6th Sunday of Easter—Year A—May 25, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let us pray: Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
So among their many temples, the Athenians had an altar “to an unknown god.” Paul suggests that this “unknown”/”unnamed” god is the god he worships…the big “G” God…the God who made the world and everything in it…Lord of heaven and earth.
I wonder though, why did they have this altar and chose to leave it “unnamed”? Were they covering their bases in case they had forgotten a god? Did they run out names or just got lazy?
We don’t know for sure why…but thinking about it leads me to another question: do you ever feel like our altar is one to an unknown God?
I mean we know enough to capitalize the “G,” and we talk about the Trinity—Father, Son, & Holy Spirit—but do we really know God?
God the Father—creator of all, provider of all good things.
Jesus Christ—100% human/100% divine—Savior of the world.
Holy Spirit…what can we really say about the Holy Spirit?
I know it is not Pentecost yet, but the Holy Spirit is not limited to one day (right?)…and thankfully the Biblical mentions of the Holy Spirit are also not limited to just big breaths and dramatic tongues of fire. We get more info, and although we might not ever fully understand this less tangible part of the Trinity, we might as well not ignore those other texts.
One of those references comes as Jesus prepares the disciples for his departure. He leaves them with more words of wisdom: “if you love me, you will keep my commandments”…boy that is a tall order!
But he doesn’t leave them alone and orphaned…so as if in the same breath…Jesus adds, “another advocate is coming to help forever”. This one is not just the next best thing, but will in fact be better and never leave you, as I am about to do.
The Spirit will be ANOTHER, so there will be some similarity to the former. We have the whole beginning of the Gospel of John to reread with that mind. We can learn about what the Holy Spirit will (without a human body) do by paying attention to what Jesus does (with a body). For example, Jesus just said that he is the way, the truth, and the life, but then says that the paraclete is the Spirit of Truth. There is something comparable about the two—Jesus and the other advocate, but there is more too.
In Greek, the word “advocate” that Jesus uses is paraclete, which can mean legal advocate, but it also means so much more. Paraclete refers to anyone “who brings help, consolation, comfort, and encouragement”…literally “one who comes along side another.”
So again like Jesus, the Paraclete abides with humanity, knows us, comes along side us—in other words: is in relationship with us.
The Spirit is not just about making things happen: putting words in our mouths, guiding us on the right path, bringing us healing and comfort, but continues the relationship that God the creator and Jesus started.
The Paraclete is not some second string team, sent in when the starter (Jesus) has to go home early.
The Spirit is not some far off force sent to keep us in line.
The Resurrection and Ascension is not just some ending with the credits rolling afterwards to kill time until judgment day. It is simply a new beginning of abundant life. The Spirit is our partner, who makes us able to live as God intends—to follow the commandments, live in community harmoniously, gathered together in one catholic church among its many and various expressions, forgives us and makes it possible for us to forgive others and be free, abides with communion of saints, provides all we need for abundant life, promises the bodily resurrection on the last day.
We are loved and have been shown the Spirit of that love.
But even when we do not see God as clearly or call out the proper name in celebration and times of trial, it does not change this fact.
We are not left alone.
We are not kept in the dark by some un-knowable god.
We know God because we can see the work of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete abides with us, is in us. Amen.