Archive for December, 2006

The Holy Spirit – Living Water

Jesus brought the grace of God to bear upon the world. This week we remember that he was baptised by his cousin John the Baptist. He was baptised in water. Jesus refers to the Spirit of God as “Living Water” when he meets with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 6. Cryil of Jerusalem writes,

“Why did Christ refer to the grace of the Spirit under the name of water? Because through water all plants and animals live. The rain comes down from heaven and though it comes in one form, its effects have various forms; yes indeed, one spring watered all of paradise, and the same rain falls on the whole world, yet it turns white in the lily, red in the rose, and purple in the violet.”

Have you been baptised?

Baptism is a sign of entry into the Christian faith. Baptism with adults is in response to their confession of faith in God as followers of Jesus Christ. Unusual occurences can accompany baptism. When Jesus was baptised, a dove descended upon him.

When I was baptised, an overwhelming flood poured down my body from above as if a surge of power passed through me.

Adult parents often ask to have their children baptised. This is a carry over from the days of Christendom when citizenship was linked to the church; when nearly everyone went to church and if you didn’t go, you were the odd one out. Parents would have their baby baptised or ‘christened’ – in the ceremony, the child was given their name and recognised as part of society. Parents would instruct their child in the faith and when the child was a young teenager, they would confirm their own baptism and be given full membership in the life of the church.

To offer oneself for baptism is simply to offer oneself to God in a covenant relationship.

It is important to recognise that the ceremony of baptism – washing with water, is what people do. It brings order to our church life and has done so for centuries. But God knows the heart of the person being baptised and God’s Spirit is not something the Church may control or order at will. Indeed the Church is subject to the Spirit and often finds herself changed by the work of the Spirit!

God breaks into our lives in all sorts of ways and when we recognise God, when we respond to that voice that calls us to wholeness, our baptism is our way of entering into the community of God’s faith – a sign of our belonging to God, being part of his people today and being involved in his kingdom of grace in all we do and say.

We are the people of God, brought to birth in the rush of water, washed and sustained day by day by the beauty of water. We see the wonder of rivers and streams, and the endless waves of the mighty seas.
Our faces are lifted up to receive the gentle rain and the miracle of the greening of the earth as it falls. (Dorothy McRae-McMahon)

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For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all

I was talking with someone who was in the process of moving house.

We were discussing Christmas plans and preparations, gift giving and the real meaning of Christmas.

On the subject of giving and receiving gifts, she shared that she had told her family and friends…”Unless I can read it, eat or put it in the bath, I don’t want it!” What was she on about? Needing to move house had shown how much stuff she had…stuff she never used now, clothes she had outgrown, bits and pieces that were only being kept because they might come in handy one day or because they had sentimental attachment.

I liked her phrase…”Unless I can read it, eat it or put it in the bath, I don’t want it!”

How much stuff clutters up your life?

How much of you attention is drawn to the storage space in a house or a shed?

What needs storage? Stuff. Stuff that we aren’t using, but which we might need. Stuff to prove who we are, what we are: stuff that defines our being.

God save us from our stuff! Give us peace from this constant problem of storage!

In the letter to Titus, we read ” For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all..” Titus 2: 11

What is the grace of God?

It is that benevolent, challenging, powerful and loving presence of God touching our life, bringing hope, peace, joy and love.

How has this grace appeared?

Grace appeared in the person of Jesus…born as a tiny baby in a manger in Bethlehem; taken as a refugee to Egypt as an infant, raised as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth and emerging in his manhood as an itinerant teacher, healer and bringer of God’s truths to Palestine. Wherever Jesus touched people’s lives, he brought the grace of God to bear…healing, restoring, encouraging, challenging, teaching. God’s grace was enacted through Jesus. He saved people from their diseases, from their being ostrasized within their own communities, from their lostness as a people belonging to God. He did this for his own people, the Jews as well as for the Romans and the Greeks and other Gentiles he encountered.

What is the salvation Jesus brought?

Salvation is God’s grace in action. When we think about the stuff that is cluttering up our lives and wish our lives could be simpler, in a world where we have so much and so many other people have so little..we are really saying…how can I be saved from materialism and consumerism? We seek solutions to our dilemma and in our seeking, we pray. We pray to God for help. What can I do? The answer to our prayer may be our salvation. I am reminded as I write of the story of the Rich Man in Matthew’s gospel, who came to Jesus with his question…”what good thing must I do to achieve eternal life?” Now ‘Eternal life’ is related to having peace with one’s self; peace from he assurance that my life is lived according to God’s kingdom plan of justice and mercy for all.

Jesus replied to him, “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.” The man became sad…he did not know peace at this thought. Perhaps he went away to consider more what Jesus asked of him and of his role in God’s world.

We can never know the peace of salvation, while we allow the gap to grow between rich and poor. The rich are rich to help the poor…to ensure those who have more can equip those who have less, with the necessities of life. When our stuff is used in this way, salvation is at work.

Of course it depends on what we value.

The story is told of a rich family who decided to take their children to a third world country so they could learn how poor people lived. When the children returned home, their parents asked them, “Well did you learn how the poor people in the world live?”
Oh, yes,” they said. “So tell us, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the parents. Their son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have a whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go out of sight. We have a cleaner who serves us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” Their parents were speechless. Then the children said, “Thanks Mum and Dad for showing us how poor we are.”

Now there are some young people saved from materialism and consumerism!

Salvation brings the peace of God into every situation. That is why poor people can still be happy – they know peace. That is why people dying from AIDs and Cancer can still have hope – they know peace.

Unless it is something to read, or eat or put in the bath – I don’t want it!

Peace can come when we know that we have helped a child learn to read.

Peace comes when we work to ensure the world’s food is distributed justly and all people have enough to eat.

Peace comes when we conserve resources so that all people have clean water to drink, to wash and grow their food.

The writer of Titus also tells us that the grace of God trains us or teaches us “to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly.” verse12.

When we live in the grace of God, when we live our lives in the salvation that Jesus Christ alone can bring, our lives are changed by the grace of God. We become more self-controlled, decent & honest and more godly.

Let’s face it…when we live our lives in self-controlled, upright and godly ways, the whole world is blessed – and peace reigns. To achieve this lifestyle is simple. It is to give one’s life into the hands of the one born at that first Christmas, the one we call the Prince of Peace, the one who is the Saviour of the world. Amen