Authority of the Holy Spirit

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 15 After Pentecost 25 Sept 2011

Authority of the Holy Spirit

17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

The Churches are going through this same parched spell as the Israelites did.  Each Church has journeyed by their own faith stages as the Lord commanded, (the same stages as the maturity process in children and in adults.)  And quarreling is inevitable in growing up. (Ex 17:2)  It can even be healthy if grumbling is not habitual.  But some Churches have made it habitual and have huddled at the same “rock at Horeb,” not remembering that the LORD is standing there waiting for us in front of it. (Ex 17:6)  Moses named the place Massah and Meribah, which means Trial and Contention.  The perpetual quarreling, trials, and contention has brought up the same reaction in our society as it did in Moses’ and later in Ezekiel’s:

Ez 18:2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

In these Churches, religion is simply cultural but not personal.  Being a Christian by cultural heritage is not the same thing as being a Christian by personal choice, just as one can be Jewish by cultural heritage, but not practice Jewish faith.  As a pastor recently said, “God doesn’t have grandkids, only kids.”  We can’t just inherit a personal and real relationship with Christ because our parents, or grandparents, or coach has one.  The choice must be individual and personal and is in the holy Present Moment, because that is where God meets us.  In our society, the children are on edge because the parents don’t take a stand for what they believe.  The parents will take a stand for their latest video game release or the next moment to Twitter or post on FaceBook, but their faith stays at the surface level, wandering in their own “Wilderness of Sin.” (Ex 17:1)  The children want a deeper faith relationship, but don’t have anyone willing to risk talking about it, and no role model to show them what living faith looks like.  All they have is faith by cultural absorption.  That would put anybody’s teeth on edge!  Thankfully, God holds every person accountable for themselves.  He says all lives are His:

Ez 18:4 Know that all lives are Mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is Mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Sin does lead to death, but Death is not always physical.  There are many types of deaths as we learn to grow up.  And as human beings, anytime we have reached a pivotal marker in growing up (and we have stretch marks to prove that we’re stretching!), we human beings will inevitably reach the same point just before a critical juncture and then we pull out the Authority Wildcard: 

Mt 21:23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Human beings want an authority figure to help us over those last hurdles in a growing phase when the stretching is so tight.  It hurts.  We want to know, “What gives you the right to talk to me like this?”  We want an outside authority figure to anchor us.  We want Elijah to come through the door and rescue us.  But Elijah is only sent; he doesn’t rescue:

Malachi 4:5

 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.

Notice that God sends him, as He sent John the Baptist.  And in fact Jesus had said that John was the Elijah who was to come:

Mt 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, he [John the Baptist] is the Elijah who was to come.

Therefore the collective Church then draws the following conclusion:

John the Baptist is the last to act in the office of prophet prior to the coming of Christ based on the passage from Hebrews 1:1-2

God’s Final Word: His Son

 1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Now at the very, very beginning of my Calling, two of the first lessons God had to teach me were 1) Hush the rush, and 2) See what’s there [in front of you], not what you think is there.  The Church has had to learn the same things.  That being said, look at the criteria for preparing the way for Christ’s return objectively one more time:

  1. Christ Himself speaks to us through the Holy Spirit (Heb 1:1-2)
  2. God will send the prophet Elijah to us before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5)
  3. The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 shall function as prophets
  4. We believe the gift of prophecy continues to function in the Church today (1 Cor. 12, 14)
  5. The Book of Revelation repeatedly emphasizes, “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.”

Since the Holy Spirit has been speaking to us through Christ all along, and John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy that Elijah was to come (Mt 11:14), and the Two Witnesses in Rev 11 are the well-described journeys of St Peter and St Paul, the Apostles to the Jews and to the Gentiles, and we still believe in the gift of prophecy functioning in the Church today, then what is delaying Christ’s return?  Since Elijah and John, Peter and Paul, had a special anointing of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is active and living, dividing soul and spirit, cutting through joints and marrow, judging thoughts and attitudes to discern the heart (Heb 4:12-13), then is it not possible and reasonable for God to raise up another Prophet to go before His return to make the path straight for this generation?  Since Christ is coming back, wouldn’t it make sense for God to send another one to proclaim Him? 

Mt 11:10 This is the one about whom it is written:

   “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way before you.’

It’s the Holy Spirit doing the work.  And it is the Holy Spirit growing us up into the likeness of Christ.  The Holy Spirit works through the messenger.  In the Gospel lesson for today Jesus’ question to the chief priests and elders made them examine the workings of the Holy Spirit. 

Mt 21:25 “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’

21:26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”

The arguing of the chief priests and elders in today’s Gospel was the same spirit of Contention as at the rock at Horeb.  They didn’t believe even by seeing with their own eyes:

Mt 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Since the same pattern shows up at the rock at Horeb and in Jesus’ day, there should be no surprise that the same spirit of Trials and Contention rises today out of the same root of fear.  The Israelites were afraid of dying of thirst.  In Jesus’ day, the “religious” were afraid, because Jesus was real.  He was there in Person, the Spirit in the flesh right in their midst and in their faces.  He was the real deal.  Their hearts couldn’t easily deny Who He was, even though their mouths tried awfully hard.  Then when Jesus asked them about the origin of the baptism of John the Baptist, to save face they said, “Uhhh…We don’t know…” (Mt 21:27).  In our present day, the “religious” from the Church-as-Institution are mute with me, and then muttering “Uhhh…We don’t know…and we’re embarrassed that we don’t know, …but how would you know that we don’t know?  So let’s not talk about it.”  What is blocking the divine flow of Living Water out of our present day “rock at Horeb”?  I can answer that question: The Church-as-Institution is afraid of the Day of Judgment.  But why?  There is a reason why that fear is there.  Since we know there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Jn 3:18), then why does the Church-as-Institution repeat the same attitude as Ezekiel 18:25?

Ez 18:25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Please hear, O Church:  God set the standard.  God gave us His vision.  On our journey together we had moments of joy as we “saw” it together and we lived up to His standard.  Then, like children, we fell short.  So?  That’s what kids do.  God didn’t “raise the bar.”  Humans did.  God doesn’t condemn us.  We condemn ourselves for ourselves, by ourselves, and to ourselves.  He comes and picks us up, dusts us off, kisses our owies, gives us water and rest, and we try again with a renewed spirit of forgiveness.  Hopefully we’re a little wiser from the lessons we’ve learned.  But if we don’t believe in the first place, and we don’t believe even after we’ve experienced God’s personal intervention, then nothing can change a person’s (or an institution’s) mind.  God won’t force.  He’s a Gentleman.  The greatest tragedy today is not the stubborn silence of the “religious,” but the suffering of the people caused by the dysfunctional silence of the “religious” and today’s version of “…Uhhh…we don’t know…”  The more the Church-as-Institution remains silent and good men do nothing, the more the people hear the media frenzy of Judgment Day coming in 2012.  Now I ask you:  Is that fair to this generation?  Jesus had said:

Mt 12:42 “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” (NIV)

Since Christ did not come to condemn (Jn 3:17), and by mystical marriage He is my Husband, and the Church is His Bride, and I do not condemn the Church any more than my Husband did, then who is doing the condemning, and why is there still a Goon of Guilt walking with his arm over the Church-as-Institution’s shoulder?  I have prayed and shared what God has told me to share.  I have raised awareness and clarified.  I have confronted.  I have not condemned.  A person does that by himself.  (Whatever we bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven.  (Mt 18:18))  If there has been a spirit of Conviction, then that was the work of the Holy Spirit, and that’s Her job.  My job is to worship God and share the journey.  So Church, please be at peace.  Worship God and share the journey.  God really had said He would send a messenger ahead of the people, and instructed Moses to take some of the elders with him before striking the rock. And then he struck the rock in the sight of the elders. (Ex 17:5)  God really had said He would be standing there in front of us “on the rock at Horeb.”  (Ex 17:6)  That’s a promise and He’s living up to it as we breathe in the holy Now.  So where are the elders?

“For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

 

15 After Pentecost                           25 Sept 2011                                    Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32

Exodus 17:1-7
17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”

17:4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

17:5 The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.

17:6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

17:7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,

78:3 things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us.

78:4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

78:12 In the sight of their ancestors he worked marvels in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.

78:13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap.

78:14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all night long with a fiery light.

78:15 He split rocks open in the wilderness, and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.

78:16 He made streams come out of the rock, and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
18:1 The word of the LORD came to me:

18:2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

18:3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.

18:4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

18:25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

18:26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.

18:27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life.

18:28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.

18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

18:30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin.

18:31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?

18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-9
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Philippians 2:1-13
2:1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,

2:2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.

2:4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,

2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.

2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

2:12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Matthew 21:23-32
21:23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

21:24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.

21:25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’

21:26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”

21:27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

21:29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.

21:30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.

21:31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

 

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