defender’. Many commentators don’t quite know what to make of Jesus claim to send a ‘public defender’ an ‘appointed lawyer for the defence’ to be in us. It just seems a bit weird. What does he mean?

 I suspect very few, in any of us here today, have actually been on trial and in need of a defence lawyer. And yet at a deeper level, how often do we feel the need to defend ourselves. Say, for example, Jan says to me, “I wish you could help more with the housework”, I can feel like I’m on trial. I have these antennae that are very sensivitive to possible trials. Even if she says it to me in a nice way. Even if she is quite justified and the request is reasonable, which it probably is, that still doesn’t stop me feeling like I need to defend myself. I wonder how much of our lives do we spend trying to justify or defend ourselves with others? Our desperate need for the approval of others means we are constantly trying to justify ourselves to them. Maybe it’s your boss, or someone you work with, or your parents or your spouse, or your minister. Do you find yourself lying awake at night, thinking up the big speech you’re going to deliver in order to defend yourself the next day?

 And how often is defense hard to distinguish from attack and accusation. How often do we find that psychologically, with our worries about our place in the world, our significance, war is a way of life – for fragile people like all of us are.

I was listening to National Radio this week and I heard a program about soldiers who were in hospital during world war 1 and the British soldier got to know the German soldier and they developed some mutual respect and one day the German soldier said to the British guy, something like “It’s crazy that we are at war, two of the finest military nations in the world. Think of what we could do if we joined forces against the rest of the world.” [hmmm]

 At some point defense and offence merge into a world-view where the struggle for superiority is just taken for granted. Whether it be in our personal life, or in our empire.

 Jesus says, into the world of accusation, self-accusation, and self-justification and defensiveness, I will send an Advocate who will be in you – the Spirit of truth.

The Spirit of Truth… They say the first victim of war is truth. You know the main reason we struggle to really listen to one another well? We are busy trying to compose our defence speech while the other person is still speaking. We need the advocate, the Spirit, who takes away our self-defence… so we can listen… and as we can listen to one another and to God, truth happens. Truth and war don’t mix at a political level… nor at a personal level.

 Imagine the weight coming off our shoulders (the peace of mind) when we realize (not just in our head, but in our hearts) that we really and truly do not need to defend ourselves!

 A spirit of truth who creates a difference in the world – a Jesus-difference. Hear the difference. Jesus says of this advocate “The world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him”

The world is blind to the Jesus-difference … Why is that? Not needing to justify ourselves… is other-worldly… it makes no sense because the world runs according to a different system altogether. According to the Testament the world is under the sway not of the counsel for the Defence but of the Prosecution (Satam = Accuser). According to this system, according to the ‘real world’ of the ‘accuser’ (Satan), Jesus is invisible… we would say ‘unrealistic’. And apparently what we need most is to be realistic.

We, on the other hand, according to Jesus, know the Spirit within us. We will have spiritual vision. We will see Jesus in the world. Do you see Jesus in the world? Jesus, still alive, in other human beings, particularly among ‘the least of these’.

 I will not leave you orphaned!… [advertising opportunity for the Tom Waite album] (parentless) He will continue to parent us spiritually.

 A few years ago a guy called Mark Skelton [see picture above] wrote this very simple and stark story in the Guardian about his life. It was entitled ‘Our daughter will be an orphan’. He told how his life was going along swimmingly with his beloved wife and daughter, and one day he went to the dentists for a pain that wouldn’t go away and he discovered his sinuses had a rare form of cancerous tumour. He talked about how he tried to remain positive and how his 11 year old daughter encouraged him with her optimism and how he began to prepare for his death. And then a few months later his wife Amanda went to the doctor with a back pain and she also had an inoperable cancer. He goes on to tell how he is relating to his wife and his daughter who will be an orphan possibly before her 12th birthday.

What this incredibly powerful story made me think about was the closeness of parent child relationships… we live in each other, we live in our children and our children live in us, we live in our parents and our parents live in us. Even our rebellion against our parents is a kind of ‘living in’, it’s because the other has formed us so profoundly in our identity that we react so strongly. Our children live in us and we in our children. And it’s not just in our family, we live in other people. None of us is an island. To be human is to be formed in our innermost being by significant others.

Jesus says to them and to us in a world of struggle and accusation, in a world where we internalize that accusation and start to accuse ourselves. In a world where, on the other hand, we might dare to imagine and practice another way… “I will not leave you orphaned… I will come to you. Because I live, you will live also.”

Not just live physically of course, but live in him as children live in their parents.

“On that day you will realize,” says Jesus, “that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

What the Spirit in us means for us is that we will live in Jesus and he in us, something like the way parents live in their children and children live in their parents. Not just in our DNA, deeper still, in our identity as people.

Because he lives we will live, in his presence and in the presence of the advocate our lives will take on a new quality, a freedom

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