Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

June 8, 2014, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Sermons

A sermon preached at All Hallows, Easton, Sunday 8th June 2014

glory 3aWho, or What, is the Holy Spirit? The short and correct answer is simply: the Holy Spirit is God. Not “a” God, just God. Without wishing to trespass on anything Fr Roger may wish to say next Sunday about the Holy Trinity, I will just remind you that in our Sunday Creed, the expression of our most basic Christian belief, we say; “I believe in ONE God.” Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three Gods, they are the three ways in which the One God is God.

God is God firstly by being the Source and Origin of everything that is, including the whole created universe. But God not only creates the universe, and holds it in being, he makes Himself known to it, especially to creatures with minds and intelligence, human beings. He makes Himself known in various ways, but supremely He reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, God Himself in human form. Jesus taught us to call God not merely Creator, but Father: and so God reveals Himself as both Father and Son.

So Who, or What, is the Holy Spirit? Here I am using very rough-and-ready language, not the technical language learned theologians use, so if there are any Doctors of Divinity in the congregation who want to pick me up on what I am saying, they are welcome to do so.

I think of it this way. We often speak of someone saying or doing something in a certain “spirit”: a spirit of curiosity, perhaps, or a spirit of anger or envy. I am sure we understand what is being meant by talking in that way. If we ask, “In what Spirit does God create the world and reveal himself to it?” we must answer, “In the Spirit of Love.” God has not made us in a spirit of indifference, just to show off His power. He has not revealed Himself to us in a spirit of criticism, so that He may catch us out when we go wrong and punish us. He has done so for our welfare, so that we may share in His supreme happiness, simply out of Love. That Love is Himself, the third way in which God is God.

So the Holy Spirit is God as the Love that fills the universe and which he gives to His children to enable them to be his children. The Bible speaks of the Spirit as “the breath of God.”  In the beginning, “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” When Christ had (as it were) “re-booted” the universe by his Resurrection, he came to his disciples and “breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” So for us as Christians, the Holy Spirit is God as our “Breath of life,” God living in us and inspiring us to be truly images of our Father.

Some Christians get in a tangle about “receiving the Spirit,” and whether and when we do so, and what are the signs that we have done so. The orthodox, Catholic and Church of England answer is that we most definitely receive the Spirit when we are baptized. The more important question is, “What have we done with the Spirit since then?” Have we grown in the Spirit? Have we always thought, spoken and acted in the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus? What have we done with this tremendous gift that God has entrusted to us?

Jesus said that, like a tree, we are known by our fruits. St Paul in one of his letters gives a list of some of the “fruits of the Spirit.” What our Lord and St Paul mean is that we must look for the effect of the Spirit in our actual lives. Do we show in our lives a Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? If so, we see the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Do we manifest a spirit of anger, envy, selfishness, greed or the like? Then at the least the Holy Spirit is being impeded and frustrated within us.

Imagine that we are like a gas central-heating boiler. It is connected to the gas supply: that is guaranteed. But to spring into life, to fire up when required, there must also be a living pilot-flame. Think of the Spirit as being that flame in us. If we let it go out altogether, we shall never fire up when needed, even though we continue to be connected to the supply. A sensible householder has the boiler serviced regularly, and looks after the flame.

Nearly all our hymns this morning start with the word “Come!” If we want to be true followers and friends of Jesus, true children of our heavenly Father, we must be open to the Spirit, constantly asking him to come more and more completely into our hearts. The love of God and of one another: that is the fullness of the Divine Law. Let us pray in the words of the children’s hymn:

And yet I want to love thee, Lord;
O light the flame within my heart,
And I will love thee more and more,
Until I see thee as thou art.

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