Tag Archives: Baptism

Being an Advocate

Ordinary Time
January 7, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ –Mark 1:9-11

Baptism has a history all its own. The Jewish faith practiced ritual cleansing thus baptism was not a new concept with Christianity. Baptism and its purposes were a source of debate from the early years of Christian theology and may still be today although most of us have taken our stanch in our chosen denomination. What does it mean to you? What do you suppose it meant to Jesus?

Many students of the Bible demarcate Jesus’ baptism as the beginning of his earthly ministry. There is not much if any information about his life from the age of 12 when he visited the temple with his parents and his baptism when he was speculated to be around 30 years old. Was he working as a carpenter with Joseph during that time? I read a book a few years ago that suggested he was a disciple of John the Baptist and had traveled and learned from John until it was time for him to take the leadership role. Perhaps John’s death thrust him into the spotlight.

I was baptized at the age of six in a church that practices believers baptism. Apparently, some members thought I was too young. I understand our pastor, Dr. Fred Keller, was my advocate for accepting my confession of faith and baptizing me. I did not know about this issue until several years later. As innocent as I may have been at six, I probably never made a more sincere decision and commitment. I guess I was living the principle ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:3)

What I learned at that early age is that God’s Spirit advocates for us at times through our brothers and sisters in Christ and we need to be aware of any call we receive to advocate for others.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, strengthen us in your service when you need us as advocates. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Enabled as Peacemakers

peace-in-handEpiphany
January 10, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ –Luke 21-22

The Dove has been a symbol of peace and love for centuries, not only in Christianity, but across religions. The Dove has been a symbol of the presence of God’s work among God’s people since the story of Noah. A dove was released when the rains had subsided. It returned to the Ark with an olive branch in its beak telling Noah that the waters had receded and he could leave the Ark. It later denoted the presence of God described as the Holy Spirit in the story of the Baptism of Jesus.

The presence of the Dove at Jesus’ baptism is significant as it foretells the role of this One chosen by God to bring love and peace into a world. His task was to bring about peace without the violence of the Pax Romana, the reality that Rome defined as peaceful.

This Roman view of peace is still prevalent in the world today. It is the peace that ISIS pledges, but it is not far removed from the responses desired by some in the world who wish to defeat, by any means necessary, the ISISes that have arisen throughout history.

The peace of Christ is achieved one commitment at a time. This too is symbolized in and through our baptisms. As we each strive for the wholeness of God initiated at baptism, we experience the oneness of God as we work for the peace of God that surpasses understanding. It is the only peace that can and will conquer the world.

Prayer: Grant us your peace O Lord, renew our baptismal commitment. Holy Spirit, continue enabling us as peacemakers. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Sacraments

Holy SpiritEpiphany
January 7, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 8:14-17

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

One of the amazingly understated phenomenon of this scripture is the uneventful reporting of the need for apostles to visit the folks in Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans had not seen eye-to-eye for many years. They were the unclean to each other. We know that Jesus was opened to the Samaritans as he used a Samaritan as a shining example of his way in one of his parables. (Luke 10: 25-37) He also asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. (John 4:4–26) Talking to an unrelated woman was bad enough, but a Samaritan. Teachers never really know what sticks until it plays out in real life.

The need for the trip itself may have been as much about reassuring the Samaritans of their welcome into the Body of Christ as it was about making sure they had received the right messages or actions. Or it could have meant that the apostles wanted to check out the new members themselves. My mother was one of the most devoted Christians I have ever known but she was ultimately baptized three times. Sprinkled at birth as an infant in the Methodist church, the Christian Church required that she be baptized again because at that time they only recognized immersion. Eventually, she and my dad joined another group that didn’t recognize any other baptism. My Mom probably consented to do this because she thought it would be of benefit to my Dad or the witnesses or both. I think she was confident in her relationship with God throughout her life.

We still struggle with the proper trappings of church. I do think sacraments are important. Humans seem to have a need to memorialize major life changes and situations. We must remember in these public acts of faith; it is our private relationship with God that really matters.

Prayer: Lord, as we celebrate you in our worship and in our sacraments, touch our hearts with the warmth of your love and renew us once again to our service for you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Beginnings

BeginningsEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
January 11, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11
[John] proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ — Mark 1:7-11

 Baby dedications or christenings, baptisms, weddings, initiations, commissionings, ordinations all are rituals of beginnings. These are momentous occasions where something comes to fruition and starts something new. The baptism that John practiced acknowledged the end of slavery to sin and the beginning of living into forgiveness.

Now Jesus stands before John and asked for baptism. Why? He by all accounts is not in need of forgiveness. He had been dedicated appropriately at birth and made his trip to the temple at the age of 12, but we know little else about him until this moment as he asks to be baptized. In a very real sense, he is witnessing to his being fully human, fully capable of sin. In another sense he is setting an example for future followers of the need to turn around from their way of being and follow a new way, his way. But it also serves to mark the beginning of his ministry, transferring the mantle of leadership from John to Jesus.

I thank God for God’s plan of new beginnings because I have experienced them in my life sometimes by choice but other times due to situations beyond my control. I have mourned the loss of what was and feared the future of what was to be and I can attest that God can make all things new and clean and good.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the richness of your renewal to wholeness. Keep me ever in the palm of your hand in all my future beginnings. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Being Washed Clean

John the BaptistEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
January 10, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  — Mark 1:4

 A warm shower and a brisk toweling off feels especially good after completing a particularly dirty task. My dad did custom hay baling when I was a child. He would come home at noon for what we called dinner. He and my brother who helped him would be covered with dirt and the lint of dried mown grass. Dad would step down from the pickup, walk straight to the old hand pump that still stood in front of our house (still worked also), pump a bucket full of cold water and immediately pour it over its head. Watching it run down his clothing reminded me of Psalm 23: [God] anoints my head with oil.

John’s baptism was such a cleansing experience. It was an outward expression of an inward restitution of wholeness to a torn soul in need of forgiveness and receiving God’s forgiveness. We all still need that today. John knew there was more to come, but at that time in that place such cleansing was the best he could do and he answered that call.

We of course know the rest of the story as we live in a post Immanuel-with-us world. Because of that we have an even more compelling call to bring the hope of wholeness and restitution of souls to the brokenness in our world.

Prayer: Lord, make me whole, make me one with you and with the other members of the Body of Christ in the world today. So nourished, send us forth with the gift of hope for the oppressed and the oppressor, for the broken hearted and those who no longer feel anything positive, and for all the sin sick souls. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Choosing God

God firstEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
January 8, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Acts 19:1-7

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ — Acts 19:1-4

I had the joy of visiting Ephesus last summer. I remember feeling like I was walking with Paul through the book of Acts as I wondered with my group among the ruins. Christians did not have their mighty cathedrals when the story of Acts was being played out. The grand artifacts were in celebration of Greek and Roman gods. There were only small hints here and there of even the existence of the Christian faith. It is no wonder that the new converts were trying to get a handle on what baptism was and who all the new characters—John and Jesus and the Holy Spirit—were. They were also more acquainted with gods that could be etched or carved in stone in larger than life forms not a sole God that only wanted to love to be loved in return, and for God’s followers to love each other.

While our world has changed greatly in 2000 years, much is still the same for people. We do not call them gods but we worship things like money and power that enchant us with their trappings but are in the end as worthless as the once grand, but now broken, eroding statues that I saw in Ephesus. Albeit these items of art do have worth in that they illustrate well how great empires can rise and fall, and teach us that we need to seek what is truly valuable.

God’s love is truly valuable. God’s plan of love being inclusive among all God’s children is valuable. Living life in relationship with God the Creator, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Advocate is actually all that really matters. Everything else falls into proper alignment when we make that choice.

Prayer: Lord, today I renew the choice I made to live in relationship with you. When I am tempted to move away from your love, help me not to stray. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.