Monday, 18 May 2020
Sermon on the Holy Spirit 17th May 2020
The readings this week sparked so many ideas in my mind. So many options to preach on, so many messages to share. It's not every week that preachers are so spoiled for choice.
Image of churches closed but church isn't the building
I read the reading in Acts about God not living in temples and thought I could talk about how this is telling us not to fear that our church buildings are closed because we know God is everywhere, including in our online services.
Then I read the verses saying that God gives everything life and breath. That God is In every living thing, In every tree and flower, In every animal that swims, crawls or walks, In every single corner of the world. I could preach for hours on finding God in the world, in each other and our need to care for everyone and creation.
Finally I came to the gospel of John where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the disciples. My previous ideas were put on the back burner and will probably become reflections over the coming weeks.
Gospel on screen
So let's hear the reading from the gospel of John again
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
As Christians, we believe in one God in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Of these three, the Holy Spirit is the hardest for me to get my head around.
I have a picture of God the Father in my mind, a kindly grandfather type probably modelled on my dad's dad, with some children's Bible story pictures mashed in. More than that I have a feeling of God which is all caring and nurturing.
I also have lots of pictures of Jesus, God the son, in my mind. That's quite straight forward because he came to earth as a baby, lived and died as a man. I have all the many stories of Jesus in my mind which bring him to life for me.
Holy spirit - ice water steam???
But God the Holy Spirit, now that's really difficult to picture. I have seen and read many different explanations, I've taught and preached about the holy spirit; but in reality none of the explanations seem to fully capture the abstract nature of the holy spirit.
"Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me."
But Jesus spoke to his disciples about the Holy Spirit in concrete terms, talking about what the Holy Spirit would do in their lives. He told them not to worry because God would still be with them through the Holy Spirit.
God with us
So, who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is the embodiment of God, bringing us comfort, guidance and healing. The Holy Spirit is ‘God with us’.
But actually the holy spirit is more than that. The Holy Spirit is not the spirit of life within us, or the human spirit trying to be the best it can be, or even a divine spark empowering us.
God in us
The Holy Spirit is the embodiment of God, actually God within us.
Not just WITH us, but IN us.
Change, change, change
Jesus says in verse 17: “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” The Holy Spirit is God physically within us, acting on us and causing a change in our lives.
But what changes?
Fruits of the spirit
The first is that the Holy Spirit grows the fruits of the spirit in our lives.
Paul writes in Galatians chapter 5 about the fruits of the spirit. I was drawing word art about them just a few weeks ago not knowing I would be preaching on them.
Here they are:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit gives us which become the principles for our lives.
I don't know about you but as I read these words I can see quite a few where I fall short. I am not kind all the time, I fall short on the self control front and I might be described as more energetic than gentle.
But, thanks to the Holy Spirit in my life, I can see that I'm improving over time in all these areas of my life. I know the same is true for each of you.
The second change that the Holy Spirit makes in our lives is helping us to offer our gifts, or charisms, to the church.
These spiritual gifts are listed in Corinthians 12 and include:
Discernment of spirits
Speaking in tongues
Interpretation of tongues
These gifts are given by the Holy spirit to build up the church.
The Holy spirit helps us to discover our gifts, strengthen them and use them in service for the church.
From the list do you recognise the gifts which the holy spirit has given you and is growing within you?
I'll create a thread in our Facebook group about spiritual gifts so we can share what gifts we feel are being developed by the Holy spirit in each of us.
Blessing, transforming, growing
In these two ways the Holy Spirit is God in us here and now, blessing us, transforming us and growing us so that we can be a blessing in the world.
So what's the third way that the Holy Spirit causes changes in our lives?
"Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”
For this I am returning to the final verse of today's reading from the Gospel of John.
"Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”
Jesus is telling his disciples that if they love him they will keep his commandments.
Love one another
What does that mean?
Well it isn't just an emotion of love is it? It is an instruction to act. And what is the greatest of the commandments God gave us? It is the command to love one another.
So Jesus is telling us that if we love him then we must love one another unconditionally, indiscriminately, selflessly, completely.
That's a big ask isn't it.
It feels a bigger ask than anything I can do on my own.
And that's where we rely on the Holy Spirit in our lives, to change us and grow us, enable us and empower us, to draw us closer to God and rely on his guidance and strength.
Picture of ways we can love one another
What does this mean practically?
For some of us that might be in care for creation, for others it might be telephoning a friend who is lonely. Some might be volunteering at foodbanks or volunteer projects during the pandemic. Some might be loving the immediate family with care and education and food. Some might be working on the front line or in the supermarkets. It is different for everyone, we are each led by Jesus to love in our own individual ways.
And if you're listening to this and doubting yourself then please stop. Every phone call you make is an act of love. Every time you pray for someone, that's an act of love. Every time you stay home when you wish you could meet friends, that's an act of love. God is in every part of the world, in every breath, in every thought and in every act of love and he loves you completely. Your very life is a living out of God's love.
Holy spirit is with us and in us always
So, to conclude.
The Holy spirit is with us and in us always.
The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts to use in the ministry of God.
The Holy Spirit grows the fruit of the spirit in us to help us become the best people we can be.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to love the world and everything in it.
The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”