I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,
to be with you forever.
(John 14:16 – The Gospel Lesson for Pentecost)
In our culture, we call upon advocates to offer support to those who feel they are not being heard, to ensure they are taken seriously, and to assure that their rights are respected. We also understand that an advocate should help people to access and understand information and services available to them. I am afraid that this understanding is a bit too narrow to understand fully the role of “The Advocate” the Jesus promises us in the Father’s name.
Now, I hope that no one takes offense at what I am about to say, but a slightly different term may give us a more fulsome understanding of what was meant by the term advocate in Jesus’ day – and just what Jesus promises to his disciples then – and now.
I am a big fan of “The Godfather” films (I, II, and III!). Maybe because when I was growing up, we heard a lot about the “Gambino’s,” who had an active branch of their extended crime family in Western New York. Who knows?
Anyway, in the organization of these “families,” a pivotal figure is the consigliere (counselor). A consigliereis an advisor to the boss (usually an attorney), with the added responsibility of standing for the family’s interests in important meetings both within family and with others. The consigliere is a close, trusted friend and confidant, a sort of elder statesman, one of the few in “the family” who can argue with the boss. Consequently, this figure is often tasked with challenging the boss when needed, to ensure that proposed plans are foolproof. In most depictions, the consigliereis dispassionate and devoid of ambition as he dispenses advice.
The important part here is the responsibility the consigliere bears for the interests and internal integrity of “the family.” In this sense, Jesus might, in today’s culture, refer to the promised gift of the Spirit as a sort of consigliere. Think about it: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Consigliere, to be with you forever.” What better promise? Someone to watch over the family of the Church, whose only concern is its benefit, its well-being, its continuing existence. Someone who can “argue with the boss” and makes sure that plans are carried out well. Thus, the Spirit’s role is not merely to advise but to act decisively whenever the well-being of the Church and its members are at stake. The boss’s consigliere wields tremendous power and holds everyone trust. Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit does?
Maybe, I am stretching the metaphor too far, but I think there is merit here.
In Western Christianity, we often “over-emphasize” the role of Jesus in our faith life. There is no surprise there. Christmas and Easter are our favorite holydays. The beginning and the end of the mortal presence of Jesus among us. They are easy to understand and to imagine – something we can lay our hands on. But the Spirit – that’s another thing all together.
By contrast, Eastern Christians (e.g., the Orthodox Churches) focus on that more elusive divine person. Their chants and icons personify the mysterious quality of the Spirit that can be as elusive as the odor of the copious amounts of incense used in worship. In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” It is that ethereal nature that makes us uncomfortable. We want to pin God down, control when and where we meet God. But this is not possible once we realize that God’s presence is everywhere and that we “cannot tell where it comes from” or even where it will lead us.
What is comforting is that this ghostly reality has the power of a consigliere– that what surrounds us are not mere wisps of smoke but an energy with the power to enliven, to protect, to transform with a divine mandate to do all that is necessary to reconcile a broken world to its Creator – a task entrusted to usby Jesus. For this purpose, that Spirit showers us with gifts, each given for the sake of the larger work.
As we emerge from the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we exercise these gifts to support one another as the Spirit leads us to new endeavors. How can you employ your gifts to help us Begin Again! in the days ahead? As activities increase, St. Luke’s remain in need of many hands to make its work light: Altar Guild, acolytes, choir members, ushers, ministers of hospitality, outreach workers, Christian formation helpers, nursery attendants, only to name of the few that can help us recover the momentum we had before the pandemic struck.
Vestry is even now considering new ways that St. Luke’s can meet the challenges out new context presents. Stay tuned for more ways in which we will see our gifts manifest themselves in our community.
Source: Rector’s Blog