The word “heir” conjures images of wealth, privilege and, most of all I think, leisure. We use the word to describe people who stand to inherit vast sums of money, and therefore don’t have to bother with tedious responsibilities like work. In reality, all of us are going to inherit something from our parents — money, possessions, property, personality traits, etc. But we don’t think of ourselves as heirs because that term is reserved for the children of the vastly wealthy. It is an attractive position to imagine, because it comes with the image of a work-free, stress free life — not just when the parent dies but starting when the heir is born.
Today we celebrate the notion that God is three persons in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We hear a lot about the Father and the Son in our church. God the Father, and Jesus the Son get a lot of attention, and are the primary voices we hear in the Scriptures.
The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is by definition a little less concrete, at least in my mind and in my devotional life. I don’t pray to the Spirit. I don’t even think of the Spirit as a person, but more as an extension of God or Jesus.
If we are God’s children, God is committed to taking care of us. With God as our parent, we have nothing to fear.
In today’s second reading, we’re told about the Spirit’s role in our lives. The Apostle Paul tells the church at Rome, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’”
The Spirit is God inside of us, animating our lives with God’s presence, and uniting us with God as God’s children. That is a powerful idea — that we are not just followers of God but part of God’s family. And Paul points out that this truth should result in a newfound freedom from fear. If we are God’s children, God is committed to taking care of us. With God as our parent, we have nothing to fear.
In fact, Paul goes on to point out that we are not just children of God, but heirs to all God has. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Paul writes, “and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
I rarely think of myself as an heir of God. But it’s a great metaphor that, I think, if I can remember it, might help me live in the freedom that Paul describes. If I am an heir of God, what in the world do I have to worry about? I’ve got access to everything that God has, forever.
And, like an heir, we have all of this now. As children of God, we are not waiting for freedom from fear; we are born with it.
Remembering the Holy Spirit more regularly might help me shed my many fears — of failure, loss, rejection or pain. As a parent, I work very hard to protect my children from any harm. If the all-powerful creator of the universe is my parent through the Spirit, how much more protection from harm could I ask for?
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].