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Gospel Reflection for June 24, 2018, Birth of John the Baptist

18 Jun

Gospel Reflection for June 24, 2018, Birth of John the Baptist

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 49.1-6; Acts 13.22-26; Luke 1.57-66, 80

On the eighth day Elizabeth and Zachariah came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after Zachariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name. Then they began to motion to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed and he began to speak, praising God.  – Luke 1.59-64

John is not unique in having God at work in his early life to prepare him for his vocation. John is not to follow his father into service as a priest of the temple. He lives apart from his culture and family and walks with God in the desert. He cultivates an awareness of God at work in him. In fewer than 30 words, Sunday’s gospel characterizes John’s 30 years of life prior to his public ministry as becoming “strong in spirit.” He needs strength for his prophetic vocation of preparing Jesus way. John offers us a model for activating the prophetic vocation that comes with our baptisms.

What strength of spirit do you have? Who challenges you to live gospel values?


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Gospel Reflection for January 10, 2016, Baptism of the Lord

5 Jan

Sunday Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11; Titus 2.11-14, 3.4-7; Luke 3.15-16, 21-22

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

(Luke 3.16)

After the exile in Babylon many people return to the land of Israel, rebuild their city and temple, and revive their worship. Then Greek and Roman conquerors arrive, threatening the temple and the people’s religious identity. By the time of John the Baptist, people wonder where to look for salvation. If God’s salvation isn’t able to come through the land, or the king, or temple worship, or the law, then how and where will it come?

Into this very unsettled state of affairs arrives John the Baptist. No one works with greater zeal and tirelessness than John to make the people ready to welcome the messiah. He insists that God’s savior is near at hand and prods the people to keep looking. At his baptism Jesus comes out of the waters to be blessed by the Spirit and voice of God in his mission as servant and Son.

What do our baptisms empower? What does this action call us to live out? To what does it set fire in us?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Love Made Seen

30 Oct
Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

I’m a sucker for the sacraments. They always make me cry. If done well, it really is Christ’s love made tangible in this place.

On Sunday our ninth graders got confirmed. I was asked to address them, so I had put a lot of time, into thinking about this specific group of young people and what it meant that they were affirming their baptismal promises. The fall of ninth grade is this very tender time for young people. They are thrilled about being in high school, but it still feels a bit foreign and intimidating. They are starting to cleave from their parents and find closeness with their peers. And at this particular moment, the church asks them to affirm the promises God made them in baptism. In this raw and vulnerable season of identity formation and growth, body changes and friend shifting, they acknowledge that God loves them no matter what. I looked them in the eye as I addressed them, hoping their hearts were open to hear:

Most of you probably don’t remember, but some crazy things happened at your baptism. Mainly, you were doused with water and God promised you that you’d be loved forever no matter what. With three dips in the font God whispered, “I love you. You belong. You matter.” Then the people who gathered looked at you, the one with the wet head and said, “Welcome to the family, kid.”

You showed up today. After taking another look at what God promised you in baptism, you’re here to affirm that. In a way you are saying, “Yep, I know the world thinks that what happened at my baptism was a little odd. I don’t know if I always believe all this stuff, but I’m here. I’m here for the ride because there is truth in these stories of ours and this community, this rag tag quirky community is home.

And the church is pretty smart to ask you to come back and look at these baptismal promises again right around now because, well, you are going to start needing them now maybe more than ever. The world is gonna keep telling you over and over and over again that you don’t matter unless you buy more makeup, grow taller, date the right person, graduate from the right college, make more money and above all, have a stellar following to follower ratio on Instagram. Most days the voices whisper these things again and again—you are insignificant, you are not enough. Other days the voices shout, “Be more, Be better!” It takes courage to be here, to study even the stories that don’t make sense and be critical of this human institution from the inside and commit to a life that does not put yourself at the center of the universe all the time. It is brave to believe in something. It is a risk to love. It is subversive to deny these whispering voices and stand in the truth that you are loved indeed. That you are, in fact, enough. That you do belong and you do matter.

You might be standing in the corner shaking your head and rolling your eyes internally just a little. You may be front and center singing your heart out. Maybe, like Jacob, your struggles are so visceral right now it feels like you are literally wrestling with God. Either way. God loves you like crazy whether you want God to or not. God is all wrapped up in your story. And when your story stops making sense, God will be there, and so will we.

Then they came up one by one, and their families and friends laid hands on them while they were prayed over. When else would this ever happen? And now, when the ninth graders may need it the most. For some young people, twenty others came up with them and put a hand on their head or shoulder, standing with them saying, “We love you. We are here for you.” Even thought they may be looking toward their peers for approval more so than their family, the families won’t let them forget, “You are loved. You belong. You matter.”

I sat and watched, one after another, families lay hands on the ninth graders. I cried, watching Christ’ love be made seen in this time and in this place. That’s the power of ritual, a break in the ordinary to reflect on the extraordinary love of God.

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