Jn 15: 26–27; 16:4b-15
Wesley, Doncaster East
June 11, 2000
I’ve only ever been involved in court cases twice. The first time was many years ago in Tonga. Ann had had her handbag snatched while we were shopping. I attended the court case. There was no lawyer. I was cross-examined. I felt foolish and alone.
The second and last time was when Hamish was before the juvenile court for computer hacking. There was a lawyer provided through Legal Aid. It made the world of difference having someone on your side who listened, who understood, who knew the ropes, who was by your side and on your side.
I’ve never been called before a court of justice to face any sort of charge. But with those two experiences under my belt, I know I’d want someone there with me and for me.
In this morning’s reading from John’s Gospel we heard Jesus’ “final” words to his friends. He said he was leaving them, but would send someone who would do what he had already been doing, but would do it even better and far more effectively. His promise is the “Paraclete.”
This Particular Greek word is very hard to translate. It really means a person called alongside you to give every help you need. In court you need a lawyer or an advocate, the spokesperson who speaks on your behalf. When hard decisions have to be made, you need a counsellor to listen and guide you toward the right decision. In grief you need a consoler. When you’re hurt, you need a comforter. Paraclete is all that and more.
He had had an upper-level management position in a large company. Without warning he found himself caught up in the company’s downsizing. He went into “early retirement.” He became sullen and depressed.
His minister realised his gifts and asked him to help out a couple of mornings a week with the clothes closet and food pantry the church operated. He was reluctant – but agreed to help.
He met a woman, mother of three, trying to make ends meet oh what she could earn as a domestic worker. She mentioned the problem she’d had with the electric company. She’d paid her bill late, but the company cut off the power anyway. Now they wanted $50 as a reconnection fee. What could she do?
She’d phoned, but had been told repeatedly that a rule was a rule..
He offered to call for her. When he made enquiries he was shocked at the way he was treated. He demanded to talk to the manager. The manager was an old friend. He agreed to help the woman with her problems.
Next it was another woman with a problem about a loan she’d taken out. He got action.
A ministry had opened up for this man. “In giving, he received. He learned what a gift it is to be able to talk on the phone, to cut through the red tape, to speak up.”
“’I never knew what it’s like eo be unable to figure out all the levels of red tape and organisational smokescreen,” he said. “Having spent my life in business, I knew how to cut through the garbage, go to the top, and to get these people the help they needed.”
He became an advocate for the poor, someone to plead their case before the powerful. He was counsellor, consoler and comforter in the very bet sense of those terms.
Jesus was telling his nearest friends he was going to leave them. He wouldn’t be with them as he had been before. He knew the difficulties they would face without him in the days, months and years ahead. But he promised them that they would not be left without his presence or his power. He would send them the Paraclete, the near presence of God to stand alongside them, to speak for them, to plead their case and to take up their cause.
What he promised them, he promised us.
We are not and never are on our own. The Paraclete, the Advocate, the Counsellor, the Comforter, the Consoler is alongside us and on our side. God’s Holy Spirit knows our needs, finds words that express what we cannot find words for, speaks up for us, pleads our case, takes up our cause.
Thank God for his gift of himself to us all.