I would ask that you would pray with me…Almighty Creator God, you who spoke through your servants so long ago as well as in this day and age. I pray that you would be with me…that you would use me to speak to your children gathered here this morning…that your Spirit would fall down upon me…and that my words be your words. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you Lord my Rock and Redeemer. AMEN
So here we are at the Baptism of the Lord Sunday…it seems just like yesterday we were celebrating His birth…my how the time flies when you’re having fun. How many of you remember your baptism? I don’t remember my first one when I was a baby but boy do I remember my baptism as an adult. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church. When they baptize it is by immersion. I remember coming up out of the water and feeling as if my whole life had just changed. I remember feeling reborn and that I had a new start in life. It wasn’t going to be the same type of life I lived before. It was going to be a life of gratitude and purpose. It was going to be a life that was dedicated to God. I knew I had changed and my life would never be the same…I was a “Child of God”. How awesome was that…I was now a new creation with Christ living within me?
This morning’s scripture from Mark tells us about the Baptism of Jesus and what happened after He came up out of the water. Can you just imagine…being baptized and when you come up out of the water…hearing God’s voice saying “this is my son/daughter, whom I love, in him/her I am well pleased?” I mean just think about it for a minute…this is my child, whom I LOVE, in them I am well PLEASED. This is kind of the feeling I had when I came up out of the baptismal waters…that I was a child who was loved and my parent was well pleased with me! But it is not just Jesus or myself that God is talking about…God is talking about you and every other person who comes to the baptismal waters as well. We are all adopted into the family of God when we are baptized. God is not exclusive…God is inclusive. Remember what Huntley talked about last week, God wants his house of worship to be open to ALL of God’s people. And not only are we adopted…we are given a gift that is too wonderful for words. We are given the best gift of all time…we are given the Holy Spirit to guide us, to comfort us, to help us to share our stories to those who have not heard of this wonderful gift from God.
In the book of Acts, it tells of a story about an occasion when Paul met up with some people who didn’t know of this wonderful gift from God. It is found in chapter 19 verses 1-7. Let me read it for you… (I’m reading from the Message Bible this morning):
1-2 Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?" "We've never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?" 3"How were you baptized, then?" asked Paul. "In John's baptism." 4"That explains it," said Paul. "John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you've been baptized in John's baptism, you're ready now for the real thing, for Jesus." 5-7And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God's actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.
These twelve people, who were baptized…these people who received the Holy Spirit at their baptism, as we do…went about praising God in tongues and talking about God’s actions. They were speaking in a language that others could understand…as Huntley talked about last week. At their baptism they experienced a worship that is beyond words. They prophesized in a way that made a clear and powerful declarations of faith. When they were baptized by John, they had repentant hearts and wanted to live a life that was obedient to God and His will for their lives. You see…they had done all the right things but were incomplete spiritually. They needed what Paul gave them… Paul introduced them to the one who could complete their faith. They needed the Holy Spirit to speak in power and truth.
But…that’s just the beginning. You see…John’s ministry was only just a prelude. He made it clear that someone…more powerful than him…would be coming. You see…the water of baptism signifies the cleansing within us when we are baptized. It reminds us of the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I was reading in the Upper Room Disciplines this week and it made me realize something about this profound event of Baptism. (I’ll try to paraphrase it for you) Jesus is the one who baptizes…saturates our soul with the awareness of God’s presence and inundates us with the fire of God’s love. The baptism of Jesus lays claim to us, and our baptism becomes a call to follow Jesus as good disciples and faithful servants. It is God’s Spirit that continually cleanses refreshes, renews, transforms and empowers us. WOW!!!...now that’s a lot to happen all at once. What a gift! Not only are we adopted…we are called into the family business!
At Jesus’ baptism, as well as ours…He/we…was/are…appointed/anointed for ministry. Now we are not all called to be ordained ministers but we are all called to minister to one another in some sort of ministry. And believe me…there is no such thing as a small ministry. Sometimes it is within these “small ministries” there is more movement of the Spirit than could ever be imagined. At our baptism, we become part of the church universal. We become “one with Christ and one with each other.” Jesus’ baptism showed who He was…God’s Son, and our baptism reveals who we are…a beloved child, called to serve. It is our commissioning for ministry by the oldest Elder that there is…our Creator.
As we Wade in the Water of the Spirit…as it washes over us…refreshing, empowering and renewing us…let us remember that we are anointed by God. Let us remember that we are called to live a life of ministry to others. Let us remember we are called to seek the face of God in each person that we meet. Let us remember that we are commissioned to share the gift that we receive at baptism…a gift too wonderful for words. But most of all…let us remember that we become a Child of God…in whom He is well pleased.