The Comforter Is Not All That Comforting When You Get Down To It
You know, I wish I could translate the Gospel the wrong way.
Or rather, I wish the Bible translation we read in church used the word that I like and makes me feel comfortable to describe the Holy Spirit.
But it doesn’t, and I think I’m finally beginning to understand why.
Today is the great Feast of Pentecost. In the Book of Acts, we read of the tongues of fire lighting on the disciples and enabling them to proclaim the Good News in many languages simultaneously, just like we had in worship here this morning.
And it felt as unexpected to them as it might have to you. That’s precisely why we didn’t warn you that was going to happen.
If it caught you off guard and you wondered what was happening, you had a very authentic apostolic experience of Pentecost.
And that ties into what I wish our translation says, but doesn’t.
The word Jesus uses in John for the Holy Spirit is paraclete, which can be translated as it is in the NRSV that we read in church, as Advocate.
That is by far the most accurate translation. It comes from Greek roots meaning “to call alongside,” and it meant having a friend show up with you in court to help you defend yourself against charges, like having a lawyer only with a closer relationship.
Paraclete has been translated as Intercessor, and also the word I want to use: Comforter.
(Side note: my seminary had a soccer team that played against the other professional schools at Yale—the Div School vs. the Law School vs. the Med School, etc.—and they were called the Paracleats. Get it? Like soccer cleats? The Paracleats? That will never not be funny to me.)
So anyway, I like to think of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, because frankly, I really am in need of some comfort every now and then.
I know I’m not the only one.
And while I certainly believe the Holy Spirit does bring us comfort and solace, I really don’t see that happening in our texts this morning.Continue reading