Wednesday, January 15, 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 by 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 enter it again and again in open-hearted prayer and live it out in the mundane details of the day.
Pr. David L. Miller
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
In Jesus presence--and in the presence of the sacraments of Jesus, separation is disappears. Sin is removed.
Sin is a power in our lives. It not so much bad or evil things that human beings do, as it is the cold distance between us and the warm heart of God.
It is the condition of not dwelling within the personal knowledge of God’s grace and blessing. Within the arc of grace, we know ourselves and our world as beloved and holy, a place where we and all things are made to glorify and praise God. All creation is a gift for sharing.
Freedom appears in Jesus presence. The heart expands, no longer confined by its ordinary anxieties.
It is like standing on a hill and taking in a broad and beautiful landscape that enlarges your vision and allows you to breathe deeply. Hills rise and fall before your eyes, and your heart reaches out to take it in.
You feel as expansive and broad as the scene before you. Freedom fills you, and you are no longer hemmed in, held down by narrow vision and expectations. The constriction of anxiety about yourself, your performance, about tomorrow or the troubles of the day fade away.
You are in a gracious place where their power wanes, and you feel joy and gratitude that is naturally shared with whomever is near.
This is what it is like when the power of sin is taken away. This is what happens in the presence of Jesus--and in the presence of the community who truly knows him.
There are people who truly know Jesus and in whose presence we know the power of Jesus taking away the power of sin in our lives, which is why we hunger for their nearness. It is also why I am drawn to small groups that gather to pray and talk, welcoming each others joys and sorrows.
They are sacraments of Jesus, a circle of Jesus presence that takes away the sin of the world, eliminating the separation from the heavenly Father, and coaxing us to enter our humanity once more in freedom and joy.
Pr. David L. Miller