During our six years in Vancouver, we lived in the area surrounding the city’s massive university, UBC, with its 60,000+ students. It was a stunning context, set within a rainforest on an elevated peninsula, with incredible views across the water to snowcapped mountain ranges on all sides. The student population existed as a city within (or underneath) a city, with every basement inhabited by student hordes. But it was in the cafés near UBC that the awkward relationship between the city and its students was apparent. It was impossible to find a plug in most cafes, because proprietors didn’t want students and their laptops taking up space from their wealthy clientele.

This vivid memory of Vancouver stands for me as the challenge we face as People of the Spirit in the present age. In John 16, Jesus makes a remarkable statement to his disciples. He says, “very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. … I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

It’s difficult to exaggerate what Jesus is saying here. He’s reassuring his disciples that his leaving and the coming of the Spirit will give them more, not less, than they already have. It’s not, Jesus says, that the Spirit knows more than Jesus knows, but that he will offer us greater intimacy with God, because he will always be with us, constantly revealing the truth to us. This is an astounding reality for us to grasp just as it was for Jesus’ first disciples. Along these lines, the apostle Paul encourages the young church in Corinth to interact with the Spirit during their gathered worship: “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor. 14:31)

Yet, all too often we can feel like a student at UBC, holding a cord but with nowhere to plug it in to receive the power we need. The Spirit can feel too abstract, uncertain or distant to experience or listen to. So, how do we live into Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will guide us into all truth and tell us what’s yet to come? This is a bold challenge for us individually and as a community of faith. Today, we’re exploring this journey into greater intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Helper (παράκλητος: paracletos). And we’re privileged to have two trusted travelling companions in David and Greta Peters.

Rev Jonny Grant