Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Baptism of our Lord, Year B
January 7, 2018
Lessons: Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people steward the gift of the Holy Spirit that was given to them in baptism, understanding that like the wild goose, the Spirit cannot be contained or controlled — only followed.
Key Scriptures: He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:2
Hold on tight, fellow disciples! In just eight days we have gone from shepherds and angels for Christmas to a trio of wise guys and a whole lot of light for Epiphany, and then just one day later we have water and Jesus and a wild-honking-goose of a Holy-Spirit clattering through our organized worship and over-booked lives. Yes, the Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus in the Jordan in Mark’s gospel is on the loose and ready to take you along for the ride of your life. Are you ready to go?
What about the folks with whom you serve and to whom you minister? Are they ready to follow the Holy Spirit’s loving, nudging, and goading into a year of mission and ministry (and maybe even a little mischief)? Do they even really comprehend the Spirit’s power and presence in their lives?
Lutherans believe that in baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and that God claims and names us. We receive a new identity as children of God and followers of Christ. We are marked with the sign of the cross, and even though life continues right along, we are forever changed. Living into that change, well — that takes a lifetime and is a process rather than a destination.
Unlike the disciples from Ephesus that Paul encounters in this week’s epistle lesson, most of us have at least heard of the Holy Spirit, even if we’re not too sure what this gift-that-keeps-on-giving is really all about. Once these Ephesian disciples are baptized properly in Jesus’ name and Paul lays hands on them, the Holy Spirit is activated in them, and they’re off and prophesying. Would that it were so easy today!
Perhaps it can be if we help folks get out of their heads and into their hearts when it comes to faith and discipleship. If the Holy Spirit “came over” first century believers and actually sort of “dive bombed” into Jesus’ head, what’s to stop that same Spirit from activating us in fresh and out-of-the-box ways? Perhaps only our own stubborn wills and desire to be in control?
This Sunday consider offering a Thanksgiving for Baptism instead of Confession? In Evangelical Lutheran Worship (p. 97) part of this thanksgiving includes these words:
We praise you for the gift of water that sustains life,
and above all we praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ.
Shower us with your Spirit,
and renew our lives with your forgiveness, grace, and love.
Shower us with your Spirit. Sure sounds like we’re asking for the Holy Spirit to help us walk wet in this world! Sure sounds like we expect something to happen! Yes, we say that we expect to have our lives renewed. Do we? Can we? Will we?
Together, as God’s beloved people, as Christ’s body here on earth, we are sent to wade into the world’s troubled waters, emboldened by the Holy Spirit to love and serve our neighbors. Let’s make this the year to be all in and to go forth boldly and faithfully. It’s bound to be quite a ride with that wild goose Spirit on the loose!
Consider surrounding your font with as many candles as possible to provide a visual bridge from Epiphany’s light to the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord. If possible give each worshiper a goose quill feather as a reminder of the gift of the Holy Spirit that is given in baptism. Goose feathers can be purchased quite inexpensively at craft stores or ordered online. You might also want to share a little of the story of why Celtic Christians used the image of a wild goose to visualize the Holy Spirit. Click here for a brief explanation and here for a longer essay worth exploring.
Explore the Old Testament lesson from Genesis. Invite the youth to use art, video, drama, or poetry to give image and voice to these five verses. How do they envision God creating something from nothing—from a formless void? You might even use the Big Bang Theory to hold in tension with God “speaking” creation into being. Share the results of their work with the congregation through social media, the website, or in worship.
Have you ever been in a place that is so dark that you can’t see anything? That can be quite unsettling and frightening! Aside from caves like Mammoth Cave in Kentucky or Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, very few places on earth are ever completely dark. It doesn’t, however, take much light to dispel the dark. A flashlight or candle can quite easily break the darkness. Epiphany is a special day that reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. Wise men followed a star to find him, and their lives were forever changed. Our lives are also forever changed because of Jesus’ love for us. Give each child a candle with instructions to take it home and with their parents or other adults to use it to light a dark room to remind us that Jesus’ love dispels darkness and gives hope and light. Finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
How do you understand your identity as a Christian? Do you remember your baptism daily and give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit that is yours? Why not make 2018 the year to be a better steward of your baptismal identity as a beloved child of God called to wade wet in this world?
Stewardship at Home
Do you celebrate your baptismal birthday each year? If not, make 2018 the year that you will light a candle and affirm your baptismal promises. Take a photo every year as a reminder of how we grow and change. Instead of receiving gifts on your baptismal birthday, find ways to give to others.
Photos: Larry Smith, Jacob Spinks, and Waiting for the Word, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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