Daily Devotion - December 2, 2020 - Baptism by Water and the Spirit

Pastor: Connie Belmore

Daily Devotion – December 2, 2020
Today’s Reading:
Matthew 3:1-12
Weekly Theme: Preparing the Way
Today: Baptism with Water for Repentance

When I first arrived at my current church as pastor, the young adults wanted to re-form a Sunday School class for their age group. I agreed to help them get it started and led the class for the first 6 months. I asked them what they would like to study together, and they suggested a study of some of the controversial topics facing the church. After some limited research I narrowed it down to 6 different controversial topics, one of which was baptism. Baptism has resulted in division within the Christian faith for centuries and is still a topic that can be contentious.

In the United Methodist Church, baptism is a sacrament and a means of experiencing the grace of God. In today’s passage, John the Baptist differentiates baptism with water for repentance that he has been doing as he prepares the way for Jesus, with the way Jesus will baptize, acknowledging that Jesus is “one who is more powerful” than he. John humbly acknowledges that he is not worthy enough to carry the sandals of Jesus and further compares his baptism by water to the way Jesus will baptize. He goes on to say that Jesus “will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire”. The definition of baptism as a sacred means of grace coupled with the distinction John makes between the baptism by water for repentance and baptism by the Spirit, we can perhaps reach a unifying definition of baptism. Baptism is a means of grace through we are “initiated into Christ’s church, incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation, and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All of this is offered as God’s gift to us without price” (from the UMC Book of Worship, Baptismal Covenant) Part of the baptismal covenant service is for the candidate or his or her sponsor(s) to renounce, reject, and repent of our sins; to acknowledge the need for God as the source of power to resist sin; to confess complete trust in Christ as Savior and Lord; and to unite with others in the church regardless of age, nation and race.

John prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry on earth by calling them to repent from their sins. Confessing their sins, the were baptized in the Jordan River. John could not baptize them with the Spirit, but the One for whom he prepared the way, brought to us a baptism by the Spirit for all those who accept the gift of grace made available through his mighty acts on the cross. God, through Christ, is the only One who makes salvation possible but baptism is a means through which we can feel God’s presence and experience in a tangible way, through the ordinariness of water, the washing away of our sins and being raised to a new life in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit we are given what we need to resist sin, become a part of the Church universal and respond with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Our mission as the church is to continue to prepare the way for the Lord through all the means of grace with which God has gifted us to include the gift of baptism. The next time you witness and participate in a baptism, celebrate this great gift of God’s grace and remember that God is ever present with us to sustain us as we continously prepare the way for Christ in our lives today and for when he comes again!

Dear God, thank you for the many means through which you reveal yourself to us and through which we experience your grace and very presence with us. We thank you for John the Baptist who introduced us to baptism is a visual reflection through the ordinary substance of water through which we understand that you have washed our sins away through the might acts of your Son, Jesus Christ, and have raised us to new life in Christ to prepare the way as we wait for Christ to come again. It is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

  August 2021  
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