Holy Spirit, come to us

Today’s hymn from “Sing Praise” is another Taizé chant with verses sung by a cantor over a repeated chorus.  The chorus line is “Holy Spirit, come to us, kindle in us the fire of your love, Holy Spirit come to us, Holy Spirit, come to us”.  There’s also a version in Latin, a language still used in Christian worship and understood across many European cultures.

Holy Spirit and Fire, mixed media, Beverly Guilliams

The six short chants are all Bible verses about love. The first three are sayings of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment. Love one another just as I have loved you”; “It is by your love for one another that everyone will recognise you as my disciples”; and “No-one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for those one loves”.   These represent a progression in depth of love: the love between members of the same church which in practice may be hard to distinguish from the camaraderie and common purpose found in any healthy group; demonstrating that love to people outside the church in a way that they recognise to be distinctive; and finally the challenge to love others more than ourselves even if it should cost us our own life.  

The last three are sayings about God’s love rather than ours: “We know love by this, that Christ laid down his life for us”; “This is love, it is not we who have loved God but God who loved us”; and “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them”. The answer to the question “how can I love in a way that might even lead to accepting my own death for someone else’s sake?” is that only the love of God makes this possible. Again it’s a progression, from observing the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, to accepting God’s love for us personally which then makes it easier to love others, to letting God’s love “abide in us and we in him”.

What’s the connection between the six sayings about love, and the chorus calling on the Holy Spirit, who is not named in the Bible verses? Here’s one way of looking at it (I’m sure there are others equally valid): We can easily believe in a loving God as an intellectual proposition, and in Jesus as a historical figure who demonstrated God’s love in action to the point of death, but still find it difficult to love others in an equally sacrificial way.  The Holy Spirit is sometimes understood as God’s way of putting his love into our hearts, stirring the individual believer to love and action.   When Jesus promised that God would send the Holy Spirit after his death and resurrection, he described the Spirit as a ‘helper’ or advocate’ who would ‘abide in you’ (John 14:16-17).  Without the Spirit, it’s difficult to love people, with all their faults.  With the Spirit in us, God’s love works through us to make us love other people in the way God does – for who they are, not what they do.

That takes us back to the central acclamation of the chorus: “kindle in us the fire of your love” or “tui amoris ignem accende”.  The link between the Spirit and Fire is a Biblical one, from John the Baptist’s prophecy that Jesus would “baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire” and the day of Pentecost when the Spirit appeared as “tongues of fire”. That fire sometimes takes a long time to get going again, especially if the embers have gone cold, but the Spirit’s job is to ignite it. Come, Holy Spirit!

Slower than Butterflies

This post is based on a prayer session that I led today.  The title comes from a book of meditations by Eddie Askew, and the idea is that to appreciate God’s presence we need to be moving at a pace ‘slower than butterflies’.

During the Covid-19 lockdown I have been doing more walking, and more photography than usual.  I do love photographing butterflies, but it requires patience.  Although they don’t fly fast, they rarely stay in one place for more than a few seconds.  You have to stay around, observing them carefully and moving in slowly and quietly with the camera to get a good photo.

So here are some of my butterfly photographs, with some Biblical reflections about living slowly.

Small tortoiseshell

This is a small tortoiseshell, photographed on a riverbank – a very quiet place away from the noise of traffic.  We often need to find somewhere quiet to slow down and experience God in the silence.   The Prophet Elijah found this when he fled to a cave in the desert to escape persecution, in words that you may recognise from a well known hymn..

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (1 Kings 19:11-15)


This is a ringlet, photographed alongside a footpath across farmland.  Sometimes you have to look long and carefully to spot the butterfly, especially a dull coloured one like this, and only see it clearly for a moment before it flutters away.  That’s a bit like the Holy Spirit of God – often we only have a brief experience of the Spirit before she seems to flutter away again. But even that brief experience may send us away rejoicing.  Perhaps that’s what St John had in mind when he wrote the following letter.  The word for “looked at” implies a lingering gaze rather than  a brief glimpse, reminding us that the wait may be long before the experience arrives.

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4)


This is a skipper, feeding on knapweed.  Butterflies and other insects have a symbiotic relationship with flowers – the insects feed on nectar, while they in turn pollinate other flowers, and so both species can continue to flourish.  Jesus spoke of how birds and flowers depend on God for their existence without worrying –

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? (Matthew 6:26-30)

Cabbage White

This cabbage white butterfly was basking on ballast on a railway line – a hot, dry and potentially dangerous environment with no source of food.  But  we can still find God even in places that seem a long way from a comfortable life, in the “valley of darkness” as well as the “green pastures”, as Psalm 23 reminds us –

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:1-4)

Speckled Wood

I found this speckled wood butterfly in a country churchyard.  The mound of earth may well have come from a recently dug grave.  As an old Christian proverb says, “In the midst of life we are in death”.  But butterflies are often held up as a parable of the resurrection: the earthbound caterpillar effectively dies as it turns into a chrysalis, which after a while yields the gloriously coloured, flighty creature that in its previous existence could not have imagined the glory that was to come. As Jesus explained –

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)

So take some time today to slow down to butterfly pace, appreciate the silence, look for the signs of God in the natural world, trust Him for your material needs, and remember that beyond suffering and death will be the unimagined wonder of the world to come.


A grayling butterfly, seen on the Cornish coast path.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun.
And find your shoulder to light on.
To bring you luck, happiness, and riches.
Today, tomorrow, and beyond.
            (an anonymous Irish blessing)

Copyright  (c) Stephen Craven 2020.  Quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Bible in a Year -18 December

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18 December. John chapters 3-4

It is often claimed that John 3:16 is the best known verse in the whole Bible – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  I’m not so sure – in a largely secular world where many people only come across the Christian message through Nativity plays and Christmas carols, something like “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) is probably better known.

Be that as it may, the message in John 3:16 is an important one.  At the core of the Bible story is God’s love for humanity. Love so strong that it endures any number of rejections.  Love so strong that it is willing to put up with pain, humiliation and rejection.  Love so strong that it could go through the apparent finality of death and come out triumphant the other side.  And where Jesus led, entering eternal life, those who follow him can also expect to go. Hence the bit about not perishing.  Yes, we will die physically, but spiritually we can gain this “eternal life” here and now, and know that it will survive death.

That is what Jesus also managed to convey, in a different way, to the Samaritan woman.  Here was someone probably rejected by her neighbours because of her multiple marriages (to have had five husbands and now be living with another man suggests that she was not the innocent party in the failure of all those marriages).   She knew what it was to be thirsty for a stable relationship, for someone to whom she could finally commit herself.  Jesus offered to satisfy that thirst – not with another sexual relationship but with one based on a deeper kind of love, that heavenly love of unquestioning acceptance, long-suffering and unending commitment. “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (4:14).

Jesus also tries to explain it to Nicodemus.  He should have known better – Jesus calls him a “teacher of Israel” who knew the scriptures far better than a Samaritan woman.  But Nicodemus does not understand about being “born again”, taking it too literally.  So Jesus puts it another way – “I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (3:5).  Our physical life come from our earthly parents in the form of a baby’s body, as Nicodemus says, and as the Virgin Mary experienced when Jesus himself was born, but our spiritual life comes from our heavenly parent in the form of a spirit.  And the life of the spirit has to be fed to keep growing in us just as our physical bodies require regular food to grow to adulthood.

So we have different ways of looking at the gift of God’s love – in the physical form of his Son, in a lasting relationship with him that feels like an endless supply of fresh water, or in a spiritual rebirth. All of those came together for Mary as she laid her newborn, special bay in the manger.  She gazed on the very form of God, entering into a lifelong an unique relationship with him as mother, that would lead to the cross and empty tomb. Maybe it was only at that moment that she understood fully the angel’s message at the moment of conception: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”

The Bible in a Year – 17 December

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17 December. John chapters 1-2

John, as is well known, orders the material in his Gospel differently from Mark, Matthew or Luke – he is not telling the story of Jesus necessarily in the order things happened, and pays no attention at all to the birth or parentage of Jesus. Instead he selects those scenes that he thinks most important and orders them in a symbolic way.  The first two chapters are like an overture or the brief scenes at the start of a movie before the credits, that give an idea of the plot that is to follow.

This evening, churches across England including my own will have a service of “lessons and carols” – Bible readings and hymns or other music selected to tell the story of Jesus, focusing on his birth.  By tradition the last reading is the beginning of this Gospel, with its mysterious description of Jesus as “the Word” who existed in the beginning, even before the creation of the world, but became flesh as a man.  Over the next two weeks, our readings in church will include other passages from these chapters – this morning, the third Sunday in Advent, the theme was John the Baptiser; and the story of the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into fine wine is read at Epiphany, usually the first Sunday of the new year.

All these are understood to be among the “signs” that John is presenting: events that point towards who Jesus really is, rather than stating it directly.  The nativity itself is the first and greatest of these signs. The angels and the mysterious star that Luke and Matthew tell us about, respectively, were also signs that led shepherds and magi to Bethlehem to see this greater sign – that God had appeared as an ordinary human being.

John’s ministry of baptism was, as he told anyone who would listen, also only a sign of something greater – baptism in water signifying repentance was only about preparing oneself to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus would offer (but only at Pentecost, after his resurrection). And the miracle at Cana was not so much about just keeping a party going, as an example of the abundance of life that Jesus came to bring.  The one who could draw water from a well and turn it into wine would, as we will see tomorrow, also draw water from another well and turn it into a means of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.

As John tells us, “many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing” (2:21).  Are there enough signs here for you to believe?


The Bible in a Year – 29 November

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29 November. Acts chapters 1-3

Have you eve been in a situation where you had to “think on your feet” – to react with no time for preparation to an unexpected change of circumstances?  It might have been a sudden death in the family, a serious illness, or unemployment; or more positively an unexpected lottery win or someone close to you announcing their engagement when you hadn’t even known they were in love.  Or you might have been asked at work to take over someone else’s role; or to give a speech with no time to plan what you were going to say.

Whatever the circumstances, the natural human reaction to such occasions is twofold – the thrill of a challenge, brought on by a rush of adrenalin, and nervousness in case it all goes horribly wrong.  We are all made differently: for some people it is the thrill that dominates, and for others the nerves.  Or you may have found yourself oscillating between the two.  Is this my big break, or my undoing? Can I rise to the challenge, or will it defeat me?  Those who overcome tend to be those who have coped with other challenges before.

Peter had to do a lot of thinking on his feet in the weeks around Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It had not been long, perhaps a few months, since he and his closest friends had been up the mountain with Jesus and seen him transfigured into glory. Peter knew then that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised one from God.  Yet weeks later he had heard the crowds baying for blood, and seen Jesus on trial. At that time nerves got the better of him, and he denied his master three times in a matter of hours.  Later that day Jesus hung on the cross and it all seemed over.  He had witnessed the burial.

But also the empty tomb, two days later, made him think on his feet again – what had happened to the body?  And then the many appearances over forty days of his master alive again (Acts 1:3).  Had the death been an illusion?  Then, just as they were getting used to Jesus being alive, he disappeared from sight (1:9) with mysterious words about the Holy Spirit and power.  No wonder they were all confused. Gain, loss, gain, loss, – what would come next?  The rituals and rhythms of Temple prayer were a comfort to hold on to.

Now on the day of Pentecost their world is turned upside down again as the promised Holy Spirit comes in a most unexpected way.  Fire, rushing wind, and an irresistible urge to praise God that comes pouring our of their mouths in languages unknown to the speakers but understood by the foreigners in the street outside.  They accuse the disciples of being drunk at nine in the morning!  And Peter, the uneducated Galilean fisherman, finds himself thrust forwards as the spokesperson for them.   Time to think on your feet, Pete.

But this time it is not nerves that force him into denial.  No, it is the rush that compels him to speak.  Not just the rush of adrenalin in his body but the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit in his soul.  For Peter has had a revelation, like that which would seize Saul a few months later.  Jesus is the Messiah, not just for Jews but for the world.

It was just as Jesus had promised, “when they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).  Peter found himself giving a sermon that convinced not a few, but thousands of hearers that they must repent and be baptised.   No wonder the day of Pentecost is called the “birth of the Church”. For Christians it is as important as Christmas or Easter.

Is this of any help if you or I find ourselves caught out, surprised, having to think on our feet?  Surely we can’t expect the Holy Spirit to be poured out on us like that, can we? Well, not quite like that.  But the Spirit is ever-present, and  the words of Jesus recorded at the end of Matthew’s gospel “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”, do hold true.  The worse the predicament we think we are in, the closer he will be to us.  In desperate circumstances, some people even see angels.  And if we pray, however simply but sincerely, for guidance the Spirit will be with us to guide us to react appropriately. She may even give us words to speak, as Peter found.

That’s not to say that everything will be happily ever after for us. As Peter found, his new ministry as leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem was not without persecution. Jesus never promised an easy life.  But he did promise that his Holy Spirit would be available whenever needed.


The Bible in a Year – 14 November

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14 November. Luke chapters 2-3

Chapter 2 of Luke is probably one of the best known passages of the Bible – at least the first twenty verses about the birth of Jesus and the visitation of the shepherds, a story retold at every nativity play and carol service.  For Anglicans, verses 29-32 are also very familiar in a slightly different translation as the “Nunc dimittis” said or sung daily at Evensong in cathedrals.

So I am going to look at chapter 3 – continuing the story of John the Baptist that was started yesterday with his own miraculous conception.  Thirty years on, John and Jesus were both called by God to the tasks for which they had been destined.  We don’t know how long John had been proclaiming his message of repentance before Jesus came to be baptised, or how long he had lived a solitary life in the desert before that until he received the “Word of God” (3:2), i.e. the conviction that God was about to appear in a new and unique way that demanded special spiritual preparation.  But it might not have been very long, for his “unofficial” ministry made him unpopular with the religious elite, as well as the secular authorities.  It seems that soon after Jesus was baptised, John was arrested.

So the baptism at the Jordan of Jesus by his only-slightly-older relative was a moment of handover, when the Holy Spirit that had been in John descended on Jesus in more dramatic form – in appearance as a dove, but with the voice of God from heave (3:22).  This is reminiscent of the occasion when Elijah as he was taken up into heaven, passed his robe and with it a “double share of his spirit” to Elisha.    On this occasion, the message of self-denial and repentance was about to be replaced with one of rejoicing and healing – fulness of life.

For everyone who turns to God, there is a unique ministry – not preordained in every detail, but to worked out with God and other people according to our aptitudes and character.  No-one (other than Jesus) is perfect, we all have weaknesses as well as strengths.  Sometimes God arranges it that one person will follow another in a particular situation (such as a parish priest or teacher) with gifts that are different but complimentary.   A caring pastor might be succeeded by a brilliant preacher or gifted evangelist, drawing a different set of people into the church.  Or in the progress of one group of pupils through school, a teacher who is rigorous in teaching theory might be followed by one skilled at illustrations and practical exercises.

So there is no point worrying whether there are some aspects of your faith or career at which you are weak, as long as there are others at which you are strong.  Leave it to God to fill in the gaps.


The Bible in a Year – 5 November

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5 November. Mark chapters 1-3

As I mentioned at the start of Matthew’s gospel, Mark is widely believed to have been written first, and although he covers much the same ground as Matthew he tells the story in a more compact way, with more of a sense of movement and excitement.

Mark is uninterested in Jesus’ birth and childhood, only the stories from his adult life. These first few chapters show Jesus appearing first as one of John the Baptist’s disciples, but being marked out by the appearance of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God as having a unique relationship to God.  Mark has no time for plot development – he reveals immediately who Jesus is, and then goes on to the miracle stories.

The idea of an itinerant religious teacher drawing crowds by his captivating way of speaking, the power of his message and the healing miracles he performed was not new.  Some of the old Jewish prophets such as Elisha and Jeremiah were similar, and right down to our own day the same can be seen with ministries such as that of John Wimber.  But most such people are forgotten soon after their lifetimes – who talks of Smith Wigglesworth today, for example?

Mark wants us to know from the outset that Jesus was not just another rabbi or faith-healer.  His opening line is “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Gospel means “good news”, Christ (or Messiah) means “anointed one” and Jesus’ name – a common one for Jewish  men – means something like “God saves”.  So, “The beginning of the good news of the God who saves, the anointed one, the Son of God.”

Not everyone believed in him, of course.  Towards the end of chapter 3 we read of those who thought that Jesus himself was possessed by the Devil or some other evil spirit.  In explaining why that could not be so, Jesus adds that while all ordinary sins can be forgiven, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (3:29-30).  This “Unforgivable sin”, then, seems to mean doubting that a work of God really is from God, or not being able to distinguish between the Holy Spirit and evil spirits.  If you cannot see God at work, you are not in a position to receive the healing and wholeness that he offers.

The Bible in a Year – 22 October.

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22 October. Romans chapters 8-10

In yesterday’s post I pointed out Paul’s brief reference to the Holy Spirit in chapter 5.  He returns to the subject more extensively in chapter 8.  If Romans is at the heart of Christian theology, then this chapter is at the heart of the letter.

It was the experience of Jesus that Paul (formerly Saul) had on the Damascus Road that transformed him from being a legalistic Jew to an ardent Christian believer in God’s offer of salvation to all people – as we shall see when we get to the book of Acts.  This understanding that we are reconciled to God, not by ‘doing good’ nor even just by confessing our faults, but by trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is behind Paul’s writing to the Romans. And a sudden understanding of it through reading this book, or a commentary on it, was instrumental for two of the great men of Protestant Christianity – Luther and Wesley – in their own spiritual lives. Their understanding of this doctrine of ‘salvation by faith’ sparked both the Reformation in 16th century Europe (the 500th anniversary of Luther’s ‘conversion’ is being celebrated this month across the world), and the Methodist revival in 18th century Britain.

Paul points out in this chapter three things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives. She* brings a sense of peace to our lives as we turn from a self-focussed worldview (“the flesh”) to a spiritual one (8:6); she creates within us a sense of being children of God (8:16); and she helps us to pray, even without words (8:27).  Each one of these statements deserves a sermon in itself!

For Paul, the Spirit is always “the Spirit of Christ” – never working on her own but always with him. For that reason the Catholic church and its derivatives say in the creed that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”, although the Orthodox church still uses the simpler statement “proceeds from the Father”. Fortunately, wars are no longer started over such a small difference in theology.  The important thing is to be open to the working of the Spirit so that you too may have the revelation that changed the lives of Saul, Luther and Wesley: that having Christ and his Spirit within you, giving you faith in them, is all that you need to be right with God.  Nothing you can do by your own goodness can bring that about, nor can any sin, once confessed, prevent it.

* Lest anyone question my use of “she” and “her” to refer to the Spirit, let me explain.  Conventionally all the persons of God, Creator, Redeemer and Spirit, are referred to by male pronouns.  But a God who created man and woman in God’s own image, and who calls both men and women equally to be part of his family, cannot be restricted to one gender.  Personally I experience the presence of God, on the occasions that I do, as more of a feminine presence than a masculine one.  And given that the Hebrew word used for the spirit is feminine (so I am told), that is my preference when writing about her. The Spirit can, of course, equally be seen as having masculine qualities of power and strength. But please never say “it” for this most personal manifestation of God.

The Bible in a Year – 21 October

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21 October. Romans chapters 4 to 7

After a long explanation in the first four chapters of what makes Christian faith so special (see yesterday’s reading), Paul sums up like this, and here I quote the Good News Bible which uses simpler language: “Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:1)

Peace is not a word that Paul uses often, but it is an important one, as is the [Holy] Spirit – another word that Paul introduces in chapter 5 for the first time in this letter. Many of us long for a sense of peace in our lives.  Not only because we live in such a complicated, pressurised world these days.  But because even if we count ourselves as ordinary decent people, there is still that nagging sense of guilt, of things we have done badly and ways we could have been better people.  We feel we need to be “put right”.  Now the good news is, God can deal with all that.  How? This is where the idea of the Trinity can begin to make sense.

The word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible, as it is a concept developed by Christians several generations later, and still forms the basis of belief of most (but not all) Christian churches.  The relationship between the father (creator), son and spirit can the thought of like this:

Through the death of Jesus, who in his love took away our guilt on the cross, and with the gift of the Holy Spirit who brings us the benefits of Jesus rising from the dead, we can approach God the Father with confidence.  As Saint Paul puts it at the end of this short passage, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us” (5:5, GNB). So if Jesus brought a new way of being right with God (as I explained yesterday), the Spirit brings a new way of being at peace with God.

(based on part of a sermon preached on Trinity Sunday 2013 at Christ Church, East Greenwich).

The Bible in a Year – 17 October

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17 October. 2 Corinthians chapters 1-4

There is one theme that St Paul keeps coming back to throughout his letters, expressing it in different ways.  That theme is that if you think it is enough to rely on “keeping the law” to be in a right relationship with God, you have missed the point.

In chapter 3 (headed in the New Revised Standard Version as “Ministers of the New Covenant”), he explains that the Kingdom of God is something so counter-cultural, so different from the idea of “keeping the law”, that such people don’t even realise it’s there.  It’s as if the very fact that God gave us commandments to keep is like a veil or curtain that stops people seeing the truth behind it, which is that being in a right relationship with God is a matter of loving faith.  Or to use an English idiom, they cannot see the wood for the trees.  The trees are the individual commandments; the wood is the Kingdom in all its beauty.

But what can remove the veil, if endless study of religious laws and faithful attempts to keep them cannot?  “Turning to the Lord”, is Paul’s answer, that is to Jesus Christ.  The removing of the veil reminds Christians of Good Friday, when the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom as a sign that the sin and death that separated humanity from God can no longer do so because Christ has removed their power.

We need a new way of living in a post-veil world, and the Holy Spirit is key to that. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (3:17).   We will not get far if we treat the ethical teachings of the New Testament like another set of ten commandments, written on stone to bind us to particular actions (or the avoidance of them).  Rather they are to be “written on our hearts” as the ways in which the Holy Spirit sets us free to act out the love of Christ to others.  In doing so, Paul says, we will be transformed “with ever increasing glory” (3:18. NIV) into the likeness of God.  What an amazing thought!

Do you sometimes fail to see beyond the veil because you are concerned about whether all your actions are right?  Ask the Holy Spirit to remove the veil from your eyes!