Sunday, May 20, 2018

three ways to walk in the way of the Holy Spirit

May my words be in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Those of a certain age will remember Green Shield Stamps. They were sheets of little green stamps given out with petrol, shopping, and various other purchases. The stamps were glued into the pages of little booklets. And the books could be used at special stores to redeem various things. Pots and pans and sets of cutlery and dining ware were very popular. One book would get you something small, perhaps a little toy or a spatula; and many, many books would get you something expensive, perhaps one of those Sunbeam electric multi-cookers that were all the rage in the early 70s.

My mother was mad into collecting these stamps; and for several years in a row it was in this manner that my Christmas presents were sourced. One that I remember in particular was a little carpenter's set I got when I was around nine. These were in the days when the idea of health and safety was pretty much unheard of, so the tools it contained were real: small, but very usable. There was no plastic in them; every thing was metal and wood. And so it had a real little hammer, that could bang real nails into wood; a real screwdriver; a real awl that could actually bore holes into timber; a real carpenter's square and pencil; and a real saw, with sharp metal teeth that made short work of half-inch ply and lengths of two-by-one.

I appreciate the safety concerns that no longer allow small children to be given such things … but I have to say I learned a lot from having that little set … sawing and hammering and using a screwdriver and making sure that your angles are right before you cut are real life skills and helped me learn the basics of woodworking before I was big enough to move onto the full-sized tools in my father's garage.

But, of course, I would have learned nothing from that gift if I had not taken the tools out of the box and used them. And the world is full of such things – wonderful gifts that have very practical purposes, but achieve nothing because the person who receives them never opens the box, or sticks them on shelf or in a drawer or cupboard and never does anything with them, or uses them a couple of times and then gives up because its a bit of work to learn how to use them correctly, or because some new distraction comes along and they are forgotten.

The Holy Spirit, the person of the Trinity who features so prominently in our readings on this Day of Pentecost, is a gift that can be treated that way by some. He is, of course, a gift we are all given – 'Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' the bishop said to us all when he laid his hands upon us as we were confirmed. And having the Holy Spirit in our lives is important … if this were not the case, Christ would not have promised his disciples he would send him … and when that promise was fulfilled, we can see the dramatic difference his coming made to those early followers of our Lord … they went from being people hiding in an upper room, afraid of what would happen to them if they so much as showed their faces, much less preaching the Word of God boldly … and became fearless proclaimers of his Truth, not afraid to face any one or anything for the sake of preaching the Gospel, not even afraid of torture and death.

And so having been given this gift we must not let it sit idle; but we must work to develop it within us. This can be done in many ways; but today let me suggest just three to you. The first is by frequent reading of a particular book of the Bible, the Acts of the Apostle. This book, perhaps more than any other, details for us what happens when the Holy Spirit falls upon a Christian soul and is fully embraced. It is to be read carefully, as all of Sacred Scripture is, for encouragement and inspiration. See how the Holy Spirit transformed them; realise how it can transform you; and open your hearts to him so that he may.

The next is by listening to what St Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians as to how to walk in the Spirit. First he warns us against the works of the flesh, which are contrary to the Spirit; these are 'fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these'. These are to be avoided for, as St Paul tells us, those who do such things will 'not inherit the kingdom of heaven'. Instead we must lead our lives according to the word of God and the guidance of his Spirit; we must, as St Paul teaches, do as those who truly belong to Christ do and crucify 'the flesh with its passions and desires'; then will our lives be filled with the fruits of his Spirit which are 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control'.

Lastly, we must make room in our lives for silence; for God is found in the silence as the prophet Elijah discovered and which we read about in First Kings. Therefore we must bring silence into our lives … both to let God and his Holy Spirit in … and to keep the world and its noise and all its temptations out … think of so much that is on the radio and television, what is broadcast over the internet, what comes out of Hollywood and the music industry … and then compare it to what St Paul called the works of the flesh … the things that will deny us the kingdom of heaven … there is much, much too much of the works of the flesh in the noise of the world … and very little that leads to the fruits of the Spirit … and so making time for prayerful silence in our lives is making time for God … and making time for the salvation of our souls …

I still have the little hammer from that carpenter's set … although nearly fifty years have passed since I was given it, it still remains as good as ever and it makes for a very useful tack hammer. As far as gifts go, one could say that it has withstood the test of time. But, however much I may treasure it, it remains just a hammer; but the gift of the Holy Spirit is a far greater gift … for it is a gift that, if properly received, and constantly fostered within in us, will last beyond time … it will last unto and lead us into eternal life … somewhere that I pray that all here will find themselves on that great and terrible day at the end of the ages in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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