Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Third Sunday after the Epiphany Yr. A

Breaking Free from Bondage

One of the unfinished sculptures of Michelangelo appears to be a man trapped inside a marble slab, trying to brake free. In a way, it is illustrative of how many of us might feel at one time or another. Satan has enslaved us all through the disobedience he has sown into the world. We have this promise from God spoken through the Prophet Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.   (Isaiah 9:2-4)

We do not have to live in bondage. God has come to our rescue:
God has broken the rod of our oppressor. The psalmist writes:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid?   (Psalm 27:1)

Our sin has caused death to enter the world. Satan has held us captive by fear. He uses our fear of death to control and manipulate us. But “perfect love casts our fear.” (1 John 4:18) Jesus has overcome sin, hell, and the grave! From the Book of Hebrews:

Since God’s children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.   (Hebrews 2:14-15)

The Apostle Paul writes:

“O Death, where is your sting?
O grave, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

We live not only with the fear of death, but of those people who would harm us or to attack us in some way. Only God can lift us out of this trouble. The psalmist writes:

For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter;
he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling
and set me high upon a rock.

Even now he lifts up my head
above my enemies round about me.   (Psalm 27:7-8)

There are other ways in which we are held in bondage. One of our greatest enemies is our very own flesh. The Apostle Paul writes:

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.   (Romans 8:12-15)

And again:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.   (Galatians 5:16-18)

Our flesh causes us to focus on ourselves and the gratification of the self. This can lead us to all kinds of addictions. How do we counteract these addictions? We do not do so by focusing on them. Paul tells us to live by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God is available to every Christian.

How do we access the power of the Spirit? We have the promise of the Gospel message. From the very beginning of his earthly ministry Jesus proclaimed:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”   (Matthew 4:17)

The Spirit has drawn near. We are to seek the giver of the Spirit. John the Baptist said that Jesus is the one who baptizes with the Hoy Spirit and with fire. Let us focus on Jesus and not on our addictions, and not on ourselves. The psalmist writes:

Hearken to my voice, O Lord, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.

You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”
Your face, Lord, will I seek.   (Psalm 27:10-11)

Today, whom do we seek? Whom do we follow? Who is our deliverer? Is it the one who defeated sin, addictions, and even death? Jesus calls to us: “Follow me.”

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The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A

Fulfilling All Righteousness

In the Season of Epiphany, the baptism of our Lord Jesus stands out as the epiphany of the epiphanies. It reveals both the identity of Jesus and his mission. Reading from today’s Gospel of Matthew:

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”   (Matthew 3:13-17)

John understood who Jesus was and his mission. Jesus is the Messiah. He is one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Why would Jesus have to undergo John’s baptism of water? Jesus provides the answer:

“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

What did Jesus mean? God the Father wanted to make all of us righteous as he is righteous. The baptism of Jesus is very much a part of his plan. Let us see how.

Jesus needed to be baptized as an example for us, but he also the anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry on his ministry on earth. We have to understand that when Jesus was borne of a woman he was fully human. He had given up all of his divinity and position in heaven. We read from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians that Jesus:

though he was in the form oaf God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit. He needed to understand fully God’s word. All of his miracles and teaching came from the Father through the Spirit. He needed the guidance of the Spirit.

If Jesus was like us in every way, except that he did not sin, how much more must we need to receive the same baptism that Jesus did? We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into holy living. We cannot be righteous on our own effort. We with the power and direction of the Spirit. We need the baptism with the Holy Sprit and with the fire of God to burn away our dross.

How do we then, receive this baptism. We need Jesus, himself, to be the one who baptizes us. Jesus spoke of this in the Gospel of John when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember, she had questioned him why he would ask her for a drink of water because Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered her:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but 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.”   (John 4:10-14) 

What is this living water. Jesus further explains in John chapter seven:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart[l] shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

In order for God to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, sin had to be dealt with. Jesus removed all of our sins with his sacrifice on the cross. We simply have to believe that he did. There is another step, however, We need to submit to Jesus. We need the baptism with the Holy Spirit that only Jesus can provide. He, alone, is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord sits enthroned above the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.   (Psalm 29:10-11)

Are we ready for the flood of living water? It is required to fulfill all righteousness. Let us ask Jesus to baptize us with the Spirt. Let us ask him daily. Jesus says to  us:

“If you know the gift of God, and who I am,’ you will ask me and I will give you living water.”

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Holy Name

Yeshua (ישוע) – Deliverer

In Judaism names have meanings. A name does more than merely identify someone. It speaks to their character, to their calling, and to the blessing that God has placed upon them. Abram was renamed by God so that he became Abraham, the father of many nations. Jacob became Israel because he had wrestled with God and had prevailed. Simon became Peter, the rock upon whom God would build His church.

The Son of God was named Jesus or, in Hebrew, “Yeshua” – which means God saves. In today’s Gospel we read:

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew:18-21)

It was customary in Judaism to dedicate each male child to God on the eighth day after his birth. This was the time that the child was circumcised and was also given his name. This was true for Jesus. From Luke we read:

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  (Luke 2:21)

God the Father wants to place us on the same footing as Jesus. Jesus received his name on the eighth day and the blessing of the Father. We are to receive that same blessing as well if we come under the name of Jesus. God does this through an adoption which occurs when we embrace Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Paul wrote in today’s Epistle:

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

God has always desired to bless His people and place His name on them. During the time of Moses He instructed His priests how to do this:

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  (Numbers 6:27-28)

We are so blessed to have the name of our Lord placed upon us. We are called Christian because Jesus is making us into His image.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

When we receive the name of our Lord with humility and thanksgiving, God the Father places upon us the character and nature of Jesus.

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