"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."
This is Jesus talking to his disciples as he is about to leave them. They want to know all the usual stuff: why is he leaving, where's he going, and who will be staying with them?
One of the amazing things he tells them is that he has to go, he absolutely must leave them, in order for the Spirit (Advocate) to come and transform them from people hanging on his every word, to people who are speaking the words of truth and life themselves.
He had to go in order for them to know and for them to grow. He had to leave a space if the Spirit was going to get in.
Years ago, when I was a timid and tongue-tied seminarian, a wise mentor told me a tremendously helpful thing. He said, "The reason you admire particular people is that the gifts you see in them are there in you. Oh, they are not yet realized or developed, but they are there - they are in you - awaiting discovery and birth."
When you are a starting out seminarian (or anything else) and in awe of a really great preacher, teacher, pastor or (whatever that inspiring person may be) the gap between you and them may seem impossible and impassable. But no, you respond to their gifts, said my teacher, because those gifts you see in them are there in you, waiting to be born.
So Jesus told his disciples that he had to go; he had to leave them. Because if he didn't go, the Spirit couldn't come. The Spirit couldn't come into their own lives and bring to birth the gifts of God which were hidden there and waiting fuller realization unless Jesus got out of the way.
Losing someone important can be awful. But it may be the opportunity for the Spirit to enter your life and do something far beyond what you thought possible.
Grant us grace to trust your promise O Christ, that you must go in order for the Holy Spirit to come. Come Holy Spirit, break us open and make us new. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.