#YouCouldYouShould is the reflection for January 10, 2016. Peanut Butter and Jelly, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What do these things have to do with each other? Mix them with thunder, lightning, nail, hammer and baptism to see what you get. Listen here to this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Mary #PeanutButterJelly #Individualism #Restoration #HolySpirit #Baptism #LayingOnOfHands #PowertoChangeLives #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/10/2016 The Baptism of the Lord Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Acts 8:14-17 and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.
Peanut butter and jelly, cake and ice cream, gas and oil, fire and ice, cookies and milk, hot chocolate and marshmallows, Tom and Jerry, up and down, syrup and pancakes, nail and hammer, and thunder and lighting! All of these things that go together cannot out do the mighty pair in this story, or I should say trio of one, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of Jesus was at one time a source of embarrassment and confusion for Christians. So, the account given by Luke is done in such a way that would not embarrass Christians and would touch on something that we say we believe, but then often back away from: the power of God in Baptism and how Baptism is the foundation for living a life with a way to handle anxiety, a way to be strong in the face of daunting odds, and a way to be a source of goodness for the world.
Coming out of Advent and Christmas, two seasons devoted to the coming of God as a human being and coming again at the end of time, the Baptism of the Lord gives us a glimpse into the constant truth: No one person of the Trinity acts without the participation of the other two persons of the Trinity. Like peanut butter and jelly, nail and hammer, and thunder and lightning, things that go together, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in mission and action.
We have two stories for today that touch on the dynamism of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. First, is the story of Jesus Christ being baptized as accounted to us by Luke. Second, is the story of Peter and John going to Samaria where Phillip, the deacon, had been exorcising demons, healing the sick, and doing wonders in the name of Jesus.
We need to be careful not to read Luke’s account of the Baptism of Jesus and conflate it with Matthew’s account. Matthew has John asking Jesus why Jesus even needs baptism. Mark’s account has John baptizing Jesus. Luke’s account has Jesus being baptized after John is in prison and among a group of people coming to be baptized. It was seen as a problem in the early church to have Jesus baptized: why would someone need baptism if they were without sin?
Baptism has always been the first Sacrament of repentance. It is the Sacrament through which sins are forgiven. Through the washing of the water on the outside, inside grace washes us clean of our sin. Indeed, Baptism washes away sin, but also, we have always understood as Christians, Baptism gives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The rite of Baptism should always include a laying on of hands, through which the Holy Spirit is given as a gift. We see in Luke’s account that there is the descent of the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ prayer. The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus to strengthen him and to be present with him in his upcoming ministry. The Son receives the Holy Spirit as the Father declares that the Incarnated Son is his son. The laying on of hands comes when we see Peter and John further solidify Phillip’s ministry in Samaria in the Acts of the Apostles. The people had been baptized in Jesus’ name, and Peter and John, exercising their apostolic ministry, lay their hands upon the people and they receive the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus commissions the apostles for their ministry, he says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” as he pronounced that the apostles had the power to forgive sins. In all the anointings of the Bible, with oil or with the washing with water, the Holy Spirit has been involved. Often times, we say in prayer, “In the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit…” It is clear to me that the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism is for the empowerment of the same Holy Spirit in the human ministry of Jesus Christ. It is the same reason that the apostles lay hands on those who have been baptized: to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are like peanut butter and jelly, a hammer and a nail, and better yet, thunder and lightning. Sharing the same substance, they are one God with the Father. We see here that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is the power source for all Christians. We glorify the Father in Heaven, we are forgiven through Jesus Christ the Son, and we live with the power of God in the Holy Spirit. All of this is given to us in Baptism. It is why Jesus was baptized so that we would be baptized.
In our culture of the individual it is easy to get fixated on being forgiven for our sins. That is what we usually think of when we think of Baptism. Yet, what we are shown in today’s Gospel and in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles is this: to be a part of Jesus through baptism is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. In our culture of individualism, it is easy to think of Baptism as being to save us. It is. Baptism does save us. That is not the end of it. In Baptism, we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This means that we are empowered to do mighty things for God in the world. Unfortunately, we in the Church often don’t act like it.
There are all kinds of clubs we can join if what we are looking for is some self-serving society that has things set up the way we want, when we want, how we want. To be baptized into Jesus Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit is another thing altogether. If someone in your life is sick, do you say, “I am sorry to hear that, oh, I will pray for you”? That is good, but that is not enough for someone who has been forgiven in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Have you laid hands on them, asked in the name of Jesus Christ, and asked the Holy Spirit to heal them? You could and you should. If someone has lost a job and is looking for employment, do you say, “Oh, I am sorry, I will pray for you”? That is good, but that is not enough for someone who has been forgiven in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Have you laid hands on them, asked in the name of Jesus and asked the Holy Spirit to give them all the sustenance they need? You could and you should. Whatever the calamity that someone faces, do you just pat them on the head proverbially and tell them you will pray for them? That is good, but you have so much more at your disposal to help and heal the world. You have the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Let me say that another way: you have the power of the living God at your fingertips.
Too often, we have separated the spiritual from the physical in a way that God did not do. God did just the opposite. He formed physicality out of spirituality. God who is Spirit became flesh, inextricably entwining the two. Maybe, if we would think of our physical actions as impacting our spirit, like they do, we would be more remorseful, more careful, and more holy. Even more, maybe if we realized that in our bodies, we can touch someone and heal them, we would be more dynamic in our approach to how God works in our lives and our world.
Ruth, my daughter, just got her drivers license. When she was handed the keys by her mother, mama said, “I have a list of things I would like for you to pick up at the store.” Ruth said, “Wait a minute, I wanted to…” To which both Sandi and I said, “One of the things we love about you kids getting your license is that you can now share the load.”
Friends, being baptized into Jesus Christ is not just so that you can have privilege. Being baptized into Jesus Christ and given the power of the Holy Spirit is not just so you can get to heaven. That is not the end. Being baptized, like Jesus was baptized just before he went into ministry, is to begin your ministry serving God for the salvation and redemption of all creation. You have a mighty gift. You have the power of God. Use it every day in every way that an opportunity presents itself. You could and you should. Amen.
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