1 Epiphany: Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord: when Jesus shows up at the place where John the Baptist is baptizing people. John baptizes him, and then the dove shows up and tells him, “You are my Son, the beloved: with you I am well pleased”. Jesus really hasn’t done anything special, but God is pleased with him nevertheless. This strikes me as something we might all ponder: God can be pleased with us just as we are.
But I’m more interested in the nature of baptism here. The crowds have begun to wonder if John is the Messiah, but he quickly tells them he isn’t. He makes a distinction: he baptizes with water, while the Messiah will baptize with the “Holy Spirit and fire”. A similar distinction between types of baptism is made in the book of Acts: Samaria had accepted the “word of God,” and had been baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus”. But they had not received the Holy Spirit. Peter and John are sent to pray for them “that they might receive the Holy Spirit”.
This distinction, between baptism in the name of the Lord and receiving the Holy Spirit is interesting. It frames thinking about faith as an ongoing process: we start with being baptized with water, becoming part of the family. That is indeed a singular process. But the rest isn’t. Somewhere along the line, we receive the Holy Spirit. But for me at least, it’s not as dramatic as what is described in Luke. The work of the Holy Spirit is not a one time thing, but an ongoing process. I think I’ve got it figured out, and then something happens, and the Spirit pushes me somewhere new. The Holy Spirit is moving, in our lives and in the world.