The Pas Lent 5
6 April 2014
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
These are the words we say as we proclaim our faith, weekly, with our brothers and sisters around the world and throughout time. This is the hope we proclaim at the end of our earthly existence, when we proclaim with faith, “In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our lord Jesus Christ…”
And so the 3rd article of the creed says: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
And, so, we acknowledge the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, known as the quiet member of the trinity. At the same time, we can remember that this ‘shy member of the trinity’ was also present at creation.
“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Gen 1:2b) When God said, it was the Spirit who carried out. So, in God’s creative plan, the spirit has created land, and sea. It’s created sun and moon and stars. It created day from night, and plants and animals, sea creatures, and insects.
But the spirit of God doesn’t end there. It may have done the ‘heavy lifting’ of creation, but when it came time to create humankind, “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became alive.” (Gen 2:7)
And we acknowledge that the Spirit is an integral part of creation, an integral part of our lives, and an integral part of the Trinity that is God.
But until Jesus resurrection we weren’t aware of all the little things that the Spirit did to keep us and creation going.
“While [Jesus] was eating with them, [after the resurrection,] he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”(Acts 1:4-6)
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the Whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)
It is at this point that this, the shy member of the Trinity, the part of God that is, really, the most active in the world around us, this is when she comes to the fore. She comes into the world because Jesus has had to go on to the Father.
The Anglican catechism says: “I learn to have faith in the one true God: in … God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies me and all the people of God.” (BCP pg 545)
Luther’s explanation of the 3rd article of the creed says: “I believe by my own understanding or strength that I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my LORD or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in the Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers. On the Last Day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.” (Book of Concorde, Small Catechism, paragraph 6, pg 355-6)
And this is the member of the Trinity who is still the most active amongst us, today, leading us through our decisions, standing with us in the trials that we face, and rejoicing with us in those times of joy.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:26-27)
It is here we remember that Jesus is our advocate before the Father, but it is the Holy Spirit who stands in our hearts, and is the action of God in our lives.
And we can see this in the passages assigned for today. We can see this in the readings that we’ve heard this morning.
In the passage from Ezekiel, when the Hand of the Lord set him amongst the valley of dry bones. God said “Mortal can these bones lives?” Then God said “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’” And God goes into great detail the steps that are taken to revive these bones, these ancient warriors and to give them life and flesh, and sinew. (Ezek 37:3-6) And Ezekiel prophesies as he has been directed, “but there was no breath in them.” (Ezek 7-8)
“Then [God] said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy and say to the breath: thus says the Lord God: come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived.” (Ezek 37:9 – 10)
But God doesn’t finish there nor does the spirit, God’s message to the people of Israel and to us, is “I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” (Ezek 37:14 A) And we’ve seen this in Genesis, when God breathed the life into man. At the same time, we see Ezekiel’s testimony that this happened in the valley of dried bones, when by the will of God, warriors stood and breathed where only the dead had been.
Similarly the lesson to the Romans, talks about the struggle between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh. “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. … Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But if you are not the flesh; you’re in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Rom 8:6, 8 – 9)
“The Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his spirit the 12th and you.” (Romans 8:10 B – 11)
So we can see that just in the readings from today we are surrounded by the Holy Spirit both in our lives and in our very beings as a gift from God because it is God’s spirit that brings us life; that brings us the very indwelling of God in our lives, not in one person, but in three – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One look at the gospel lesson and we see the Holy Spirit is all over the place. After all were looking at the account of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus not for any other reason than that Mary believes that Jesus is the Messiah and that Lazarus is much loved and needed by his sisters Mary and Martha.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell yo that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’” (Jn 11):
Jesus prefaces his miracle with the words “’Father, I thank you for having hurt me. I knew that you would always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ’Unbind him, and let him go.’” (John 11:41b – 44)
The prayer is for our sake, so that we can learn that in prayer we are heard, and even Paul tell us that “The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8:16)
And “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Rom 8:26)
And when we accept the words of the creed, not just in our minds, but in our hearts, and lives as well, it is then that our hope is rekindled, every day. It is at that time that we know that in all of the parts of our lives we find God, not just represented, but active, in our lives, for our lives, and through our lives every day.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in trinity and trinity in unity. When we acknowledge one of these persons of the trinity, then we don’t need to look too much further for the others. In the raising of Lazarus, we find Jesus present, we find God in Jesus’ prayer, and we find the Holy Spirit resurrecting Lazarus so that faith can grow in the hearts of those who see this miracle.
In the passage from Romans, Paul talks about the Spirit as a gift from God for all who are children of God. But in that acknowledgement of our divine adoption, then is the acknowledgement of what Christ has done for each one of us, in his actions to and through the cross and grave. He says “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells I you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Rom 8:11)
And in Ezekiel, we know that where God is, there the Spirit is, and there the Son is also. A part of the lives of those who have been dry bones and are now representative of the life giving strength of God reserved for those who can say “I believe.”
It is each part of ourselves that we realize that we are a created being by a loving God who has given us all of the tools and gifts, who guides us daily to aid us to work and live with those gifts not just for our benefit but for the benefit of all mankind.
In that realization, then, as we ponder the mystery of All Saints Day, we remember that it is through the actions of Jesus, born of God and of humanity, who gave us even his own death and resurrection so that we might have the gift of eternal life, and it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that is with us every day.
And it all begins with the words “I believe.”