“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.” -John 14: 16-18
“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” -Luke 24: 49
I have transition on my mind. I have three more Sundays as your Associate Rector. This is my second to last clergy reflection. I have begun the challenging work of saying goodbye to an amazing group of people here at St. Mark’s. Even in the most ideal of circumstances transitions are hard because we mourn the joyful circumstances we find ourselves in. This sense of loss is present even if we have confidence that there are good things ahead for us.
I have been taking comfort in the last couple of days from the above words of scripture which arise in the lectionary this week. The passage from John is taken from our Gospel reading this past Sunday and the passage from Luke will be read today at our Ascension Day Eucharist. Today is one of the major Feasts of the Church Year commemorating Christ’s ascent into heaven after his Resurrection and prior to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. (Our Ascension Day service is at 6:30p.m. in the sanctuary and we hope you will join us).
In both passages of Scripture, Jesus assures us that when he ascends to the Father, he will not leave us on our own. In both passages, he assures his people that God holds a plan for the Church and their individual lives and that the Holy Spirit will empower them to continue on the journey God has set before them.
The word here translated “Advocate”, parakletos in Greek, means one who comes alongside to help and encourage. Jesus assures us that this Advocate will be with us, raising us up when we fall, keeping an eye on us, and giving us the strength to keep going. You might have been in a situation in your own life, when, in the midst of pain or struggle, you have felt God’s presence and mercy. This might have manifested itself in a small gesture such as a card full of words of encouragement from a dear friend. It might also have come in the form of a prayer or a shared meal. Whatever the circumstances, many of us have felt a strong sense of God’s Spirit in our midst, walking alongside us.
Over the last 2000 years, the Church has been buoyed by the presence of that same Holy Spirit. “Through many dangers, toils, and snares” the Church has come and here we are, this very day, a part of the same loving, caring community that holds one another in love during our times of struggle and change.
My prayer for us during this time of transition is that even though in a few short weeks, we will not see each other on a regular basis any longer, we will always know that we are connected through time and space through the power of the Holy Spirit who guides us, strengthens us, and unites us as One even as God is united as One.
I look forward to these final weeks with you. You are a blessing and a joy.