Sermon – Epiphany 1

The Baptism of ChristSunday 9 January 2022

by Reverend Sheila Perkins

Readings: Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22;  Acts 8: 14-17

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.   Acts 8: 14-17.

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.    Luke 3: 15-17.

When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Luke 3: 21-22.

(Takes Beach Ball and pump)

I’ve borrowed a beach ball from my friend – game of catch anyone?

Fun? Something missing? (puts a bit of air in) Any better?

Needs to be full of air! (puts a bit more air in) Better? Much! But if it went back in the cupboard like this, what’ll happen? Yes, we think there’ll still be some air in it when we get it out – but it will need to be pumped up again … and again.

John said of Jesus: ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

It’s easy enough to relate the breath or air we have put into the ball with the Holy Spirit – a wind as the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 disciples at Pentecost – before that Jesus breathed on his disciples John 20: 20.

Even before that Jesus had equipped his disciples with his Holy Spirit as he sent them out in pairs to heal the sick, cast out demons and share the good news – He’d given them power and authority – power of the Holy Spirit – his power (Luke 9 & 10)

The Bible tells us clearly that the disciples were given the power of the Holy Spirit at least four times in two years. Paul was also filled with the Holy Spirit multiple times – with the vision outside Damascus, at his Baptism, every time he had hands laid on him to be equipped as he was sent out on the missionary journeys.

These people didn’t ever see being filled with the Holy Spirit as a one-off.

Philip had been preaching, healing and casting out demons in Samaria – the people were amazed and listened to his teaching – they came forward for baptism and were baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.

John and Peter came to welcome the new believers — but were clearly surprised to find they hadn’t received the Holy Spirit – I wonder how they knew? Well, if you turn to the end of chapter 10 – at Cornelius’ house the Holy Spirit came on the new Roman believers without Baptism and they were speaking in tongues and praising God… and so they were baptised.

Those aren’t the only signs – not everyone will speak in tongues – no-one will receive all the gifts, but a church will receive all the gifts if all the believers ask to be filled. If everyone is FULL of the Holy Spirit there will be disciples to fill all the roles needed and everyone will be serving God in the way in which he has equipped them.

Looking at Jesus’ baptism – the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove – visually. The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples as tongues of fire, for others it was one or two disciples laying hands on other disciples, just as the Bishop laid hands on you if you’ve been confirmed.

But are you sure you are full of the Holy Spirit now? Not for me to work out, but for you to talk to God about. To ask yourselves: do we at St Mary’s have all the gifts we need? It’s the start of a new year – a great time to be filled with the power and gifts you need to serve God in the year ahead.

  1. In every church there are those who are relying on the promises parents made for them at baptism but haven’t actually made the commitment to follow Christ for themselves
  2. In every church there are those who have made that decision – once – possibly at confirmation and were equipped by the Spirit for what they were doing then
  3. In every church there are some who went to a conference once and were prayed for …
  4. And there are those serving who are fully equipped with all the Spirit has to offer.

I can tell you of times when I have carried on without being fully equipped by the Holy spirit

  • Preaching – once
  • Praying for people
  • A funeral that wasn’t my best

I now know I need to be prayed for and filled with the Holy Spirit again and again – and I’m grateful to people who pray for me.

Let’s turn to prayer now ….

Silence while each of us asks God what he is asking us to do for him in the year ahead.

And then we pray for:

Hadlow village; School; for people to return to church after Christmas services; for families, children and youth work to grow again;

For a new incumbent – for the vision of St Mary’s in creating its parish profile, for those on the selection panel, and for the Holy Spirit to enable St Mary’s to find the right match

For the sick and bereaved; for those who use and serve in the food bank

Amen

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