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Be the Advocate

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					                                   Be the Advocate
                                 A Easter 6--John 14:15-21



        My mother had this friend whose personality always struck me as being like a

Disney movie walking around in the real world--you know, with a warm, uplifting thing

to say to everyone about everything. I mean, if sunshine were a character trait, she'd be

impossible to look at. And, being a singer by trade, there was something operatic about

the way she'd wax positive, her voice swooping through the effusive prose of what she

had to say--a bit the way Julia Child used to do. In fact, I think I'll call her Julia. I

haven't seen this Julia in over a decade, and in my mind's eye, I picture her as she was

then, in her sixties, with short, curly hair and an upper body that swayed and bent as she

laughed her melodious laugh. She was a petite woman. Someone with a flair for the

dramatic, but no quality that you might call intimidating.

        Well one day around that time, around ten years ago, Julia was on a shopping trip

at Macy's in the downtown Sacramento mall near where I grew up. She came down the

escalator to the underground parking garage and was making her way to her car when she

noticed something going on a little ahead of her. There were a couple of young, white

men harassing an African American guy. They were standing on either side of him, not

letting him get into his car--two wiry guys, in t-shirts with chains swinging from their

pockets and hard eyes. The taller one was asking the black man if he was scared and

pushing him. The other one was egging his buddy on. There was no one else in the

garage. Just sixty-five-year-old, 110-pound Julia with her purse and those three guys in a

situation that was rapidly getting ugly.
       But something stirred inside of Julia, something surprising. And before she

thought about it much, she was marching right up to those two gang-banger types and

really getting in their faces. "Why don't you just go back to where you belong?" she

found herself shouting. The taller one, trying to look amused and not completely non-

plussed asked her where she thought that was, and she said, "in HELL!"

       The adrenaline was surging through her. There was a silence. And then, as if

someone had pushed a button that set them both in motion at once, the two guys slouched

over to their rusting Crown Victoria, dropped themselves inside, and pealed out of the

garage. As they flashed past, Julia caught sight of two other men in the back of the car,

and some baseball bats. Without saying a word, the African American man got into his

car and drove off too. Maybe he felt humiliated by the whole situation or just scared,

we'll never know. But in thirty seconds, Julia was left alone with her hammering pulse

and her newfound power.

       Now, here's why I'm telling this story. In today's gospel, as his death approaches,

Jesus is promising his disciples that they will not be "orphaned," that in his place, God

will provide them with the Holy Spirit, which he calls "another Advocate, to be with you

forever." And a wonderful preaching professor at Luther Seminary named David Lose

has pointed out that this phrase "another Advocate" tells us something pretty profound

about what this gift of the Holy Spirit will look like.i The word Advocate, parakletos in

Greek, means one who is called to your side to provide aid, one who "who stands up for

you when you need it" and "speaks on your behalf" as Lose puts it. And the word

"another" in the phrase "another Advocate" suggests that there has already been one

Advocate, Jesus himself.
       Lose writes, "In summary, then: the Holy Spirit is an advocate that looks a whole

lot like Jesus. Which means that we've actually seen the Spirit lots of times. Anytime, in

fact, someone stands up for another... Anytime someone acts like Jesus... Anytime

someone bears the love of Christ to another."

       So in the life of that African American man in the parking lot that day, the Holy

Spirit was Julia. Petite, sunny Julia with her righteous rage and her sudden willingness to

interfere on his behalf. And so it is with the rest of us. We are the Holy Spirit at work in

the world when we advocate for those who need advocacy and speak alongside those

whose cause needs support. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do these things, even

when we are scared of what the outcome might be. Mahatma Gandhi is often quoted for

saying "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And today's gospel passage offers

us the Christian version of this exhortation. Go out, it tells us, and be the Advocate that

Jesus has promised to the world.




i
 I owe the remainder of the sermon, both the quotations and the ideas, to David Lose's
"Dear Working Preacher" article accessed May 27, 2011 at
http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=477

				
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