GOSPEL MESSAGE & RECORDING
In my message last Sunday I mentioned that the Church could say where the Holy Spirit is; but cannot say where He is not. In other words, we can say that the Holy Spirit is working in the Sacraments of the Church; but we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is not working in, for example, Billy Graham and his ministry. The Spirit is everywhere and fills all things. In attempting to make this point clear, I mentioned words such as, “synod” and “bishop.” These words were meant to bring attention to the subject at hand, not to connect it with any person or circumstance. Furthermore, I had mentioned, “we need to be really baptized.” This was a sort of “dramatic” play on words to get the listeners’ attention. It was not a factual statement that would suggest that at baptism one does not receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Baptism is both water and Spirit—both in its fullness. However, through our life experiences, we diminish the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and therefore, it is our duty to “refill” ourselves with His power through prayer and fasting. That is why we as Orthodox Christians believe that we are to be continuously baptized everyday of our lives—not just once as a child or adult.
In the Gospel reading today we hear about the dedication of Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem by his parents Joseph and Mary. In the latter part of the Gospel reading, after the child Jesus is dedicated, it says the following, “So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:39-40) As Orthodox Christians, when we do all things that are according to the law, that is, take part in the Sacraments; with respect and diligence, then we are in some way, like Christ. That is, we dedicate ourselves to God by a genuine obedience to the Sacraments by our love for Christ. It is through the receiving, and partaking of the Sacraments, that we can be “filled with the fullness” of the Holy Spirit. Once that experience becomes a reality in our lives, we now are able to develop “wisdom.”
Wisdom is knowledge rightly used. But seldom do people exercise wisdom. Why, because wisdom is acquired through a relationship with Jesus Christ that comes through prayer and fasting. Wisdom is seldom found because the majority of Christians lacks a genuine personal relationship with Christ. Poor choices, lack of discernment, ill fated decisions are all evidence that we lack wisdom. Living a life in the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments of the Church, lead us to acquiring the wisdom we need to navigate through this complicated life—but in such a journey as that—we begin to receive the “grace” of God in our lives.
Grace is a “state of being” for a Christian. It is when the presence of God covers us to operate according to the “giftings” that he has given to us. Yes, grace is a “free gift” from God, but there is a cost to maintain the grace of God in our lives. This cost is nothing other than “sanctification,” that is, continuous nurturing a personal relationship with Christ (through the Sacraments of the Church) by heartfelt prayer and fasting. We need grace to operate in this world. We need grace to do our jobs well. We need grace to be good fathers, mothers, lay-leaders and priests. Simply having a position or holding a office will do no good for the kingdom; there must be “grace” in our lives that allows us to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit by teaching, preaching, healing, counseling, loving, caring,