Ezekiel 36.8-12, 24-28 / Romans 8.1-17
The 1970s were a time of great liturgical change in the Church of England, with many different forms of service being tried out.
During this time, the then Bishop of Kensington is said to have turned up to lead a confirmation service which he began with the words: ‘The Lord is here.’
Being up to date with the latest liturgy, he was expecting the response, ‘His Spirit is with us’, but instead there was total silence.
He tried again, a little louder: ‘The Lord is here!’, but again there was no reply from the congregation.
So he said it a third time, even more loudly. When this once again failed to produce any response from the congregation, he turned to the vicar and said: ‘The Lord is here, isn’t he?’
To which the vicar replied: ‘Not in our book he isn’t’.
The Lord is here: his Spirit is with us.
We particularly remember this at Pentecost, of course, but the Spirit’s presence isn’t restricted to just that one day.
The Holy Spirit is described as being there before creation even began, sweeping like a wind over the waters of the void.
The Spirit dances through the whole story of creation and redemption, helping to create the world, speaking boldly through prophets, and whispering words of encouragement, guidance and warning to all the people of God.
The Spirit also equips us with different gifts, talents and skills as we’re knit together in our mother’s wombs and as we journey through life.
These are for using to help others, but also to fill our lives with beauty, joy and fulfilment, for God desires good things for us.
And the Spirit comes to us to make us children of God, to draw us into a closer relationship with the Trinity.
In our first reading today we heard God’s promise to his people.
That God would give new hearts that are more open to him, and would give his very Spirit, his very self, to guide us in his ways.
And Paul tells us in Romans that this promise is fulfilled.
That the Spirit has come to us to set us free.
This freedom is two-fold.
First, we are set free from sin and death.
It’s obviously not the case that we’re suddenly perfect and don’t have to face death, but through our faith in Jesus and accepting the gift of the Spirit guiding and helping us we’re no longer struggling alone to get everything right but have the power and forgiveness of God to help us.
Second, we’re set free to be children of God.
Free to approach God with confidence, knowing that we’re loved, that we belong, that we always have a place at God’s side.
This frees us from fear and gives us confidence to live out our lives as followers and brothers and sisters of Jesus.
So, with this in mind, let us always remember and be glad that the Lord is here, and his Spirit is with us.