Saturday, January 6, 2018

Baptism And The Holy Spirit

The Baptism Of Our Lord

Father Dale Matson

San Joaquin River

This is a special week for me. I will be celebrating two anniversaries. On the 10th of January, I will be marking the 35th anniversary of my quitting smoking. It was God who provided the reasons, the will and the self-control to quit smoking. No less important, also on the 10th I will be celebrating my 10th year in holy orders. I was ordained by Bishop Schofield on the Feast Day of William Laude, Archbishop of Canterbury. Fr. Carlos was my sponsor. I do believe there is an important relationship in giving up an addiction and spiritual development. Additionally, our bishop, Eric Menees was baptized on this day at age 14.
There are parallels with both our Lord’s baptism and His transfiguration. Unlike miracles that Jesus performed they are miracles that happened to Him. There is the miracle that happened to Him following his baptism where God the Father also said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22). There is another parallel. The Baptism of Jesus is celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany and it is at the beginning of his ministry.  The Transfiguration account is part of the lectionary for the last Sunday after Epiphany and it is near the end of his ministry. God identified Jesus as His son at the beginning of his ministry and as His son at the end of his ministry. Both His baptism and transfiguration were supernatural manifestations by which God the Father authenticated Jesus as His Son.  
 As I reviewed our lectionary readings in preparing to write my homily today, it was obvious what two key words continually appeared in our readings, Baptism and the Holy Spirit. The words Baptism and Holy Spirit are in our opening collect, and in our Epistle and Gospel lessons. Baptism is not new to the New Testament and was symbolized also in the Old Testament. Peter referred to this in his comments about the earth being purged of sin by the flood in Noah’s time. (1 Peter 3:20-21). St. Paul speaks of a type of Baptism for the Israelites when they crossed the Red Sea. (1 Cor. 10:2). Both the nation of Israel and Jesus were baptized in the River Jordan. Our Collect for purity is a type of Baptismal prayer where we ask God the Holy Spirit to cleanse our hearts at the beginning of our service in Rites I and II (pages 323 and 355) Before celebrating the Eucharist, as the priest washes his hands, he says to himself "Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” – Psalm 51:2. It's symbolic of the cleansing water of baptism and when the priest recalls his own need to be cleansed interiorly and that he shares in the need for forgiveness and redemption with the congregation. In the Old Testament circumcision of the heart, not the flesh prefigured baptism in the New Testament.
When Peter preached his Pentecostal sermon, he had in view this promised regeneration, the circumcision of the heart, the new birth, promised to Israel throughout the Old Testament. Acts 2:37-39 37 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Here Peter states what Anglicans have embraced as doctrine. When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit and our sins are forgiven. Specifically, our original sin is forgiven. We are at birth contaminated with the original sin of Adam and Eve. Additionally, in baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ, the church. That is why the baptismal font is usually located just inside the doors of the church. Baptism is necessary before communion and we announce this every Sunday, before communion. Unbaptized individuals would be taking communion to their own detriment. They could be harming themselves.
I was not baptized until mid-life. I had recommitted my life to Christ and soon after that; I felt the urging of the Holy Spirit to be baptized. When I was about to go down the center isle of the church to be baptized, a thought came to me. “You are throwing away your life for this Jesus” Only Satan could turn the truth into a lie. Yes, I was throwing my life away but the life I had been living was worthless anyway. I was about to be drowned in the waters of baptism that the new man could come forth. I knew that I would be considered an enemy by Satan from that point on and every time we have a baptism and we say that we reject the devil and all his works, I think back to that time.
I said at the beginning of my homily that there were two key words in our readings and they were Baptism and the Holy Spirit.  I have been discussing Baptism, its benefits and as a means of entry into the body of Christ, His church. I will now discuss the Holy Spirit. From our Gospel lesson, we have the following.
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21) From our Epistle lesson, we have this. “You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:37-38)
John Wesley notes, “It is worthy to remark, that frequently when the Holy Ghost is mentioned there is added a word particularly adapted to the present circumstance. So, the deacons were to be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, Acts 6:3. Barnabas was full of the Holy Ghost and faith, Acts 11:24. The disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost, Acts 13:52. And here, where His mighty works are mentioned, Christ Himself is said to be anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power.” 
         The Holy Ghost is always associated with Baptism. God the Holy Ghost is also associated with the gifts of the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are intended to equip Christ’s church to carry out her mission. Her mission is to do good works and proclaim the Gospel message. The fruits of the Spirit include love which motivates our actions. It is love that grows compassion within us toward others. We cannot stand idly by and watch someone destroy themselves both now and for eternity. It overrides our fear of getting involved or entangled in the lives of others. The other fruits of the Spirit make us contagious to others. They make us Christ like. God the Holy Spirit grows the fruits of the Spirit in us as we mature as Christians. “He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
         What power is Paul talking about here? He is talking about the indwelling Holy Spirit. I believe this empowerment from the Holy Spirit is based on need. This is similar to a security classification I had in the Army. I had a “secret” security clearance. I was not cleared to “top secret” because I did not need to access information at that level so my security clearance remained only “secret”. I believe it is also the case the God the Holy Spirit. The mission God has called us to and we consent to determines how much we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Someone in Holy Orders has been granted additional power through the laying on of hands by the Bishop during ordination. This does not mean that a lay person could not be empowered by God the Holy Spirit with more power than a bishop IF that lay person was called to an extraordinary life of service to the church. I would remind you that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not the trained talents of a profession. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) You know what modern stories remind me of this. This reminds me of stories like, “The Magnificent Seven”, “X-Men” and “The Avengers”. Every character has a specific super power that when united with a team allows them to overcome evil. In the case of the Christian, the ‘team’ is the Body of Christ, the church.
         The final evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit for me is both the “blessed assurance” and the counsel I receive. Sometimes the counsel is a question. “What makes you better than him?” Sometimes the counsel is a caution. “Look at your speedometer.” Sometimes I am convicted. “That is a rather prideful remark.” Sometimes it is a compassionate prompting. “Tell them they are loved and appreciated.” Sometimes it sounds a lot like Sharon’s voice. “Wipe the snot off your nose.” Oh, in that case it is Sharon’s voice. Well, marriage is a sacrament too.
         In this first Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. In our celebration let us consider our own baptism and the benefits procured unto us by it. Let us also consider our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and what that means for the mission of God. It is also a caution to be good stewards of the body given to us.
         During Epiphany, I would encourage you to reflect on the meaning of your baptism, the Person and work of our Savior Jesus The Christ, God’s indwelling presence and the good works you have been called to do. Amen.  


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