Sunday, May 30, 2021 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
2 Corinthians 1:2-11 (Luke 15:11-32)
Parent of all mercy, God of healing counsel, come alongside us…and guide us to come alongside one another. Comfort, oh comfort your people. Amen.
We got mail! Yay! Yet…sometimes it seems like Paul writes in circles. He can be really hard to understand. One thing that makes it hard, Paul didn’t speak English. He spoke Hebrew and Greek and Latin and Aramaic, and probably a bit of some other languages, but he didn’t speak English. So, when we translate his letter, we miss a few things. Paul wrote this letter in Greek, ancient Greek, quite different from what people speak in Greece. In Paul’s Greek letter, he uses this really cool word. Actually, he uses that cool word nine times in just four verse. And that word is ‘Paraclesis.’ It is a verb that means literally to come alongside someone, but is also translated as to comfort or to console. It can mean to encourage, to advocate, to entreat. It basically means to call someone to come near you. And here is the really cool part about the word, Jesus used the noun version—Paraclete—to describe the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God—the One who comes alongside us always.
Paul is asking us to ‘paraclesis’ with each other—to come alongside, come near, comfort, encourage—just like God loves to be our Paraclete—the One who comes to us when we need help. Let me explain with a story. It might sound familiar.
Once upon a time there was this man who had two sons. The man, we will call him Clete (Get it? Paraclete…Clete?)… Clete was a very rich man. He had a big, big house with lots of land. He had many people who worked for him, caring for the fields and the cows and sheep and goats. One day the youngest Son, let’s call him Diggy (short for Prodigal)… One day Diggy came to his dad, Clete, and demanded that his dad give him half of all the money he would get one day when his dad died. It was a very rude and very hurtful thing to do. Basically, Diggy was telling his dad that he wished he was dead. Though Clete was very, very sad, he knew his son had to find his own way, so he sold what he needed to and gave Diggy all the money—and it was a lot.
Well, Diggy decided to travel and see the world now that he had all that money. He went to the big city and rented an expensive apartment. He attended shows and parties, and held parties at his place. He spent his money without thinking on whatever he wanted at the time. There were lots of people happy to help him spend, spend, spend. Guess what happened? You are right, the money ran out…and when the money ran out, so did all the people. Suddenly, Diggy found himself living in this strange city, all alone, without a penny to his name, no where to live, no one to help. After searching and searching, Diggy found a job feeding pigs. He was so hungry, he looked at the pigs’ food and his mouth watered.
The day came when Diggy caught himself trying to nibble a little bit of the pig’s food to help his empty tummy, and he suddenly realized what he had done to himself. He once had a good life with a loving dad, a big brother, a comfortable home, and plenty to eat. In fact, the lowest paid employee on his dad’s lands ate like a king compared to what Diggy had now. Certainly, Diggy should be able to get his dad to hire him on, at least part-time. It was better than pig scraps. Diggy rehearsed what he would say to his dad, “Father, I have been so very wrong. I not only hurt you, I hurt God. I know I have lost my place as your son, having hurt you so much. But please, please, would you hire me on to work for you, even if it is part-time?” Now that he knew what he was going to say to his dad, Diggy started walking toward home.
All the while Diggy was gone, his dad, Clete, had been watching and waiting. How worried he was for his precious son! How he ached to know his son was doing okay! Clete worried that Diggy wouldn’t manage his money, and that he wouldn’t take care of himself. He watched and waited, waited and watched. Finally, one day, Clete saw a figure walking the trail to his land and house. It was a sad, dejected figure, hunched over and stumbling. Clete didn’t waste one moment. He did what no rich man of importance would ever do. Clete lifted up his rich, fine robe, showing off knobby knees and skinny ankles, and ran as fast as he could down the dusty trail to the distant figure. It was Diggy! It was his beloved, precious, beautiful, wonderful son! How thin he was, like he hadn’t eaten in days! How very sad he looked! Before Diggy could say a word… Before Diggy could speak one rehearsed word, Paraclete threw his arms around him, pulled him in tight to his chest, and held him to his heart. Tears of joy dripped down Clete’s beard onto his beloved son’s shoulder and he sobbed his relief for all the household employees to see. Soon, Paraclete had Prodigal wrapped in a soft robe, feet secure in warm slippers, and a feast being prepared to put some meat on those bones.
Once upon a time, a man had TWO sons—TWO sons. All the while Diggy, the youngest, was away, the oldest son did the right thing, the responsible thing. He worked the land, helped run the property, cared for the business as was expected of him. Let’s call him Bob. Bob worked so very hard to please his father, but was hurt to that it seemed his dad barely noticed. All his dad could do was stand on the front porch and watch the road. One day, Bob was walking home from the field after a long day overseeing the workers and caring for the property. As he came near the big, big house, he was so surprised to see that the big party tent had been put up outside. He could smell rich foods roasting and see workers scurrying around, setting up for a big party. Bob stopped one of the employees and asked what was going on. It wasn’t a festival day. Why would his dad be setting up for a major event? The employee shared the story of Diggy’s return and his father’s joy and excitement.
Bob was crushed. How could his dad just let all that Diggy had done go unpunished? How could his dad just welcome Diggy home, dress him in fine clothes, and throw a huge party after what Diggy had done? Diggy just threw away half of the business, wasted tons of money, and hurt dad in the process! It was not only rude, it was against God’s law for how people are to live together! And what about Bob? What about all that Bob had done to make up for Diggy’s absence and for the loss of money? All those days and weeks and months that Bob had worked his fingers to the bone and his father not only hadn’t thrown Bob a party, he hadn’t even really noticed—pacing away on the front porch. Bob turned around and marched off to the barn filled with anger and sadness. He would not go in and join a party for his ungrateful brother!
Meanwhile, the employee went and found Clete. The employee shared that Bob was angry and hurt, and wasn’t coming to the party. Clete didn’t waste one moment. He did what no rich man or importance would ever do. Clete lifted up his robe, showing off knobby knees and skinny ankles once again, and ran as fast as he could to the barn. There was Bob! There was his beloved, precious, beautiful, wonderful son! How angry he was, stomping back and forth! How very sad he looked! Before Bob could say a word… Before Bob could speak one angry word, Paraclete threw his arms around him, pulled him in tight to his chest, and held him to his heart. Tears of sorrow dripped down Clete’s beard onto his beloved son’s shoulder and he sobbed his regret for all the household employees to see. “Please come inside,” Clete whispered to his son. “Please come inside. We are family. All that I have is yours, my son. And our family is complete again. Your beloved brother is home. He is safe. Please come inside. Let us rejoice together for two found sons.”
All praise to the God and Parent of our Rabbi, Jesus the Messiah! Parent of all mercy, God of all healing counsel! God paraclesis…God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, God helps us paraclesis someone else who is going through hard times so that we can paraclesis that person just as God paraclesis us. We have all been the Prodigal. We have all been Bob. We can all be Paraclete too. Thanks be to God. Amen.