14th May 2023 10.30am – Sixth Sunday of Easter Eucharist

The Readings

Acts 17.22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

John 14.15-21

‘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 for ever. 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.

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Joe P, a Reader at St. Mary's


The words of today’s reading from the Gospel according to John are spoken by Jesus after he’s eaten with his disciples on the night that he will be arrested.
In Chapter 13, He has told his disciples that he will be leaving them. Jesus has sent Judas off, in full knowledge that Judas is about to betray him, with instructions to do what he was about to do quickly. Jesus also tells Simon Peter that he too will betray him 3 times before cock-crow. And he as also told them of His new commandment to them, to love one another as He has loved them.
The first part of Chapter 14 is rich in well known and loved scripture – I leave it for you to read – in which Jesus gives his disciples words of comfort whilst also reminding them to stay faithful to His teachings, to each other, and to God.
And He clearly realises that this is a big ask for his followers.
I’d like to focus this morning on the first two verses of today’s reading, in which Jesus tells the disciples that even after He is gone from their sight, they will not be alone.
He knows the fate that awaits him; He knows that whilst his disciples have been able to experience the direct physical and human presence of Jesus, this presence will not be available in the future. Yes, there will be times after the Crucifixion where a resurrected Christ makes His presence known to the disciples, but in today’s reading Jesus is stating to His disciples that further help will be available to them in the form of an ever-lasting gift from God:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…”
The disciples are being warned about the forthcoming arrival of what we’d know as the Holy Spirit. The Greek word ‘Paraclete’ is found frequently in the Gospel according to John. It’s often translated as advocate, counsellor or helper.
Jesus is telling the disciples that God will provide another paraclete to be with them forever after He has ascended. The use of the word ‘another’ here is not to suggest that the spirit is to replace Jesus in any way – rather, the spirit provides an equivalent and alternative presence of God in the world. And although the word ‘advocate’ is used here, it’s useful to NOT take the usual meaning of the word as we use it today too much in to account. We use the word ‘advocate’ today to mean a someone’s representative, a supporter, or someone who helps someone argue their position in a court of law or some other investigation. It might look at first glance that the Spirit will argue our case for mercy with God. That’s NOT the situation – Jesus has already ‘wiped the slate clean’ for us through his death and resurrection. Jesus will later say – in John 16:
“the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
In a similar way to which Jesus has taught what He received from God, the spirit will communicate what he has received from Jesus. There are a number of places in John’s Gospel where the similarities between the Paraclete and Jesus are given – they teach, they bear witness to the truth, and they expose the sin of the world. The difference is that Jesus is incarnated to allow God to experience what it is to be fully human, a necessary pre-requisite to overcoming death and being resurrected. Jesus as, ‘the Word made flesh’, reveals God; the spirit will continue Jesus’s work after He has ascended, but is not taking Jesus’s place or in any way replacing Him.
For this reason – and this is my opinion only – I think it worthwhile for us not to think of the spirit as our Advocate, but more of a counsellor, a helper, a supporter, a teacher and a provider of gifts – that we know as of ‘gifts of the Spirit’ – that allow us to continue to experience Jesus’s teachings in His material absence.
With regard to the spirit, Jesus adds:
“…the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
When He refers to the world here, Jesus is referring to the people of the world outside the disciples. The people who have not followed His teachings, who’ve turned their back on God, or who’ve been actively hostile to Jesus, his teachings and his followers. Those people – in their current state, are certainly not in a position to receive this spirit.
This isn’t to say that the spirit will be held from them forever; earlier in John – Chapter 3 - Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to enter Kingdom of God, he must be born again of the Spirit. In other words, the Spirit is available to those willing to believe and have faith, and that process removes people from belonging to the world to belonging in the Kingdom of God.
In John 15:19, Jesus tells his followers:
“As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”
There’s a phrase – ‘in the world but not of it’ – that you’ll occasionally hear based on this scripture. When baptised with water and the spirit, we become in the world, but not of it.
That includes all of us here this morning.
And Jesus knocks it home a bit harder:
“You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
His disciples are told that they will know the Spirit, because the Spirit is already within them.
And then, what I feel is the centre of this reading:
“I will not leave you orphaned”
The disciples – and we – are told that even after He returns to God, we of faith will not be orphaned. We’re not going to be left to fend for ourselves in a world that was brutally hostile to His disciples and is today so often contrary to Christ’s teachings.
As Ascension Day approaches, and we remember the last appearance that the resurrected and incarnate Christ made to His disciples, we need to remember this simple fact.
We are not alone.
The incarnate Jesus may not be with us, but the Holy Spirit dwells within us, keeping the teachings of Jesus alive within us, granting us the gifts of the Spirit with which we can continue to bring the Kingdom of God in to being.
The Spirit works to continue Jesus’s work, leading Christians to truth and helping us to recall and apply His teachings in their lives. The Spirit is not coming up with new ideas as to how to be Christians; the Spirit is re-iterating and emphasising the teachings of Jesus, which have come from the Father.
We are not alone; as we work in our own lives to bring about the Kingdom of God, the Spirit is there to guide and support us.

The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine B


We pray to Jesus who is present with us to eternity.

Jesus, light of the world,
bring the light and peace of your gospel to the nations …
We pray especially for Sudan, Ukraine, Russia, Syria and all other areas of conflict and unrest.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.


Jesus, bread of life,
give food to the hungry …
We pray especially for the work of Christian Aid worldwide, and for the work of foodbanks nationally and locally.
Nourish us all with your word.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.


Jesus, our way, our truth, our life,
be with us and all who follow you in the way …
May we love one another as you have loved us.
May we look for ways to connect with others as we share your love.
Deepen our appreciation of your truth
and fill us with your life.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.


Jesus, Good Shepherd who gave your life for the sheep,
recover the straggler,
bind up the injured,
strengthen the sick
and lead the healthy and strong to new pastures.
We remember those known to us who are ill or struggling
naming them in our hearts in a few moments silence.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.


Jesus, the resurrection and the life,
we give you thanks for all who have lived and believed in you …
thinking this week of Violet, and of any others known to us who we see no more.
Raise us with them to eternal life.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us,
accept our prayers, and be with us always.




Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2010