To my Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and Peace to you.
This Sunday is the annual celebration of the Baptism of Christ. Each year in the Lectionary Cycle focuses on one of the Gospel versions, this year being Luke.
Our readings this week are:
Isaiah 43:1-7 – The obvious connection with the baptism of Jesus story is found in verse 2 except for the part of walking through fire. On second thought, though, Paul often refers to baptism as a dying and rising so maybe Jesus’ Passion, his arrest, trial, execution, death and resurrection could be thought of as a “fire”. Perhaps redemption comes through water and fire. Isaiah’s purpose here is not to “predict” or “foresee” Jesus but to offer words of hope for the restoration of the nation of Israel after the Babylonian destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. The scattered and shattered people will be returned to their land by the peoples who have captured them.
Psalm 29 – Again, the connection to the baptism of Jesus is obvious: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters.” However, this voice is not the voice that proclaims God’s love for his son, but the voice that flattens out the mighty cedar forests, that flashes like flames of fire, and that spins the oak trees.
Acts 8:14-17 – The apostle Philip goes to Samaria (an area, not really a country, between Judea and Galilee but which faithful Jews did not go to) to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and people were believing. Philip baptized them with water. That is the background, found in verses 4-13, to our reading. Since this Philip was not one of the original disciples (see 6:1-6) the disciples in Jerusalem send Peter and John to Samaria. There, they laid their hands on the new believers who then received the Holy Spirit. This story points to a theological difference in some Protestant churches, namely, is one baptism of water sufficient or does there need to be a baptism of the Holy Spirit? Charismatic churches, Pentecostal and Assembly of God, emphasize the latter while most Protestant churches along with Catholics and Orthodox stress the former. Protestant churches also divvy up along the infant/adult baptism lines and the pouring/dunking baptism lines. What are your thoughts on baptism?
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 – The first 3 verses recount the people’s reaction to John the Baptist’s baptism and his proclamation of a greater one who will follow and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. The other two verses seem a bit anti-climactic. In Mark’s version (Mark 1:9-11) of the story when Jesus is baptized and is coming up from the water the heavens are “torn apart” and the Spirit descends. In Matthew’s version (Matthew 3:13-17) Jesus has to argue with John to be baptized and when he is coming up from the water the Spirit descends and “alights” on him. In Luke’s version, after Jesus is baptized and when he is praying (implying a little time after the baptism) the Spirit in bodily form, like a dove, descends on him. In the Gospel of John (John 1:29-34) there is no actual recounting of the baptism, only the testimony of John the Baptist. Only in the Gospel of John are we told that someone other than Jesus saw the descent of the Holy Spirit.
May the Holy Spirit fill you life with love and may the power of the Spirit prod you to share the Good News!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor