"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8:22-26)
Jesus introduces this interceding Spirit, this Advocate, to his followers in John 14. Jesus assures that the Spirit will instruct, will remind, will remain, will abide within and among us. The gift of the Spirit is accompanied by another gift:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27).
These things seem in short supply in our world today--from Ferguson, Missouri, to Gaza, to Ukraine, to places all over our globe.
We are commanded to hope. We are promised peace.
We are supplied a defense attorney (Greek paraclete, as in John 14) in the form of the Spirit.
But what good is all that in the here and now?
How are we to be patient and hopeful in a world that is filled with anything but peace and truth?
How does our Advocate plead for us? With an unshakeable demand for justice? Energetic objections? An eloquent and a riveting closing argument?
Sometimes all the Advocate can do is groan and sigh.
Just like us.
This Spirit (which God places with us, in us, among us) sees what we see, hears what we hear, feels what we feel, grieves what we grieve.
The Spirit is affected. God is affected.
I don't buy the argument that God is immovable, at least not in terms of .
Sometimes, it gives us comfort to think of God as all-powerful, unshakable, unchangeable, fixed and resolute. We find comfort in the omnipotence of the Almighty.
But Jesus promises another kind of comfort to those who follow him. John 14, which I referenced above, is sometimes referred to as "the comfort chapter."The comfort Jesus promises his disciples does not come in the package of a big, strong God who will fix everything for them. No, to repeat, Jesus tells his friends, "I do not give to you as the world gives."
The world deals in power and might. Strength and force rule the day.
The Spirit "whom the world cannot receive, because it neither seems him nor knows him," deals in another way altogether. (John 14:17)
The Spirit deals in presence, not power.
The Spirit bears witness to the birth pangs that make all of creation cry out in agony. The Spirit holds the tightly clenched hand of the mother in labor.
The Spirit of God does not wax poetic or orate in flashy, polished lawyer speak.
The Spirit of God groans and sighs.
The Spirit of God does not throw tear gas into the crowd, hide behind bulletproof glass shields, and carry ammunition.
The Spirit of God abides--with the crowd, taking up residence within and among the victims.
The strength of the Spirit is not measured in force. The strength of the Spirit is measured in God's ability and willingness to abide with God's suffering children, to be present in and to their pain, to mourn and weep for bodies of the Beloved lost to violence.
And our strength is measured in just the same way.
And so we hope, we patiently hope and pray for truth and peace to rule our world.
We groan. We sigh. And we wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Amen.