The Greatest Gift

In the Gospels, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as he arose from the water as John the Baptist baptized him.[1]  The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove according to all four gospels.  The fact that this occurred during his baptism by John the Baptist in water emphasizes the point of the importance of baptism by water because it is through the water we receive the fire of the Holy Spirit. The acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior allows us to accept the Holy Spirit into our soul.  The act of baptism unites us with Christ. Depending on your denomination, there might be a right of confirmation, which is when you publically announce your acceptance of Jesus Christ and this is when the gifts of the Holy Spirit are inflamed.  While the disciples believed, Jesus to be the Messiah it was not until after the resurrection of Jesus that Pentecost occurred.

Pentecost is a church season and is set aside for the celebration of the transference of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples when Jesus breathed on them.  To receive the Holy Spirit, one must be baptized for the remission of their sins and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[2] As a Christian, we desire this gift because the gift provides us with the possibility of nine separate gifts to assist us in being used in the divine plan of the Lord. These gifts are the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the gift of prophecy, the gift of faith, the gift of healings, the working of miracles, the discerning of spirits, the ability to speak in tongues and the interpretation of those tongues.[3] While no one person has all nine gifts, the gifts are given to us, as the Lord needs them for us to ensure his plan is fulfilled.

These gifts are used to reaffirm Christian believers and to bring new believers to Christ.  As a Christian, we are a willing open vessel from which the Lord to work through to ensure God’s will is done. As Christians, we must be dead in order to live in Christ.[4] Therefore, this means we give up our flesh and earthly desires to become empty vessels that the Lord can use to fulfill his divine plans. The Holy Spirit is not only seen in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament.  When God spoke, it happened.[5] The manner in which things were completed was through the Holy Spirit.  In the Trinity when we discuss the Holy Spirit, it is an important part of the trinity because it is the action-oriented part of Trinity.  Where God and Jesus exist so does, the Holy Spirit performing the actions ensuring the divine will of the three in unison is accomplished.

McGrath describes the Holy Spirit as the wind, breath, and charism.[6]  He uses the wind to describe the Holy Spirit for its strength, uncontrollable nature, and ability to move. The breath is in reference to Adam when he breathed life into him.[7] Therefore, the Spirit lives in us from the time of our creation. However, it is not until Baptism and Confirmation do we receive the full power of the Holy Spirit.  In the beginning, the breath leads us in the direction towards cross and God but we must be quite and listen for its prompting. The charism is the ability to perform tasks that would be impossible which we see as part of the nine gifts that can be given to a believer if they are willing to receive them. McGrath discusses Hippo’s logic about the Holy Spirit in regards to the consensus on the Trinity.[8] The focus of the discussion of the logic is based on the need and importance of love within the Christian life.  Hippo laid out that the greatest gift can give someone is love and the Holy Spirit.  Because of these two great gifts from God, then it could be concluded that the Holy Spirit is love.[9]  The weakness of this argument by Hippo according to McGrath is that the Holy Spirit is like that of a substance that unifies the Father and Son with believers together.[10]  The weakness in placing a description and understanding of what the Holy Spirit is that we describe it with what we know.

Therefore, any description made by man will be inadequate to express the being of the Holy Spirit.  It becomes more complex when unifying what it is with the Trinity. Any attempt to describe how the trinity works together being one of the same beings leads towards modalism, which is the belief that God is one person who has three separate modes in which he engages with individuals.[11] While this mode of thinking helps explain God in a logical manner that can be grasped and understood, it fails to identify God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit as separate unique beings that are three but one. Understanding the greatness and unexplainable nature of the Trinity is key to understanding that our personal relationships with the three Godheads are important as Christians.  The Holy Spirit is the fire that lit up Jeremiah when he would not mention God’s name or speak any more in his name.[12]  God’s word was in his heart and a burning fire shot up his bones and he was weary but he could not hold back God’s words.[13]  We know all are blessed with that fire in our hearts to speak and “just be” for God. The sacraments of baptism and confirmation ensure that the fire is ignited. We receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s will here on earth.  We are made in the image and likeness of God.[14] That image had life breathed into us.[15] This life that has been breathed into us is ignited by the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Like a parent, God gave us life by breathing the Holy Spirit into us to lead us to worship him.

A Christian can see the Holy Spirit today as the ultimate gift from God being shared with us.  This love is like no other love we have ever known in our life.   We are able to display aspects of this love through the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, we are all broken.[16] While broken we are made whole by being united in communion with God and therefore are asked to be a living sacrifice which is transformed so we may be a good, acceptable and perfect for the will of God.[17]  Our brokenness has made us whole and with the flame of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be fishers of men and bring others who are broken, into the body of the Christ, which is one of the greatest gifts one can give to another.[18]

[1] Luke 3:22, Matt. 3:16, John 1:32, Mark 1:10 KJV

[2] Acts 2:38 KJV

[3] 1 Corin. 12:7-11 KJV

[4] Ephe. 4:22-24, Luke 9:23-24 KJV

[5] Gene. 1:3 KJV

[6] McGrath, Alister E., Christian Theology: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 228.

[7] Gene. 2:7 KJV

[8] McGrath, Alister E., Christian Theology: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 251.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. 244-245

[12] Jere. 20:9 KJV

[13] Ibid.

[14] Gene. 1:27 KJV

[15] Gene. 2:7 KJV

[16] Psal. 51 KJV

[17] Roma. 12 KJV

[18] Matt. 4:19 KJV

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Let My Mouth Be Filled With Thy Praise Part II

This week’s Gospel readings from the Book of Common Prayer 1928 edition are from St. Luke and his telling of the crucifixion of Jesus. The reading from today is St. Luke 23rd chapter verses 39 through 49.  One of the Roman soldiers challenged and mocked Jesus asking the question that if was truly the son of God then why did he not save himself?  Although a Roman soldier a man rebuked his fellow soldier saying that Jesus’s killing was wrong for he had done nothing wrong. Feeling ashamed and believing he asked Jesus to remember him when he went to heaven.  Even at the end Jesus was converting individuals into believers.  Jesus stood till his final breath fulfilling his mission and beliefs.

Would we do that today?  As Americans we watch in horror the outside world has become.  We watch the endless videos of ISIS beheading Christians.  Yet once we see the video we will turn the channel or go get something to eat.  If Christians make up 2.18 billion of the 6.9 billion individuals in the world, why is it that we cannot mobilize ourselves to protect our beliefs and fellow brothers that share our faith?  Why are we allowed in our country to watch hate crimes based on the religious intolerance of others? As one of the leading countries of the world, why as a Christian nation do we fail to do what is right in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ?  I on average are at Church four to five days a week.  I spend three of those days in some type of religious service.  We pray for the state of our nation and for the state of the Church yet what are we actually doing about it?

As the outside world drastically changes we become scared and fearful of what our friends, who are not strong about their religious beliefs, will say to us if we share with them about our faith.  We hear words as being a Bible Beater, Religious Nutcase, and Crazy. Therefore we ignore the opportunity to share our faith denying the opportunity for someone to possibly find a closer meaning to God. Isaiah 41 verse 10 states Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

We all have the power to change individuals’ lives and possibly bring them back to the Lord.  We are all disciples.  As disciples we are expected by the term alone to help to spread the teachings of another according to Webster’s dictionary. As disciples the most important tools we have are prayer and the Holy Spirit.  To ignore either is a failure on our part to be prepared to be open willing vessels for the Holy Spirit. This is not an introvert or extrovert issue.  As an introvert I have spent most of my time tucked away from others because of the serenity it provides me. Not until recently decide that I could be a disciple with my own gifts. I share my word through blogging, Facebooking, twittering, and having small one on one conversations with those in need.  I do not go door to door asking if they have accepted God into their heart.  Some people can do that I cannot.  I can however go into a hospital waiting room and talk to people who are upset and alone.  I can talk to them gently about God.

In a world where we spend so much time either wanting to be noticed or to be overlooked as Christian Disciples we have no option.  There is only one truth and responsibility.  We are expected to plant the seeds of truth in everyone we touch.  We spread those seeds through our actions, thoughts, words, and deeds.  Have you spread those seeds today?  Pray often for not only does it provide comfort and focus for you but also provides you the opportunity to allow God to speak to you which you can then share with others you talk to on a daily basis.  Christianity is not a check box designated for service only but should be a daily, moment by moment, activity that courses through our veins to share about daily. Remember to share your joy with others because it brings joy to the Lord. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers. 3 John 3-5.

Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church; That we all may be one. Grant that every member of the Church may truly and humbly serve you; That your Name may be glorified by all people. We pray for all bishops, priests, and deacons; That they may be faithful ministers of your Word and Sacraments. We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world; That there may be justice and peace on the earth. Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake; That our works may find favor in your sight. Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble; That they may be delivered from their distress. Give to the departed eternal rest .Let light perpetual shine upon them. We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy; May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom. Let us pray for our own needs and those of others. Amen