‘I will come to you…’ (John 14:18)
Read John 14:15-21
Yesterday would have been the start of the General Assembly in Edinburgh, which I was due to attend this year. But as you know that was cancelled, along with so many other events, because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the installation service of the new Moderator, Rev’d. Dr. Martin Fair, went ahead, with only a few people in the Assembly Hall and others participating from elsewhere. And I hope you were able to see that from home.
One of the things I enjoy about going to the Assembly is the heightened sense you experience of being part of the wider Church. Talking with others from all over Scotland and beyond, listening to their experiences and sharing our own, you get a greater sense of the work of our Church as we seek to serve God in our communities. All of us doing different things in different ways and focussing on different perspectives. But all of it – no matter who or where we are, or what we are doing – all of it underpinned in our love for Jesus Christ, at all times, seeking as best we can to serve Him as He has called us to. And of course the way that we do that best is to listen to and follow the guidance of His Holy Spirit.
Advocate, Helper, Comforter – all of these are perfectly acceptable translations of the Greek word Parakletos used in our Gospel passage this morning to relate to God’s Holy Spirit. And if we stop to think about that for a moment, each has its place as we seek to live out our Christian faith in the world that we live in today. But in our passage this morning we focus on the word Advocate.
An Advocate is someone who will stand up for you, no matter what. Someone who will stand by your side; someone who will support you and respect you, even when you mess things up. And just think for a moment how often we have needed someone like that to be by our side in our own lives. Think of all those occasions when something we have said or done has left other people shaking their head in disbelief or pointing their finger in condemnation – or abandoned us altogether. That person – that Advocate – has been there for us. Indeed not only have they been by our side, they have helped to pick us up, to get us back on our feet and on the right path we should be on, offering us support and encouragement along the way. Why…because of the love they have for us.
How good does that make us feel – to know that we were not on our own, to know that we have someone like that by our side. But of course they are not just by our side, they also offer us help and the comfort, the other aspects of the Parakletos when we need it most. Too know that we have someone like that by our side is wonderful.
But for all that, how much better then to hear Jesus say that He will give us another Advocate to be with us – The Holy Spirit will be our Advocate. How amazing to know that God’s Spirt will forever be with us, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will always be here – in our hearts and souls. No matter how good an advocate we may have in a family member, friend or colleague, there is nothing else that compare to knowing that God is always with you, no matter where you are or what you are doing, by His Spirit, God is always there.
And that leads us on to another possible meaning of the word Parakletos – ‘one called alongside’ – essentially, a companion who will journey with every one of us along life’s path. Guiding us through the many obstacles we face and helping us to overcome any difficulties on our way, guiding us together every step of the way.
Today in the wake of this pandemic that we are all caught up in, how we all need to know that we have an Advocate, Helper, and Comforter – someone walking alongside us as we journey through this together. Of course we can all be a help to each other, we can all comfort each other, we can all walk with each other, spiritually, through each day – and I know that we have been doing that here in our churches. A sign that God’s Holy Spirit is indeed working among us.
But walking alongside us all and holding us all together is God’s Holy Spirit – every single step of the way. And if we allow Him to come to us, He will be our Advocate, our Helper, our Comforter – and whilst the journey ahead may not be easy, in His strength and by His grace we will come through this.
Let’s pray together…
God of compassion, we know only too well of some of the suffering that is going on in this world today. We see that so many people are afflicted in so many ways as a consequence of the pandemic we are now facing and we ask that your hand would be upon them at this time. We remember also those suffering in so many other ways. Hear those who cry out to you for help and open the eyes of those who never pray for themselves. Have mercy on those whose lives are filled with pain and heartache at this time and be with those who have lost loved ones in recent days and weeks, thinking especially of those here in our own families and communities. Give to them that peace and comfort that only You can give and assure them that we are thinking of them at this time. And in a moment of silence now we bring before You those who are uppermost in our hearts and thoughts today, asking that You would be with them at this time.
God of eternal life, You have given us a share in the inheritance of Your saints and by Your Holy Spirit they surround our steps as we continue on our journey with You. Help us to rejoice with them now, in your everlasting Kingdom and be with all whom we have thought of this day. And all this we ask in Jesus name…Amen.
Sunday evening – national call to prayer
As has been the case over the past few weeks, the leaders of all churches have come together to call us to prayer at 7.00pm this Sunday evening. Underneath is a prayer by the leaders of all churches that could be used to begin this time of prayer. The full statement can be found on the Church of Scotland website where it also lists all those leaders whom signed that statement.
Living God, you are our Creator and our Maker
And the very breath of life is given as your gift.
We thank you for the gift of life
And we embrace and treasure that gift.
Living God, you are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Whose presence in the world reveals your love for us.
In the giving of your Son,
You reveal the depths of your love.
Living God, your Son embraced the Cross
And the depths of human suffering.
We thank you that you delivered him
On the day of Resurrection.
Living God, as you spoke to the bereft and the orphaned in days past,
Speak to the bereft and the orphaned in days present.
Speak to the uncertain and the anxious.
Speak into the depths of our incomprehension and fear.
Living God, your promise
Is that we will not be left alone to face the world.
We thank you that through the gift of your Spirit
That promise is fulfilled.
Living God, be with all who sustain our common life at this time,
Carers and nurses, cleaners and porters,
Doctors and ambulance staff, delivery drivers and posties.
Through their giving our common life is sustained.
Living God, as you have watched over us in the past,
Watch over us in the present.
As once more we thank you, that through Christ
And by your Holy Spirit, we are not alone. Amen.