If you are of a certain age, say mid-to-late-gen-x and early millenial, then the word “abide” is a part of your vocabulary for one very specific reason.
The Big Lebowski, a 1998 film by the Coen Brothers, abides in my top-5 list, even today. But this isn’t really a post about Lebowski and his rug, but rather about the word “abide.” It’s a word that you rarely hear used outside of White Russian drinking young adults and religious leaders.
It is often used by Episcopal preachers in sermons for Christmas 1, when the assigned lesson is always the Prologue to John’s Gospel and we are at a loss for how to explain that Jesus, as the Word of God, became en-fleshed and dwelt, lived, pitched his tent, or abided with us, but there is another equally famous usage of the word “abide” in John’s Gospel that comes up in this week’s Gospel lesson. As Jesus tries to explain to his disciples what will happen after he returns to his Father, he tells them about the paraclete, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom they will know because “he abides with” them.
That got me wondering if it was the same Greek word in 14:17 as it is in 1:14, and in fact it is not. What I did find out, however, was that the Greek word translated as “abide” in 14:17 is also used by John in 1:32 to describe the Spirit’s arrival during Jesus’ baptism. “And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it [abided with] him.” For John, this seems to be a quality of the Spirit.
The Spirit Abides.
Which is, of course, a promise worth holding on to. There are plenty of times when it feels like God is far away, when it seems as though the darkness is drowning out the light, when you cry out to God and there is no answer, but the truth of the matter is that even in those moment, perhaps especially in those moment, the Spirit Abides. The Spirit remains by our side in good time and in bad and in moments of deep discernment and relative calm. God will not leave us alone, he has promised through his Son, that the Spirit will abide with us.