Rev. Emily M. Brown

Gathered and Scattered

I drove myself home, the day after college graduation, crying my eyes out to the soundtrack of Avenue Q. ... Driving home the day after graduation with tears streaming down my face, I listened to the characters Princeton and Kate Monster reminisce about their undergraduate years in the song, “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.” Princeton and Kate reminisce about meal plans, white boards on their dorm doors, and late nights writing papers. Finally, they acknowledge that if they could go back to college, it wouldn’t be the same: “I would walk the Quad, and think, ‘Oh my God, these kids are so much younger than me.” The truth for Kate and Princeton, and for me, and for the disciples in today’s Gospel reading, is that the end has been an inevitable part of the story from the moment it began.

Better Call Paraklete

Paraklete is the Greek word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit whom he will send after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Paraklete, which has nothing to do with parakeets, is a difficult word to translate. Literally, it means something like “the one who is called to one’s side.” Sometimes it is translated as “comforter,” or “helper,” both of which get at important aspects of what the word means. But the translation our text uses, and one that reminded me of that crooked TV lawyer Saul Goodman, is “advocate.” At the time, the word paraklete had a legal connotation: a paraklete could be someone who would stand up on your behalf in court to plead your cause before a judge — what we might now think of as an attorney.

I’m struck by the image of the Holy Spirit as an advocate in the legal sense — it’s a much more forceful image of the Holy Spirit than we might glean from words like “comforter” or “helper.”

White Flour

One spring in Jerusalem, two parades marched into the city. And one spring, two thousand years later, in Knoxville, Tennessee, two groups gathered to hold rallies on opposite sides of the same street. On one side of the street were people in white robes with pointed hoods and hate in their hearts, holding signs with hateful slogans and racial slurs. “White power,” they chanted. “White power.”

I Once Could See

In the spring of 2013, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my first child, my son Abel... One day, my mother was visiting, helping me try to get everything unpacked and prepared for the baby’s arrival, and I said to her, “I am so tired and so uncomfortable all the time. But there's only another week or two before things go back to normal.” And she just looked at me, trying not to laugh, as I realized afresh that things were never going to go back to normal.