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There are, of course, a number of opportunities to address “beginnings” on this Sunday. We are still newly arrived at the beginning of the year. Genesis, the book of beginnings, opens with the beginning of our world. There is water here, though the dark and formless void seems more inhospitable and un-tameable than it does inviting and life-giving.
Baptism — the presence of water — will mark the beginning of both the ministries of John and of Jesus. Note also the presence of the Spirit at each of these beginnings; what “beginning” might the Spirit seek to make in the lives of the church this year?
The “voice of the Lord” — a demonstrable, if somewhat unexplainable sense of presence — manifests in a number of unusual ways, according to the psalmist. Of course, there is water (think of the vast expanse of the ocean, as well as the roar experienced when standing near a waterfall.)
But there is also the cedar-ripping, oak-baring power of a storm in the forest, and the skipping/jumping/prancing euphoria of calves and young oxen loosed in the field. There is fire — a brilliant but dangerous display. There is the earthquake. As Elijah would learn, there is silence, as well (see 1 Kings 19:11-13, though not explicitly mentioned here.)
Where do you hear the voice of the Lord?
I’ve never known exactly what to make of this encounter of Paul with the Ephesians — except to note that, again, we have the presence of the Spirit of God noted in association with baptism and the message of Jesus. (Oh, and there’s some business with laying on of hands, speaking in tongues and prophesying, as well — but, who wants any of that in our worship services?)
Baptism — repentance — fresh start — new things — Spirit of God — the Beloved — well pleased.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
As we think about the Baptism of Our Lord today, perhaps we could ask ourselves, “Has the cat got our baptism?”
What I mean to say is: “How impact has baptism had on my life?” “What difference did a few drops of water and some words make?”
This reminds me of a story I have told before, the story of Harvey Pinnick. Harvey, back in the 1920’s, bought a little red spiral notebook and began jotting down his observations about golf and life. He never showed the book to anyone but his son.
Several days passed and Harvey Pinnick had not responded to the message.
All too often, we’re like Harvey Pinnick. We misunderstand the message of the Gospel. We think we have to do things to make God love us when the message of our baptism is just the opposite; God loves us just the way we are.
Baptism is a message to us that our sins are forgiven; sins: past, present and future. Baptism does not forgive our sins; God forgives our sins. Baptism tells us that our sins are forgiven.
Well, if baptism is in the name of Jesus only, then it touches on forgiveness of sin and a commitment to follow Jesus, but it leaves out the most important part, the gift of the Holy Spirit. But, with the giving of the Holy Spirit, we are in a dynamic, organic, growing, pulsating relationship with God almighty.
NO! We are part of the Divine Presence in the world. God has made God’s dwelling to be within us.
Writing in Christianity Today, Pastor Paul Bocca talks about how some people find a genuinely Christian life boring. Going to church, doing the liturgy, reading the lessons, hearing the sermons, doing the rituals, serving on committees, etc. etc.
Pastor Bocca then turns this boring accusation upside down – by admitting it, and then reminding us of another meaning for the word boring.
He says Christianity is boring. It is like the slow movement of a drill; slowly, laboriously digging beneath the surface of our lives. The continuing cycle of Sunday after Sunday, season after season, year after year, the Christian message and life in community bores ever deeper and deeper into our souls, until, we begin to realize the truth of the words spoken over us in baptism.
This boring life of faith is begun at baptism, and is not completed until the day we die. We live each day in remembrance of our baptism, in remembrance of the fact that God loves us with a love so deep, so wide, so complete that nothing can separate us from that love.