Dear Parish Family,
I have been using Scripture Union's Daily Bible Reading Guide (Encounter with God) since 1978 and have been blessed or challenged by the readings and devotions through the years.
This week, we began a study in Paul's Second letter to the Corinthians. In II Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul uses a form of the word (in English) "comfort" (in Greek "parakletis") ten times! When you hear the word "comfort," what do you hear? Part of what you will "hear" when you read or hear the word comfort will depend on what you are going through at the moment. For example, if you are sitting in the evening with loved ones, you may think about relational comfort, security, peace; if your family are gathered and at peace: "all is well" comes to mind! However, if there is tension in the household, you may be looking for "comfort," relational reconciliation and peace. If you are experiencing a health threat to either yourself or a family member, "comfort" may mean "healing." If you are on vacation or watching a movie, or sitting in front of a fire after a satisfying dinner (hard to think about sitting in front of a fire during these hot summer days!), you may think of a "comfortable" chair, or, again, “all is well” as you slip into a semi-sleep state. If you have recently lost someone you love, comfort may be elusive since they are no longer there to see or speak with, and you miss them!
Comfort is often about mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual well-being and peace.
Let me take this idea a step further: the source of well-being and peace is the Healer, the One who brings salvation and assurance of eternal life, the One who brings us a "ministry of reconciliation," and relationally we are experiencing health and well-being, if not joy.
Jesus, in His "Upper Room" discourse/teaching in a tender time with His apostles, talks about the Holy Spirit: the (in the Greek) Allos Parakletos; the Holy Comforter, the Holy Advocate, the Holy Helper. "Another Counselor:" one who draws alongside us! He is the "another" (the Greek word "allos") just like Jesus, who brought and represented peace and joy to His apostles throughout His life and ministry; during His life, walking with them, and when He revealed Himself "the Risen Lord."
Think about the words that are translated from the word: "Parakletos." The Advocate: the One who brought us salvation by His sacrificial love on the cross and in the power of the resurrection. He defends us against the condemnation that would come from our sin. He is "the Counselor" who brings us guidance to prevent us from committing acts or breaking healthy relationships that would bring painful consequences. He is "the Helper" who helps us in our struggles, our needs, our pain, our inability to change ourselves or others, or situations; to help us when we are unable and impotent to help ourselves. He is our Comforter, to comfort us in our sorrows, our pain, our helplessness; when we need reassurance and peace and even joy amidst the sorrows and griefs in our lives.
That doesn't always mean that we will be at ease or insulated from pain or struggles; but rather, He is there to "wrap His arms around us" to walk with us, through His presence and words of reassurance. That He is there, He has us, He will ultimately protect us and bring us through, bring us home as we walk with Him, rest in Him, trust Him!
Another word that comes to mind is "Encourager;" an "encourager" is one who instills courage in us and helps us to "keep on keeping on" no matter what obstacle, temptation, trial, persecution, or pain that we are going through! He is our Holy Encourager.
Today, probably more than in most of our lifetimes: as much as 9/11, as much as the "Recession" in 2008, as much as the personal challenges that each of us has faced (and some of you may remember the Spanish Flu, WWI and WWII), and the fears, struggles, and pain of those years. Nevertheless, this is, in most of our lifetimes, an unprecedented time.
Because our lives have changed, our culture, our country, even the world, with the pandemic, racial tensions, political and economic upheaval, we need the Holy Spirit in His fullness: assured of our salvation, assured that Jesus is here, through His "Allos Parakletos" to bring us help, comfort, strength and peace. And, He has given us His Body on earth, the Church, so that we might have peace with one another, carry each other's burdens, pray for and with each other, show compassion, care, and comfort; to be a people of "holy encouragement."
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13); and His "hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Rest in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit that has been given to those who believe. Seek daily to be filled by the Holy Spirit that you might be comforted and encouraged, and be a comfort and encouragement to others!
With love, in Christ,