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Acts 17:22-31 • Psalm 66:8-20 • 1 Peter 3:13-22 • John 14:15-21

First a few little mom jokes that I found online: “It’s sad when you sit around waiting for mom to make dinner; and then you realize you are the mom. … I asked to switch seats on a plane because I was next to a crying baby. Evidently that doesn’t work if the baby is yours. … Our teen has decreed that we are the worst parents ever. We will hold a coronation ceremony to accept this honor next Friday. Invitations to follow.”
My favourite line from today’s gospel is when Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphaned” (v18). And it’s a good focus for Mother’s Day, or other days of parental appreciation. Fortunately, both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day include the possibility of appreciation for everyone who cares for or about children, with a variety of biological connections, or none. As some fine Indigenous wisdom proclaims: We need to act in ways that help protect the wellbeing of children for the next seven generations.
A few lines before Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphaned” he says that he will ask the Father “and he will give another Advocate, to be with you forever” (v16). With these words we begin to turn towards Pentecost which we’ll celebrate in two weeks’ time. Who is the Advocate? … Yes, the Holy Spirit, yes indeed. Also known as the Sustainer, the Sanctifier, and earlier the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, etc. Jesus also calls this Advocate the Spirit of Truth, and there are other lovely names and notions. An Advocate is someone who can speak up for us when we’re attacked or maligned and treated unjustly – it’s a word related to some of the names for a lawyer in the Latin languages at least. And it’s connected to English words like advocacy and advocate. For instance, if we do care about the next seven generations of children to be born, we must advocate more strongly for the mitigation of disastrously destructive climate change practices. This is important on the international and national level, as well as provincially, municipally, and locally. Heck, just a few blocks from St Peter’s, on a street that Pepper and I have often walked in recent years, I watched a single family home being built that – sad to say, was spread out across at least three lots of residential land. What in the H.E. double-hockey-sticks -- were those people thinking?! Thankfully, the redevelopment of St Peter’s is planned to be going in the opposite direction from that.
And our recessional hymn today, She Comes Sailing on the Wind, is also about the Holy Spirit. In fact, it’s in our Common Praise hymn book in the Holy Spirit section -- hymns numbers 635-658 (24 H.S hymns). If you have the hymn book handy, I invite you to turn to #656 so we can take a closer look. We see from the Refrain at the top -- that this version of Holy Spirit, has wings like a bird – perhaps especially a reference to the dove that hovered over Jesus at his baptism. BTW a reminder that throughout the Old Testament Hebrew Bible the Spirit of God is a ‘She’ – from Proverbs 8:22-31 describing God’s Wisdom in Creation to the Book of Wisdom and other biblical books – Holy Spirit Wisdom is a ‘she’ even in the old traditional King James Bible. ‘Ruah’ breath in Hebrew and Sophia in Greek – are all feminine words for God’s Holy Spirit.
Back to hymn #656 the first verse refers to God’s Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis ‘like an empty cradle waiting to be filled’. The Spirit moves upon the earth “like a mother breathing life into her child”. Second verse we have the role of God’s Spirit in dreams, which the Bible often mentions – “deserts turned to gardens, broken hearts found new delight, and then down the ages still she flew on”. Next stop in verse three, she visits the gentle Mary, a humble Galilean teenage girl, making possible the impossible, and bringing Jesus to birth from his mother Mary’s womb. In the fourth verse, Mother Spirit hovers again, circling high over the child Jesus, now fully grown, and being baptized for his awesome mission among humans. She carries him away in her embrace, and it’s out of that ongoing connection with God’s Wisdom, that Jesus speaks and teaches and heals and challenges, throughout his earthly ministry. And finally in the last verse ‘after the deep darkness’ of the crucifixion, there’s a new dawn of the ‘rising sun’ or Risen Son of God. On Pentecost ‘the Spirit touched the earth again’ as her wings unfurl and bring us life – in ongoing hope and joy. So, we see in hymn #656, that Holy Spirit, Mother Wisdom has been uniquely important in Christian history, and is our best ongoing companion for the Christian journey today, in our challenging world.
We have other great readings today, including the story in Acts of how Paul so graciously and respectfully observed the culture of Athens, before making an appeal about their unknown god … in other words he didn’t just ram Jesus down their throats. Instead, he paid attention to where Jesus might fit into their already well-developed concepts about divinity. How often in Christian history have missionaries done that? Yes, they have done so, at times, but the overall approach, especially in residential schools, was to say – Jesus is the only way – you either believe that, or you go to hell.
And I had to laugh when I read the first line of our epistle from 1 Peter: “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”. Laugh, and then cry, at how sadly wrong or naïve Peter was about that. Legend has it that he was crucified too, around the year 64 CE, after Roman Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for a big fire that ravaged Rome – a fire that Nero himself has historically been blamed for starting. If it’s true that Peter was crucified in the year 64, then that’s shortly after this epistle was written. Poor Peter – wrong again despite all his best intentions. But as he also writes in this fine epistle, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, then to suffer for doing evil.” (v17). Well, dear friends, I’m not sure that suffering is God’s will, per se, but surely God is aware of how much people can suffer when they try to do good, especially of course, his own son Jesus! May we who are quite challenged at times for trying to make a better world for tomorrow’s children, remember that the way of compassion ‘to suffer with’ is part of God’s parental love for wounded Creation. Let us rejoice in loving children enough to care about their futures on Mother Earth, Amen.