Baptism of Christ -Transition 10 January 2021
Readings: Gen 1:1-5 Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11
I didn’t sleep on Wednesday night, the images were too stark. The sight of the so called free world’s leading nation reduced to anarchy in the transition of power from one party to another was unimaginable. How the authoritarian regimes must have rubbed their hands in glee. At the same time across the other side of the world in Hong Kong we see another transition, from democracy to an authoritarian regime with many paying the price of their freedom who stand in its way. We as a nation are in a state of transition with fundamental issues that will lead us to a different place and change all of our lives as we face the big three of Climate, Covid and Brexit. It would be nice to think that these transitions have come about by humankind working together for the good of all, but in truth we know the opposite is the case. Yet as Christians we also know that the living God is still in control of his world, moving us on to the new heaven and earth, we thought about on Advent Sunday.
In our readings today: in the Creation Story, in the Baptism of Christ, and in the birth of the early church we see points of transition brought about by the work of the Third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit of God. This transition however, is entirely for good, leading us always to a better place. Let’s look at these transition points and see what we can learn.
First in the creation narrative.
How do you define nothingness? We can’t, our image is of the absence of things that we can picture and describe but that is different from the nothingness before creation. The bible uses words like empty and formless and darkness to describe a sense of utter absence. It’s saying without God there is NOTHING! But God comes into this nothingness by his Spirit and speaks. ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT’. At once God begins to give sense to the world making it intelligible, imaginable through use of Language. So the God of love transitions the world from nothing to something. He brings form and order lovingly crafted, in anticipation of communion with himself. Rather like a mother speaks to her unborn child in loving anticipation. Let there be light and there was light.
In the life of Christ we see the Holy Spirit at work in the transition points of his journey here on earth.
i)We have just celebrated at Christmas the work of the Holy Spirit in the conception and birth of Jesus, as he empties himself of his glory and power and becomes a human being with all its’ frailty, and dependence, and need for growth. We know little of the Spirit’s work in his childhood years, except at 12 we are told he was in the Temple listening to the wise and growing in grace and wisdom. However, we do know that his cousin John the Baptist was filled with the spirit from birth and as the forerunner to Christ obviously had been given extraordinary power in bringing people to repentance and preparing the way for Jesus.
ii) But now as Christ comes to John at the river Jordan to be baptised, we come to another transition point, as he submits to John’s baptism. He emerges from the water, the Holy Spirit comes down upon him and he is baptised by the Holy Spirit. The voice of God assures him ‘You are my son; whom I love, with you I am well pleased’. He now knows himself to be the anointed one, the Christ of God, the Messiah, his identity is clear. Now he begins to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah : ‘to preach good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, sight to the blind, release to the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. And from now on all through his life we are reminded in the bible that the miracles Jesus performed were by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was in the power of the holy spirit that he confronted the devil, healed the sick, drove out demons and declared the kingdom of God.
iii) In the next transition Christ dies is raised by God and ascends to the Father in Heaven. And we read in Acts 2:32&33 in Peter’s famous speech at Pentecost ‘God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.’
3. THE CHURCH
What were the disciples told to do by Jesus after his resurrection and ascension? To wait, for the promise of the Father which he had spoken to them of previously, the coming of the Holy Spirit, this is what the people in Jerusalem at that Pentecost Feast could now see and hear as the disciples were filled with praise and joy, as they received the promised Holy Spirit.
Here is the next transition, things had changed on earth, they were entering a new world, the world of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the Lord was now upon them, they too after being with Jesus, would become like Jesus and do what Jesus did. And so God’s church, men and women boys and girls, are imbued by the Spirit of God to continue the work of Christ the anointed one, – as we now become the anointed ones.
Yes we who have fallen short of the glory of God are now being transitioned into a glorious people by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Listen to Paul writing to the Corinthian church. He had spoken of Moses meeting with God, and his glory had shone in his face. He wore a veil to protect others from that glory, but the glory was fading fast and the veil was now used to cover the fading glory. Paul says:-
‘But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And WE who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’
That work of the Spirit is transitioning us from this world to the next.
Some of us were able to be at Joan Peaston’s memorial service on Friday. What a wonderful person so full of love for the Lord, his church his people, so full of joy and thanksgiving such contentment in God. She had practically nothing in this world, yet had everything, she had the spirit of the Lord in abundance and has transitioned, praise God.
We are in the season of epiphany. When we see something truly for the first time, it is an epiphany.
I can remember studying Maths at school and really struggling and struggling in the sixth form. Until one day I began to get it, I actually started to enjoy Maths, why? Because I could do it!! It was an Epiphany!!!
Fast forward a number of years I was 27 . I had attended church since from quite a young age and sang in the choir with my mate Mick I was later confirmed and had kept up a vague pretence of being on God’s side. However, I barely had a hold on what it meant to be a Christian and had little knowledge of or desire to read the bible, despite years of church attendance. Then one day I was challenged by some young Christians about the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Thank God for their boldness and confidence in God, though I didn’t thank them at the time! Well to cut a long story short I asked for prayer to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I wanted a more authentic Christian life. I reached out in faith, because without faith God can do nothing, and I received the Spirit in quite a powerful way and was actually quite overwhelmed, with a joy and a desire to know god more and to have more of God in my life. This was my epiphany, suddenly I began to see things differently, God became more real. It was as if God had said to me ‘Peter you are a beloved son, I’m pleased that you came to me, I can use you.’
God commands let there be light, and the Spirit moves to make something out of nothing.
God sends his Son into the world to a light to the Gentiles born by the work of the Spirit.
God sends the Holy Spirit onto his Son to show and declare the mighty works of God and let in the light.
God sends the Spirit into the lives of his disciples so that the work of Christ may continue and keep the light shining until he returns in glory.
God transitioning us from this world to the next, in his mighty plan of salvation.
Jesus needed the Holy Spirit, I need the Holy Spirit, you need the Holy Spirit, the world needs the Holy Spirit. This is where our future lies. But we need to ask in faith, for God goes only where he is invited.
In the words of John ‘And as many as received him to those who believed in his name gave he power to become children of God.’
I am going to be bold with you this morning just like those young men were with me. Have you asked God the Holy Spirit to come into your life in all his fullness? If you can sense a movement of God, a dissatisfaction, calling you to a deeper life do not resist. It may not come again. Simply reach out in faith and ask God to fill you with his spirit and know the joy and peace and strength that he longs to give you, even and especially through these difficult days of transition. Amen.