Monday, 3 April 2017

The Spirit lives to set us free.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (page 724 in our pew Bibles) The Valley of dry bones. The Lord of creation breathes life into the scattered bones of the dead. God is the God of the living, not of the dead (Mark 12:27) says Jesus. Our lives are secure in His hands.
Romans 8: 6-11 (page 944 in our pew Bibles) The same Spirit that raised the dead in the valley of dry bones is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and is the same Spirit that dwells in our hearts
John 11: 1-45 (page 897 in our pew Bibles) The raising of Lazarus. Jesus says that "I am the resurrection and the Life". The Spirit of God in Christ raises his friend from the grave. Lazarus was raised only to die again but we are all to die to be raised to eternal life. 

The theme of today’s readings is unmistakeable. God is the Life giver.
He is the source of all life – he promises New Life.
He is also the source of Full life.

Wonderful but what is our link to this Life giver – who creates, sustains, fulfils and brings new life even out of death?  Our link is the Spirit of God.

Even mention of The Holy Spirit can frighten some people because even the mention of the word “Spirit” conjures up images of “Ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night” but there is really no need to be afraid, for God is wholly Good. There is no darkness at all in God so any encounter with the Spirit of God is always for our benefit, always life giving and life enhancing.

The Holy Spirit is essential for the Christian faith. When Christians say things like they have Jesus in their heart, or God is with them, what do they mean?
What they actually mean is that the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Jesus lives in them.
The Spirit of God is the Spirit that convinces people that Jesus is true; it is the Spirit of God that works in you when you pray; it is the Spirit of God that worked through Jesus to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead; It is the Spirit of God that raised the dry bones of a dead people in the Old Testament; and it is the same Spirit that dwells in our hearts through faith.

It is the same Spirit that will be active, in the baptisms of Sean and Bobby. From the moment of their baptism, regardless of whether they feel anything or not, the Spirit of God will be a constant companion from now on. How they nurture God’s presence with them in their lives is down to them – God never forces anyone to do anything, but the Spirit of God is always willing and active and available.

The Spirit of God that raised Lazarus back to life was just the preamble to the main event.
Lazarus was raised back to this life, only to grow old and die again, a natural death when he got old.
What we celebrate on every Sunday and especially on Easter Sunday is a completely different order of bringing back to life.

That resurrection, that we claim as Christians, is a raising from the dead to a completely different order of life – eternal life – a life that never ends.

That is our personal possession that we all have as people who put our faith in Jesus.

Jesus knows first hand our hopes and fears. When it was clear that Lazarus had died and He was led to the tomb, the reality of death truly hit him and Jesus cried. It is the shortest verse in the whole Bible and yet says so much.  “Jesus wept”. Jesus was weeping over all our deaths – weeping over death itself – the final enemy.

Jesus offered his own life so that those bitter tears that we all shed over the death of loved ones is not the final word.

The final word to us is Jesus himself – God’s word made flesh and blood which speaks to us of new life, new possibilities, new relationships.

The new relationship that we enjoy between ourselves, with life, with our families and work colleagues is all based on that fundamental new relationship that we all enjoy with God the Father, when his Spirit comes to live within our hearts.

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