Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1.17
Spring has sprung. When St James speaks of gifts from above we are very aware at this time of a flowering of life and vitality that comes in Christian understanding from God the giver of every perfect gift.
As I look out of the Rectory window I can watch the lambs running joyfully in the field below. They’re an uplifting image of freedom that touches a spring inside of me. Their excitement at life is evident as they go leaping and bounding around, blissfully unaware of the commercial aspect of their life, nor of its brevity.
In this moment they are an image of joyful abandonment that refreshes my spirit. Their seeming carelessness goes as soon as their mothers lift themselves from the ground and they dart underneath them for milk. They are driven as all animals are, including myself, by the need for food.
As I watch them I am uplifted and as I am lifted I become aware of how unlike a carefree lamb my life is running. I am regretful of past faults, mindful of a load of administration pressing upon me and I am somewhat anxious about all the tasks that fall on me as a parish priest.
Unlike the lambs I am aware of the weight of care that pulls my spirit down. For the lambs each moment stands alone – no past regrets or future anxieties – indeed no real sense of past or future accomplishment. They prosper without repentance, just following the law of nature, since they are incapable of the disobedience that is mine. Their capacity to skip down the field shows a mastery over gravity that, whilst warming my heart, challenges my sinful weight of self preoccupation.
I think Stewart and Alison, with all their cares as parents, must feel the same when they look at Ruby and thrill at her joyful carelessness. It is so good to have you here following your marriage almost two years ago. We are delighted – me especially as Cricket Club Chaplain – to further join your family to God’s family here at St Giles.
That image of gravitational pull can be a way of thinking about the things that matter in life. You could think of the gravitational pull up of divine love as competing with the gravitational pull down of the evil in the world and that in our souls we call sin. The one gravitational field of the spirit draws us into God’s love and the other field drags us down.
When the astronauts trod on the moon they found themselves able to leap and jump with ease because gravity on the moon is a sixth that on earth. If they had been able to visit Jupiter they would have crawled on the surface so strong is the downward gravity.
You and I get pulled down all the time. Our bodies, thankfully, get pulled down to stay on earth. But our spirits – they get pulled down too and can feel very heavy.
Human beings are pulled down in the gravitational field of what our first lesson describes as sordidness and rank growth of wickedness. The downward gravity of sin affects us all. When we try to rise above it by our own efforts we feel like the man in the gym trying to lift weights that are beyond his capacity. The more we try to lift ourselves the heavier life feels. The gravitational field of God’s love that lifts our lives can’t be felt through our own efforts. It reaches down to offer us a hand up in Jesus and all he has done for us by his life, death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As we struggle with our relationships, insecurities and spiritual emptiness we find ourselves caught by the gravitational lure of sin as if in a quicksand. The more we struggle in our own strength to release ourselves the deeper we go down. I remember someone driving his father’s land rover onto a beach south of Morecambe Bay where it sank hopelessly into quick sand there before they could get a purchase on it. He had some answering to do to his dad! It is a sad truth of life that so many of our attempts to better ourselves prove counter-productive. People caught in quicksand sink faster through gravity the more they struggle to get out of it. They need an upward pull from outside themselves.
Jesus does that for us when we make him our choice as we do in baptism. Through Christ’s resurrection from cruel death the gravitational pull of God’s love has proved itself more powerful than the quicksands of sin, death and the devil.
The sinful human condition is something we can’t escape from unaided. We can’t become godlike. We can’t elevate ourselves beyond the quicksand that drags us down however hard we try. Jesus can, though - he can make us godlike. He will - if we will let him - provide us with the upward pulls we need hour by hour to rise above the heaviness of our human condition into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Look to him my friends – not least in this Holy Eucharist!