This Sunday we hear Jesus speaking to his disciples preparing them for the time when he will no longer be with them. Maybe you have done this from time to time with friends or family when you go away for an extended time? Our reading shows Jesus to be someone who thinks carefully about the impact his presence and his absence has on others. John gives us a tender image of Jesus preparing his disciples for the day when they will feel totally bereft, filled with grief and weighed down by loss.
The message he gives them is clear and unambiguous. I will not leave you orphaned!
I know that many people have felt ‘orphaned’ in this period of lockdown. I have heard peoples’ sense of isolation and loneliness, and especially the longing for physical contact. I certainly have felt that as I watched on skype my three month old grandson being held and enjoyed by my daughter. How the heart is wrenched when we can see but not touch and cuddle such a tiny bundle of life and wrap him in our love.
Jesus’s word to his disciples is that he wants to do the same with us. He promises to send the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate, to be with us constantly. There are many words that have been used to describe the Holy Spirit, the word, Comforter, and Helper stand alongside and inform our understanding of the word Advocate.
There have been many times in my life when I have greatly appreciated the advocacy of a friend. An advocate is someone willing to speak out in our defence and stand up for us when we are unable to do that for ourselves. It’s a strong, even fearless role and not everyone finds the courage needed for this, but when we do find that courage it is a great comfort to the person needing advocacy.
So when we talk about the Holy Spirit as Comforter, is not a sentimental image we are given but the knowledge that God will be with us even in very dark times to guide and sustain us in that darkness and lead us out into the sunshine.
When I first heard the Government restrictions on public gatherings and knew that we needed rapidly to find new ways of meeting together for worship and pastoral care, the first thing I did was to ask our Elders and Pastoral Carers to take up the challenge of ringing the people allotted to their care once a week, and I’m delighted to hear that many are doing just that and doing it well. But I struggled with how we were to record and upload our services of worship. That’s when the Holy Spirit stepped in, and a team of people gathered to help. The powerful nature of the church is that we are not alone, we are surrounded by the help we need in people with skills and talents that supplement our own. The Holy Spirit, the Helper, steps in to assist us in sharing the love and grace of God.
So thank you to those willingly offering to help in these strange times. The Holy Spirit is alive and well among us.