Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
22Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
8Bless our | God, you peoples;
let the sound of | praise be heard.
9Our God has kept us a- | mong the living
and has not allowed our | feet to slip.
10For you, O God, have | tested us;
you have tried us just as sil- | ver is tried.
11You brought us in- | to the net;
you laid heavy burdens up- | on our backs.
12You let people ride over our heads; we went through | fire and water,
but you brought us out into a place | of refreshment.
13I will enter your house | with burnt offerings
and will pay | you my vows—
14those that I promised | with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I | was in trouble.
15I will offer you burnt offerings of fatlings with the | smoke of rams;
I will give you ox- | en and goats.
16Come and listen, all you | who believe,
and I will tell you what God has | done for me.
17I called out to God | with my mouth,
and praised the Lord | with my tongue.
18If I had cherished evil | in my heart,
the Lord would | not have heard me;
19but in truth | God has heard me
and has attended to the sound | of my prayer.
20Blessed be God, who has not reject- | ed my prayer,
nor withheld unfailing | love from me.
1 Peter 3:13-22
13Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
A courtroom is what I picture when Jesus promises not to leave the disciples alone. Today we find the disciples gathered with Jesus, who is about to die. The disciples are grieving deeply because they are finally getting some sense of what is to come. The teacher who they’ve grown to love is going to leave them. They are afraid of being orphaned. The disciples have been traveling with Jesus every day for three years and now he is going to leave them. Their world is about to be turned upside down and their master and friend will not be with them. In anticipation of the events to come, Jesus teaches the disciples that in fact he will remain with them, the in a different way. He loves them.
He says he will give them an Advocate. And here I picture the loving District Attorney who has been assigned to someone, a child or adult, a victim with no one else to advocate for them. The person is alone in the world. No family or friends can be found to walk with him in the days ahead. He is so lost and so traumatized that he can not even talk. One part of the advocate’s job is to simply help this person to tell his own story—to tell others what he has seen and heard. And though it will not happen in the walls of the courtroom, the advocate will also help the individual to live again, to put one foot in front of the other when this nightmare is over.
As Jesus explains the significance of his departure to his disciples, he points them toward the life that they will lead after his death. Jesus and the Father will be with them. They will not be left orphaned.
Orphan must have been a powerful image that resonated with the disciples. Earlier, Jesus’ addressed the disciples as “little children.” They have become part of a family—a family of God. Now it seems that those family ties will be cut. But Jesus assures them that the intimacy will not undercut by Jesus’ departure. His promise to return counters any possible perception of Jesus’ death as his abandonment of his disciples.
How can the relationship continue? Jesus says, the Father “will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
If the courtroom advocate is what I first imagine when I hear our translation of Jesus’ speech, it is not the only image we should have while reading this text. It has been my experience that Lutherans do not warm to discussions about the Holy Spirit. I was perplexed by the Spirit as a child and my mother did not help my understanding when she told me the Spirit was the easiest being in the Trinity for her to grasp. She also still likes our old language—the Holy Ghost.
Part of the struggle is that there is an understanding among some Christians that you can only claim that the Spirit is present if you speak in tongues or are affected in some other physical way. We think there is a monopoly on the Spirit. We forget or are insecure about explaining the ways the Spirit at work in our lives.
The word which is translated here as “Advocate” actually comes from a verb, “parakaleo.” Parakaleo has a wide range of meanings that include “to exhort and encourage,” “to comfort and console,” “to call upon for help,” and “to appeal.” So, the partner noun can mean “the one who exhorts,” “the one who comforts,” “the one who helps,” and “the one who makes appeals on one’s behalf.” In John Chapter 14 I think the word draws on the whole range of meanings in the variety of functions attributed to the Paraclete.
The difficulty of choosing among these meanings is reflected in the various English translations–almost every translation is different when it comes to this word. Instead of settling on one English word, it seems best to translate parakeleo as “Paraclete” as in the New Jerusalem Bible, popular with uur Roman Catholic siblings.
There is more. Jesus does not say that he will give the disciples a Paraclete. He says he will give them “another” Paraclete. In other words, Jesus himself was also a Paraclete. It is not simply another name for the Spirit. It is a way of describing what the Spirit does, what functions are held in common with Jesus. To call the Paraclete the “Spirit of truth” is to identify the Paraclete as more than a true or truthful Spirit. As the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete shares in the work of Jesus, because Jesus is the truth.
Gaining some insight into this one who exhorts, encourages, advocates, comforts, consoles, appeals, and helps is only helpful when we hear the rest of the Jesus’ speech. Intertwined with the promise of the Paraclete is another way in which the disciples and Jesus will stay connected. The heart of this discourse is love–two dimensions of the believer’s love relationship with Jesus.
These things cannot be separate: one’s love of Jesus and the keeping of his commandments and the abiding and indwelling of the presence of God, even after Jesus’ death and departure with those who love him. To love Jesus is to keep his commandments. Which commandments? The greatest ones—to love God and to love your neighbor.
Susan Armstrong wrote in her memoir The Spiral Staircase that “the one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology.” Armstrong is concerned with how theology moves one to have compassion for others.
The Christian’s union with God and Jesus is possible after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus has promised his disciples that this union is so. But it is not a private, mystical union of the believer with his or her god. Jesus’ words consistently point to the communal nature of union and relationship with him after the end of his earthly ministry. The promises of divine presence are promises made to the community. I will give you all a Paraclete. I will not leave your community orphaned. Keep the greatest commandments—all of you.
It is this community of faith into which you will be baptized today Kristina. You were not ready to receive or make the promises when your children were baptized. But now you are ready and we are rejoicing! We already know you to be one practicing compassion for others and trying to follow Jesus’ way faithfully. The Holy Spirit will be with you on this journey, in and through this community of faith.
Jesus does not promise another Paraclete, or his own return, to individuals, but to a community who lives in love. God, Jesus, and the other Paraclete are inseparably interconnected with one another. This is clear in the promise of God’s sending another Paraclete in response to Jesus’ request.
The relationship with Jesus does not depend on physical presence, but on the presence of the love of God in the life of the community. And the love for God is present whenever those who love Jesus keep his commandments, when they continue to live out the love that Jesus showed in his own life and death. Love is the sign of fidelity to Jesus. Communion with God, Jesus, and the Paraclete suggests that the believing community in any generation, including our own, will enter into relationship with Jesus–when we open our hearts to the Spirit and show compassion to those near and far away.
Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)
United in the hope and joy of the resurrection, let us pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
God our faithful companion, you promise to never leave us and to send your Spirit to guide us in wisdom and truth. Send your people into the world to serve as mirrors that reflect and magnify your love. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
All the earth sings praises to you. Grant your care to the creatures, plants, and places that are suffering, and equip us to respond to their song. Make us agents of restoration and refreshment for all your beloved creation. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You call all people of the world your children. Judge the nations justly, show mercy to all who are oppressed, and speak truth to power through your prophets. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Nurturing Lord, you sent your Spirit to grant us peace. Make your presence known to those who feel abandoned or alone, and to all who are sick or grieving (especially). Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You hold us in your loving care. We pray for mothers and mother figures. Console all who long to be mothers, children estranged from their mothers, anyone grieving the death of a mother, and mothers who have lost a child. Support all for whom this day is difficult. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
Almighty God, you give life and breath to all things. We give thanks for the apostle Matthias and all your saints (especially). Sustain us by your love until we join the saints in glory. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Rejoicing in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, we lift our prayers and praise to you, almighty and eternal God; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.