Family, Fire, Responsibility
“Family, Fire Responsibility”
January 9th, 2022
Acts 8:14-17 & Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘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. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
From the gospel of Luke: “And a voice from heaven was heard saying this is my beloved son, in him I am well pleased.”
Good morning, I am Tom Carney. For over 40 years I have been a United Methodist Pastor in the New York Annual Conference. I am honored to be here and to be filling in for Pastor Anna this morning.
Pastor forewarned us last week. First that I would be here and secondly that the church year would propel us into the future.
Last week we were celebrating Epiphany. We were there in Bethlehem with those members of a caravan from the east presenting the baby Jesus with three gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh gifts for a king, for the divine and for a mortal man.
This week we are at the Jordan. We are at Jesus’ baptism and it is at least 30 years later.
Thirty years have passed in just a week. So to speak.
This morning I would like to talk about the two scriptures for today that talk of Jesus’ baptism and early baptism in the church. I would like to talk about our own baptisms and our present day practice of baptism and the meaning in our baptism.
I asked the Bible study this past week what jumps out at you all from Luke’s baptism story. For me the line that jumps out is this moment when a voice from heaven is heard saying, “This is my beloved child.”
Those at the river see the Holy Spirit descending from heaven in bodily form and they hear this divine voice, “This is my beloved Son.”
I heard a story at a church meeting recently. A member of this church said he recently had a challenging question posed of him as we all do from time to time. The question was “Do you really believe Jesus was the son of God?” And he said he replied, “We are all the children of God." I love it. For at the heart of baptism is the concept of family/ the human family. You are God’s beloved children. We are Gods beloved family the human family.
I sang an anthem decades ago. It was called “ You are my brother Lord,” The words went something like this, “You are my brother Lord. You are my Fathers son.”
We are in the family of Jesus our brother kind and good. God is our source. God is our divine parent.
Now how about this story from Acts? Word came to the disciples that the Samaritans were embracing Christianity. Now you may recall that Jews and Samaritans did not exactly get along. The early church hears the news of the Samaritan baptism and they question “Are these Samaritan baptisms genuine?”
And so Peter and John set out for Samaria to see if their baptisms were genuine. Are the Samaritans baptized beyond water baptism? Are they baptized with the spirit?
It says in the Luke scripture that John the Baptist declares “I baptize with water but one is coming after me who who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,”
How about you? Are you baptized with the spirit? Can others tell that the love of Jesus burns within you like fire?
I had a poster hanging in my dormitory room decades ago that read “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
How about you? Does the love of Christ burn brightly in your heart?
I would like to close with a story. I believe it is a story by Harry Emerson Fosdick. It was shared with me with the title “Saved at every Revival,”
When we celebrate a baptism here in this church, we vow to uphold the parents of the child being baptized to uphold them in keeping their baptismal vows to pass on the faith? And we vow to live before the child a life that becomes the gospel. We vow to nurture each other in the faith.
Along with those vows come responsibility. We all have a responsibility to nurture each other in the faith. And we have the right to expect to have our faith nurtured by our fellow church members.
Back to the closing story. Harry was, for lack of a nicer description, the town drunk. Most Sunday mornings you would find him in the gutter sleeping off Saturday night. He never shaved. Rarely bathed.
Except!!!! Except when the summer revival came to town.
First night of the revival Harry would go down to the altar. They would lay hands on him and he would be a changed man. The next morning he was clean shaven sober and wearing a new suit of clothes. He was ready to be a new man.
But the people pointed and laughed and said, "It won’t last.”
And it didn’t. It wasn’t long before Harry was back in the gutter.
But Fosdick would pose this question. Who wasn’t saved? In reality who wasn’t changed? Harry or the good townsfolk, those good folk who would never see Harry as saved, who would never see him as anything but the town drunk?
We have the responsibility to nurture each other into wholeness and into faith?
It says in the 1988 hymnal “Remember your baptismal and be grateful.
Are you grateful that you are one adopted with love into this human family?
Are you grateful that you can grow in the spirit like a fire burning more brightly today that you did yesterday?
Are you grateful that we are here to nurture each other and uphold one another in the faith?
Remember your baptism, today and always, and be thankful.