The great promise of Christianity is that a fundamental change has come into the world. The “normal” ways of the world, whether conceived of as sin or fate or the writing of the stars or the law of karma, have been overturned. We can now opt out of the power of these forces and be truly free, opting in instead to what God has done in the man Jesus. This change is demonstrated first and foremost in the resurrection, celebrated at Easter, but Easter’s promise is actualized for us in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all the faithful, which we celebrate today, on Pentecost: the Holy Spirit once reserved for kings and prophets is now apocalyptically available for everyone, abundantly, lavishly. If the Resurrection cut the chords binding us to the ways of the world, Pentecost unites us to the divine life of the Kingdom of God.
In this morning’s Epistle reading, from Romans, Paul states this with uncharacteristic simplicity:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8.14-17)
What struck me this morning about this was the line, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” The old ways of the world are bondage, and bondage to fear: fear of death, certainly, but also all of the other fears that hold us back: fears of rejection, fears of scarcity, fears of being seen, fears of failure, and on and on and on. So much of what is ‘sin’ is rooted in fear. The ‘normal’ ways of the world keep us small, less than the full, mature, and strong children of God we were created to be. The way of God is always the way of true freedom. This was demonstrated in its firstfruits in the Law of Moses, and fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of freedom from these fears and attachments than hold us back from living lives of love, mercy, and grace.
The metaphor Paul uses demonstrates what the true extent of this gift looks like: not only have we been freed from spiritual slavery, but we are adopted as daughters and sons, co-heirs with and in Jesus of all that is God’s. In the words of the ancient refrain I repeat so often, we become by grace all that Christ is by nature.
So, on this Pentecost Sunday may we all give thanks for the gift of the Spirit that frees us from what binds us and empowers us to become fully what we are: sons and daughters of the living God.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.