John 15: 26-27, 16:4b-15 Inclusive Bible
Note: Paraclete can be translated: one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts, one who refreshes, and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate
When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of Truth who comes from Abba God, whom I myself will send from my Abba—she will bear witness on my behalf. You too must bear witness, for you’ve been with me from the beginning. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. Now I am going to the one who sent me–yet not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ You’re sad of heart because I tell you this.
Still, I must tell you the truth: it is much better for you if I go. If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you, whereas if I go, I will send her to you. When she comes, she will prove the world wrong about sin, about justice and about judgment: About sin—in that they refuse to believe in me; about justice—because I go to Abba God and you will see me no more; about judgment—for the ruler of this world has been condemned.
I have much more to tell you, but you can’t bear to hear it now.
When the Spirit of Truth comes, she will guide you into all truth. She won’t speak on her own initiative; rather, she’ll speak only what she hears, and she’ll announce to you things that are yet to come. In doing this, the Spirit will give glory to me, for she will take what is mine and reveal it to you. Everything that Abba God has belongs to me. This is why I said that the Spirit will take what is mine and reveal it to you.
Graduations are upon us.
It’s that time of year again when high school, postgraduate, and graduate students line up in robes with funny hats and tassels. After a painful race to the finish line of exams, papers, projects, and theses, they will sit in seats for a couple of hours listening to speakers and hearing their names called. They’ll march up to the stage and shake some faculty members’ hands; they’ll get a diploma [or in some cases an empty container, because their diploma gets mailed to them afterwards]. People will clap and take lots of pictures. Parents and grandparents will cry.
And pretty much all of the graduates will be in a state of shock and wonder.
Is it really over?
All the work, all the stress, all the challenges, experiences, and all the friendships?
Is it really over?
I remember all three of my graduations as being completely surreal. I mean, how can you really sum up years of your life in a ceremony that lasts a couple of hours? The truth is that you can’t. The robes, funny hats, tassels, diplomas, and ceremonies just don’t cut it. Yes, we mark these occasions as special, because to some extent, they are. But certainly, a graduation ceremony is no more special than any of the days or moments during the four years of high school or college. Certainly, those years are not defined by a piece of paper called a diploma. What about the relationships you forged? What about the challenges you overcame? What about all the things you learned, not just from books, but the things you learned about yourself, others, and the world?
We put so much effort into marking the occasion of graduation.
But once the hats are thrown up in the air and the parties end, what next?
Will tomorrow also be a special day with funny hats, robes, and celebration?
This is the question I would like for you to consider.
Is it possible for everyday to be a special day?
Mull over that for a moment.
And now, let’s move from funny hats to funny words, all beginning with the letter p.
Paraclete, Pentecost, and Promise anyone?
Certainly, the first two “p” words are strange.
What do they mean anyway?
Let’s start with Pentecost.
Pente is a Greek prefix for the number 5 or the number 50—depending on the context, and would have been said by Greek-speaking Jews centuries ago. Later on, in Eastern Christianity, Pentecost was designated as a festival celebrated 50 days after Resurrection Sunday.
But Pentecost as a festival did not originate in Christianity; it comes from the Jews.
It was called the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot in Hebrew.
This festival began Saturday, May 23rd at night, and continued through Monday. People read the Torah, fast, eat special foods and specifically dairy products, and pray.
Shavuot is a celebration of the gift of the covenant—in other words, the giving of the Law [Torah] to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Jews celebrate Shavuot 50 days after the first Seder meal [linked to Passover] to remember the Torah and God’s promises.
And now, what in the world is a Paraclete?
No, it’s not a pair of soccer shoes that float through the air.
Paraclete originates from ancient Latin and ancient Greek. It means mediator or advocate. But if we really want to dig into its original meaning, a Paraclete is a person—someone who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts, one who refreshes, and one who literally stands with someone and intercedes on her behalf.
This is often why Paraclete is translated advocate in English Bibles. But as you can see, Paraclete is the word used in John’s Gospel, and its meaning is wider than just advocate.
And the last p word you’ve heard before, but do you really know what it means?
Certainly, there are types of promises, some of them being: vows, oaths, commitments, and even legal contracts. The type of promise that goes with the other two p words of Pentecost and Paraclete is really none of those types of promises.
It is a covenant promise.
Keep in mind that a covenant is very different than a contract, which is based on law, and often built on fear. A covenant is based on grace, and built on love.
Covenants have a growing edge; they are fluid; they don’t impose limits.
In a covenant, accountability is mutual.
And finally, covenants require community affirmations and re-affirmations.
Of all the three p words I’ve mentioned, perhaps promise is the most important one, or at least the word from which the other two flow. There is no Pentecost with promise. There is no Paraclete without promise.
You see, Western Christians are notorious for marking liturgical days [like Pentecost], putting on strange robes and funny hats, giving special speeches, and observing one day as an extra special one.
But that’s not at all what Paraclete and Promise are about.
The Paraclete, the Spirit of God, is a promised reality. The Spirit is not limited to a day, or a time, or a place, or even to a religion. The Spirit flows as it wishes, and it flows through all. And the Spirit is part of the covenant promise, for the Spirit flows with grace and fills with love.
I return to the question I asked you to consider:
Is it possible for every day to be a special day?
Consider: what if every day were Pentecost?
No waiting for some mythical “Holy Ghost” to come down, or for some second coming—no waiting. Today.
What if impatience for “better days” or anxiety over what is to come took a back seat to the realization that today, right now, there is spirit, and promise, and life?
How would that change our living?
Our decision making?
Our treatment of others?
The Spirit–She is already here—proving us wrong when we say that there are only certain days that are special, only certain times when we can be filled with compassion, understanding, and joy. She is here today, standing beside us in times of need and standing up for that which is right. She is in us and around us, and so every day is an opportunity for us to change, to discover ourselves, to find wisdom, to listen, to learn, and to love.