Saturday, January 11, 2014
Shortly after Christmas, I was sent a photo of the recent baptism of Autumn. At the end of baptisms, I routinely lift up the child baptized and invite the congregation to welcome this precious life with all the warmth and joy that is in us. On this day, someone captured this moment.
As I lifted the child, the camera caught the instant when light from the sanctuary windows enveloped the little girl in a veil of light.
Her eyes were wide open and fixed on me. I was smiling, as I am sure Autumn's family was smiling … the same way that God smiles on Jesus at his baptism and calls him ‘beloved,’ the one with whom he is well pleased.
This was a graced moment of joy, holding a tender child in the fullness of love and delight for a precious new life.
It is also how the heavenly Father sees Jesus.
I wonder where Jesus was looking at the moment of his baptism. Heavenward, perhaps. Where ever he was looking his heart was attuned to the heavenly father whose love enveloped him and filled his consciousness.
It was an identity moment, a moment when Jesus knew exactly who he was. He knew he was filled with the substance of God. He was filled with the joy and delight, the love and heart of the Source of the Universe.
It was an identity moment, too, for the precious life that I lifted that Sunday into the light of God’s grace, a moment when there is no doubt: This life is known and loved from the depth of the heart of God and always will be.
This is a life the Holy One treasures and will seek every day of her life. This is a life rapt in a love we shall never understand, a love that says not even death can snatch her from me.
“You are mine and I am yours,” Christ said on the day of her baptism… and on the day of your baptism.
You are the child, the man, the woman who is wanted and sought, treasured and held in the light of a love that refuses to let you go. Child of God, this is your identity.
This is the identity Jesus came to shape so deeply in your mind and heart that you live everyday feeling the veil of God’s love enveloping your life, so that this light and love may be the face with which you meet ever moment of your days.
Powerful social forces and billions of dollars spent in our commercial culture tell us we are not acceptable unless we are thin enough, strong enough, fit enough, successful enough, rich enough, popular enough, beautiful enough, young enough, smart enough or hip enough.
But we do not know ourselves, our identities, until we see and feel ourselves as this little child baptized and held, surrounded by the light of God. We don’t get it until we hear the heavenly Father’s voice saying, “You are my child, the beloved.”
That voice is for Jesus and the mission he carried out revealing God’s kingdom and heart. But it is for you, too, for his mission is to bring you into the same relationship with the heavenly Father as he shared.
As he knew himself as beloved of God, so are we to know ourselves as God’s beloved. As God used him to change the world, so are we to understand ourselves as beloved souls God will use to change the world.
This is your identity, the identity Jesus comes to give you.
You are God’s child, worthy of love and respect. God will use you to change the world.
Pr. David L. Miller
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
For years this baptism of the Holy Spirit was a mystery to me, and to some extent it always will be. In my mind, Pentecostal Christians had cornered the market on this language.
For them, this baptism looked like the Day of Pentecost, people speaking in different languages, exuberant displays of unexplainable supernatural gifts of healing and interpretation, highly emotional expressions of prayer and praise, fire and brimstone.
As a teen, my Illinois village had a storefront church for a short time. Sometimes I dropped in their mid-week prayer meeting where I was repeatedly told that if I didn’t speak in tongues or show some sign of baptism in the Spirit, “you will burn.” The fires of Hell were being stoked for people like me.
But Jesus didn’t speak in tongues. He certainly healed, but I don’t think this is the heart of what it means to be baptized in the Spirit, as Jesus was.
And it is a matter of heart.
We cannot know the secrets of Jesus’ inner life, but we do know he shared a deep and abiding intimacy with the heavenly Father. They abided together in his heart as one, a loving unity which was the source of Jesus compassion and wisdom, his peace and his power.
We know he retreated into solitude to savor this unity that likely required no words. The fact that his disciples asked to be taught a prayer probably means they had not--or only seldom-- heard him pray aloud.
Perhaps Jesus prayer was this quiet awareness of the Father’s abiding in his depths.
Baptism in the Spirit is immersion into this unity that Jesus shared with the heavenly father.
It is the gift of this deep and intense relationship of mutual love with the Father in which his heart transforms our hearts, so that his will and ours are one, a unity of loving and passionate purpose.
This is a gift not once given but is sought daily. We entered it again and again in open-hearted prayer and live it out in the mundane details of the day.
Pr. David L. Miller