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Today is the day that the Church
celebrates the Baptism of Christ,
and when I first looked at the
I quite thought I was going to be
preaching on baptism.
But when you look more closely at the
there is another theme that springs out
and that is the Holy Spirit!
In our first reading, from Genesis, we
are told that
“a wind from God swept over the face
of the waters.”
“A wind from God swept over the face of the
Other translations refer to the Spirit of God hovering,
over the face of the waters.
rather love the image of brooding –
as though God’s Spirit
were protecting the as-yet-unmade earth.
Then in our second reading, in Acts,
Paul realises that there is something
missing in the believers at Antioch, and asks them whether they
received the Holy Spirit when they were baptised.
And they are
like, “Er, you what?”
not at all sure what he is talking
So he enquires a bit deeper,
and finds that they had not actually
heard the full Good News about Jesus at all,
but had only got as far as John the
So he has to give them a quick crash course on what
salvation is all about,
so they can be baptised into Jesus and
receive the Holy Spirit.
And our Gospel reading, of course,
is one of the passages that describes
the baptism of Jesus,
and tells us that the onlookers,
or some of them, at any rate,
saw the Holy Spirit coming down on
Jesus looking like a dove,
and they heard the Father speak from
heaven: “You are my
Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Actually,
Mark’s version, which is the one we heard today,
to imply that it was only Jesus who saw the Holy Spirit,
other accounts say that the bystanders did, too.
In the beginning, God.
That says it
all really, doesn’t it?
We know that God was responsible for the
Creation of the World,
and that right there at the start,
the Holy Spirit was there, hovering,
The Holy Spirit was there when the
world was made.
The Holy Spirit was there when Jesus was
And the Holy Spirit came down on the believers, as we
believe he still does today.
As Christians, we believe that the
Holy Spirit is one of the Persons of the Trinity.
That is a rather
formal way of saying it,
but it is one of those things that is
difficult to put into words.
We worship one God, not three,
but we worship God the Father,
God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
Or, if you
prefer, God the Creator,
God the Redeemer,
and God the Sanctifier.
I don’t want to get into a long
discussion of the Trinity here;
time enough to do that on Trinity
All too easy to say the wrong thing.
All we really need
to remember today is that the Holy Spirit is God,
just as the Father is God
and just as Jesus is God.
when God works in us,
it is God the Holy spirit who “does
the doing”, as it were;
someone once described him as “The
executive arm of the Trinity”!
And we see Him “doing the doing” in
our readings today.
We see Him hovering over the as-yet-uncreated
brooding over it, protecting it.
see Him descending on Jesus in the form of a dove,
affirming him and, I rather think,
enabling Him for ministry.
And we see Him descending on those new
believers in Acts, cleansing them, renewing them, gifting them and
enabling them, too, to be Jesus’ people.
And, I hope, we see Him “doing the
doing” in our lives today!
Earlier on, when I did that thing with
it was a bit of a picture, wasn’t
First of all, I couldn’t pour water into the cup until I’d
taken the lid off.
Then, there was rather a lot of stuff inside
no room for any water.
Then, I needed to rinse the cup out
before I could have a drink.
But once all that was done, the cup
was fit for my use.
And that is what God the Holy Spirit did for
the believers in Antioch –
through baptism, they were enabled to
“take the lid off”,
be cleansed and made fit for service,
and then God could fill them and use
I hope we see Him cleansing us,
and enabling us, too, to be Jesus’
I hope we see those lovely characteristics that Paul
described to the Galatians that a person who is filled with the Holy
Spirit will have:
Not that we can probably see it in
these qualities are always easier to see in other
people than in ourselves.
But I hope we do see them in one
another, too, and affirm each other in them.
After all, no matter
how freely we are able to talk about our faith –
and for some of
us, that comes easier than for others, I do know –
it is whether
our lives match up to what we talk about that is important,
that either attracts or repels other
people to Jesus.
If we say one thing, but do another,
then people are going to be turned
If we don’t behave the way Jesus describes His people as
always putting other people first,
always treating other people with the
greatest possible respect for who they are,
not neglecting your family under the
heading of “religious duty”,
and so on;
if we forget that, then
maybe people will wonder whether faith is worth the effort!
I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if
that wasn’t one of the reasons Paul recognised that the so-called
believers in Antioch were actually nothing of the sort.
not allowing God the Holy Spirit to indwell them and it showed.
Well, they couldn't, could they –
they had not heard of the Holy Spirit.
They weren’t acting like believers, if you like!
knew that something was wrong.
They were like the cup with the lid
there was no way God could use them.
Now, there are various ways we can
react to this sort of sermon.
We can reckon it doesn’t apply to
God wouldn’t use us anyway.
But, in fact, that’s not
God can use you, wants to use you, and very probably already
does use you, if you have made yourself available to be used.
you are sincere in wanting to be God’s person, then God will use
You can also react to this sort of
sermon by feeling guilty.
You feel that if only you were holier,
or more pious,
or a better Christian,
or even a better person,
God could use you more.
also not really a sensible response.
You see, it isn’t about you
trying hard. You don’t have to be perfect before God will
come to you.
Rather the reverse –
after all, if you did have
to be perfect,
that would rather negate the whole
point of the Gospel!
My cup didn’t have to empty itself
and clean itself before I could use it, did it?
I did all
And likewise, we don’t have to become perfect before God
can use us.
All we have to do is to be willing to let God work in
be willing to co-operate with God, if
God the Holy Spirit will, if we ask,
come and indwell us,
make us whole –
and then we can be used.
God doesn’t just make us whole in
order to use us, mind,
although that too.
God wants to make
us whole so that we shall be whole.
Through the Holy
Spirit, God makes us whole for our own sakes,
but by doing that, he enables us to be
We become the sort of person Paul described,
full of those qualities I mentioned
We leave behind the sort of qualities we aren’t
supposed to have,
and develop the sort we are.
God the Holy Spirit was present at
He, or She, if you like – the word used at creation,
Ruach, is feminine –
was present when Jesus was
She was present when the believers of Antioch were
And She is present here with us, now, today.
God our Father,
We confess that we have allowed
ourselves to become empty,
Not filled with your Spirit, not fit
for your use.
We pray that you will fill us anew,
cleanse us, gift us, and make us whole, both for our sakes and so
that you can use us in your service.
This we ask in the power of that same
Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ your Son, who died for us. Amen.
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