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Praying for the Spirit of Truth

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on May 10, 2023

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
—from John 14:15-21

We are at the point in the Easter season when we approach next week’s Feast of the Ascension. We will then be in that liminal space where we await the gift of the Spirit. Portions of Jesus’ farewell discourse have been in our lectionary these past weeks, and they give us a model for these times of transitions. These words he offered to his disciples were meant to provide a road map for their ongoing growth after he was gone. They are an invitation both to remember what they have already experienced and to trust that guidance will continue to come if they live in a way that orients them towards love.

Last week we heard moving reflections from some of our graduating seniors (you can watch them here). This week we welcome Bishop Reed for his last formal visitation as our diocesan bishop, and members of our community will be baptized and confirmed. The Rev. Matt Wise is preparing for summer sabbatical, our program year will be transitioning to our summer schedule, and many in our community will look to a different pace of life in the coming months. This is a normal and expected rhythm—and yet we often feel unsettled by it. Graduations are joyful and bittersweet. End-of-year school parties are fun and mark the end of friendships that may never be the same.

Liminal or threshold spaces have long been known in the spiritual journey as places of great transformation. William Bridges, in his excellent book Transitions, encourages us to stay in them as long as possible. But we often prefer to jump to the next destination. We make decisions out of anxiety rather than engaging in genuine and real discernment. We fear the unknown and imagine any decision will be better than allowing for the uncomfortable space to discern.

This season of waiting for the Spirit of truth invites us to hold a different space. What might an advocate like that offer to us? Might it embolden us to embrace these spaces in a fuller way? Might the Holy Spirit have an impact in changing how we experience the changes and chances of life? Perhaps most importantly, does the Spirit of truth give us a capacity to encounter the real suffering of the world in a different way?

Perhaps the Spirit can offer us the gift of slowing down. There is so much that feels overwhelming and beyond our control. We are buffeted with images of violence and hate in the news at a pace we cannot possibly absorb without giving way to despondency. And yet to check out is not living in the world God loves.

To hold the pain of the world means we pray for what is unbearable and ask God to bear it. And then we pray for the wisdom to act with love and courage in the spaces we occupy. It is both a Spirit of action and prayer. The more we do this, the more we will recognize the truth that abides within us. That is the gift we long for—clarity and purpose undergirded always by love. 

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