The Advocate Will Be With You Forever – 4/27/08 – Zech. 3, John 14:15-27

As we near Pentecost we start to tune ourselves into one of the mysteries of faith — this thing, this energy presence that the New Testament calls the Holy Spirit and the Hebrew Scriptures refer to as the Breath of God, the Wind of God, the glory of God, or the Presence.  At Pentecost this…Presence…is portrayed as the tongues and fire and swirling wind that gets poured out on everybody present in that Acts 2 scene and empowers all of them to live lives characterized as good news, gospel.  The readings leading up to Pentecost begin to prepare us for this spirit-shower and what it might mean for us.   

Last week I mentioned the thought of this passage in John 14 being similar to a Last Lecture series that some universities have in which a professor has the chance to give the speech they would give if it was the very last one of their life, passing on their wisdom and life lessons to the next generation.  Along with giving his one commandment – that the disciples love each other in the way that he has loved them, and inviting them into the spacious world of faith, Jesus speaks at length about a Spirit that will be present in the world as a result of him going to his death.  Of all the metaphors for the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture, this part of John has a unique way of characterizing this Spirit. 

Let me read again from portions of John 14.  The words of Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And 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 see him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you…v. 23 “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love the, and we will come to them and make our (dwelling place) with them…v.25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”    

Jesus’ name for this Divine breath, wind, glory, presence, spirit, is “The Advocate.”

A little over a week ago a few of us went up to Columbus to one of the evenings of the Justice Revival that Sojourners organized.  There was plenty of singing, some praying, Jim Wallis was the main speaker and even gave an altar call after his speech for people who wanted to commit or re-commit their lives to a life of promoting justice.  But one of the highlights for me was hearing from the current Superintendent of Columbus Public Schools, Gene Harris.  If I remember the numbers correctly, when she began as superintendent seven years ago Columbus had a graduation rate of around 55%.  In her time there she has helped raise the graduation rate to 70%, and she has a goal of raising that to 90% by the year 2012.  She spoke passionately about the need for the entire Columbus community to get behind their children and for people to consider the children of the city as part of their extended family, children who matter and who deserve the best that the schools have to offer.  Her method of achieving the 90% graduation rate is a city wide initiative to recruit 10,000 mentors who commit to spending an hour a week with a student, beginning in Jr. High and staying with the same student until they graduate.  She herself is mentoring a student and she said that she told her mentee that she is going to be with her every week and that the only way she can get rid of her is if she graduates.  The school leadership is partnering with the business community and the faith community to recruit mentors for the schools.  Ms. Harris said that the business community has already provided her with 1,000 mentors and she’s now asking churches to recruit members for this movement.  This was part of the altar call at the end of the evening.  Come forward, recommit your life to Christ, and commit to helping a child in Columbus progress successfully through the public schools.  

She was an Advocate.  A strong advocate speaking, working, acting on behalf of the students of Columbus.  She was for them.  She was helping other people see that they should be for them also and that there were concrete things they could do to be for them.  In Jesus’ way of seeing things that he was passing on to his followers, this was an example of the Holy Spirit at work.  The Spirit of truth, speaking on behalf of students who may otherwise be invisible in people’s world, not on the radar screen.

Shift now from this local present day scene to this strange and fascinating scene in the book of the prophet Zechariah that seems to be taking place on some spiritual plane, almost like a divine courtroom setting.  Joshua, the name of the high priest, is standing before the angel of the Lord wearing filthy clothes.  Aside from Joshua and the angel of the Lord there is another character which in Hebrew is Ha-saTAN, which means, the accuser, or the adversary.  The adversary is standing at the right hand of Joshua, ready to accuse him in the Divine court.  With Joshua wearing these filthy clothes, symbolic of the uncleanness of injustice and unrigheousness, it looks like the accuser may have a case against this high priest who is supposed to represent a whole people before God.  But the angel of the Lord gets the first word.  “The Lord rebuke you, O Accuser.”  The angel then commands that Joshua’s filthy clothes be taken off of him and clean ceremonial clothes be put on – a fine new turban for his head and a priestly robe.  The Adversary’s case is not heard.  He gets outmaneuvered by the angel of the Lord.

The story is similar to the story of Job, where this same spirit, the accuser, goes before God to accuse the righteous man Job of being probably-not-so-righteous since he’s had a pretty easy life and anyone can be thankful to God when things have gone well for them.  The adversary comes against Job to accuse him. 

In Zechariah and Job, the NRSV doesn’t translate the Hebrew word for Accuser.  It leaves it in it’s Hebrew form of the saTAN, otherwise know as Satan.  The saTAN gets one other mention in the Hebrew Scriptures and in each of the three cases it is an adversarial spirit that sets itself up against someone or a community, the children of Israel.  Like an obsessed prosecutor convinced of the guilt of an adversary, bringing up it’s case against the defendant. 

One doesn’t have to believe in a literal being that goes by the name of Satan to recognize what the Hebrew Scriptures recognize, that there is a certain accusatory and adversarial spirit present in the world that sets itself up against us.  We experience this energy within us, and we experience this energy around us coming from all different sources.  The accusatory voice, force, spirit, that is against the well-being of us and our human community.

In John 14, Jesus speaks of another voice, force, spirit whose presence he is celebrating and whose continuing presence is his representative after he’s gone.  The Advocate, “who will be with you forever.”  “The spirit of truth.”  And while we’re paying attention to the original language of the scriptures, it’s interesting to note the Greek word for Advocate, paraclete.  A word that had a secular useage at the writing of the New Testament which meant “lawyer for the defense.”  The paraclete is the one who defended the one being accused and spoke on their behalf.

Jesus goes on to say that “the world cannot receive the paraclete, because it neither sees it nor knows it.  Why isn’t the Advocate seen – completely invisible to the world.  The Advocate lives in the invisible places.  Places that are forgotten and passed over. The Advocate sees the world in a way that others can’t see it.  The world doesn’t even see that Advocate.  And you won’t see it if you’re concerned about your own self preservation and purposefully or inadvertently marginalizing others who get in your way or who you don’t believe matter.  Setting yourself up as an adversary to others.  The Advocate lives in those invisible margins, advocating for people that others don’t even see.

Everyone needs an Advocate and everyone can be an Advocate.  I’ve had advocates in my life who have helped shape me.

It makes all the difference to know that someone is for you.  That they are standing up for you, speaking out for you, promoting your wellbeing, speaking well of you to others, encouraging you face to face, letting you know that they believe in you.  An Advocate.  Sometimes as the inner voice advocating for us to ourselves.  Speaking a better word than that accusing adversarial spirit that also inhabits our inner world.  Sometimes the Advocate speaks for us through the voice of another – a mentor, a parent, a teacher, a friend.  We all need to know we have an Advocate before we can be an Advocate.  1 John 4:19 says “we love because God first loved us.”  Or, we could say, “we advocate because God has first Advocated for us.”  For us. 

It was encouraging for me to see one of the notes that was written for one of our youth when we had the coming of age celebration back in January when we were writing about the good qualities that we see in our youth.  The note said something like this:  “You will always be there for people who cannot defend themselves, even though you will learn that this is not always a very popular thing to do.”  This is a description of an Advocate.  Someone who is showing signs of being filled with this Spirit that Jesus is describing.  Someone who is learning that they can be for another person when others may be setting themselves up as an adversary to that person just to give themselves meaning and a feeling of superiority.  A young person who is seeing glimpses of the truth that we are partners with the great Advocate.  And that they can be for others, even if the other sits in the margins, outside the circle of popularity.  I would imagine that this youth was able to be an advocate because they knew that they had advocates in their own life who were for them.

Being an advocate is holy work, Holy Spirit work. 

These last two springs CMF has been involved as a supporting congregation with the Interfaith Hospitality Network.  Building relationships with those who are currently without permanent housing is actually pretty basic work.  As basic as sitting down to a meal together and sharing each other’s stories.  But it goes a long way in teaching us how to be better advocates.  How to position ourselves in those places that are often invisible to others and be for homeless families.  Even if it’s as simple as speaking up in a conversation when people are talking about homelessness and we get a chance to share about some friends we’re making with people who have been temporarily homeless.  

I’m also so glad that CMF is an advocate for the arts.  Unfortunately, part of the church’s historical relationship with art has been adversarial.  Accusing it of being worldly or unrighteous.  So this congregation has positioned itself as a strong Advocate of the arts in the Mennonite world.  We’re for art and creative artistic expression.  We get people together to celebrate the arts.  We’re known in the Mennonite church as art advocates and that’s a very Holy Spirit inspired mission and one I hope can continue for many years to come. 

It’s a tragedy of religion that many people imagine God as the one who is against them.  Ready to accuse and condemn and point out faults and shortcomings and pronounce guilty.  In other words, God as the the Satan.  It’s not that the Creative Spirit of the Universe isn’t aware of our shortcomings, that we’ve all got some dirty laundry that we keep wearing around.  But it’s that the Holy Spirit is for us, not against us.  “If God is for us, who can be against us,” the Apostle Paul said.  An advocate.  In our corner.  On our side.  Advocating for us.  And advocating for the most vulnerable among us.  The invisible ones that are easily forgotten.  What the scriptures call the poor, the widow and the orphan and what we might call the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the orphan, the prisoner who is locked away.  The Jr. High student in the failing city school.  The most vulnerable.  The advocate comes to their defense and speaks a good word for them.  And always will.  Jesus said the Advocate will be with you forever.  Always on the side of the loser, the loner, the poor, and the marginalized.  Always for us.  “This is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it.  You know it, because it abides with you, and it will be in you.”   

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2 thoughts on “The Advocate Will Be With You Forever – 4/27/08 – Zech. 3, John 14:15-27

  1. ah zechariah
    now isnt that interesting

    my case is that zechariah is saying tht indeed joshua would come back as the messiah…
    3  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
    4  And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
    5  And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
    6  And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
    7  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
    8  ¶Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
    9  For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

    AND ALSO ABOUT ELIJAH COMING BEFORE JESUS IN FOLLOWING VERSES
    Zechariah 4:9  The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
    10  For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
    11  ¶Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
    12  And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
    13  And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
    14  Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
    HOW ZERRUBABEL WILL LAY THE FOUNDING STONE IS THAT HE WILL REINCARNATE AS JOHN THE BAPTIST AND ALSO EARLIER WAS INCARNATED AS ELIJAH…

    AND PERHAPS MORE CLEARLY THAT JOSHUA WOULD COME BACK AS THE MESSIAH
    Zechariah 6:11  Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
    12  And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
    13  Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

    SOME WHO WOULD SAY PER HEBREWS THAT THE MESSIAH ONLY COMES ONE TIME
    THAT GREEK WORD TRANSLATED AS ONE TIME ONLY CAN ALSO MEAN ONE FINAL LAST TIME 🙂

  2. LIKE THAT TV COMMERCIAL FOR SPAGHETTI SAUCE..
    IT IS IN THERE…
    namely something about the accuser…
    satan and the destruction of hell in the lake of fire and death too…in the kjv there are four verses that refer to the second death…Results: 4
    For ‘second death’Re 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the SECOND DEATH.
    Re 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the SECOND DEATH hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
    Re 20:14 And DEATH and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the SECOND DEATH.
    Re 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the SECOND DEATH.

    SOME WOULD SAY THAT THE SECOND DEATH IS A GRACE OF GOD WHERE WHAT HAPPENS TO EVIL SOULS AT SOME POINT CAN BE THAT INSTEAD OF STAYING IN HELL FOR ETERNAL SUFFERING THAT ACCORDING TO WHAT IS SAID IN Re 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the SECOND DEATH.

    NOW WHAT IS THIS SECOND DEATH…well if the first death is actaully dying to the old sin nature and freeing oneself to death…it is a losing of the first death before one takes part in the first resurrrection where the second death will have no power…
    SO SECOND DEATH AS A RETURNING BACK TO ONE’S OLD SIN NATURE AFTER ONE HAD DIED TO IT….so to review … the first death [a dying to one’s old sin nature is not secured till the first resurrection where second death has now no power ..

    so again with the first resurrection a returning as a dog to its vomit.. that is a returning back to one’s old sin nature and back to death thru sin…. such a second death or return to sin will not be their fate rather their fate shall be..they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years….

    but what is the fate of death because of sin…. Re 20:14 And DEATH and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the SECOND DEATH. SO THE END OF DEATH AND HELL IS BEING FINALLY DESTROYED IN THE LAKE OF FIRE….would not second death ..the return to death also be destroyed…so my suspicion 🙂 is that this lake of fire destruction is not where souls that are the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone:BUT RATHER IN TAKING A CUE FROM JUDE what is actually destroyed is when during the dark night of the soul, the last remnants of one’s past sin nature that one had died to on an initial level when one first overcame one’s old sin nature by the grace of god and repentance is not finally fully cleansed from the soul as jesus speaks of in the last supper discourse
    john 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
    22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
    23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
    24 ¶Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

    AND IN THIS BECOMING ONE WITH JESUS AND THE FATHER ..IN THIS FIRST RESURRECTION… what is destroyed in the lake of fire is the power of death and hell..ah but i think the death referred to as being destroyed when it says THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH in rev20:14 NAMELY THAT THAT IN THIS ONENESS NOW WITH GOD THAT ONE IS NOW SO STRENGTHENEN THAT ONE NOW WILL NOT BE IN THE SAME NATURE TO RETURN TO ONE’S OLD SINFUL WAYS THAT BRING DEATH THAT COULD HAPPEN THO BEFORE ONE HAS SPIRITUALLY MATURED[THIS FULL MATURITY WHERE ONE IS ONE WITH GOD THE FATHER] ..BEFORE THIS POINT ONE COULD BE AS THE BABE ON THE MILK AND HAS NOT MOVED ON TO SOLID FOOD AND SPIRITUAL MATURITY ..WHETHER SUCH MATURITY IS FULL MATURITY THAT COMES WITH THE FIRST RESURRECTION OR A MATURITY THAT COMES BEFORE AND LEADS TO THE FIRST RESURRECTION… REMAINS YET ….

    SO THO WHAT IS DESTROYED IN TERMS OF Re 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the SECOND DEATH. I THINK TAKING A CUE FROM Jude 1:6  And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. THE ANGELS THAT LEAVE THEIR OWN HABITATION AT THIS LEVEL ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY THAT ARE REPRESENTED BY THE THIRD PART OF THE ANGELS THAT FELL WITH SATAN… with satan as the accuser .. the evil that accuses others for faults that it too has but wants not to have a conscience so that one feels enabled to make others faults as worse than one’s own so that one can justify using others faults to one’s own advantage rather than helping those who might have greater faults in some ways but rather than using their faults to justify selfish gain by taking advantate of others weakness to abuse them for self gain ONE INSTEAD COULD OVERLOOK THEIR FAULTS..still sees them but overlooks them to the divine potential all possess but that the one with faults has lost sight of and in the good hearted soul overlooking their evil and still recognizing their divine potential, aids them in returning to their full divine potential …
    SO THEN THESE angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day ARE THE WOMEN did change the natural use into that which is against nature… this 3rd of angels that fell as the corrupted heart of the soul…. and when one receives a fully cleansed heart in terms of the first resurrection , in terms of that realization of that special new testament use of that greek future tense a-something spelling :)?… then second death and hell are destroyed in the lake of fire… namely the potential to return back as a dog to its own vomit ..to turn back the effectiveness of first dying to sin [a second death] SUCH A SECOND DEATH IS WHAT IS DESTROYED IN THE LAKE OF FIRE ALONG WITH HELL… OR NAMELY THE CORRUPTED HEART IS DESTROYED WHEN THE FIRST RESURRECTION AS THE COMPLETED FULLNESS OF A NEW HEART….
    THERE THAT KINDA DOES IT FER NOW …

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