Baptism of Christ C
149: JANUARY 10, 2016
306: January 13, 2019
Do we really have to talk about JBap more?
We just covered this in Advent 3, somewhat. Advent 3 Luke 3:7-18 leads us up to the cusp of baptism.
Lectionary leaves out from both readings the trouble John gets into with Herod.
Maybe not a bad idea to leave out this sidebar. Although there are interpretative gems there that include warnings for those who mess with Herod. Lets us know that John goes to prison for speaking truth to power. For those who are into social justice, protest movements and advocacy, this could be a powerful word.
15-17 John is not Messiah
Important to differentiate between John and Jesus.
He will baptize with “Spirit and Fire” can also be seen as “Wind and Fire” “Wind and fire were symbol for the Holy Spirit, the powerful presence of God, but also of judgment. Farmers poured wheat from one container to another on a windy day, or tossed the wheat into the air with a fork or shovel so that the chaff would be blown away, leaving the grain clean. The chaff burned with explosive combustion. To this day, farmers know that a fire in a dry wheat field cannot be contained or controlled… When repentance and forgiveness are available, judgment is good news. The primary aim is to save the wheat, not to burn the chaff” (Fred Craddock, Interpretation: Luke,p 49)
Wind and Fire are a dangerous pair, but also useful.
Fire is destructive, but also cleansing, purifying, and strengthening.
This passage does not mean - “Jesus is coming to send you to hell.”
Not about separating the saved and unsaved - but separating within us the chaff that needs to be burned away so that the wheat of our lives may remain.
Baptism is of repentance - to turn away from what keeps us from God, and toward the fruit of the Spirit - forgiveness, generosity, kindness.
20-22 Jesus and all the people baptized
Not a private affair.
Holy Spirit comes while Jesus prayed, after his baptism. This separation of Holy Spirit and baptism is not widely discussed, but is also shown in Acts.
Matthew and Mark tie Holy Spirit to coming out of the water.
All three have Holy Spirit ‘like a dove.’ Only Luke says “in bodily form”
All agree: “beloved son” and “well pleased.” Differ on third or second person. Luke, the whole thing is in second person “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.’
Jesus is named “My Son.”
Jesus is described “Beloved.”
Jesus has Holy Spirit descend upon him before he begins his ministry.
Immediately next in Luke is genealogy, which traces back to Adam.
Thoughts and Questions
David Lose proposes to use this opportunity to teach about Baptism, not just the text. What does your faith tradition say about baptism? Baptism is a key part of the Christian faith, but Bible really says little about it other than Jesus was baptized, and that apostles were told to do it too. Most of our traditions, however, have a lot to say.
1. Naming and identifying someone as “beloved.”
“Baptism reminds us that we discover who we are in relation to whose we are, God’s beloved children. We belong to God’s family, and baptism is a tangible sign of that.” David Lose
2. Primarily God’s work.
“Baptism, then, is wholly God’s work that we may have confidence that no matter how often we fall short or fail, nothing that we do, or fail to do, can remove the identity that God conveys as a gift. Our relationship with God, that is, is the one relationship in life we can’t screw up precisely because we did not establish it.” David Lose
Ritual of Baptismal Renewal
Like renewing wedding vows.
Can be done every time someone gets baptized.
Last major event was the stoning of Stephen, as found at the end of chapter 7.
In response to this persecution, the apostles spread. Instead of cowering in fear, they scattered, which actually helped spread the good news (Princess Leia to Tarkin ‘the tighter you squeeze, the more systems will slip through your fingers’).
Response to trouble - God did not cause the persecution, but God was able to make something good come from it.2 Major ways to go:
Water vs Spirit
Baptism as a recognition and surrender to God and Christ
Part of a larger story 8:4-25
Philip preached in Samaria, converts a magician named Simon.
Samaria not friendly neighbors
Fulfilling Christ’s command to preach to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Troy Miller, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1: This is the middle chunk of a story about Simon the Magician more than it is a story about baptism. Philip vs Simon
Both do great deeds and attract a great following
Philip has a proclamation and deeds which reveal the Messiah
Simon’s deeds are mysterious magic from an unknown source
Simon is interested not in the Way of Christ and the surrender to grace, but in gaining power and the signs as is evident when he tries to buy the gift of the Spirit from Peter and John (Acts 8:18-24)
Interestingly Peter’s response is rebuke and a call to repentance.
This is not about water vs spirit baptism - this is a story about the source if mighty deeds of healing and grace
Baptism requires and acknowledgment and surrender to the divine, to non-violent love, to service and to love of self, neighbor and God.
“The Gospel is not Magic nor Is It for Sale” (William Willimon, Interpretation: Acts)
Yet how often do we think of prayer as magic - say the right words and get the right result? Do the right thing and get what you want? Give so that you may prosper
In the midst of perilous times for Jesus followers, they are still unwilling to sell the gospel - are we?
Spirit vs Water- different interpretations (Lee C Barrett, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1)
Spirit occurs at the moment of conversion (being born again, adult baptism, etc) whereas Water is the outward sign for observers of what the Spirit is doing within
Pentecostal: These ar 2 completely different baptisms: One by water and a later one by the Spirit
Roman Catholic: Baptism by water (for the forgiveness of sins) is completed through the baptism of the spirit in confirmation
Wesleyan Holiness: Baptism of water is an initial sign of grace and baptism by spirit is the assurance of salvation and complete sanctification
Reformed: Baptism by water is the outward and visible sign of the invisible grace of the Spirit - i.e. the two are inseparable
What can we know- not much
Acts treats the two as separate
Sometimes baptism by Spirit comes first (Acts 10:44-48) and sometimes later (as in this passage)
Sometimes you have to be baptized by water first (Acts 2:38)
Sometimes baptism by water and the conferral of the Spirit are one continual act (Acts 19:1-6)
When dealing with matters of the Spirit - mystery prevails- yet
The Spirit is essential for Christian life and community
According to Luther - the work of the Spirit is sanctification which allows the possibility of justification through Christ
Thoughts and Questions
Faith is a way of life and journey, not a destination. Similarly Baptism - whether by water or spirit is another step in that journey. This passage emphasizes that journey of faith. The Samaritans heard the good news, were baptized by water and then later in their journey of faith were baptized by the Spirit.
Baptism is not a “one-and-done” experience, but a celebration of grace along the Way of faithful life.
Philip - the great converter of Samaria (of all places) was chosen not to be a great preacher or teacher but, like Stephen (who was just martyred) was chosen to wait on tables (Acts 6:2-5).
What does this say about how the Spirit is working - not just through preachers, teacher and bible geeks, but through table servers, floor moppers, diaper changers, garbage emptiers, toilet washers?
As a supplement to baptism, this brings up a lot of questions. It says that the new believers of Samaria had been “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit.
What is the place of baptism, if not for the receiving of the Holy Spirit? How are Holy Spirit and baptism related?
Did they not do it right? Baptized in name of Lord Jesus not enough? John and Peter didn’t re-baptize, though.
What is the context of Laying on of Hands? And what place does it have in our churches?
When we take in new members, anoint ministers, confirm young people, baptize infants and/or adults? What place does the laying on of hands take?
Why did John and Peter have to go?
What does it mean to ‘receive the Holy Spirit?’
Mark Stenberg wonders, Is this some sort of Christianity graduate school?
Hardest Question: “If throughout the Book of Acts “receiving the Holy Spirit” is most certainly a different, second move from mere faith or believing or even baptism, has the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement discovered the true meaning of the Christian faith?”
A non-baptism Baptism text
Defines God’s relationship with us using water and fire
Universalized the love of God in a different way from Baptism which is too often exclusive
Second Isaiah - written for the exiles in Babylon as a message of redemption and hope
Does not ignore the transgressions of Israel, but God refuses to define Israel by their failures
Intimate and imminent connection with God
Often God is places into the realm of transcendence, but Isaiah's vision of God here is relational and personal: a God who makes us in God’s own image, who forms us from the dust of the earth, who calls us by name and claims us as God’s own- all of these actions are the actions of an involved and imminent and personal God
Creator and Redeemer
Too often these attributes of God are separated: God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer, but here creation and redemption are inextricably linked
God creates us, forms us, knows us, redeems us, calls us and claims us - and there is nothing we can do about it.
Redemption - during the time of Israel meant to be saved out of bondage by a family member
see Leviticus 25:47-49
God claims us as part of the divine family through redemption
Water, Rivers and Fire happen - God does not promise freedom of the woes of the world
God’s promise is not release from suffering and pain, but accompaniment through the waters, through the rivers and through the fire
Fire, waters, river - these never have the last word.
Waters evokes images not of small baptismal fonts but of the Red Sea and the Jordan River - faith changing, nation forming moments of salvation through waters which should have meant death
W. Carter Lester, Feasting on the Word
This passage is about rediscovering our identity:
Whose are we? God’s
Who are we? a people values, held precious, honored and loved by God
What about our many sins? Nothing can separate us from God’s love for we are redeemed.
Thoughts and Questions
Baptism is as much about belonging as it is about salvation. How can we use baptism to welcome or re-assure people that the church is a place where they belong- no matter who they are or what they have done?
Diana Butler Bass has done much work on the need for belonging in the church. It is easy to be confused about who and whose we are. Who is the church? Whose is the church?
Explore verse 4: What does it mean for someone to be precious in your sight? Or honored? or valued? What does it mean to accompany people and walk with them through water and fire?
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.