A woman in her forties, let’s call her Sarah, is living in a homeless shelter with her three kids. She used to be an assistant manager at a retail store, but after getting pregnant and having her first child the position she once held was filled, and she couldn’t find another. Debt spiraled out of control and she lost her place to live. She is actually grateful to be living in the shelter because she remembers what it was like to live on the streets, and she’s managed to get another job in retail, but can’t seem to make enough money to get herself and her family back into housing. Enter a kind social worker who advocated for Sarah and helped her to get linked into a local program to help people find affordable housing.
What does it mean to be an advocate and what does it mean to have an Advocate (capital “A”) laboring on our behalf in our lives?
An advocate on the sports field cheers louder than anyone else when you’re in the game and provides tips for how to strengthen your performance.
An advocate in a social service agency cheers you on when you’re trying to get your life back on track, be it with housing, job, relationships, or otherwise; there to help you learn how to build resilience and strength for the journey.
An advocate in Habitat for Humanity helps you build a house and learn how to be a responsible home owner and how to give back by donating your time to hell on the next house build your someone else who needs a leg up in life.
When you have an advocate, you have someone cheering for you, someone who wants to see you succeed and wants to help you succeed by providing the tools necessary for success.
Pentecost is all about the Advocate with a capital “A,” as Jesus names the Holy Spirit. And this is not just some abstract spiritual concept Jesus is tossing out to the disciples as he gets ready to depart from their midst. This speaking of the Advocate is not the way Jesus gets himself off the hard work hook of helping humanity by turning the disciples and us and the world over to be “someone’s else’s - that is the Holy Spirit’s - problem.”
“You all are a lot of work. I’m going to let my buddy the Holy Spirit take a turn while I head to the great big dugout in sky for some refreshment and to talk over how the game is going with the big ‘G.’” No!
Jesus, as we talked about last week, is getting the disciples and us ready to understand what’s coming next. Jesus is not leaving us as the Holy Spirit takes over just as God did step aside to let Jesus take a turn. The wondrous, relational dance of the Trinity - God Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier is marvelously woven as a whole.
God’s creating work continues.
Christ’s redeeming work continues.
And this week, at Pentecost we name the powerful way that the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work is at hand and will continue.
This is the 3rd person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit who is named by Jesus as the Advocate. And just like those real-world examples I named of advocating and supporting people, be it on a sports team or through a social service agency or Habitat for Humanity, the Holy Spirit is laboring on our behalf, advocating on our behalf and sending us to be advocates on behalf of others in need. Not an abstract concept: the Advocate is all about real life support - building up more verdant life through helping us recognize God and Christ’s work in our lives and the world.
And the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity is doing even more than this! For the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, we hear in our first lesson from Acts, is the great communication bridge builder. On that first Pentecost Day, so long ago, all those people of different cultures and languages suddenly understood each other!
By this we know that the work of God looms forth when people labor to build common understanding with one another. Oh, aren’t there so many places in this world and in our own lives that need help with building common understanding?
The Middle East and specifically Palestine and Israel come to mind especially right now! People with different political beliefs. People wearing masks and people not wearing masks. People online in social media platforms and people looking at each other face to face in person.
When any of us labor to build understanding across differences, then we are laboring with the Holy Spirit to build living signs of the resurrection. But if we are judgmental and dismissive and breaking down communication with others who think differently, look differently, or act differently than us then we may be listening to someone or something, but it is not the Holy Spirit.
We cannot be mean-spirited and Holy-Spirited.
I repeat: we cannot be mean-spirited and Holy-Spirited.
The “gotcha” culture and spouting off unkindly on social media culture do not reflect God, whose Spirit is always calling us, in the words of the prophet Micah, “to do Justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.”
If we would participate in Christ’s resurrection work made possible by the cross and the Pentecost-Spirit; if we would by our lives testify to the goodness of God, then we must let God daily put our human sinfulness to death, and rise again with renewed purpose - recognizing that in God’s eyes, all of humanity is on the same team: no exceptions.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is seeking to help us all to build a world that reflects Christ’s love and truth - which is so much more beautiful and wondrous than we could ever have imagined. This is the world where lion and lamb shall roam together in peace - or elephants and donkeys shall put down their pitchforks and instead they will pick up hammers and labor alongside those less fortunate to build affordable housing and find jobs that pay a wage that can support a family, and grow strong in mental and emotional and physical and spiritual well-being.
The power of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate is sent to us so that we might be filled with the power of Christ - so as to reveal God’s loving purposes for the world.
Ok, breathe deeply. And ask yourself - right now - where and how and for what is the Holy Spirit advocating for you, and for your labor to be a part of the Trinity’s great labor of love for the world?