Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sermon: The Paraclete

I wish I was a ghoster… have you heard of them? They are people who “ghost”—it’s a verb.
Now this term is often used in the dating world… but it can also describe a person who, at a party, does not announce that they are going to leave, they don’t say farewell to the host or anyone else, they just go.
         You know, you’re at a party and you’re waiting for your friend Ben to get back and finish the conversation, but after a while you conclude, “Man, I though Ben went to the bathroom, but I guess he ghosted.”
         Social scientist who study this kind of thing, found that people who ghost are more likely to be invited to the next party…
         So, I’d love to be a ghost, but I’m decidedly not, I engage the poor host in awkward farewells until they have to shut the door on me.
         A friend of mine sometimes has to remind me, “They key to leaving a party… is leaving.”

         But, I’m in good company. Jesus isn’t a ghoster either. In chapter 13 of John’s Gospel he gives a final commandment before he leaves… and he doesn’t leave.
Then in chapter 14 he states that he is going… but is interrupted by the disciples… then he announces “Get up, we’re leaving this place,” but doesn’t leave…
In chapter 16 he tells them again that he is leaving, he has more to say, but he has to leave… and then doesn’t leave…
In chapter 17 it is said he has finished saying all these things… and he keeps talking,
Then, finally, in chapter 18 he is arrested.

…Jesus’ farewell address has more endings than a Lord of the Ring’s movie.
         And in the midst of all this talking, you can see him holding open the screen door letting out all the nice cool air conditioned air, he’s going on about this and that, and then he mentions the Paraclete… often translated:
the Companion,
the Comforter,
or the Advocate
—he mentions the Paraclete, and you can just see one of the disciples whispering to the other, “now he’s talking about his pet bird? His Parakeet.”
         But no, he’s talking about the Paraclete…
         You may not know what a paraclete is…
but you probably know what a paralegal is…
someone who works on behalf of a lawyer, whose work the lawyer is responsible for.
         You may not know what a paraclete is… but you probably know what parallel means
—Side by side—a person similar or analogous to another.
         You may not know what a paraclete is… but you probably know what a paramedic is
—a healthcare professional who walks alongside you in your medical emergency.
         Don’t know who the Paraclete is? Well, let’s talk about paralegals, parallels, and paramedics.
Let us pray

         While Jesus is not ghosting in a modern sense, he does tell people about the Paraclete—sometimes called the Holy Ghost, sometimes called the Holy Spirit...

         The Holy Ghost who empowers us to keep Jesus’ commandments—the Spirit “calls, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps” the whole church for Jesus.
In other words, the Paraclete makes us into Paralegals for Jesus—we work on his behalf—keeping his commandments, the greatest of which is Love—yet these works are ultimately his responsibility and his doing, they flow from him through the Spirit.
         When we love and live in Christian ways, that’s the Paraclete making us Paralegals.
When we stand beside the last, least, and lost, when we advocate for them—that’s the Spirit’s doing.
For example, the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have just called on us to fast on the 21st of each month through December 2018 as a reminder that that is the day on which most people on food assistance run out of food—that their next 10 days or so are the hungriest days of their month.

         As Jesus continues his awkward conversation out that screen door, he tells his disciples the Father is sending Another Advocate, Companion, Paraclete.
The Spirit will do a parallel work to Jesus.
 If you were a computer programmer you might call this parallel activity “Jesus 2.0.”
         The Spirit is not an utterly new thing
—not a break from Jesus’ ministry
—but a continuation of it.
It isn’t as if Jesus called the Church to be Mets fans, but now the Spirit empowers us to root for the Yankees
—after all we all know the entire of the Godhead roots for the Rockies…
that was a joke, what I’m saying is that the works of the Spirit parallel the work of Christ
—Personal, humble, relational, ongoing works—as I talked about last week—the Works of Christ.
They’re like two skisJesus and the Spirit, both upholding the same rider.

         Jesus assures his disciples that he’s not abandoning them
—and not just because he seems incapable of leaving…
he tells them, “I won’t leave you as orphans.” He’s telling them that the Holy Spirit—the Paraclete, is also a Paramedic of the soul. Just as a Paramedic walks with us through our emergency
—often times literally beside our gurney
—the Spirit walks with the Disciples through the dislocation of Jesus’ death and moves them forward at Pentecost.

         And the Spirit walks beside us, as well.
         We are not a people left alone to contemplate Jesus’ actions in the Gospels—a really successful book club.
         The Spirit is with us, comforting us when that gap between Jesus and the Church become too great to bear,
guiding us to greater works than these.

         Jesus the Great Physician, the Spirit the Paramedic, both working so that the Father’s love might circulate in the hearts of those whom he loves, we are not abandoned—but found in Christ and Christ in us through the power of the Spirit.

         And Tawanda, your Baptism today,
it is much more than mere water, it is rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit will never abandon you, but will walk beside you like a Paramedic.
The Spirit is Jesus’ Spirit, it parallels Jesus.
The Spirit will help you work on Jesus’ behalf like a Paralegal.
In Baptism you will receive the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. You may not know exactly what that means, but know this, the Holy Spirit won’t ghost on you
—it will never leave you
—the love of God will never leave you.