Pentecost is the next and final piece of God’s plan in Christ: called alongside you and me, our community, and the whole creation to bring life and hope and healing.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Day of Pentecost, year B
Texts: John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15; Romans 8:22-27; Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Paraclete.” It’s a strange word the Greeks left us.
It’s a beautiful word, with such richness of meaning that translators keep trying new ways to express the depth and breadth our predecessors would have sensed in hearing it.
The King James translators used “Comforter.” The Revised Standard Version and New International Version, solid 20th century translations, used “Counselor.” The New Revised Standard Version, our current mainstay, uses “Advocate,” but in the footnotes the translators offer an alternative: “Helper.” All these are part of the cloud of meaning, as are Mediator and Intercessor.
But Paraclete literally means: “Called alongside.” The Holy Spirit, Jesus says, is the one “called alongside” us, which of course explains all the meanings the Greeks heard in the word and our translators have used. So, ponder this: God now calls the Holy Spirit alongside you!
Today is Pentecost, and we celebrate that the Holy Spirit still comes to empower us and send us into our lives as Christ.
Acts tells the story of Spirit-filled believers spreading everywhere proclaiming God’s life and love. We rightly call Pentecost the birthday of the Church, as what began there continues through the gift of the Spirit.
But today we heard that God also has other purposes for sending the Holy Spirit. “It is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus says. That sounds wrong. But it’s because in the plan of the Trinity, the Spirit now takes her turn on the earth. She is called alongside us, a Paraclete, in this life we live.
Pentecost isn’t just about power and sending. It’s about God’s Spirit walking alongside you every step of your life, doing really important things.
The Spirit is called alongside you to guide and teach.
“I still have many things to say to you,” Jesus says, “but you can’t bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, she will guide you into all the truth.”
Like children, we need to grow and learn, come into who we are made to be. Sometimes it takes painful centuries for humanity to learn lessons. Sometimes it will take a whole lifetime for a person. And sometimes we’re not ready to hear things personally or as a community.
So God calls the Spirit alongside you, and our community, and the whole creation, to reveal new truths from God when we’re ready to bear them, and guide us every day into new life.
The Spirit is also called alongside you to speak on your behalf.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” Paul says, “for we don’t know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Last week our joy was that God’s Son prayed for us, lifted the needs and pains of us and of the world into the life of God. Now our joy explodes, because the Spirit is called alongside us to continue Jesus’ prayer always.
In our weakness, the Spirit is called alongside to carry sighs too deep for words from your heart so God can hear them. To carry sighs too deep for words from our community so God can hear them. To carry sighs too deep for words from our world and the whole creation, so God can hear them.
Living in one human body, God couldn’t do all this. That’s why Jesus says this is all to our advantage.
In God’s great plan, as the Son returns, the Spirit is called alongside us to make the Incarnation real in you, in our community, and in the whole creation.
In you: as the Spirit is called alongside you to share your joy and pain and speak for you into God’s life. To guide you, and reveal things you need to know and are ready for, as you grow into Christ.
In our community of faith at Mount Olive: we seek to be faithful in this city, to address the evils of the world and our participation in them, to be Christ’s love as a community. So, the Triune God graciously calls the Spirit alongside us to speak for us into God’s life, guide us to truth, reveal new things when we’re ready for them.
And in the whole creation: the psalmist today proclaims that God sends the Spirit to renew the face of the earth. Paul calls that renewal a birth process. The creation creaks and breaks under our destructive habits and pollution, suffers as it is filled with creatures who hate and kill and oppress each other. The Spirit is called alongside to give birth to a new creation, with all the labor pains that means, all of us the Spirit is transforming.
Pentecost is the final part of the blessing of God coming into this world.
Begun at the creation and born into the world in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the final piece of God’s plan to heal all things is the Spirit of God alongside us. Alongside you. Alongside the world, so that you, and we, and the whole creation, might be birthed into God’s life and love.
Sometimes it feels like more struggle than answers, more pain than resolution, more difficulty than we can handle, but these are the birth pains. The Spirit is giving birth to something amazing. Just look alongside you, and you’ll see.
In the name of Jesus. Amen