Archive | February 2016

A Higher Calling

February 28, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Third Sunday of Lent

“The High Way”

Adapted Sermon Series

 by Marcia McPhee

“The Way”

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 139: 1-18

Acts 10:9-16

 “A “Higher” Calling”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah, chapter Fifty-Five, verses one thru nine…listen to the Word’s of Life from God to you and me, pilgrims on a journey…

 

Eating for free…getting to drink without a cost…buying something for nothing…why that is completely absurd…you can’t get something for nothing. In the world we live…we tend to think that if it doesn’t cost there must be some sort of catch. There must be some sort of hidden agenda if I am being offered something that I need for free.

 

We, as humankind, seem to think we have everything all figured out. We tend to think that we know it all and at times just close our ears and eyes to a new way of thinking. Remember…we have it all figured out. Or do we? Is there another way that we do not perceive? Is there a “higher calling” on our lives as Christ followers?

 

We are continuing our Lenten pilgrimage to the cross. During this journey we will bring Marcia McPhee with us as we look at her sermon series “The Way”. We are going to be looking at the different “ways” or paths that we take in life. My prayer is that as we journey together we will help each other and those in our lives find “the way”.

 

We began this pilgrimage on Ash Wednesday as we talked about “the way back”… taking a u-turn so to speak…back towards God…back to the relationship that God intended from the very beginning. We have talked about “the wandering way”…As Marcia McPhee would put it…when we walk through that maze trying to find the way to the right path instead of hitting those walls of a wrong turn. Last week we talked about “the way around” when Erica told us about how we need to follow God’s plan in our life and sometimes we need to make a way around those in our lives that would try to tell us different.

 

So, the question I asked was “do we as Christ followers have a higher calling in our lives? Do we understand differently than those who are not Christ followers? And if we have a higher calling in our lives what does that look like?”

 

So…how sure can we be the scripture from Isaiah I read this morning gives us food for thought. God offers us living water when we thirst, the bread of heaven when we hunger, and all of this for free. Well it is free because Jesus paid the price for us to come to the table and be fed. So technically it did cost but God offers us the result of that cost for free.

So God offers all of this for free…even if we, as creation, do not understand why the Creator would do such a thing. Now here’s the question…because we follow Jesus, should we offer to others a place at the table, as we are offered, for that same price? Does God expect us to accept the higher calling on our lives to invite others to the table for the same price that we pay? Do we follow the thought process of the world or the thought process of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

 

Peter, The Rock, thought he had it all figured out. He followed the rules and regulations of God and he did it with all that he was. But one day, he was shown a blind side so to speak. He was living a life that had exclusion in it even though he thought that he had it all figured out. Listen as I read Acts ten, nine thru sixteen. This reminds us of a high calling and thought process that we are challenged…commissioned to live…

9 The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; 11 and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Not at all, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and [ceremonially] unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).” 16 This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven.

 

Peter thought he had it all figured out but God had a different plan. The vision was not so much about food as it was about exclusion. Peter followed all the rules but he had this blind side that God needed to illuminate. He told God that he had never broken the “rule of man” and God showed him a better way. We too at times can be blindsided and need to have the blinders taken off to restore our vision.

 

We are taught that everything costs. But our ways are not God’s ways, praise God. It is a higher way that we are called. We are all invited to the table of Grace without price. This is our higher way in which we are to embody others. Hospitality is the way. Now here’s the thought provoking, higher way thought…even when we do not agree on everything, we are still one family at one table.

 

Is God trying to lower the sheet before your eyes to show you something new? Is God trying to spring up a new thing in your life but you are blinded by the way you think? Do you want to follow the Light of the world but the world is clouding your view? Then have I a deal for you. It costs you nothing but it will be more rewarding than all the glitter and glimmer of the world. Taste and see that the Lord is good and He will give you new eyes to see a higher way, a new heart that beats only for Him and a new song in your soul. Try it…I assure you that you will like it…

 

Amen

I Am-A-Mazed

February 14, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

First Sunday of Lent

“The Way”

Adapted Sermon Series

 by Marcia McPhee

“The Wandering Way”

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Luke 1:46-49

Luke 4:1-2

Luke 15:11-32

 “I Am A-Maze-D…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the Gospel of Luke, chapter four, verses one and two…listen to the Word’s of Life from God to you and me, pilgrims on a journey…

 

Have you ever walk through a maze? I have done several of them and boy are they confusing. You think you have it figured out and then you wind up at a dead end. So you back track to see if you can figure out where you went wrong. It is so good to get to the end of it because all the confusion has left and all you see is the exit. Ok…spoiler alert…if you keep you left hand on the wall…and keep following it…you find your way out…

 

Life itself can feel like a maze. You twist and turn trying the best you can to find your way through life and then it happens. You hit a dead end. Speak of some of those dead ends we come up against. You may think to yourself “how am I going to get out of this maze? When am I going to find the end? Where is the exit door? Am I lost forever never to return to the land of the living”?

 

We have begun our Lenten pilgrimage to the cross. During this journey we will bring Marcia McPhee with us as we look at her sermon series “The Way”. We are going to be looking at the different “ways” or paths that we take in life. My prayer is that as we journey together we will help each other and those in our lives find our way.

 

We began it last Wednesday as we realized that Ash Wednesday is “the way back”…we are taking a u-turn so to speak…back towards God…back to the relationship that God intended from the very beginning. In Ash Wednesday we are called to “repentance” which means to turn around and head in a new direction.

 

But there are times that we take “the wandering way”…As Marcia McPhee would put it…we walk through that maze and search for the way out…the way to the right path instead of hitting those walls of a wrong turn. How can we turn around and leave this wandering way? How can we know the way is wrong before we even begin?

 

I think part of the answer is in what Jesus did in the desert from the Luke piece this morning. Jesus was lead by the Spirit and wandered in the desert. He became hungry…as would everyone who was wandering for days on end…when we wander we to get hungry…hungry for something that will lead us out…hungry for that which is missing that caused us to wandering the first place… The first thing He was tempted with was his hunger…the next was His ego and the last was His faith in God. But every time He was tempted He answered with the Word of God. It is in the Word of God we find our strength to keep on “the way”…it is through the Word of God that we are filled…it is in the relationship with God we find our reason for living…it is the faith in God that will bring us back from the maze into His amazing love and light…

 

So…how sure can we be that God would accept us back after we have wandered? Have we wander too far and can’t come back? Is God so mad at us that He will not even look at us and turn His back? Are all who wander lost for good? Have you ever heard the story of the prodigal son…you know the one who wandered off on his own? Let me paraphrase the story for you…paraphrase the prodigal son story

 

Is there a way home…can we make a u-turn…can we get out of the maze we are in? Yes…praise God YES! He is there watching and waiting for our figure on the horizon. He is waiting for us to come home. He is ready to put the robe of righteousness through Christ Jesus on us to warm us from the bitter cold of wandering. He wants to put the signet ring…the seal of the Holy Spirit…upon us that is sealed by the blood of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

Are you in need of making a u-turn in your life? Are you needing a way to get out of the maze and become a-maze-d by the power and love of our awesome God? Come…find your way home…come and satisfy your wanderings hunger…come to the foot of Calvary and live…

 

Amen

Metamorphosisize

February 7, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Sixth Sunday of the New Year

“Transfiguration Sunday”

Scouting Sunday

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Ephesians 5:1-2

Romans 12:1-2

Luke 9:28-36

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Metamorphosisize?”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the Gospel of Luke, chapter nine, verses twenty-eight through thirty-six…listen to the Word’s of Life from God to you and me, new creations in Christ…

 

How many of you have ever heard of Transformers? They are pretty cool. They are one thing at one moment and then something completely different the next. They kind of morph…so to speak…from one thing to the next. I think it would be pretty cool to be a transformer. I could be completely changed from one thing to the next in the blink of an eye…

 

Most times change or metamorphosisizing…that’s right, I made up my own word… takes a long time. Look at the butterfly; it takes a long time for it to become a beautiful feather on the wind. They start out as a caterpillar crawling on the ground. They live like that for a while and then it is time to begin the metamorphose of their lives. They crawl up a tree and cocoon themselves…can you imagine how they must feel. It must feel like have passed before they get to this point. Then they wait…morphing…changing until one day they break free and are the beautiful creatures we get to enjoy as fly on the wind displaying Gods beauty for all to see.

 

This whole Metamorphosisizing…what would it look like in our lives if we too could change from one thing to the next? How can we transform ourselves into something that is yet to be?

 

OK…so, we have epiphanies, about who God is as we remember our baptism when we remember also Jesus’ baptism in the waters of the Jordan River. As we sit by the well of God’s never ending goodness we can drink deep of the life-giving water resting assured that God is always there even if we don’t perceive His presence as we travel the road of least resistance…that being the road of God not of man. As we follow that road we will be transformed…transfigured into who God has created us to be.

 

Wait…wait…transformed…transfigured? What is that all about? I kind of like who I am already and now I am going to be transformed? It’s OK…it only hurts a little…

 

Today…in the Christian Calendar…we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday. This is the last Sunday of the year that is right before we begin the pilgrimage of Lent…how interesting that we celebrate this Sunday now just before Jesus transfigured the world with His sacrifice on the cross for ALL of humanity…

 

As I read the Luke scripture that talks about Jesus being transfigured I can only imagine what the disciples that were with Him thought. Jesus’ appearance changed and it may have been a little scary for them. All the sudden He shined with all this light around Him and His clothing was probably so bright they had a hard time focusing on the scene before them. Then Moses and Elijah showed up and they were shining pretty well themselves with glory. Then the voice…the voice from the cloud…the voice of God telling them who Jesus was and that they should do as He has taught them to do…how frightened and awed at the same time they must have been?

 

Change can be scary at times but in most cases…change for the better…change for our purpose…change for God is better than changing for the world… Romans 12:1-2 tells us:

 

12 [a]Therefore I urge you, [b]brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be [c]transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].(AMP)

 

We change because we are thankful and worship God for all He has done…is doing…or will ever do. It truly is an act of worship to and for Him. By turning from the world…making that change…that shift of our focus…we will hear God…we will know His will for our lives…we will shut out the noise and listen to the quiet voice of love and mercy.

 

Jesus showed humanity the way. He was the original but the world was and is not one to play “follow the leader”. Humanity seems to think that in order to be affective you need to “reinvent the wheel.” But the way of Christ followers is something completely different. Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us:

 

“Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; 2 and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.”

 

We have it easy…all we have to do is to follow what Jesus did in His ministry. We don’t have to change anything…just follow what is already written. All we have to do is to do is love others and love God as Jesus did. As a matter of fact…Jesus loved and honored God so much that He didn’t think of Himself equal to God and emptied Himself of His deity and became a fragrant offering for something that He didn’t do but what humanity did and still continues to do. It really is that simple…allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds…not minds of this world but minds of the next…

 

The disciples were just every day ordinary men and women, just like you and me…nothing special about them. They were sinners and tax collectors. They were outcasts in their society. But…but…they were transformed…they allowed themselves to be recreated…transfigured so to speak…into men and women of faith and the church began…

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

 

Amen

 

The Path of Least Resistance

January 24, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Fourth Sunday of the New Year

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Luke 4:21-30

Psalm 63:1-8

Jeremiah 1:4-10

 

“The Path Of Least Resistance?”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the prophet Jeremiah chapter 1, verses 4-10 entitled “The call of Jeremiah”…listen to the Word’s of Life from God to you and me, His voices in the wilderness…

 

Do you know someone who just seems to have to take the easy way out all the time? They may seem to have an easy life but is it really? Sometimes, they may seem to have it all but do they really? Sometimes, when we take the easy way we kind of get ourselves in a real pickle. We think we are on easy street but we seem to have entered onto the freeway of disaster. We may even envy what those who have taken this path of least resistance, unfortunately…a lot of times…the grass is on the other side is greener because there is more manure over there…

 

Now I myself usually take the hard way of doing things. I know…hard to believe… but I find that sometimes…ok a lot of times…when I take the hard way I forget that “I” made this choice and forgot to check in with the One who is really charting the course of my life. So…which is better, the “path of least resistance” or the “path of resistance”?

 

OK…recap time, we have had epiphanies, those moments when we really understand and get a glimpse of who God is. We remembered our baptism with Jesus at the shore of the Jordan River. We have sat by the well of God’s never ending goodness and love and have even drank deeply of it…boy that was a nice time huh? Just sitting at the well while God poured out His grace upon us…there really is no end to God’s love and providence is there? …and in the times of trial God is still there working out His plan even if we don’t perceive it…

 

So we have been on this journey into the New Year and it has been pretty fun so far don’t you think? Now we are at a “fork in the road”…a choice in the pilgrimage? Which road are we going to chose? The one where there seems to be no trouble ahead…it’s all groomed with the lines all painted nice…some may call it the road or highway of the world…or that road that doesn’t seem to bad but we can’t really see what’s up the road and if we look real hard there seems to be a lot of mountains and valley’s that we will have to traverse…I like to call it the road of least resistance because it may be rough but God goes with me…

 

But how do we know what choice to make? I have read two answers to the “call of the road” so to speak…the path of resistance that is the least oppositional when it comes to those who follow the path…the way of Jesus. OK…spoiler alert…we are going to be taking some of these different “paths” different “ways” that we can walk our journey of faith as we pilgrimage to the Cross this Lenten season…

 

Let’s first look at Jeremiah’s call I just read. Now God had chosen Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations before he was even born. When Jeremiah’s call came he was very young and he felt that he was just too young and no one would listen to him because of it. God’s answer to him is so inspiring to those who feel they are “not worthy or “schooled” enough to be used in a certain way by God…God said and I am paraphrasing:

 

Don’t say that because I called you. Do you really think I would not qualify the one I have called? Do you really think that age really matters to me? I am the one who is Creator; do you not think I know what I created humans for? I am going to be with you so just trust me because I am going to do great things through you. Oh and don’t worry about what to say because as long as you trust in Me and listen to the words I whisper to your heart you will do just fine…” Even when we feel that we would rather follow the path of least resistance we can be use that even the hardest path for and with God will be better than any other path that seems to be an easier way to go…

 

And then we have the story of Jesus in the synagogue. Now let’s get some back story. Jesus had just come from the desert where He was tempted by Satan. Now this part of the story is a story of paths’ of least resistance in itself. Jesus could have taken the easy path and just bowed down to Satan. He would have been all set on the easy path. But He chose the path of resistance knowing that in the end it was truly the path of least resistance because He was in His Fathers will… So here we are in the synagogue. Jesus has just gotten the praises of those there and He could have stopped there but He went on and followed the road of resistance that led Him to the cross. He began the radical hospitality of the Good News…Jesus included others who were not of the Jewish faith…they were gentiles…gasp! They were going to throw Him off the highest hill but He slipped by them.

 

Jesus knew that God would be with Him…as He was with Jeremiah. Jesus knew that the road He had chosen was not going to be easy but “the hardest day with God is much easier than the easiest day without Him.” (Repeat the statement…) Is the path of least resistance truly and easy path or is it a much harder road than what it may appear to be?

 

We all are on path’s…on a pilgrimage of some sort..in our lives. The issue is this…which path are we on? Are we on a path that is just so easy…no resistance at all…are we choosing a path that in the end could lead to destruction? Or…are we on path that at times seems to be a roller coaster ride but we know the Maker of the track. Now I don’t know about you but I hate…I mean hate…roller coasters. They make me nauseous from the very first small hill. But…but…I would rather be on a roller coaster with God than on one of my own making all alone.

 

Speak from the Spirit about Jeremiah and Jesus and the choice they made…what we gain or don’t gain from our choice… Which will you choose? Which will you choose?

 

Amen

A Time of Trial

January 24, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Fourth Sunday of the New Year

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Luke 4:14-21

Psalm 19

Habakkuk 4:17-19

Matthew 19:26; James 1:2-3;

2 Corinthians 4:16-17; Hebrews 4:16

 

“A Time of Trial…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

16 Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]!

(2 Corinthians 4:16-17Amplified Bible)

 

 

“The deepest level of worship is praising God in-spite of the pain, thanking God during trials, trusting Him when you are tempted to lose Hope and Loving Him when He seems distant and far away. At my lowest, God is my hope. At my darkest, God is my light. At my weakest, God is my strength. At my saddest, God is my comforter.” Touching Lives May 13, 2014

 

A time of trial, there seems to be no way around them. We are going through life and it is pretty good until that thing happens…that monkey wrench in the works, that situation of event we didn’t sign up for. We find ourselves in the midst of a time of trial. Now they may seem senseless at the time but are they really?

 

2 Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. 3 Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. (James 1:2-3)

 

 

OK…let me recap this year, we have had epiphanies, those moments when we really understand and get a glimpse of who God is. We have visited the shore of the Jordan River and step into the water with Jesus as remembered our own baptism. We have at by the never ending bottomless well of God and drank deep of its life giving water. We came to realize that there is no end to what God offers. There is no end of God’s love for us. But now here is where it may get a little shaky…a time of trial.

 

As we look at the world around us we can see that not only may we be going through a time of trial but the world in which we live is certainly going through one. Joblessness is up…more homelessness…war…people dying of starvation…not to mention natural disasters…just to name a few. We can become dismayed and frightened because of these times in our faith walk but be strong and courageous…I bring you good news…

 

From the Luke Scripture this morning we see our hope and the good news that can and will make us courageous through our turn on the trial road. It is a one word answer that shook the world to its knees and changed the tide of trials. The word is “Jesus.” When He pronounced in the end of this scripture “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing and in your presence”, He changed everything! (Speak through the scripture through the Spirit…)

 

How can this be…how can things change? How am I going to fix what is going on in my life? I just can see no way out of this mess I’m in, I don’t even know how I even got to this point in my pilgrimage…

 

26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26Amplified Bible)

 

We don’t have to be discouraged because our moment of trial is producing eternal things in our lives. Sure it is hard and tough…been there, done that, I won one of the t-shirt franchises…but we have hope that in the end it won’t be the end but the beginning of something new. And even more so…we can come up next to those around us as they are in there “trial period” and help them along. We can sit by them and just be because we know what it is like to go through trials…maybe not the same as they are going through but a trial anyway. We can be like the man in the story of the starfish…Tell the story with the starfish helper…

 

We have hope…we have help…we have someone who has been there in our Risen Lord and we have our fellow journey people as well who can walk a while with us as we journey the often rocky road of trials…

17

Though the fig tree does not blossom

And there is no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive fails

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock is cut off from the fold

And there are no cattle in the stalls,

18

Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;

I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19

The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];

He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet

And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]. (Habakkuk 4:17-19)

 

 

As it is written in the Scriptures:

16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]. (Hebrews 4:16)

 

AMEN…Amen…and amen!

 

Now that’s a deep well

January 17, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Third Sunday of the New Year

Human Relations Day

Ephesians 3:14-21 AMP Bible

Psalm 36:5-10 AMP Bible

 

“Now That’s A Deep Well…!”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3, verses 14-21, listen to the Word of God to you and me, the people of God…

 

Well’s…how deep is a well? Do you ever run out of water in a well? What do you do…how long does it take in order to get the well working again and have enough water so that it is usable again?

 

In the bible there are many references to well’s. There were well’s in various parts of the tabernacle in the wilderness where the Israelites worshiped and heard from God. There is Jacobs well which he dug and it was left to all of those who would inherit the property. As a matter of fact, this is the same well where Jesus had an encounter with a Samaritan woman where He offered her Living Water. It is the same Living Water that we are all invited to drink as well… God offers this water because of His great love for humanity.

 

So far this year we have had epiphanies, those aha moments, when we really understand and get a glimpse of who God is. We have visited the shore of the Jordan River and step into the water with Jesus as remembered our own baptism. All of this has me thinking about how deep God’s love for us truly is. Don’t get me wrong I know that God loves us, but how deep is that love? Is it as deep as a well or much more than that? Is this well of living water He offers able to run out or is it vastly more than that?

 

From the Psalm this morning we not only hear how loving and honorable our God is but we hear about a fountain of life. This is where we find this life-giving water. But it’s not of temple life but it is of eternal life that the Psalm speaks of. We are allowed to drink from this river…to drink to our fill. But there is one catch…we have to believe. There is a never ending supply of this water as we take refuge under His wings.

 

God’s deep love…I think one of the best descriptions of it is found in the Letter to the Ephesians found in Chapter 3. Paul prayed continually for the people of Ephesus that they would truly understand who they were in God’s eyes and how much He loved them. It is also my prayer too that we would all understand how precious we are and dearly loved to and by God…

 

Speak from the Spirit…

 

My conclusion is this. There is no end to what God offers. There is no end of God’s love for us. There is no end to this well. We don’t have to worry about times of drought. There is no true drought with God as we dip our cup by the stream of life and drink our fill all the days of our life. We can and will do this through our Lord Jesus Christ in whose name we have hope and a future. Amen…

Fire and Water

January 10, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Second Sunday of 2016

“Baptism of the Lord Sunday”

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV

Acts 8:14-17 MSG

Psalm 29 NIV

Matthew 3:13-17 NIV

 

“Fire and Water…!”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Last week, we talked about “epiphanies” and how they just kind of happen. For instance, your reading one of those long sections in the bible that you have read at least a hundred times. All of the sudden you have this unveiling of your eyes and you all the sudden have this understanding that you have never had before. That’s an epiphany. God revealed something in His word that He felt you needed to see and understand.

 

In studying for my sermon, and that is an epiphany in itself…I am actually studying when I prepare a sermon…I had one of those epiphany appointments. Today is baptism of the Lord Sunday. Now I realize that you receive the Holy Spirit at baptism and it is through the baptismal waters that we receive grace. I have written many sermons on water and the Spirit. But this time…this time…there was a deeper understanding…an epiphany… (Speak from the Spirit about water and our baptism by the fire of God).

 

So this is when fire and water work together.  It’s when the water of our baptism works with the flame…the fire…of the Holy Spirit. You need both in baptism, both fire and water. In our baptism of water…our rebirth…we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit…the flame within us. We are re-created into a new person. God, through Christ, recreates us into a new creation. God loves to create. In Genesis we hear about how God created light over the waters. God created…the earth was birthed, out of the waters that covered the earth. Something new was created out of the water. But in our baptism there is yet another element that is added to the creation. Fire is added…the Holy Spirit…to complete the new creation…

 

From the Acts Scripture this morning we see the Apostles, Peter and John, went Samaria to complete what had already been started. These new converts had received their baptism in the name of Jesus but there was something missing. They needed the Holy Spirit. They went and prayed over them and that was when they received the Advocate and the Counselor…the Spirit of and from God that would teach them and guide them on their way. Fire and water working together to bring the finale of fire that Jesus began on the cross…

 

Matthew three verses thirteen to seventeen gives us another snapshot of what happens when we are baptized…It reads:

Matthew 3:13-17New International Version (NIV)

 

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

 

I like how the Message Bible ends this piece of scripture:

“You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” In our baptism we too here…You are my son…you are my daughter, you are chosen and marked…I have claimed you and you are mine…the pride of my life…through this water I have marked you with the seal of my Spirit.

 

The voice of God stating that Jesus was God’s Son and He is well pleased in Him…the voice of God stating that you and me, we are sons and daughters and God is well pleased. The All powerful and infinite God…who as we read in Psalm 29 this morning…whose voice thunders over the waters…who sits over the floods…who gives strength and peace to His people…is well pleased…

 

 

Today is the Baptism of the Lord Sunday, the day when we remember not only his life changing baptism but ours as well. Through water we are saved. Through water we are redeemed. Through water we are given a new life. (Walk down the aisle with the Baptismal Bowl and sprinkle the congregation when saying remember your baptism) So when the waters of life seem as if they are about to overtake you…remember your baptism But now, this is what the Lord says he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; When you feel as if you have no one who really cares in your life…remember your baptism… I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you feel like an outcast in this journey of life…remember your baptism… When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When life has thrown you too many curves and you just can’t take one more…remember your baptism… When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. You have been sealed with love…you have been sealed with power…you have been sealed with grace…you have been sealed by the Spirit.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; Remember your baptism…

 

Amen!

 

 

Prayer Over theWater

 

Let us pray: Almighty God, the life you birthed in us by baptism into Jesus Christ will never die. Your justice never fails. Your mercy is everlasting.  Your healing river flows. Your Spirit blows where you will. We cannot stop you, God!

We are dry and thirsty, O God. Come, refresh us!

Come upon us, Holy Spirit!

Come upon these waters.

Let these waters be to us drops of your mercy.

Let these waters remind us of your righteousness and justice.

Let these waters renew in us the resurrection power of Jesus.

Let these waters make us long for your coming reign.

Most Holy God, Father! Full of Truth and Grace! Glory to you!

Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord! Glory to you!

Spirit of fire, Spirit over the waters, Spirit of holiness! Glory to you!

Eternal God, One in Three and Three in One! All glory is yours, now and forever. Amen!