Friday, July 17, 2015

Bishop’s Note: July 16, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Holy Fear

Bishop Eric Menees

I remember as a young man reading this phrase  in the Psalms of David for the first time: "The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10), and thinking, "How can that be? How can wisdom and fear be used in the same sentence?”

I suspect that I was not alone in thinking, "God is a loving God; He doesn't want to frighten us." As I matured, I came to realize that the Fear spoken of in the Psalms and Proverbs isn't emotional fear, the way a child might fear an abusive parent or a criminal might fear his impending incarceration - worrying about being attacked by friend and stranger alike.

No, the Fear that Kings David and Solomon speak of is a Gift of God in the self-knowledge of who we are in comparison to who God is. Again, this self-knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and is one of the foundational gifts spoke of by the prophet Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

How is this gift lived out? Well, primarily it is an attitude of awe and reverence in the presence of God. I think of our worship and the reverence that we both feel and offer to the Lord. The physical acts of kneeling, genuflecting, and raising our arms to heaven reflect and inspire reverence for our Lord. The humility of lifting our hands, cupped like a manger, to receive the body of Christ is an act of reverence and awe.  When we receive Christ's body and blood we are so aware of both our separateness and our unity - a unity based on Christ's will and desire more than ours.

This gift of fear, reverence, and awe calls us to follow the Apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2: “10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Holy Fear, the understanding of who we are in comparison to God, is indeed the beginning of wisdom. This reverence and awe is what leads us to open the door of our hearts and minds to the knock of our Lord Jesus on our hearts. The gift of Holy Fear leads us to open ourselves up to our triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is worldly fear which keeps the doors of our heart and mind closed to God for fear that He will make demands upon our lives; fear that we will have to change; fear that we will have to ultimately admit that we are NOT God - that the world does not turn on the axis of our lives.

Worldly Fear is a sign of our immaturity. Too often, no matter our physical age, spiritually we are like two years olds in our development, demanding that we be considered as the center of the universe. Holy Fear is the gift that leads to maturity, recognizing that we are not the center of the universe but that Jesus Christ is! And to that I say...AMEN!

Blessings and peace to you all!

Catechism Questions 138 - 141

138.    Does God give his grace only to Christians?
No. God graciously provides for all people; “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). However, he shows his saving grace by bringing to faith in Christ those who are far from him. (Romans 5:1-11).

139.    For what purpose does God give you grace?
God gives me grace in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins, the healing of sin's effects, growth in holiness, preservation through death and judgment, and my ultimate transformation into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:2-10)

140.    Is God's grace only for your religious or spiritual life?
No. God cares about my whole life, and his grace in Christ is at work in every aspect of it. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:28)

141.    Can you earn God's grace?

No. God gives his grace freely, and enables me to receive it. Everything I do should be in response to God's love and grace made known in Christ, for “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

No comments: