A strategic move

Pentecost Sunday is not only about ‘tongues of fire’ it is also a time to see the work of the Spirit in the world.

Pentecost-by-Lawrence-OP-flickr-225x300‘It is expedient that I go away’ John 16:7

Expedient: strategy, convenient, advantageous, in one’s own interest, useful, beneficial, pragmatic, politic, wise, sensible. A temporary expedient = method, stratagem, scheme, manoeuvre, device, ploy. (Oxford Thesaurus)

It seemed a strange translation at first. I didn’t link the Spirit with expediency. It sounds manipulative. It suggests an action that is not transparent. But there it was in the AV and used in the Book of Common Prayer for a Sunday reading shortly before Pentecost.

Undoubtedly the meaning of words change and contemporary bibles translate John 16:7 differently. But the word ‘expedient’ stayed with me. Is it still a helpful translation?

Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. They are grieving. They cannot imagine life without his physical presence. He tells them it is not only inevitable but necessary. Without his absence the Comforter cannot be present.

The Comforter will have a greater reach than Jesus. He will engage with the whole world. He will provide the disciples with a universal perspective. He will issue three forensic tools.

  • Sin – the capacity to discern what is against the purpose of God
  • Righteousness – the ability to create God-given relationship
  • Judgement – the conviction that actions have consequences

These are the companions of Truth; with them we can be led into all truth. They are given to the disciple church. They must first convict the church of its own lack of integrity and then guide the gathered community of Christ into truth in all its completeness found in all places and circumstances.

There is no division in truth. Its shape may be scientific, psychological, economic, political, artistic and theological. The Spirit is the conductor who makes a harmony of them all.

This is the expediency of God. In one sense it is obscure. There is a hint of a hidden agenda. God has a strategy that is not transparent to all. But this is not deceit. It is the requirement of working through the human agency of the disciple church. It is the necessity of the covenant relationship that God has submitted to with us. It is the freedom of God to reveal truth where it is required.

We can no longer look into the face of Jesus. We cannot match our stride to his along the dusty paths of Galilee. We cannot hear his tone as he speaks in the lost dialect of another time. Fascinating though that might be that is not how we may know him now. He has moved on.

We know more ethnic types than assembled for the feast of Pentecost when the Spirit came like fire. We travel on different roads and by other means. Accents and languages that did not exist at the first Pentecost now are graced by the Gospel.

Among them and through them the Comforter comes to us and does his work of Advocacy and we do not need to fear. We will know he is present when Christ is glorified.

This post was also published on The Baptist Times

Photo credit: Lawerence OP, Flickr

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