Easter 6

So about ten days ago or so I watched a little bit of the commencement ceremonies at VTS, my seminary, and though the speeches were good and everyone seemed to know where to sit (always a challenge), the setting for commencement was in the seminary chapel, or should I say the new seminary chapel.  I liked the old chapel just fine, but it burn to almost nothing several years ago.  The new chapel is a bit…disappointing.  From the outside it looks likes the anchor store of a really nice outlet mall, like it could have a Nike swoosh on the tower.  The inside looks like it was designed by Swedish monks in the 1970’s using Playmobile furniture.  Lots of blonde wood and blocky chairs, nothing in particular to focus your eyes on.  The main stained glass window is a circular oculus type thing with a bunch of blobby colors that I think, at least, is supposed to remind us of the Holy Spirit, but really reminds us not to smoke a metric ton of pot before designing stained glass windows.


That said, the Holy Spirit is tough to nail down.  Surely we’ll talk about the Holy Spirit again next week, on the feast of Pentecost, but the Church gives us two weeks of gospel readings full of the Holy Spirit, presumably so we can talk about Him more than just once.


The setting is once again the Last Supper.  It had been a long night, full of teaching and praying.  Judas was already off to do his thing, and Jesus had begun to wrap up that part of the evening and make His way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He knew that His disciples didn’t grasp all that He had told them, all that they had seen and heard over the last three years, and He also knew that they knew that, that they were worried about how they would function without Him.  “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you,” Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”


Now, the RSV translates what Jesus said as “Counselor” “but in the Greek of John 14:25 the word Jesus uses is parakletos, or “Paraclete” as we sometimes transliterate it.  Writers must pay attention because Microsoft Word will keep trying to auto-correct that into “Parakeet” and although avian imagery can be used for the Spirit . . . that’s not the bird we’re looking for!  Literally this is the one “called alongside” of someone else.”  An advocate when on trial, a comforter in perplexity.


“We’ve all heard various iterations of how to understand this, one of which is an attorney who stands next to her client in a court of law.  But in this context the meaning does feel—as alluded to elsewhere in this set of sermon starters—a bit more like a tutor or a prompter on the wings of a stage while a play is going on.  The Paraclete stands next to us or near us so that we can be reminded of Jesus’ words and teachings as the Spirit whispers those things into our hearts, prompting us to remember what we might otherwise forget.  It’s a dark and difficult world, after all, fraught with sorrow and uncertainty (even as was true in that very room on the night when Jesus spoke these words).  The sorrow of it all can make us lose our place, forget what we know.  So how good to have a Spirit come alongside us to remind us of the dearest things Jesus said and taught.”[1]


Without the Paraclete, without the Holy Spirit, there is no peace of mind, no peace in our soul.  That’s why Jesus tells His disciples about the coming Holy Spirit before He says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  The world gives with the expectation of taking something in return, favor for favor, but Jesus needed His disciples (and us) to know that God doesn’t work that way.  The peace Jesus gives is ours forever, we need just remember that we have it.  How do we remember?  Oh yeah, the Holy Spirit!  He will teach us all things, and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus has said to us.


No matter how you picture the Holy Spirit, as a dove or as a breeze or as a bunch of blobby colors in a window, it’s really more important that you listen for Him than visualize Him.  The Spirit is in us, alongside us, guiding us toward peace.

[1] Scott Hoezee, This Week: https://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/easter-6c-2/?type=the_lectionary_gospel

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