SERMON TITLE: “The Holy Who?”
SERMON TEXT: John 14:15-27
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: May 21, 2017, at First UMC
There’s an old story about a family that had a pet parakeet. The day came when the parakeet died. Of course, the three small children were quite sad. To help them with their grief, their mother suggested that they have a burial service for the dead bird. The children had recently attended their great grandfather’s funeral, so they had some ideas about how it should be done. The first step was to place the bird in a little box. Their dad helped them dig a grave in a carefully chosen spot in a corner of the yard. As they solemnly prepared for the interment, the mother guided the oldest child to read a couple verses from the Bible. Next, the middle child held the bird over the grave and made some comments about what a good pet the parakeet had been. Then, the youngest child gave the final blessing: “In the name of the Father, and in the Son, and in the hole he goes.”1
In the “hole he” what? In the Holy who? Most of us don’t say “Holy Ghost” any more; our 21st-century sensibilities prefer the term “Holy Spirit.” But even when we clear that up, we recognize that confusion about the divine spirit isn’t limited to little children. Some of the words we use to describe the Holy Spirit aren’t easy to understand, even for adults. For example, the Greek word used in John chapter 14 is Paraclete. You might think that sounds like parakeet or like a pair of cleats you’d wear while playing baseball, but it’s really a Greek word which describes the Holy Spirit.
Depending on which version of the Bible you read, you’ll get a different translation of that Greek word Paraclete. The New Revised Standard Version, which Nancy just read for us, uses the word Advocate. The King James Version uses the word Comforter. The New International Version uses the word Counselor. Other definitions of the word Paraclete tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who exhorts, the one who encourages, and the one who helps. I’d like for us to consider a few of these definitions of the word Paraclete, so we can get a good sense of who the Holy Spirit is.