Thoughts on the third person of the Trinity in response to readings for Sunday 11th January:
In Genesis 1, a wind from God swept over the face of the waters, the ruach, the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel our Saviour is baptised in water and by the Holy Spirit who descended upon him as a dove. In Acts we watch as people are filled with the Holy Spirit about whom they had previously known nothing. This third person of the Trinity about whom David writes his psalms and famously asks “O God ...put a new and right spirit within me and do not take your holy spirit from me.”
So questions like 'Do I have the Holy Spirit? and can the Holy Spirit be taken from me?' might be among those we ask, after David, the psalmist, as we study the Scriptures for this person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever found a ten pound note in a jacket pocket that you had completely forgotten about? I did this just the other day. I grabbed a coat from the back of the cupboard, put it on, went out and then later wondered what that little lump was in one of its inside pockets: it was a ten pound note neatly folded.
Fantastic. I had it all along but never knew that this was the case until I discovered it.
Of course, it was only in the spending of the ten pounds that it became really something that could make a difference. Back in my pocket again, it would achieve very little. It is in this way that we might begin to think about the Holy Spirit in our lives. Of course my analogy is wholly inadequate. The Holy Spirit is a priceless gift from God himself but we can forget that
he is with us and
was with us ...all along ….just like I did with the five pound note.
The other way in which my analogy fails me, is that once I have spent the ten pound note I must go and earn some more. The Holy Spirit is not earned, and is no reward for my work but is instead given by a loving God who only wants us to receive his Spirit, the Spirit which he has already given us.
Jesus has by his work: his dying, rising and being glorified, made the Holy Spirit available for us. It is not about my work but His.
The Father and the Son promise us the Holy Spirit so that through this third person of the Trinity we can be in relationship with God. The Holy Spirit is given to each and every Christian.
In our creed we say: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.
So the Holy Spirit is an equal member of the trinity to whom we can pray, be in relationship and worship.
The Father gave us the gift of life, Jesus saved us through his work on the cross and his rising again but the Holy Spirit is himself a gift, he is himself a person given to us, who takes up residence within us.
If you are all temples of the Holy Spirit that means you carry him every where with you.
As a mum of young children I used to put a sticker in the back windscreen of my car saying, “baby on board.” This is something I have watched many parents do. We are so conscious of the preciousness of the load that we are carrying. However, these days, now that my children are ten and twelve, I no longer have such a sticker on my back windscreen. I wonder if the same thinking can be applied to our Christian lives. When I first began to understand who Jesus was, I was conscious of the transformation in my life occurring through his Holy Spirit, Iiterally imagining myself a temple of the Holy Spirit, carrying a precious cargo. It shapes our behaviour because we know the Holy Spirit can be grieved. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves daily that we carry a special person on board – that we are indwelt. We do not wear a badge on the outside but we are sealed with the Holy Spirit in much the same way inside. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians he uses the analogy not of a windscreen sticker of course but - a hot stamp of wax, a wax seal on a letter making that letter official, showing how we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, sealed with Christ. So if this seal is so strong, can it be broken?
In Psalm 51 David fears that the Holy Spirit can be taken from him and indeed there are characters in the Old Testament for whom this becomes a reality but this is not the case for us now under the New covenant, since the New Testament – the Holy Spirit is never taken away from you, we have a God who is faithful to his promises. I am sure sometimes we grieve him but he is never not with us it is just that sometimes we forget that he is with us.
The promise of the Holy Spirit was given thousands of years ago in the Old Testament in Joel chapter 2 where God promised one day to pour out his Holy Spirit on all people. This did occur in history – this promise was fulfilled – it came true. We have the story of this in Acts in the New Testament. Peter describes what happened and how God poured out the Holy 'Spirit on all flesh...your sons and your daughters...young men... and old men ...both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit. Those days are these days. Our days. Those people are us.
Later on in the Acts of the Apostles from the New Testament and in a passage we have heard this morning, we are shown how this Holy Spirit, who can be given but not taken away becomes a reality for people. On learning about Jesus, the Holy Spirit becomes a reality for the people in that passage. They experience him for the first time.
We are to understand from all our readings this morning that we too have been given the Holy Spirit that because of this we will understand more fully how to worship the Father and the Son in Spirit and truth. The Holy Spirit is someone for whose presence we can continually ask. We get to ask for this gift that God gives to us again and again and again. Paul instructs us to do so, to ask to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us in Luke's gospel (chp 11)
...everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
We ask the Holy Spirit to be with us in the difficult times, to help us make good decisions, to open up the meaning of the Bible for us, to grow in us the fruits of patience and self-control, love, faith, joy and gentleness. We ask the Holy Spirit to show us the love of the Father and of the Son and to help us to love one another.
We are to know the precious cargo we have on board, that we carry precious treasure all about our person. We have been given a gift that can never be taken away and in the continual receiving of we will know more fully the power of God in our lives. Let us pray.
Father you promise that to everyone who asks they will receives, we ask. Father you say to those who seek, they will find. We seek. We do know how to give good gifts to our children, Heavenly Father we ask that you give to us abundant life in the Holy Spirit. Lord in your mercy. Hear our Prayer. Amen.