Please note: We will not hold a service in the church this Sunday.
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Sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu
One of the most common debates within Christianity is the issue of Baptism
- Should we be Baptised once ?
- Can water Baptism include the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
- Does it matter whether we were Baptised in the river or in Church? *Is speaking in tongues a sign of Spiritual Baptism?
And what does this mean to people who do not speak in tongues?
These questions seems to have existed in the early Church and Maybe some of you will agree with me when I say, even today we are still struggling with these questions.
About 10 years ago I was invited to join an ecumenical group, consisting of young people from different denominations. The reason for its existence was to assist and support one another on our Christian journey. On our first meeting, a founder of the group opened John 3:23 “At this time John the Baptist was baptising at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism”.
In his reflection he emphasised the need to be baptised where there is “plenty” of water, he further suggested that all those members of the group who have received Sprinkling baptism should be re-baptised in the form of immersion. Most of young people from “mainline” churches felt offended and left the group.
The whole group collapsed without meeting it’s objections (to support one another). What was suppose to unite us, divided us Today’s readings also seems to address the topic of Baptism, the gospel reading shifts from John’s baptism of water to Jesus’ baptism of the Spirit. Mark begins by highlighting John’s message of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People came to John, confessed their sins and he baptised them in the Jordan River. Jesus also seems to acknowledge John’s baptism, He also comes to John to be baptised by him in Jordan. John teaches his followers that baptism is not only with water, but also with the Holy Spirit. While John acknowledges the importance of both these forms of baptism, he tells his followers that the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes with the one who is more powerful than him, the one who is coming after him.
The same teaching also seems to appear on our new testament reading, Paul teaches the same massage to the disciples he met on his way to Ephesus. These disciples have received John’s baptism (Baptism of water) but haven’t received the baptism of Jesus (the baptism of the Holy Spirit). It is at this time that Paul places his hand on them and gives them the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In this passage the writer of Acts indicates to us that even on early Church, there were different doctrines, especially when it comes to baptism, these disciples Paul is talking to in this reading have received the good news or the gospel, they have believed and baptised, but still haven’t heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul does not criticize the teaching they have received before him, instead he tells them there is more to what they have received.
Even after Paul has laid his hands on them, their Spiritual journey continued. They still had a lot to lean, our Christian journey is an ongoing journey. It is not event, but a journey. Maybe that is the reason Mark draws connection between Jesus’ baptism (The beginning of His ministry) and his crucifixion “death”.
Mark narrates to us that on Jesus’ baptism, the heavens are “torn apart” and in His death the temple curtain is “torn apart”(Mark 15:38).
In both these incidents words confirming His identity are expressed.
- In baptism the voice coming from Heaven says “You are my Son, the beloved; in you I am well pleased”
- In His death the voice of the Centurion (the voice coming from Earth) says “Truly this man was God’s Son”
In His baptism which marks the beginning of His ministry, the one who sent Him validates His identity and at His death, the ones he was sent to, validates His identity. In other words, Mark has a special focus on the identity on Jesus. He begins his narrative of Jesus not by his natural birth, but His Spiritual birth (Baptism), according to Mark like all of us, Jesus is adopted by God though baptism.
Jesus’ baptism reminds us that He is not only our Lord but He also our brother. He was baptized, just as we are. He shares in our humanity. Through Baptism (like Jesus)we are also adopted to be daughters and sons of God. By Baptism we share the siblinghood with Jesus. Isn’t this wonderful? Our relation with Jesus is intimate, He is not foreign to us , He is one of us. Through baptism we become part of Christ’s body (The Church).
My sisters and brothers in Christ, as we begin this year
- Let us reflect on our relationship with Jesus given to us as a gift through Baptism?
- Let us also reflect on our relationship with other members of the Body of Christ?
- Let us reflect on what “One baptism for the forgiveness of sin” means to us?
An Anglican Church teaches us that all Baptised members are called to serve God and God’s people, how is my baptism a life-giving act for our confusing context?
- Let us relook on our own contribution towards the movement of Unity and justice. As baptised members of the Body of Christ, are sow the seed of unity and service . Amen
Creator God, our soul’s delights,
your voice thunders over the waters,
liberating the future from the past:
speak you affirming word
that we may share in the baptism of
drink from his cup
and serve the world in his name;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.