I was going to tell you something I had found helpful in lockdown, and something I love about lockdown is that I get to wear my slippers! I live in my slippers often, and hardly go out. I love wearing my slippers! That’s one good thing about lockdown.
Here’s my first picture : take off your shoes!
That’s what I do in order to wear my slippers.
You might recognise that from the Bible, in Moses’ story when Moses sees the burning bush and he goes close and God says, “Moses, take off your shoes, because you’re standing on holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)
When I wear my shoes it’s because I’m going to go out to do something, maybe go to the hospital, but maybe this afternoon, we could all metaphorically take off our shoes and sit in the presence of God, on holy ground.
As Jim said earlier, the Holy Spirit is ever present, He’s here with us now. Let’s take off our shoes and learn about who He is and can be for us.
The next picture says, “This is My Son”.
You might recognise those words from the Bible – when Jesus was baptised, He came up from the water and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove and a voice came from heaven, “This is My Son” (Matthew 3:16-17) or “You are My Son” (Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:21-22). The Spirit was reminding Jesus who He was, and this same Spirit reminds us who we are in Christ. I’ve got a verse from 1 John 3:1, “See how very much our Father loves us, He calls us His children, for that is what we are.”
Just as God said to Jesus, “This is My Son” – He says this about us. The Holy Spirit reminds us of that.
That’s from 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?”
We’ve all taken off our shoes now and we’re wearing our slippers. Now we think of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, He lives in us.
I want to ask: how comfortable are we for the Holy Spirit? How comfortable a home to live in for the Holy Spirit are we? Do we have soft furnishings so He can easily make us into who God wants us to be? Or are we hard to wrestle into who God wants us to be?
How close to God am I, how comfortable am I to be where the Holy Spirit lives in me?
There is a verse in Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free!” The Spirit helps us find that freedom. Are we free then? Am I free?
Do we live trapped and burdened, feeling hemmed in and in chains? Or do we know freedom in the Spirit?
In John 16:7, the disciples are sad because Jesus told them he was going to leave. They didn’t want him to go but Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper / Comforter / Advocate / Counsellor / Strengthener will not come to you. But If I go away, I will send the Holy Spirit to you.”
So, Jesus is saying, right now the best you can possibly have is the Holy Spirit and you already have him right now. Some of us maybe wish that we could fast track up to heaven to be with Jesus right now. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But before we get there, right now, the best for you is the Holy Spirit living inside us.
There’s another dove in the Bible in the story of Noah, in Genesis 8:8-12.
He was in the ark. It was raining so much, like we’ve had recently. The ark floated on the water that covered the earth and Noah sends out the dove which brings an olive branch – peace.
Noah was in the middle of a flood! Things may not have seemed OK but he saw the peace, things would be OK. So maybe, as we look at our lives, things press in, but let’s look out for that dove, the olive branch, reminding us in the Spirit that we can have peace!
We’ve recently celebrated Pentecost, the Spirit enabling the church, flooding the people, enabling them to go out. They hadn’t been confident, but the Spirit came and gave them confidence (Acts 2:1-12).
Maybe we don’t feel very enabled or confident returning to the “new normal” – perhaps we feel we can’t do it. But the disciples couldn’t do it without the Spirit. They were enabled – it is that Spirit that enables each one of us.
Galatians chapter 5 talks about the fruit of the Spirit but first of all, I want to remind us of a verse in Matthew 7:20: “By their fruit you will recognise them”.
By the fruit in their lives, you will recognise the Spirit in them. And I suppose we could ask, what do people recognise in us?
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us what that fruit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.
I want to encourage us to do something rather un-English, which is to notice this fruit in our own lives. It’s easy to say, ‘I can see the fruit here in these lives’, but what about our own?
Because we have the Holy Spirit, it’s not arrogant to see the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives. Let’s make sure we keep in step with the Spirit. It’s important to encourage others too.
So, in closing, Galatians 5:25 says “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
The Spirit isn’t static, the fruit grows, the spirit moves, and we need to grow and move with the Spirit.
In hospital last week, I had a lovely nurse looking after me and a surprise to me, she was a Christian. That was an extra bonus, and she was saying a little about her life; she was from South Africa. For fifteen years there she had worked for Scripture Union, which tells people about Jesus. She’d been all over telling people about Jesus and now she is a nurse in Manchester.
God changed her life like that, asked her to train as a nurse and that’s what she is now – she’s gone from being a missionary in Africa, to being a nurse in Manchester.
What a life change! Mother Teresa said, “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love”. That’s what this nurse was doing, and she said to me – this is someone who’s seen the Holy Spirit work in big ways – she said, “When I sit in this hospital in Manchester, in a patient’s room, and I hold their hand, the Holy Spirit is right there”.
Maybe some of us are thinking, I used to be able to do really big things, but what about now? Remember that nurse – when we hold a hand, do a small thing, the Holy Spirit is right there. So, a question for us in closing, how can we hold hands with people? How can we comfort and strengthen and remind people of what they need?
The Holy Spirit is right there, we can take that fruit into ourselves. The Spirit lives in each of us so as we go forward into the week and month and year, may we remember that the Spirit is very present, living in each one of us. Amen