A few years ago a number of colleagues were at my house in Padbury enjoying a drink and a chat when one of them saw a photograph of a young eighteen year old Andrew, dressed in his rugby kit, and said ‘wow you used to be good looking.’ I didn’t, still don’t, know how to take this!
I love the line in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: ‘even though the outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.’ It’s pretty realistic isn’t it? Yes, we are all getting older and, yes, this implies a bodily change, but the good news is that as we mature in our Christian lives our inner nature is renewed and we become more Christ-like. The way we grow is of course through our daily and weekly habits: prayer, bible reading, and corporate worship.
All of our spiritual practices should be undertaken under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This Trinity let us seek to remain open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into a deeper relationship with the Father and the Son. Let us not forget how we start our worship each and every week, by declaring that we meet in ‘the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’
As Christians we need to remain open, always, to the work of the Holy Spirit whose roles are to guide us, shape us, encourage us and lead us into all truth. To ignore the prompting, leading, and real presence of the Holy Spirit is to ‘blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.’
When we live lives shaped and informed by the work of the Holy Spirit the remarkable thing is that we grow into our true and deepest identity. It matters not a jot how we look and whether ‘our outer nature is wasting away,’ for what matters more is the that our ‘inner nature is being renewed day by day.’ As our inner nature is renewed the really great news is that we too learn to look beyond mere externalities and the superficial things and, our whole system of valuing people changes. We begin to realise that worldly success and status aren’t important. We begin to realise that the only important thing is being committed to doing the ‘will of God,’ and that this implies living by the rule of love with its twin characteristics: ‘love of God,’ and ‘love of neighbour.’ When we live our lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit our lives, mysteriously, become simplified.
But, something even more remarkable happens: we stop being terrified, afraid or anxious. In the reading from Genesis Adam says to God: ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked.’ What Adam had failed to realise was simply this that God was far more concerned with his inner nature than his outer nature. God couldn’t care less about Adam’s ‘outer nature.’ The great satanic trick started with Adam and continues into the present day. The trick is to get us to believe that God is somehow impressed with our outer natures: our height, weight, athletic ability, status and the size of our bank balance. To assume that God is overly concerned with these things is to relegate God’s values to the crudest of human metrics. And the trouble with human metrics is that they tend to exclude rather than include. When our impulse is to demarcate and exclude, rather than include, we distort what it means to be a ‘brother, ‘ sister,’ or ‘mother,’ in holy communion, in Christ. This is something we simply mustn’t do!
I would like to finish with a quote from the Rachel Wilson. Rachel is a priest in the Church of England. She also has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She writes as follows:
‘I know that for some of my friends, especially Christians, the notion that God intends me (this side of heaven at least) to be as I am is controversial, but it is something that I am convinced of, and when I came to that conclusion it was utterly revelatory; if I am indeed what God has made me, then I no longer need to worry about failing to be like others, but can succeed in being myself.’
When, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, claim our deepest identity, we succeed at being our best selves, and begin to understand that God is above all interested in our ‘inner nature.’ When we refuse to listen to the voice of temptation telling us that we aren’t worthy enough just as we are we become the sort of people who build authentic communities simply by doing the ‘will of God.’
So, this Trinity let us open ourselves to the transformative, liberating, simplifying, fear-beating, and relationship-building power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and be amongst us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.