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Advocacy... Three Views

Yesterday in the sermon I used three words to explore different ways we might think of advocacy, based on the etymology of some the words used in the Bible and in everyday language to describe it.

Advocate from Latin ad vocare, 'I speak for'... the idea of someone who speaks on behalf of another because they cannot do so themself.  Beyond the 'obvious' court room image of ancient times, or even someone with power acting for someone without power, we noted that translators and interpreters may actually undertake such a role.

Intercessor from Latin inter ceder (or some such) 'I go between'... the idea of someone who acts as an intermediary between two parties carrying messages back-and-forth, a more obvious two-way process than the advocate.  Such practices as mediation - bringing together two parties and facilitating dialogue between them being one expression of intercession.  (And of course the prayer meaning - praying for others)

Paraclete for Greek parakletos, 'One called alongside'... the idea of someone who, rather than going between us and the other, comes alongside us and accompanies us as we encounter them.  Rather than acting for us (advocate) or moving between us and the other (intercessor) the paraclete effectively links her arm through ours and walks with us.  Such accompaniment is not passive, allowing us to fall into ditches or to wander down blind alleys, but it is the gentle nudging, encouraging and guiding that enables us to find the way forward ourselves.  This paraclete is the 'comforter', 'helper' type of advocate.

We touched ever so briefly on the fact that scripture refers both to Christ and to the Holy Spirit as advocates, and I fessed up to the puzzle of a tri-une God within whom one persona has to act as an intermediary to another.  I suggested that maybe, in Christ we see more of the advocate-intercessor and in the Holy Spirit more of the intercessor-paraclete, but that ultimately, part of the mystery of our God is that all three understandings are there.  I cannot claim to understand it, but I trust it is so.

And the challenge, of course, for those of us who claim to be part of the Body of Christ, who have the audacity to assert that God's Spirit is at work in us, is to think through what it means for us to be advocates/intercessors/paracletes where we are.

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