As we continue Back to Basics, we turn our attention now to our Baptismal Vows. These vows are affirmed by parents who baptize children, and by adults who are baptized and who join in formal membership in the church. What do these vows claim about our faith, and do we still claim them?
Building on last week’s message and continuing through our Baptismal Vows, we turn to: accepting the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We referenced this phrase a few weeks ago on Pentecost Sunday when we explored the portion of the Apostles’ Creed focused on the Holy Spirit.
Where that message focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in resisting evil, injustice, and oppression, we must recognize our own role. Yes, the Holy Spirit is active and at work, but our role is to accept and receive and put to use the power that is offered to us.
What good is electricity if we refuse to flip on the switch?
I believe that the Holy Spirit empowers us, and it may be natural to feel a little hesitant to exercise this power for fear of doing so poorly. Perhaps that’s another important reason to participate in a faith community who can encourage us and guide us, and where we can use our voices to encourage and guide others. We have been born through water and the Spirit, and as such are called by God to use the gifts given to us to act in the world.
John 3:1-5, 14-17 (CEB)
1There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
4Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
5Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.
14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Consider these questions:
- Where are the places in your life where you find yourself silenced and seek the freedom God offers to you? Have you broken free of something like this before? What happened?
- Where are the places in your life where you have exercised power (or privilege or influence) on behalf of (i.e. for the betterment of) others? What happened when you did?
- What expression(s) of evil, injustice, and oppression have you worked to resist? What happened when you did?
Post-Worship Follow-up on 7/2
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message was… in a word… unexpected.
If you watch the video or listen to the audio, you’ll notice the reaction mid-message when a car accident takes place on the street immediately adjacent to the Sanctuary. We in from the sound coming through open windows that a small dog had been hit by a car. Many of our members went to assist, and later we received word that the dog had been taken to a nearby animal hospital and was being cared for. Hallelujah!
But this caused us to respond, this caused an emotional reaction in many of us. Tears were shed. We acknowledged our grief in moments of authenticity. I believe the Spirit moved among us in this authenticity.
The reading above is the beginning of an emotional and spiritual journey for Nicodemus. In this beginning, he is limited in his willingness to express his authenticity – in his questioning, in his yearning. In the seventh chapter of this Gospel, Nicodemus speaks up on behalf of Jesus to the other Pharisees (read John 7:50-51). And after Jesus has been crucified, Nicodemus brings a wealth of myrrh and aloe to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (read John 19:39). Nicodemus becomes more and more overt in his authentic care for the Christ.
In accepting the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever ways they present themselves, we may take incredible risks. Nicodemus certainly does! But we are reminded that in our baptismal vows we are given both the ability and the authorization to do so by God.
I invite you to be in prayer, not only to discern what specifically God is calling you to do with the freedom and power that God offers, but also the strength to accept it.
Consider these questions:
- What are the significant moments of your spiritual journey? Can you identify where your journey began and/or the trajectory of your journey? How have you grown? What has been especially difficult?
- Nicodemus’ journey is not fully known but only highlighted in a few glimpses. I suggest the same is true for your own journey. What might be important for you to share about your journey that may not already be known?
- Where does the idea of authenticity lie in your expression of your faith? How are you tempted to be less authentic? How are you empowered to be fully authentic?