Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Preparing for the Baptism of our Lord Sunday - Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43  Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism  35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.  36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached--  38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.  39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree,  40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.  41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-- by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.  43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

In our prophetic text earlier this week from Isaiah, we witnessed a connection being made between the anointing of the spirit and acts of service - specifically service that involves justice.  In our text for today, we witness Peter linking the anointing of Jesus by the Holy Spirit with powerful acts of healing and doing good.  And while I believe that there is something to be said about the consistency of God's anointing (in purpose and praxis), I think there is another message we often skim over in this text.

Simply put, praying through this text as it is written in the NIV, I keep seeing and hearing the words 'men from every nation' and 'everyone.'  There is something about our human nature - something in the dark nights of our souls - something worldly and not of God - that sometimes calls us to question or say, "yeah, but what about me?"  We see murderers, adulterers, thieves and worse all saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, but if we are honest about it, we sometimes question if that salvation is for us as well.  I find great assurance in Peter's words that God accepts men from all nations who fear him and that he doesn't show favoritism among his children.  From the time of the prophets, to the time of Peter, to the current day with my own preaching and teaching ministries, I am comforted by the words, 'everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'  For some one like me, that is really good news indeed.

But I think there is a deeper point that these texts are building toward.  Yes, I can accept Christ.  Yes, I can believe in his sacrifice for me and trust that my sins are forgiven and my future is secure.  BUT...but, am I willing and ready to accept (and receive) the full anointing of God?  Am I prepared to be so abandoned to God that mighty and powerful acts of healing and justice might be done through me?  Am I?  Are you?

I know that us Methodists used to be among the most charismatic Christians in existence.  I know that we have lost that over the last hundred years.  I know that people's experience (both real and perceived) with other spiritual traditions may have scared them away from discussion of the Holy Spirit and/or God's anointing.  I believe that it is time for us to lean in and say come Holy Spirit, come!  I believe that there needs to be a rekindling of that holy fire within us.  And I believe, as we prepare for the baptism of our Lord and we remember our own baptism, we may be called to look more deeply at the Holy Spirit's work within us.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. 

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