Where do you live – really?

Posted: July 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you

The question I want to ask you this morning is, Where do you live?
For the original readers of this passage (Romans 8.1-11), the answer is simple: we live in the imperial city of Rome
But where do they truly live? And where do we, the modern readers of this letter, live?

If you ask me where I live, the answer is simple: Heaton, in Newcastle
I’m clearly not there at the moment, but that’s where I think of myself as living

If you ask me where I’m from, I wouldn’t say Newcastle
I’d say Dunfermline – somewhere I haven’t lived since 1979
I’ve lived in other places far longer than I lived in Dunfermline – I’ve moved on

What I wonder is, how much of me remains behind there; and how much of Dunfermline has come with me
You can take the boy out of Dunfermline – but can you take Dunfermline out of the boy?

Where do you live? This is a question churches have to ask themselves too

In my last year of training I had to write a dissertation based on some “original research”
I studied the experiences of three congregations who left their buildings
One moved into a chapel that was part of a Roman Catholic church
Two moved into local community centres

Where do you find a church that doesn’t have a building?
The church comes alive whenever the congregation gathers for worship
But where does it live during the times in between?
And does it only live within those four walls?

One of the things I read for my dissertation was a work by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, called (in English) Building, Dwelling, Thinking
It’s compulsory reading for architecture students (bet they hate it)

Heidegger points out there are lots of buildings in our world, but only some of them are dwellings
A dwelling is a building where someone lives – a house, not an office, shop, factory, or garage

Dwelling is living, not just in the sense of survival, but in the sense of being
Heidegger says, Dwelling is the manner in which mortals are on the earth

The German word for dwelling, bauen, is related to the other German word nachgebour, which means neighbour
That leads us to another point: dwellings are not usually isolated buildings – they stand with others
So to dwell is not just to live in a building – it implies we dwell in a community

Dwell is one of the most significant words in this passage from Romans:
v9 you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.
v11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead
dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you

Some Bible translations including the Good News say live, but dwell means much more
Dwell is the translation of the Greek word oikeo
Paul’s letters use it nine times – no other NT writings use it at all

Paul uses oikeo in 1Cor specifically in reference to the married relationship
Everywhere else he uses it, he is talking about the spiritual presence that dwells in us
So once again, as it is for Heidegger, dwelling is an experience of community

What is this spiritual presence that dwells within us?
Either the Holy Spirit, or the spirit of sin or death or slavery: that’s the choice

The most important word in this passage isn’t actually dwell
The most important word is a much smaller word
A very common word – it occurs more than 2700 times in the New Testament

That crucial word has just two letters in English: that little word is in
v1 those who are in Christ Jesus
v2 the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
v3 -4 He condemned sin in the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us
v8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God
v9 You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you
v10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness

You can probably tell, Paul uses the simple, common word in with a special meaning

v9 is the pivotal verse. It’s in two parts, and the word in occurs twice.
– In order to live, we must be in the Spirit
– For us to be in the Spirit, the Spirit has to be in us: which means, Christ has to be in us

Paul talks interchangeably about being in the Spirit, or the Spirit is being in us
He is not just being careless

We often talk about the Spirit as a substance poured into us – as if we were a hollow shell
But it’s just as legitimate to say that we have to be poured into the the Spirit
It’s a mutual thing

1Corinthians makes this easier to understand
Paul uses dwelling in 1Corinthians as a word for the married state
If a believer has an unbelieving partner, and that partner is happy to dwell with them, that’s fine: God will respect that union and bless and even save them both

In the same way, if we want to be saved, the spirit has to dwell in us
But we likewise have to dwell in the spirit, in an intimate communion like marriage

God does not offer this intimate spiritual relationship on a one to one basis
We enter into this spiritual communion by joining the body of Christ – his Church

The true source of life is spiritual community with God through the Spirit of Christ
We find that idea not only in Paul’s letters, but the gospel of John and his other writings
Through the spiritual community of the church, the church family, the body of Christ, we participate in the life of the Trinity
Our God himself is a spiritual community, a family
If we share in Christ, who is one person of the Trinity, we share in all three

Paul talks of us as the adopted sons or children of God
He didn’t pull this idea out of thin air
It’s based on God’s promises to Abraham, and specifically on a prophecy in 2Sam 7.14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son
These Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who makes possible our own adoption by God the Father

So let me ask again, where do you live?
We all live in earthly houses, on earthly streets
But the place we dwell is with God, in the body of Christ
If we are in Christ, we are more than conquerors, and the world itself cannot contain us

16 July 2017, St George’s, High Heaton


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