Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for March 2019 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Immersed in the Spirit

Last Sunday morning, I did something I do more than I’d like to admit. The worship service ended and, I opened my notes to realize that I left out a decent chunk of my sermon. Just think, I had another eight minutes worth of notes!

Usually when this happens I think, “It must not have been that important if I forgot it.” This week, however, it’s been different. I keep thinking about it. The good news is that I can share it with you here. So here goes…

The thought centers on John 1:32-34. This passage is John the Baptist’s testimony about his cousin. John is baptizing and Jesus approaches him, John baptizes Jesus, and then John ‘bears witness’ to what happened, “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

What I left out on Sunday was this- ‘he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ In just two chapters, Jesus will tell Nicodemus that one must be born of water and of Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. Think about the two images being used here: birth and baptism.

Before we are born, we live in water. When a mother’s water breaks, the child must transition from the womb to outside the womb. We are immersed in that water and our life is connected to the immersion.

In baptism, we enter the water and are immersed in that water. Guess what? Our new life is connected to the immersion!

So what does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spirit? I believe it’s about immersion–immersion in the life-giving Spirit. Michael J. Gorman writes, “The word ‘baptism’ connotes participation in the fullest sense: it is an image of being completely immersed in a reality outside the self that transforms the self.”

To be a child of God is to be born and baptized with (immersed in) the same Spirit that enabled Jesus to do God’s work. What would your life look like if you saw yourself continually immersed in the Spirit? How would you view your faith, your neighbors, your community, your church?

That is my prayer for this series that we are immersed in God’s mission. May you see yourself immersed in the life-giving Spirit. May you feel the Holy Spirit surrounding you as you take part in the God’s mission!

Cross-Shaped Love

One of my favorite flowers is daffodils. What I love about them is not necessarily their bright yellow flowers, but how they are the first to break through the winter ground to remind us that spring is just around the corner. Though daffodils don’t just signal spring, but Easter too.

The season of Lent begins this Wednesday, March 6th. We will begin the season with an Ash Wednesday service at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary. Lent serves as the first sign of the new life of Easter. It, like the daffodils in our yards, is a signpost pointing us to Holy Week and Easter. Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding during Holy Week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Saturday before Easter.

Today, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the forty days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number ‘forty’ is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing temptations there. Christians today use this period for reflection, self-examination, and repentance.

I would like to invite you to make this Lent a time of preparation for Easter. To help us prepare, many people fast during Lent. Fasting can be a powerful spiritual discipline. Professor Laurence Hull Stookey writes:

“Fasting can alert us, however, to unacknowledged obsessions we may have about eating [or many other things] that can be tamed or redirected. Fasting can powerfully remind us of our dependence on God and others: Were it not for the One who gives seed to the sower, and for those who plant and harvest, and mill the grain into flour, who bake the bread, and deliver it to the store, we would be permanently hungry out of circumstance, not temporarily hungry out of choice…Lest Lenten discipline and devotion lead to smugness or a false sense of spiritual security, it must be noted that all such endeavors depend on grace. We do not save ourselves by virtue of such spiritual exercises rather, we seek simply to alleviate the blockages that prevent God from acting freely in and through us.

It is my prayer you commit yourself anew to our Savior this Lent. I hope that you take this opportunity to prepare yourself for God‘s work in your life as we journey together towards the empty tomb.