Sunday, May 24, 2015

Baptized in the Spirit (Acts 2)

The Bible presents the way of Jesus as a countercultural, subversive alternative to the way of Caesar.
The way of Caesar is about achieving peace through victory and strength; the way of Jesus is about achieving peace through nonviolence and love.
The way of Caesar is about seeking wealth and authority for oneself; the way of Jesus is about seeking wholeness for the world.
The way of Caesar is about separating yourself from those who might bring you down; the way of Jesus is about connecting with those who are down so that you might bring them up.
The world called Caesar “Lord and Savior.” But the followers of Jesus, with their eyes on a different kingdom than Caesar’s, used those same titles for Jesus.
Those who follow Jesus are called to leave the world of Caesar behind. Their lives have new priorities. Their eyes see the world in a completely new way. It’s a new day, a new world, a new life.
This new life is made possible by the Spirit, which is the breath of God. It is the Spirit that leads us into this new kingdom.
We see the Spirit in the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel came across this valley of dry bones, and was asked, “can these bones live?” The question was so absurd, Ezekiel couldn’t even answer it.
But God told Ezekiel to speak to the wind. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath. God told Ezekiel to preach to the spirit that blows…
And the bones came back to life.
We see the Spirit blowing through the lives of the disciples. After Jesus’s crucifixion, they were devastated. They were frozen with fear and grief.
Then, fifty days later, the Spirit arrived. It filled the disciples with new life. They understood the power of resurrection. They breathed in the Spirit, and a new movement was born.
We see the Spirit blowing through the lives of those who follow Jesus today. In baptism, the one being baptized leaves behind old desires, wishes, everything that belongs to this world, the world of Caesar.
In ancient times, people being baptized would symbolize this by entering the water naked, leaving behind their old clothing, trampling it underfoot as they walked into the water. Nothing from their old life would carry over into the new life they were about to receive.
Upon exiting the water, they would receive a new set of clothes, all white, symbolic of the new spiritual body they receive through the Spirit.
We do baptism just a little differently today. And what exactly baptism means to each person is just a little different.
For some, it is initiation into the church.
For some, it is the assurance of forgiveness.
For some, it is “getting right with God.”
For some, it is the most important decision of their life.
For some, it is crossing over to a whole new life.
For some, it is the blessing of God.
Baptism is all of these things; and it is the Spirit that motivates one to seek baptism for himself or herself.
Just as there are multiple meanings to baptism, there are multiple ways that baptism is conducted. In the Disciples of Christ church, we generally baptize those who are old enough to respond to the Spirit’s invitation in our lives.
Other churches baptize infants, recognizing that it is the Spirit’s initiative that leads one to baptism.
There is one baptism, one church and one Lord. Baptism unites us with God and with the church of Christ in every time and place. Therefore, we recognize the baptism of other congregations, and provide those who have been baptized as infants or small children the opportunity to confirm the baptism they experienced before they could make a personal response.
In all things, we give glory to God and to the Spirit. That people still seek to be baptized and to follow the way of Jesus shows that the Spirit is still alive among us today, blowing through us, stirring up God’s people like the rush of a mighty wind.

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