Among the beautiful promises of Jesus found in the gospels are these words from John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
The Greek “paraclete” is translated into English as advocate, comforter or helper. Its roots are the two words para,(alongside) and kalein (to call).
Literally, the Paraclete is the spirit that comes alongside, that comes to our aid, that comes to our defense when we need it most.
The Spirit of God is a gentle breeze, a breath of fresh air, a wind at our backs. Its work is to connect us to God, to bring us together with Jesus that we might, in the verbs of the LABC mission statement, worship, work and witness.
As Christians celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the church, the coming of the Spirit to the Body of Christ, this Sunday I urge each of us to reflect on the significance of the Paraclete, the one sent by God to come alongside us, just as Jesus came alongside us, full of grace and truth.
There are many traditions that focus on the wonders of the Spirit – speaking in tongues, out of body experiences, exuberant gatherings, healings and unexplained happenings.
Fair enough. But these are not the only possible ways for the Spirit to show up.
For many of us, the Paraclete shows up when we come to the realization that, having climbed the mountain of professional success, having scaled the peaks of academic endeavor, having reached the summit of standing in the community, there is another mountain left to climb.
It may be that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic the first mountain is the mountain of scientific understanding while the second is the mountain of ethical wisdom. Or that the first mountain is the mountain of economic stability while the second mountain is the mountain of moral insight.
New York Times columnist, David Brooks, writes of this mountain in his recent book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. He tells us that if the first mountain we have tried to climb is the mountain of self-centeredness, the second mountain is the mountain of other-centeredness.
If the first mountain is the mountain of success, the second mountain is the mountain of service, and if the first mountain is the mountain of independence, the second is the mountain of interdependence.
The late, great preacher Peter Gomes would put it this way – if the first mountain is achieving the good life, the second mountain is searching for a life that is good.
In that climb, in that search, the promise of Jesus is that Paraclete will come alongside and help us find the way, the good way, the true way, the way of Jesus.
The promise of Pentecost in “quiet” churches like mine, and perhaps like yours, is that the Paraclete will come alongside us and help us climb the “second mountain.”
The Paraclete will come to our aid and help us see that where we truly belong is not in a cave of self-righteousness or a cocoon of self-congratulation but in a community, the Beloved Community where we seek not to be served, but to serve, to walk in the way of Jesus.
Pentecost Sunday worship is at 10:00 a.m.. Please, even on Zoom, wear red!
Together In Spirit gathers tonight at 6:00, A Tine To Connect tomorrow at noon, LABC Reads Saturday at 9:00 with A Time For Prayer at 10:00.
Zoom is doing some system wide upgrades this weekend so I encourage you to begin your login process a little earlier than normal.