Thursday, May 18, 2017

Essential Encouragement

John 14: 15-21[Jesus said to the disciples:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he 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.
  “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They 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.”

I have been a writer since about the fourth grade, when my teacher Mrs. H taught me about “creative writing” – and particularly poetry. For years after that I used the practice of writing for my own journal, for college and seminary and for some songwriting. One of the places that much of this writing took place over the last several years was on my blog: Uphill Idealist.

For those who have taken part in the practice of “blogging”, you learn that it is a place to share your ideas and thoughts that is more public than a diary; in fact through blogging – I’ve made pen pal friends of sort. People would leave comments and in turn I would start to read and comment on their blogs too. While we might not have known the people in a real life face to face way; I knew and appreciated my blogging friends in a very dear way. Their insights, comments and writings became a place for me to grow as a writer; to gain confidence and have the gift of human feedback. Through blogging I found writing friends.

In an unexpected way, this week as I read Jesus words from John 14; I was reminded of my blogging friends and the relationships we have built for over 15 years. In this environment of support and encouragement, we have grown as writers and as human beings. So if encouragement is important to writers; perhaps it is important to faith formation too?

In today’s text, Jesus speaks with his disciples about some important things that they need to know in the days to come. In fact, from John 14- 16, Jesus gives at length directions and affirmations that after his arrest would be words that the disciples would return to for hope and encouragement.
John 14:16-21 in particular introduces the disciples to the Advocate – otherwise known as the Holy Spirit.

Advocate – according to definition on human terms is:
“To speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.” (Dictionary.com)
Other words that capture the meaning of Advocate - its synonyms are: “champion, upholder, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent, exponent, spokesman, spokeswoman, spokesperson, campaigner, fighter, and crusader”

Scripturally speaking, Advocate in defining the Holy Spirit can be explained in this way:
“The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another”; the word carries a secondary notion concerning the purpose of the calling alongside: to counsel or support the one who needs it. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who has been “called to our side.” He is a personal being, and He indwells every believer.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/paraclete-Holy-Spirit.html)

At this point in the gospel account of John, Jesus wants to assure the disciples that even if he physically isn’t with them – that God will not leave them alone. That even in the midst of great conflict, challenge and loss; that the disciples will never be orphans. The disciples in all of their need and confusion will not be left alone.

Jesus promises them the company of the Advocate – called to the side of the disciples; to comfort, strengthen, support and encourage for all that was to come and more.
This promise of the Advocate was not only for the disciples; but is a gift given to all believers. This promise of the Advocate is our gift too.

There were many times in my blogging and writing life that I felt discouraged or that the time I was spending playing with words was wasteful – what good were my words even doing? Is anyone even reading them? And then a comment or an email from one of my blogging “paracletes” would come. Someone would come alongside of me, give me some hope and help me to continue in the practice of being a writer.

I think that the life of faith is somewhat like the writing life in that it needs encouragement to continue and grow. In our faith life, there are times that we aren’t sure that our actions are making an impact or that there is someone more qualified or skilled in the call to follow Jesus. We worry that we aren’t doing this discipleship thing right – and then the Holy Spirit comes and lift up our hearts through our friends that walk with us, through an encouraging word and so many other ways.

Connection with an advocate – in writing or following Jesus is life giving. The amazing part about the life of faith is that there is no Wi-Fi connection necessary to receive encouragement and the gift of the Advocate. This is a gift that is given, through the grace and mercy of God, by Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. It can’t be shaken, or stopped or taken away – the Holy Spirit is the forever friend that will never leave us.

Perhaps today, it is good to be reminded of the promise of the Holy Spirit – the Comforter – the Paraclete – that stands by your side today and always. It is good to recognize that we are not alone in our lives and that the Spirit of God is our nearest and dearest friend forever.

In what way do you need to recognize that you have been given the gift of the Advocate in you daily life? Are there challenges with work, family, health, school, home…

Remember today, that you are not alone in the challenges. The Advocate is there with you. You are not an orphan left alone in the struggle, you are a beloved child of God and the Spirit is at your side today and every day.

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Aaru Garg
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