Service of the Word: Easter 6

Gospel Reading: John 14: 15-21

‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This 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. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They 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.’

Homily by the Revd Lee Johnston

If you could have dinner with anyone from the past, who would it be?

This is a fun question that sometimes gets asked as an icebreaker, whether at a corporate lunch or even on a first date, to get to know someone new. The more musically minded might say Elvis or Mozart; history buffs may say Abraham Lincoln or Henry the 8th; I’m sure any of those would be a great dinner guest and you can even tell me on the Facebook or YouTube comments who you’d choose. We can read stories, watch documentaries or learn facts about these historical figures but the question acknowledges that can’t be as good or as real as having them sat across the table from us.

Jesus in today’s gospel is delivering part of a speech that’s often called his Farewell Discourse. Like the name suggests, it’s a long goodbye to those who he had taken under his wing; those he’d taught and walked with for around three years. Those he’d loved, encouraged and corrected into being disciples. Because of Jesus’ impending departure, the disciples are likely feeling separation anxiety; soon their Lord who is also their friend, will be gone. Soon they’ll be wishing they could have Jesus back at their dinner table or their walks by the sea of Galilee. And they will have to find ways to continue. A new, lonelier normal, not unlike the new one that’s developed for us as a church and country.

To those anxious and soon to be lonely disciples, Jesus says: I will not leave you orphaned. Anticipating their need for help and companionship, he promises that another advocate will be sent by the Father to them. The person and advocate Jesus means is the Holy Spirit. In Scotland we may hear advocate and start thinking about lawyers, putting legal arguments forward on behalf of clients. But bound up in that word advocate is far more; a whole range of meanings, all of them good. It can mean: helper, defender, comforter; someone who gets alongside you and accompanies you. Note too that Jesus says this is another advocate, meaning they had already experienced an advocate like this which they can relate to. Jesus was their first advocate, God who became a human and got alongside to help, teach and comfort them. Now the Spirit comes to continue where he left off, not becoming flesh and blood like Jesus did, but being present just as powerfully and lovingly as he was.

You and I as Disciples inherit this promise of Jesus. Disciples who are no longer gathered in a small huddle in Jerusalem – in one place and time, but all over the world. Accompanying all those millions of disciples over the world, needed a different kind of presence – that of the Spirit. Whether at home by yourself or gathered virtually as the church, Jesus has not left us without a helper. Just like the disciples knew Jesus voice – a voice of truth spoken in love, which taught, corrected and comforted them; we can know the Spirit’s voice within us because he lives in us and always will. During these quieter times, when traffic has become still and diaries have become empty, we have the time and space to become aware of the Spirit’s presence within us. The next time you’re feeling alone or in need of that strength and help that Jesus promised, quiet your mind and remember you were not left by yourself when Christ was raised. The Spirit has been sent within you, to be the guest in your home and at your table, may you know his presence and hear his voice.  

Intercessions

Almighty God, you sent truth and love into the world, that we might live in peace with you and one another. So we pray for all places where conflict continues: in Syria, Afghanistan, and the Holy Land; asking for a change to hearts and a change to policies, so that your peace may be realised.

Holy Spirit, with us always. Be our comfort and help.

Holy Trinity, united as one, guide your church until it is united, one in faith, truth and love. Heal the divisions of the past and help us recognize the Spirit that we all share, which enables us to proclaim your truth and join in your mission to our broken world.

Holy Spirit, with us always. Be our comfort and help.

Merciful Lord, your Son healed the sick by the power of the Spirit, and cast out fear wherever it was found. By that Spirit who dwells in us forever, may you grant wholeness and peace to those who feel alone or anxious, and safety to all who work on the frontline in the fight against the virus. We hold before you all who are facing illness or distress, praying especially for Christine, Ian, Richard, Ros, Chris, Bill, Lorna, Joyce, Louyse, John, Avril, Helga, Karen, Colin, Margaret, and Stuart.

Holy Spirit, with us always. Be our comfort and help.

Lord of life, who conquered death on Easter Day and sent your Spirit upon weary disciples. We thank you for those who share in that life which never ends, and pray for their families who are left behind. Thinking especially of George and James, and Ina who’s year’s mind falls on this Sunday.

Holy Spirit, with us always. Be our comfort and help.