Following Jesus always involves a little two-step dance. For United Methodists and many others, baptism is one step—especially baptism for those “unable to answer for themselves,” typically babies. And then ten or fifteen years later comes confirmation—those weeks of studying with the pastor (or some other official teacher) about scripture, tradition, experience, and reason—and our part in the journey of faith. This brings us to Confirmation Sunday when we promise to believe and do the things that were promised on our behalf when we were “unable to answer.” Being United Methodist is a little like the Samaritan way. We are “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” but reception of the Holy Spirit comes later, perhaps at confirmation.
Most of the Christian way is this way. Some days we live as those filled with the Holy Spirit, on fire with a desire to serve God by serving our neighbor. We eagerly mine scripture for inspiration and instruction. We share our convictions with anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. On other days we read the Bible because it’s expected of us, but it holds no more joy than reading the dictionary. We have no energy to work for justice, barely enough energy to wash the dishes and walk the dog. And peace—well, that’s just so hard to find in the face of so much greed and fear.
The beauty of our faith claims, however, is that we don’t have to dance both steps at the same time. Sometimes others live faithfully on our behalf. We are part of a larger community of faith and a greater communion of saints. Any day now, faithful people will join us, pray with us, and lay hands on us until we feel the Holy Spirit welling within us, ready to shine for all the world to see. In the meantime, it is enough to live faithfully.
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace?” (Baptismal Covenant I, The United Methodist Book of Worship).
Water is an important theme throughout the Bible. The authors of scripture use water as an image of transition and sometimes challenge, and they tie it back to God’s renewing work. Isaiah records the divine promise that God will not abandon Israel, even if they pass through trying waters—a reference to the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians. The psalmist declares that God’s voice covers all the waters, so nothing can come against us that is beyond God’s reach. In Acts we see the connection between baptism—passing through the water—and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is on the inclusion of the Samaritans, a group considered unclean by many but not by God. We see clearly the connection between water baptism and the Spirit in the baptism of Jesus himself.
Read Isaiah 43:1-7. Isaiah presents an image of God’s favor that is at once particular and universal. How do you experience God’s love for you and for all persons as part of the body of Christ?
Read Psalm 29. God’s creation, in its wildness, incorporates destruction. In the face of disaster, how do you find a way to say, “Glory”?
Read Acts 8:14-17. Our baptism is in the name of Jesus and the name of the Spirit. To what wildness does the Spirit prompt you?
Read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. Remember your baptism and listen for God’s call out into the wildness of the world.
Respond by posting a prayer.