This is the title of our Pre-Easter (Lenten) sermon series which began last Sunday. These will be studies based on the “Upper Room Discourse” of Jesus, as recorded in John 14 through 17. These are a series of important teachings Jesus shared with his disciples when he knew that “his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father” (John 13:1). These men who had left their homes and families to follow him over the previous three years were about to watch helplessly as their hero was interrogated, whipped, mocked and finally crucified. While Jesus led them in celebrating the reassuring Passover meal, the storm clouds were already gathering in the form of a crowd of dark figures coming together to plot how to bring Jesus down.

This Sunday’s sermon will be on Jesus’ promise to the disciples that his leaving would mean the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence would mean they would never have to be alone. Here’s your homework assignment in preparation. Four times in these chapters in John’s Gospel (14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7) the indwelling Holy Spirit is referred to by the Greek word paraclete, which literally means someone who is called alongside. In the traditional King James Version paraclete is translated as Comforter in all four verses; in the New Revised Standard Version (our pew Bibles), the word consistently used as its translation is Advocate. Think about these two English words. When storm clouds gather in your life, are you more likely to call the Holy Spirit alongside you as your Comforter or as your Advocate?

–Pastor George Van Alstine