Receive the Holy Spirit. – John 20:  23

   In less than a month’s time, we will be celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence which set in motion our political separation from England. However, this only gained our political freedom, which pales in comparison to the freedom that comes with the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God, no one else, is strong enough to set us completely free.

   When the subject of freedom is brought up, we find ourselves wandering around a large cave, bumping in the dark against all manner of things from which men have tried to free themselves. Some things, like plague & slavery, seem to have receded into the background; others like superstition & famine retreat & then jump back again. There is in the dark, however, one great obstacle to freedom that never seems to go away: sin & death. No matter how they are ignored, they are the chief enslavers of the human spirit, & only the Holy Spirit can free us from them.

   No matter how intelligent or prosperous we are, no matter how noble a constitution our nation may boast, the freedom in each case hangs by a thread if sin & death are not faced squarely. Just look around & see how our institutions on which we depend are so completely reliant on people who at their very best are weak & at their very worst are vicious. That should make us shake in our boots. Our temporal freedom is shaky.

   The secular American declaration dealt with injustice & tyranny, but it did not deal with the fundamental causes of injustice & tyranny. It speaks of crime, but not of sin. The only real declaration from hatred & selfishness & the consequences of death was the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That Spirit is not given cheaply – it cost the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit is not cheap, but He is free for all those who will receive Him.

   Ostensibly, we seek the freedom of the children of God while in reality we desire free rein for our laziness & our earthly tendencies. Ostensibly we seek the spirit of holy joy when in reality we desire leisurely entertainment that saves us from sharing in the tears of Christ & from shedding tears of repentance. Ostensibly we seek the Spirit who gives life, while in reality we desire the non-spirit who lies to us about life to lure us past the life that is gained only by death to where there is nothing but death.

   Non –spirit gives us whatever we pretend freedom might be, rather than true freedom itself. The basic freedom is freedom from sin, offered only by the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that true freedom requires hardship. Each one of us would like the feel the elation of Thomas Edison with his electric light filament which first glowed without burning out. But would we have watched with him all those months in the dark? We might like to stand with Handel at the premiere performance of his oratorio The Messiah. But would we have gone hungry & sleepless with him for 24 days as he wrote? Yet they never knew such freedom as they knew in those days & months of inspiration, waiting to see the light & hear the music.

   There is a joy in this freedom because it comes from God. It is the freedom of a God who has buried sin & death that are not natural because they are part of a half-life world, part of a wilderness we find ourselves in that is not home. Home is Jerusalem where there is no sin or death. Any declaration of independence that does not free us from sin & death is just another detour in the wilderness. Thank God Jesus breathed on His Church & gave us the Holy Spirit of true freedom.

   It is not imagination that we need: the apostles were sorely lacking in it, but the Holy Spirit made up for that. What we need is the strength to accept real freedom. What we celebrate today is the joy, peace & promise that come with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the elation which comes with the realization that we are not shackled to darkness & silence, & that what we are lacking God can supply IF we will give Him the chance!  AMEN!