God’s Space

Awesome things will you show us … O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away. I recently had the honor of baptizing a child. Leading up to the event and afterwards, all I thought about was the hope we have in our children. We hope that all of the care, protection and knowledge we try to impart on their lives will serve them well and lead them straight to God, even though we know from experience that the path is not always straight. Which is why I believe faith communities are important, that they strive to be vehicles that help to encourage and build up our faith and show God’s awesome love beyond the walls and the vastness of the earth and seas. Gracious God may we always stand ready to receive one whose path crosses into your spaces.

 

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Are You Able?

But Jesus said to them, …‘Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ Mark 10:35-45

How many times had Jesus and the disciples sat down at a meal together feeding invited and uninvited guests? How many times had Jesus walked away from crowds trying to kill him? How many times had Jesus quieted the arrogance of the Jewish leaders simply by using the Mosaic Law as his defense? If the “cup” was only full of these kinds of experiences, we’d all be able to drink of that cup. But we know that the cup isn’t always so full. Sometimes it’s half full and other times it’s down right out empty! When James and John answered that they were in fact able to drink of that cup, my guess is they had absolutely no idea of what Jesus was referring. I think Jesus knew as well that they didn’t really know, but I believe what he heard in their answer was that they were not only able but willing. Even in hindsight of the reality of the disciples request, Jesus’ confirmation of their willingness, is a confirmation to all of us today who are yet still willing (even as we sometimes fail), to drink of that same cup. The life to come may not be about prominence. But the good news is that when God calls us in this life, through Christ we are already able, and our willingness to drink is what moves us towards that spiritual reward.

Mark 10:35-45  They replied, ‘We are able.’ So Jesus called them and said to them, …whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ 

Psalm 91:9-16

Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honour them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation. 

Waters Of Initiation

Luke describes Jesus’ baptism as the Holy Spirit descending upon him in bodily form like a dove. In remembering my own baptism, while quite exhilarating, the only thing I felt was cool water rushing away from my body as I was pulled up out of the water. I could however, imagine what it was like for the many who came to John to be baptized. However, John himself admitted that this was just a physical outward experience representing the initiation of what will happen later on the inside, a change in how we understand ourselves as God’s own. As our thoughts begin to change, so will our actions. Although some of those actions have caused “Mountain top” as well as “Damascus” events in my life, I now realize that they were all part of the journey that I’ve taken since that “dip” in the water. Back then, I may not have seen the heavens open up or felt the Holy Spirit embrace me like the giant wings of a dove but what did open up was my heart making room for what John the Baptist promised would happen; the discerning of the Holy Spirit. To the glory of God, I’ve been changing ever since.

Luke 3:16  ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 

Parenthood

Having recently celebrated Father’s Day, I find that parenthood itself is always a good metaphor for helping us to understand some of what God experiences with us. (And) As I was seeking for something to reflect on for this message to today I came across an article written by Anne Landers that is somewhat suspiciously disguised in the relationship of our own spiritual journey. It is a collection of personal thoughts as a child grows through life. I changed a few of the words to reflect a more contemporary voice. It goes something like this:

When I was

– 4 years old – My dad can do anything.

– 5 years old – My dad knows a whole lot.

– 6 years old – My dad is smarter than your dad.

– 8 years old – My dad doesn’t know exactly everything.

-10 years old – In the olden days when my dad grew up, things sure were different.

-12 years old – Oh, well, naturally, dad doesn’t know anything about that. He is too old to remember.

-14 years old – OMG Don’t pay any attention to my dad. He is so old-fashioned.

-21 years old – Him?  Oh God, he’s hopelessly out of   date.

-25 years old  – Dad knows a little bit about it, but then he should because he has been around so long.

-30 years old  – Maybe we should ask dad what he thinks. After all, he’s had a lot of   experience.

-35 years old  – I’m not doing a single thing until I talk to dad.

-40 years old  – I wonder how dad would have handled it. It seems the older I get the wiser my   dad becomes.

-50 years old: – My dad can do anything.

What happened in the years between birth and mature adulthood? Is it not enduring love now mixed with heartfelt understanding? In the same way that we endure the process of our children’s maturity, God endures our process of spiritual maturity. Regardless of how old we are when we come in to an understanding of this relationship with our heavenly Father we enter in as infants, new born babes; as Paul puts it, new creations in awe of God’s overwhelming love for us, an adoption of which we’ve never before experienced. The good news is that God is patient with us in that growth even when we aren’t.

Is Baptism Necessary?

Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. For us, Baptism is the sacrament by which one is initiated into the Christian faith. It is the rite of the church that symbolizes the washing away of the old self, behaviors and beliefs, and the beginning of a life in Christ as a new creation. Many of us (including myself) who have taken this crucial step in our journey find that the old self isn’t necessarily washed away like the dirt from our clothes in a washing machine. It’s more like a process by which we learn what behaviors are self-destructive and which ones help us to live into Christ’s baptism, according to God’s Word. The process isn’t perfect nor is it full proof. Some days we find our selves putting on the old self, kind of like putting on dirty clothes, which of course has nothing to do with what is in our heart. It just means that others aren’t able to see the “new” you; the Christ, that God intended people to see. The rite itself is just the beginning. It is the first day we begin to understand the need to separate our selves from the darkness that is in the world. It is in fact a daily process that involves the entire community of faith and not merely a one-time miracle event. It may help to remember something my maternal grandmother once told me. If you wash your underwear out every night you always have a clean pair. Is baptism necessary? For me both figuratively and literally I say unequivocally yes.

New Creation; Baptized into Christ; Separating the Light from the darkness