New Monkland Parish Church


You’ve Got A Friend

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever
- the Spirit of truth.”

St. John 14:15-16a.
Throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, we find the promise, “Do not fear, I am with you.” In the readings for today, the sixth Sunday of Easter, that reality is described both in terms of the Transcendence of God - who is present everywhere; and in terms of the Imminence of God - who is with us where we are.
However, our God is no attention-seeking showman, and, so, sometimes we have to look hard for God; and sometimes we have to trust that God is there when we are tempted to think otherwise.
Nor is the promise that “God is with us” an insurance policy against pain, or the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Rather, as we are finding in these days of global pandemic, God is with us in our pain and is present even when life is “locked-down”.

Our understanding of God is framed by the revelation of God to us in Jesus Christ. His suffering and death help us to believe that God understands what we face. His resurrection is the anchor on which we depend, believing that suffering, evil and even death, do not have the last word.
Everything now has to be evaluated in the light of the Easter events. Our view of Jesus, our understanding of God, our need of forgiveness and our future hope, revolve around that first Easter weekend that shook the world.
We have a message to proclaim - we have a model to imitate - we have a promise to trust.

Today’s Gospel continues that teaching of the Upper Room from last week’s Gospel; immediately after the time when Jesus tells His disciples that He is to die. They are scared and worried; they don’t know what’s going to happen: more violence, more danger, or more death. They will be alone without their friend, their teacher, their Lord. But Jesus promises, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus tells them about “the Counsellor” whom the Father will send in His name - and it quickly becomes clear that Jesus is telling the disciples about the Holy Spirit who will be with them forever. This is John’s description of the Holy Spirit. It’s different from the Pentecost story that we hear in Acts, with fire and flames and visions and dreams.
John describes the Spirit as “Counsellor”; it could also be translated as Comforter, Paraclete, or Advocate... However it’s translated; it means that there is someone on our side. Someone who speaks and moves and works for us, to support, help, and guide us - this is the Holy Spirit.

I heard it said just before the “lock-down”, jokingly, I think, about a “colourful character” here in the village to whom I had been speaking. I was told, “Oh him, he doesn’t have an enemy in the world - it’s just that his friends don’t like him very much!” We all need friends; surely there have been times we wished that we had a friend - or were glad we had a friend;
Someone who would help when the chips are down; surely we have wished at times that we had someone to talk to when we lonely;
Someone to listen to our problems;
Someone who was engaged and caring; someone who would love us even if we were in the wrong?

Have you ever heard someone say, “He doesn't have a prayer” meaning, of course, he, or she, is “hopeless”. Have we ever felt like we “didn’t have a prayer” and that we were without “hope”?
When we felt hopeless, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a friend to talk to? Wouldn’t it have been nice at those times in our lives to “have a prayer”? Wouldn’t it have been nice to talk to God and know that He is listening?
Jesus’ disciples felt lonely, isolated, and uncertain. Jesus was talking about leaving them - He was even talking about dying. These disciples had made great sacrifices to follow Jesus - they had walked away from their fishing businesses - they had left home and hearth - they had staked everything on Him.

They had allowed themselves to believe that Jesus was the One who would turn everything around and make everything right. They had believed that He was the Messiah who would save Israel - and now He was talking about leaving them - can you imagine how they felt? Jesus, knowing that He would soon ascend back to the Father, promised His disciples a “Counsellor”- someone on whom they could call when they needed help; Someone who would be there for them in their hour of need - someone who would be their “friend”;
And Jesus promised that this “friend” would be with them forever. The promise that Jesus made to those first disciples is a promise to us as well.
This “Counsellor” - this “friend” is there to help us when we need help - to guide us when we need guidance - to steer us on the right course - to protect us from harm. So we can know that;
When we feel abandoned and alone;
God’s Holy Spirit is with us.
When we don’t have words to describe the pain or confusion we feel;
God’s Holy Spirit is with us.
When it seems like nobody is on our side;
God’s Holy Spirit is with us.
When we live in the middle of anxious and uncertain times;
God’s Holy Spirit is with us.
When we await a more just and equitable world,
God’s Holy Spirit is with us.
We are not alone; we are not abandoned; We don’t need to live without support, without help, without love. We have a Defender, a Comforter, an Advocate. We have a voice - we have support - we have power! Jesus was talking about God’s Spirit dwelling within us - God’s Spirit living in our hearts. Of course, even those who live in the presence of the Holy Spirit can’t expect easy lives; Jesus never promised us a bed of roses - but the Spirit helps us to prevail no matter how difficult or “lock-downed” the circumstances!

This time of Public Health emergency and extended confinement confronts us all with our deepest fears and hopes; But it’s time now to begin to prepare for what lies ahead beyond this time of pandemic... We have a responsibility to take care of each other in society and to leave no-one behind. Our main concern is pastoral: our concern is for children in lockdown and the potential collateral mental-health issues as well as for the vulnerable and the elderly and all those in Care Homes...

Faced with unprecedented insecurity on this contemporary scale, we realise how very poorly equipped we are as a society to look after those who can’t so easily look after themselves. But the fact is that the Christian faith is rooted in a call to care for all as if they are ourselves; it’s the way Christians are meant to show their love of God. Our collective responsibility for the security of the most vulnerable in our society should be a critical factor in how we respond as the coronavirus story continues to unfold.... God calls us to be alongside our neighbours and gives us a voice to work for the good of the community - and together we can have a stronger voice.
We’re called to remember the message and example of Jesus. We’re called to remember His time with sick people, His welcome of the children, and His mercy. We’re called to think about issues in our community as people of faith;
We’re called we’ll use our voice.

Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, and He has delivered on that promise. Those of us who believe in Christ Jesus can expect the Spirit to help us when we need help - anytime - day or night. We have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our community, and in this world. The Spirit guides us, supports us, and pushes us and will get us through what’s been a deeply challenging time of loss and uncertainty. Remember these powerful words of Jesus: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you forever.”
For all the fear and faults of this terrible time we are currently living through, there are moments of revelation when we see the world with the utmost clarity;
Times when, through the Holy Spirit, we meet with God and are comforted by knowing that there is One much greater in control.
The only question is whether we will trust and follow faithfully. But, if we will, God will bless us with lives that become stronger day by day.



“I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Counsellor,
to be with you forever.”

Let’s Pray
Merciful God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as pass all understanding.
Pour into our hearts such love toward You, that we, loving You above all things, may obtain Your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; we pray this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.




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