Year A, The Sixth Sunday in Easter
May 14, 2023
Year A: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. We hear and read these words: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever.” What does this mean for us today, living in the 21st century, in a world that seems increasingly complex and challenging?
First, let’s understand the role of the Advocate. The Greek word used here is “Parakletos” (Παράκλητος), sometimes translated as Comforter or Counselor. In our modern legal system, an advocate speaks, supports, and intercedes on behalf of someone, usually a child or an older person. This is the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.
But the Advocate isn’t just a reactive force, stepping in only when we’re in trouble. The Holy Spirit is always with us, guiding, teaching, and reminding us of what Jesus taught. Later in this passage, we hear, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
We are often overwhelmed by the fast pace of life, the constant influx of information, and the paradox of choice in our pluralistic society. As a result, we sometimes feel lost, disconnected, or confused. Especially in times like this, the Holy Spirit is more important than ever.
The Holy Spirit speaks to the deepest parts of our being beyond the noise and distractions of the world. The Spirit guides us to truth and gives us the strength to live by that truth. In a world where truth is often seen as relative, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the unchanging truth of God’s love and mercy embodied in Jesus Christ. There is no alternative truth.
And, indeed, in times of suffering, when words fail us, the Holy Spirit prays for us.
Heaven knows our reading from the First Letter of Peter speaks to suffering. So what can we do in a world where suffering and injustice are rampant, and the news regularly brings stories of pain and despair?
Many of you know that we usually use the Revised Common Lectionary for our Sunday readings, the same as most other mainline denominations. However, the Book of Common Prayer Lectionary is sometimes different and would include the earlier part of the Letter of Peter in today’s readings. Somehow the app on my phone got switched and showed the BCP Lectionary. One line in particular from the BCP reading stood out, especially when the focus of what we hear is suffering: “let him seek peace and pursue it.” I was drawn to the verse because it is on a t-shirt I bought from Weston Priory in Vermont. But the verse on my Priory t-shirt references Psalm 34, verse 14.
1 Peter is part of a passage encouraging believers to live in harmony and righteousness, even in the face of persecution. The context of Psalm 34 is different, but the overall message of seeking peace and pursuing it is similar.
In the face of growing divisiveness in contemporary society, the verse resonates with a need for kindness, honesty, and peace-seeking among us. As we grapple with the complexities of social, political, and economic division, this verse serves as a beacon of moral guidance. It urges individuals to restrain from evil speech. Advocating for honesty and the avoidance of deceit encourages individuals to foster genuine relationships built on trust and respect, which can bridge societal divides.
I’ve just finished reading a new biography of Gerald Ford and one about King George VI and the Queen Mother. I am struck by how they responded to the world around them during great times of suffering and division. And with Jerry Ford, I was taken even more by how he and Jimmy Carter came together to do so much good after their presidencies, not unlike George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Even with their differences, they could find places of agreement, especially when it came to having the best interests of others at heart.
“Seek peace and pursue it” doesn’t simply call for avoiding evil but actively advocates for the pursuit of good and peace. In today’s world, this means actively working toward reconciliation, promoting dialogue over confrontation, and advocating for justice and equality.
A big part of being able to do that work means continuing to ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for us and to transform our prayers. The Holy Spirit helps us to persevere in hope, to maintain faith in the face of adversity, and to act with love even when confronted with hate. The Holy Spirit, as our Advocate, also empowers us for service. We see in the Acts of the Apostles how the Holy Spirit emboldened the early Church to spread the Good News. This same Spirit is alive in us, empowering us to live out our faith in the world.
In our current age, where many feel disillusioned with institutional religion, the Holy Spirit moves within us to stir the courage to embody the Gospel daily. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to serve the poor, welcome the stranger, comfort the grieving, and strive for justice and peace.
The Holy Spirit is not an outdated, distant, or abstract concept but a living presence within us. The Spirit is our guide, comforter, intercessor, and strength. In a world of challenges, the Holy Spirit offers God’s unchanging love and the courage to live out that love in our lives.
Can we fully open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and be more aware of the Spirit’s whispers amidst the world’s clamor? When we do that, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be bearers of light in the darkest corners of our world. The Spirit guides us to live not as passive receivers of God’s love but as active participants in God’s mission of reconciliation and redemption.
When we are at our weakest, we have an intercessor. When we are confused or doubtful, we have a teacher. And when the world seems cold and unloving, we have a comforter who kindles the fire of God’s love within us.
As we go into our daily lives, let’s remember the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is right here, right now, with us, in us.
And the Holy Spirit isn’t just there for the hard times. The Spirit’s there in the joy, hope, and love we share with others. Let the Spirit guide us to be kinder, stronger, better. To be the best we can be, for ourselves, for each other, and for this world that God so loves.
Remember, we’re not in this alone. We’ve got the best Advocate in the universe on our side. So let’s make the most of it. Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord. Amen.
 John 14:16, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)
 John 14:26, NRSV
 1 Peter 3:11, NRSV