The Gospels tell us that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Ghost and Fire. Jesus says that these signs would accompany those that believe "they will speak with new tongues". After sharing the first Communion Jesus spends all of John 14-16 talking about the Holy Spirit and that is why He had to leave. John 17 is all about Jesus praying for the Miracle of Communion He wants us to have with Him and then to share with one another.
The day of Pentecost arrived. The 120 were waiting in the Upper Room for the promise of the Holy Spirit. When He arrived there was a mighty wind that came from Heaven. It carried the fire of Heaven. The wind was the Holy Spirit and filled the house where they were gathered and they all were filled. Then the cloven tongues appeared to rest on their heads. Then they drank in the presence of the Holy Spirit and fire. They were filled with the supernatural power to become the first hand witnesses of how this happens. Jesus anointed each of them and their cups overflowed.
Then they all began declaring thanksgiving, praise and worship in a new language. It was the confirmation to each of them that this was from Jesus. They instantly were able to pronounce words that they did not understand while their minds raced in their own language. Their hearts and minds and every fiber of their being was being immersed in the light, love, glory and power of God.
Throughout the Book of Acts there are five clear similar encounters with others who believed. In almost every case it is clear that praying in the Spirit - in a heavenly language is how they "knew" they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. The eternal manifested in the temporal. Invisible heaven became visible and could be heard on earth in the lives and mouths of those who asked Jesus to baptize them with His Holy Spirit of promise. We learn from the Apostles that - for example Paul said, "I pray in tongues more than anyone!".The prayer and worship language has no barriers. It is a love language that is not restricted by the structure of earthly languages.
How to receive? Ask. Jesus died, rose and now revives by baptizing all who have received Him as their Lord and Savior in the Holy Spirit accompanied and confirmed by thanksgiving, praise and worship that springs up from within when you are immersed in the living waters of the Holy Spirit. Ask and Receive that you joy may be full. Out from the center of your being a well will spring up like a fountain of life from within you and it will have the sounds of an undefinable unstructured language. You will lift your hands and your voice in true worship and join the ongoing worship of heaven right here on earth.
"On earth as in heaven"! Ask, Receive and Believe then drink in and give thanks. When you do the thanksgiving will become joy filled words shaped by the Holy Spirit overflowing in your praise. By doing this you glorify the Lord! You become a sign to those that do not believe that the Kingdom of God is so real that they can see it and hear it coming from you! Alleluia is the one word God gave us all from heaven's worship - so after you lift your head and heart and hands and drink in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit respond with Alleluia and let the Holy Spirit shape new words in your heart and mouth and tongue. Then let go and let God bless you with the heavenly gift He died to purchase for you! Freely receive all that He has for you.
This is a carry over from the blog post http://www.communionfire.com/communionfire-blog/the-power-message-resident-in-daily-communion
Nasrani Cross Christianity spread to India long before it reached many European countries. There are over billion people in India now and around 24 million of them are Christians; more than we find in nominally Christian countries such as Ireland (4 million).
(Today, there are a few Indian priests in Ireland, yet traditionally, Ireland has sent missionaries to India, even though they do not speak the local languages. The church moves in mysterious ways!)
The Nasrani Cross is also known as the Nasrani Menorah, the Syrian Cross, the St. Thomas Cross, the Mar Thoma Nasrani and a few other names. It is an ancient symbol, yet loaded with meaning that is still very relevant today.
The word 'Nasrani' stems from 'Nazareth', the family homeland of Jesus and the site of the Annunciation. The Nasrani Cross reflects doctrines of the St. Thomas Christians. (Not in any way affiliated with the Nazareth Cross project)
Thomas is known for his skepticism of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was a disciple, close follower and friend of Jesus. Yet his real commitment was perhaps just after Jesus was crucified.
The Bible relates (John 20:24-29) that after Jesus was crucified and laid in the tomb, he rose again and appeared to the Apostles, not as a ghost, but actually in the flesh. This was a true resurrection, but Thomas doubted it really was Jesus. He said:
"Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Jesus later appeared again and said to Thomas:
"Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing."
Proof enough for Thomas, who replied humbly:
"My Lord and my God."
This episode must have been sufficient to invigorate Thomas to spend the rest of his days spreading the Gospel and carry abroad the parting words of Jesus:
"blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
Many Christians in India are Catholic (about 16 million) and crucifixes are popular. But for the Nasrani (about 3 million), their crosses are almost invariably empty, emphasizing the resurrection of Christ.
The Apostle Thomas is believed to have been the first to bring Christianity to India, in 52 AD, arriving in Kodungallur, Kerala, where he established Seven Churches. Thomas was a Jew by birth and spoke Aramaic, so his first converts in India were likely the Cochin Jews in southern India. As with many conversions, some of the old practices were mixed with the new, and we see evidence of this at the foot of the Nasrani Cross, where a Jewish Menorah is stylized as a Hindu or Buddhist lotus.
They also retained worship on the Sabbath rather than Sunday, kept Kashrutdietary laws ('kosher'), segregated men and women in places of worship, used Syriac and Aramaic in liturgies, and so on. Many of these practices continue today.
The 20 Rupee postage stamp (shown left) was released by Governor of Kerala and the head of Syro Malabar Church on 3 July 1973. The stamp shows "St. Thomas death 19th centenary 72-1972"; the year 72 AD being when Thomas was martyred.
He had had a long and fruitful preaching career on the Malabar Coast, converting both immigrant Jews and Hindus. Local Hindu priests became annoyed at the success of his preaching, as did the civic rulers, who feared this foreign religion would weaken their own power. This is a familiar scenario, repeated several times in the world's history, and the results were equally familiar. It is said that Brahmin killed Thomas by stoning and spearing with a trident, whilst he was praying on a hilltop near Madras.
"Doubting Doubting Thomas" Unsurprisingly, this accusation offends Hindus today, who earnestly dispute such an event happened. They point out that there is no concrete historical evidence that Thomas ever visited India, and the whole martyrdom thing was invented by the 16th century Portuguese invaders.
The introduction of the Latin Rite by the Portuguese missionaries further complicated the Hindu / Jewish / Syriac mix. Consider also Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, topped with a layer of the ancient Indian caste system, and further confused things with the social and political changes by the various dynasties and empires, the British, the War of Independence, Partition, WWII and wars with its Pakistani and Chinese neighbors (1947, 1962, 1965, 1971 & 1999) culminating in India becoming a nuclear state.
It is little wonder that long ago, the Buddhists quietly slipped out of India through the back door (to China).
And now knocking on the front door, in pairs, wearing smart suits, are the Jehovah's Witnesses who, interestingly, have increased their presence in India, in line with the rise of MLM and the nouveau riche.
But getting back to the doubts over Thomas; both Hindus and Christians agree on the importance of determining an accurate account of what happened in history, yet also agree that contemporary issues are more relevant. True Hindus and true Christians love God, according to their particular tradition and philosophy, and hold that life is sacred. Such love for God cannot be shown by forcing conversion and killing people.
There is no reward in finding fault or shaking anyone's faith. So we'll leave the history for others to argue about and get on with explaining what this Cross means to the Nasrani.
The Emblem SMCC IMOC The Nasrani emblem is used by the Syro Malabar Catholic Church (SMCC), the largest group of St. Thomas Christians. The same emblem appears within the logos of several other churches, including the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church (IMOC).
The Nasrani emblem features:
"Thank you Lord for your diversity and for your light that burst in upon the earth after 400 years of darkness upon us all." When we are embraced by Jesus at His Table we are also embracing His Church (Universally and from the time of His Miraculous Birth) - His Body. We must look into Jesus eyes and see as He sees. He does not see a divided Body. He sees us as one in Him. He views His redeemed as His dwelling place individually and collectively. In 2015 we are going to cross over into Early Church history and look at contemporary signs and wonders that stem from and continue to affirm the Epiphany of Jesus in His first coming and floods our hearts with divine hope for His Second Coming. Please enjoy the following from the Orthodox Church in America. (Click the picture to link to their site.)
Volume II - Worship The Church Year EpiphanyThe sixth of January is the feast of the Epiphany. Originally it was the one Christian feast of the “shining forth” of God to the world in the human form of Jesus of Nazareth. It included the celebration of Christ’s birth, the adoration of the Wisemen, and all of the childhood events of Christ such as his circumcision and presentation to the temple as well as his baptism by John in the Jordan. There seems to be little doubt that this feast, like Easter and Pentecost, was understood as the fulfillment of a previous Jewish festival, in this case the Feast of Lights.
Epiphany means shining forth or manifestation. The feast is often called, as it is in the Orthodox service books, Theophany, which means the shining forth and manifestation of God. The emphasis in the present day celebration is on the appearance of Jesus as the human Messiah of Israel and the divine Son of God, One of the Holy Trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Thus, in the baptism by John in the Jordan, Jesus identifies himself with sinners as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), the “Beloved” of the Father whose messianic task it is to redeem men from their sins (Lk 3:21, Mk 1:35). And he is revealed as well as One of the Divine Trinity, testified to by the voice of the Father, and by the Spirit in the form of a dove. This is the central epiphany glorified in the main hymns of the feast:
When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee his Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of his Word. O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee (Troparion).
Today Thou hast appeared to the universe, and Thy Light, O Lord, has shone on us, who with understanding praise Thee: Thou hast come and revealed Thyself, O Light Unapproachable! (Kontakion).
The services of Epiphany are set up exactly as those of Christmas, although historically it was most certainly Christmas which was made to imitate Epiphany since it was established later. Once again the Royal Hours and the Liturgy of Saint Basil are celebrated together withVespers on the eve of the feast; and the Vigil is made up of Great Compline and Matins. The prophecies of Epiphany repeat the God is with Us from Isaiah and stress the foretelling of the Messiah as well as the coming of his forerunner, John the Baptist:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Is 40:3-5; Lk 3:4-6).
Once more special psalms are sung to begin the Divine Liturgy of the feast, and the baptismal line of Galatians 3:27 replaces the song of the Thrice-Holy. The gospel readings of all the Epiphany services tell of the Lord’s baptism by John in the Jordan River. The epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy tells of the consequences of the Lord’s appearing which is the divine epiphany.
For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14).
The main feature of the feast of the Epiphany is the Great Blessing of Water. It is prescribed to follow both the Divine Liturgy of the eve of the feast and the Divine Liturgy of the day itself. Usually it is done just once in parish churches at the time when most people can be present. It begins with the singing of special hymns and the censing of the water which has been placed in the center of the church building. Surrounded by candles and flowers, this water stands for the beautiful world of God’s original creation and ultimate glorification by Christ in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes this service of blessing is done out of doors at a place where the water is flowing naturally.
The voice of the Lord cries over the waters, saying: Come all ye, receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of the fear of God, even Christ who is made manifest.
Today the nature of water is sanctified. Jordan is divided in two, and turns back the stream of its waters, beholding the Master being baptized.
As a man Thou didst come to that river, O Christ our King, and dost hasten O Good One, to receive the baptism of a servant at the hands of the Forerunner (John), because of our sins, O Lover of Man (Hymns of the Great Blessing of Waters).
Following are three readings from the Prophecy of Isaiah concerning the messianic age:
Let the thirsty wilderness be glad, let the desert rejoice, let it blossom as a rose, let it blossom abundantly, let everything rejoice… (Is 35: 1-10)
Go to that water, O you who thirst, and as many as have no money, let them eat and drink without price, both wine and fat… (Is 55:1-13)
With joy draw the water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall you say: Confess ye unto the Lord and call upon his Name; declare his glorious deeds… his Name is exalted… Hymn the Name of the Lord… Rejoice and exult… (Is 12:3.6).
After the epistle (1 Cor 1:10-14) and the gospel reading (Mk 1:9-11) the special great litany is chanted invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit upon the water and upon those who will partake of it. It ends with the great prayer of the cosmic glorification of God in which Christ is called upon to sanctify the water, and all men and all creation, by the manifestation of his saving and sanctifying divine presence by the indwelling of the Holy and Good and Life-creating Spirit.
As the troparion of the feast is sung, the celebrant immerses the Cross into the water three times and then proceeds to sprinkle the water in the four directions of the world. He then blesses the people and their homes with the sanctified water which stands for the salvation of all men and all creation which Christ has effected by his “epiphany” in the flesh for the life of the world.
Sometimes people think that the blessing of water and the practice of drinking it and sprinkling it over everyone and everything is a “paganism” which has falsely entered the Christian Church. We know, however, that this ritual was practiced by the People of God in the Old Testament, and that in the Christian Church it has a very special and important significance.
It is the faith of Christians that since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has been immersed in the streams of the Jordan, all matter is sanctified and made pure in him, purged of its death-dealing qualities inherited from the devil and the wickedness of men. In the Lord’s epiphany all creation becomes good again, indeed “very good,” the way that God himself made it and proclaimed it to be in the beginning when “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2) and when the “Breath of Life” was breathing in man and in everything that God made (Gen 1:30; 2:7).
The world and everything in it is indeed “very good” (Gen 1:31) and when it becomes polluted, corrupted and dead, God saves it once more by effecting the “new creation” in Christ, his divine Son and our Lord by the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal 6:15). This is what is celebrated on Epiphany, particularly in the Great Blessing of Water. The consecration of the waters on this feast places the entire world—through its “prime element” of watering the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification, and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ arid the Spirit. It tells us that man and the world were indeed created and saved in order to be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19), the “fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22). It tells us that Christ, in who in “the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily,” is and shall be truly “all, and in all” (Col 2:9, 3:11). It tells us as well that the “new heavens and the new earth” which God has promised through his prophets and apostles (Is 66:2; 2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1) are truly “with us” already now in the, mystery of Christ and his Church.
Thus, the sanctification and sprinkling of the Epiphany water is no pagan ritual. It is the expression of the most central fact of the Christian vision of man, his life and his world. It is the liturgical testimony that the vocation and destiny of creation is to be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
Bob Bonnell Communion Pastor
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