Baptism and Affirmations
Tony E Dillon Hansen
12 Jan 2020
Reflection upon Matthew 3:13-17, Psalm 29, Isaiah 42
Let us pray from Psalm 19…
Beloved of God, today is the festival of the baptism of Jesus!! In some parts of the world, this day is bigger than Christmas!
People come to church from a variety of directions and beliefs. We come to baptism this way as well. In this lesson, Matthew’s Gospel introduces Jesus to public ministry through baptism in the Jordan, through God’s revelation and Spirit speaking.
We don’t have to be at the Jordan River to experience the Spirit. We can (and I hope we do) experience the Spirit here and now. So, let the Spirit reveal to us.
In our Church, baptism is community witness of the holy Spirit coming into the lives of people -- as we read, all who present at the Jordan saw the revelation of God. I am reminded of the youth groups that go through Confirmation, and how I asked them to affirm their community of faith. The youth of St Jon UCC said the Spirit is with us “all day and every day.” Therefore, all we need is to listen.
The World Council of Churches lists multiple things that happen when we are baptized, but the one that resonates the most with me is how we get to witness the Spirit working in community during these experiences. I submit that we can witness that Spirit working when we, as a community, affirm our baptisms, and when we listen to the Spirit and be with the Spirit in the moment.
Whether baptized as a child or later in life, the Spirit was working. We are reminded of this every time we attend a baptism. Never fails to amaze me when a light from the sun suddenly shines upon them as the waters pour over them. A child suddenly looks up and smiles, fellow is moved to tears of joy, or a young woman opens her eyes with new sight of Christ. You can’t help but be moved by this.
We can witness that Spirit working again around us and within us. Like in our Matthew Gospel, all who were present witnessed the Spirit of God revealed.
So Beloved, through baptism and our affirmation, we are witness to the Messianic mission of Jesus and invited to Christian community. We can experience the Spirit when we let God be with us and reveal to us.
We have many amazing examples to see God and Spirit working in our midst. A hospital worker reads to sick children. A man organizes with teams to distribute food and supplies among area homeless. A neighborhood gets together to plant a garden. People sharing stories, hugs, smiles and genuine hearts are ways we can witness the Spirit working. You can enjoy that right now right here in your heart.
Yes, water is an important symbol of baptism because of the beautiful, cleansing and life-sustaining properties, but the real sign is how the Spirit mutually connects us together in our witness and connecting with the Spirit of God.
This is how we begin new life and renew in Christ and Spirit. A good thing is that we don’t lose this because God is there for you to renew today. You may find, as Gunnemann writes, “liberation from the bonds of self-serving religion” (or judgement and desires). Let the Spirit lift you, free you and give you comfort – a holy and powerful transformation from our brokenness!
When we, as people, witness this transformation, we get to affirm and connect to our understanding of that Spirit. Ultimately, baptism is a powerful and meaningful experience because our baptism, our affirmation, and our witness is about how Jesus is revealed within us. That Epiphany is the Holy Spirit with us and in our hearts and minds through this covenant of faith.
In this light, when St John UCC had Confirmation, there were parts not only for the youth individually, but the youth as a group and then for the congregation as whole.
The spirit moved the entire congregation as we all witnessed the Spirit working.
These happened because there is something happening, perhaps a “conversion of the heart” or just warm smiles of acceptance when we let the Spirit move us. When we let God connect with us, when we set aside judgment and when we set aside expectations, we might hear God speaking and asking to do good today and maybe, be compelled to joyful tears or a simple smile.
That Spirit brings us into one community with God. Then, with prayer -- answering the Spirit, you can let God’s love fill you, and maybe, you can witness that light upon you too!
Listen to the Spirit working and witness God speaking to you, and follow the light upon you – oh Beloved Child of God – for whom God is well pleased!
Hear God speaking and connecting with you. Connect with your beautiful smile and tears. Share with the people in this very room. Thus, just as Jesus revealed the presence of God in the Jordan, these are moments you can connect to the holy and embrace your life with Christ and be comforted with the Spirit.
Thanks be to God!