Skip to main content

Set Free From Fear

Romans 8.14-17, Acts 2.1-21

It’s interesting that Luke tells us so much about the fears dangers which the early Christians faced. He begins the story of how the first disciples responded to the resurrection by telling us that they were so frightened and demoralised that even when they were with Jesus they still felt doubtful and afraid. Yet Luke quickly follows that account with the transformative events of the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples were suddenly emboldened and empowered.

If we look closely at the language he uses we will see that it was actually a very alarming experience. There are violent sounds which fill the house where the disciples are gathered, there’s a sense of light and heat, there’s bewilderment and perplexity as strange sounds come out of their mouths, and even when Peter tries to restore calm - with a reasoned explanation of what’s happening - he still says some pretty alarming things.

This is, he says, is the End Time predicted by the Prophet Joel. Peter warns of portents in the sky - blood and fire and smoky mist. That’s all you need in a crisis, isn’t it? Someone shouting that the end is nigh!

But, Joel’s End Time is only frightening if you’ve not been put right with God. If, on the other hand, you do have God’s Spirit with you, you can afford to laugh in the face of danger. And it will be a liberating time, especially for those whose voices are normally not heard so clearly - young people, women every bit as much as men, the elderly, even slaves will find that they have just as much chance of being blessed by God as anyone else. So this is not so much a frightening vision of the End Time, despite its graphic warning about the sun being eclipsed by a blood red moon; rather it’s an unsettling and challenging vision.

Are we ready, Peter seems to be saying, to be challenged and unsettled, to hear new voices speaking out on God’s behalf? And in Romans Chapter 8 Paul takes up this same idea of the Spirit liberating us from fear and making us all God’s children - set free from slavery to the doubts, pre-occupations and anxieties that normally hold us back. Are we ready, both as individuals and as a church community, to accept this starting level of freedom and empowerment? Are we ready to shake of fear and doubt and embrace challenge and change?

God’s Spirit is only waiting for us to say that we are ready to be made heirs of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, before giving us all the privileges and blessings enjoyed by God’s adopted children. But before we hurry to answer ‘Yes!’, we should note that there is - of course - a catch! The inheritance we receive as followers of Jesus is a share in the sufferings and dangers that he faced. So he inheritance offered by the Spirit is only for those who are ready to be risk-takers.

Receiving the gifts of the Spirit brings us back to the challenges which Justin Welby talked about. It’s about being open to radical new ways of living, risky and dangerous ways even, believing that the pressures and opportunities which will come as a result may give us just the push that we need to live as God’s children.


Popular posts from this blog

I don't believe in an interventionist God

Matthew 28.1-10, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 I like Nick Cave’s song because of its audacious first line: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. What an unlikely way to begin a love song! He once explained that he wrote the song while sitting at the back of an Anglican church where he had gone with his wife Susie, who presumably does believe in an interventionist God - at least that’s what the song says. Actually Cave has always been very interested in religion. Sometimes he calls himself a Christian, sometimes he doesn’t, depending on how the mood takes him. He once said, ‘I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it.’ But his lyrics often include religious themes and he has also said that any true love song is a song for God. So maybe it’s no coincidence that he began this song in such an unlikely way, although he says the inspiration came to him during the sermon. The vicar was droning on about something when the first line of the song just popped into his head. I suspect …

True Love

Mark 12:28-34 In 1981 Prince Charles was put on the spot during a television interview with Lady Diana Spencer, his new fiancee. The interviewer asked them if they were in love. Lady Diana’s instant response was , ‘Of course!,’ but Prince Charles replied, ‘Whatever “in love” means.’ Now in case you think Prince Charles is just a bit of a cold fish, on National Poetry Day 2015 he read a poem on Radio 4, ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ by Robbie Burns. I thought, ‘This is going to be a bit wooden,’ but I was wrong. He read the poem so movingly that Clarence House has made it available on YouTube and Twitter. Listening to him it was impossible to escape the conclusion that he now knows what being “in love” means. O my Love is like a red, red rose, That's newly sprung in June: O my Love is like the melody, That's sweetly played in tune. As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in love am I; And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry. But what does being “in …

Why are good people tempted to do wrong?

Deuteronomy 30.15-20, Psalm 119.1-8, 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Matthew 5.21-37 Why are good people tempted to do wrong? Sometimes we just fall from the straight and narrow and do mean, selfish or spiteful things. But sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re still good people even though we’re doing something wrong. We tell ourselves that there are some people whose motives are totally wicked or self-regarding: criminals, liars, cheats, two-timers, fraudsters, and so on, but we are not that kind of person. We’re basically good people who just indulge in an occasional misdemeanour. So, for example, there’s Noble Cause Corruption, a phrase first coined apparently in 1992 to explain why police officers, judges, politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and so on sometimes get sucked into justifying actions which are really totally wrong, but on the grounds that they are doing them for a very good reason. A famous instance of noble cause corruption is the statement, by the late Lord Denni…