Monday, January 21, 2013

Gospel text for Sunday 27 January 2013

Luke 4:14-21          Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Reflection        What does it mean to be filled with the power of the Spirit? Some translations of Luke’s text read, “Jesus was in the power of the Spirit.” I believe that may be more helpful because it is not that we are barren bowls waiting for the power of the Spirit to appear from elsewhere and occupy our emptiness. The Spirit already dwells in us but does not move to overtake us. The Spirit waits for our consent to lean into it’s fragrant breath, to yield again and again to It’s power to lead us.
Much like the sail of a boat that leans into the wind, when we  consent  to the Spirit we are held in and moved by the tension of Spirit’s breath. When we consent to lean into or depend upon the power of the Spirit we allow our lives to be led in and of the Spirit. 
Yes, there are charismatic Christians who speak of being slain by the Spirit, of having a singular overwhelming emotional experience that marks some kind of initiation. I do not believe it is of this the writer of Luke’s gospel is speaking. I believe Jesus is in the power, the strength, the ability of God’s Spirit. Jesus has surrendered his will in the Will of God (that’s what was happening when Jesus responded to the devil's temptations in the wilderness) and as a consequence of leaning into or depending upon the Spirit Jesus’ teaching and healing are empowered and efficacious. No wonder reports “about him spread throughout the country... and he was praised by everyone.”
To be filled with the Spirit, to be in the Spirit, means to allow the indwelling Spirit to direct our thoughts and words and actions. It means we too become the empowered agents of the Spirit’s ministry. 
You may well ask, how will I know if I really have submitted to the Spirit? I believe the apostle Paul has the answer. The evidence of a life in and of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit.... “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity and self control (Galatians 5.22-23). It is by our experience of the fruit that we know we are living in the Spirit.