Pentecost, Year B

Alfred Gorvie

WHEN THE DEFENSE COUNSEL TESTIFIES

 

Pentecost, Year B
Analysis by Fred Niedner
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

15:26 [Jesus said,]“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify  because you have been with me from the beginning.

16:4b“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

From Canva

“There, as the  body of the risen Spirit-breather, we represent the Counselor and use the only tool we have. We forgive sins, not merely with pronouncements, but by loving as Christ loves.”

DIAGNOSIS: On Trial

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem): You Say We Need a Lawyer?
When folks say you need a lawyer, you’re likely in trouble. You’ve been accused, perhaps rightly. Or your identity is in question, and there’s an inheritance at stake. Perhaps you need someone to file suit over a breach of contract, or to stop slanderers who spread lies about you.  In our case, it seems to be all of the above. We’ve been abandoned. Jesus, who made lavish promises – up to and including eternal life, no less – has taken his leave. We’re left behind. And life is tough here in the empire that hates and taunts us. “Hey, you little ‘christs,’ you say your  crucified savior is risen from the dead. Where is he? Show us! Speak up! We can’t hear you.  Admit your folly and confess ‘Caesar is lord.’” Moreover, Jesus promised all he had from the Father was ours now, so where is it? We’re waiting, but the inheritance check never comes. Are our detractors correct, and we’re not heirs of anything that really matters, but phony bastards, or at best, dupes?

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem): What If Our Detractors Are Right?
The lingering absence and the various kinds of scorn from the scoffers’ gallery wear us down. All too often our own hearts echo the taunting. Maybe we’re not some devil’s spawn, but children of God would hardly find themselves in a pickle like this, right? It’s time to be our own best friends, our own advocates, our own arbiters of truth. We shall leave behind the empty promises and prove to the world we belong, have standing, deserve respect. “In Us We Trust.”  Old as it may be, it’s our new motto. Perhaps we’ll even print it on our currency to remind us of the few things that never let us down.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem): Bad Counsel, Failed Currency, Case Closed
Sooner or later, the farcical charade of finding our own wholeness, serving as our own counsel, and desperately puffing ourselves up as our own gods comes crashing down. We cannot heal ourselves, our words fail (as does our money), and in the end, we can’t trust ourselves to manage our own households, much less run the world. We step down from the chairs we stood on to make ourselves look taller, shut our mouths, and fade away. Our sole comfort is like unto Job’s. Made of mere dust and ashes, we don’t have to endure this doomed pretense forever.  We get to die. Then everything that wore us down is someone else’s problem.

From Canva

PROGNOSIS: Trustworthy Counsel

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution): The Counselor Comes . . . Handed Over
Someone else’s problem, indeed. Jesus calls the promised Counselor/Paraclete “the Spirit of truth,” and the way the story proceeds in this gospel’s account, what Jesus promises comes to pass the very next day, and again on the third day. When this “last supper” speech ends, Jesus will hand himself over for trial, judgment, and death by exaltation, and after declaring his victory complete, he will “hand over the Spirit.” That’s how he dies, but in so doing, already then, the Spirit has begun work on behalf of us abandoned, frightened, accused, and ready-to-die-and- have-it-all-be-over-with losers. And on the third day, as we huddle behind locked doors and wring our hands, the risen Jesus, still God’s word made flesh, shows up with those forever ruined hands and breathes that life-giving Spirit of the new creation onto our bleached bones and into our crushed hearts. He died our death and now gives us his life – his crucified but risen life.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution): We Believe that We Cannot Believe, But…
We believe, for the moment at least, although it’s so calm and quiet here, not like that story we’ve heard about disciples whose hair caught fire, and then blown by a powerful Spirit/Wind (Holy Gust?) they poured into the streets sounding like the United Nations and converted thousands in a couple hours. But now here he is, standing amid us paralyzed, would-be believers. “Shalom!” he says, “You work for me now, even as I work for the Father. Go, forgive sins and sinners,” says the one who bore the sins of the world, or so said the Baptist (1:29). It’s hard to keep believing, even harder to keep forgiving, but he keeps coming back, keeps on calling, keeps on gathering us, keeps on opening our minds and hearts, keeps on connecting us with other would-be believers, and together we believe, we forgive, we breathe.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution): Standing by for the Counselor
Bearing the scars of our own trials and wounds, self-inflicted and otherwise, we find our way into locked rooms where fearful people, convinced of their complete abandonment, put themselves and others on trial, accuse each other of all that’s caused the sorry state of their families, workplaces, and world, and count the days ‘til death will release them. There, as the  body of the risen Spirit-breather, we represent the Counselor and use the only tool we have. We forgive sins, not merely with pronouncements, but by loving as Christ loves. Despite everything, we lay down our lives for our friends, and our friends are all whom Christ loves. It’s never easy and seldom painless, but the Spirit never deserts us as we work at this. And besides, we always  start right here in this room, with this knot of sinners thrown together in space and time. For most of us, living and dying for this group alone will take all the time we’ll get.