Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 104: 25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17; John 14: 8-17, 25-27
The Rev. James M.L. Grace
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
“All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Those words come from the Apostle Paul’s greatest writing, the Epistle to the Romans. We hear a very short part of it today, which is just fine, because as good as Paul is, it’s nice to hear him in small doses, you know what I mean?
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. What a confusing statement that is. But more than confusing – what a terrifying statement that is. How do we know we are being led by the spirit of God? I mean, that’s a very difficult question to answer. What if we feel we are being led by God’s spirit, and we find ourselves disagreeing with another person who feels equally led by God’s spirit? Does God choose sides?
In my limited experience, I have found that more or less I feel I am following God’s spirit if I can answer “yes” to the following questions: Does it seem impossible? Is it pretty much the exact opposite of what I would do if left to my own devices? Does it require hard work? If I can answer “yes” to those questions, then I believe I am following God’s Spirit in life’s circumstances.
We are a child of God, if we choose to follow God’s Spirit. That ineffable, unknowable, unimaginable spirit – the Holy Spirit. That’s the mystery we honor today – a holy reality we call “Spirit” that is unavoidable to any who choose to follow God. The Spirit blows where it chooses, it is not consolidated or relegated to any human agenda. It is the Great Allower. It does not cajole or persuade, it just is.
If you want what the Spirit has to offer, which is life, real life, then my suggestion to you is to get outside yourself. Step outside yourself, risk vulnerability and uncertainty, and move away from what you feel so absolutely certain about, and humble yourself. And the spirit will meet you.
That’s what we honor today, on this day we call Pentecost. We honor the mystery of God’s spirit that just is, and so permeates all that we are and all that we do. Today we will baptize an infant, to honor this mystery of God’s Spirit that is all around us if we just are willing to move out of ourselves in order to see it.
When a child is baptized in a church it is not magic. It is not a magical “get out of hell free” card. No person needs that, if we believe hell is voluntary, as I do. The priest does nothing during a baptism except hold an infant, pour some water, and light a candle, maybe. It is God’s Spirit that does everything in baptism. And so what happens at baptism?
I don’t know. I can’t describe it. The child to be baptized always has and always will be God’s child, there is no need for baptism for that. Perhaps baptism is less for the person being baptized, and more for all of us.
If baptism is anything, it is a remainder that we all are invited, never forced, into relationship with God. God will never manipulate nor micro-manage us into a forced relationship. God is patient, and humble, and will wait for us to befriend the Spirit when we are ready.
And when we are ready, the Spirit will be there. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. It is the same with God, I believe. I am grateful for the Spirit of God which waits for us to choose and to receive it. An infant will receive this spirit, but she already has received it long before her birth. She, like all of us, will receive it today, and tomorrow, and again and again. AMEN.