May 25, 2020
by Barbara Dilly
Creighton University's English Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lectionary: 297

Acts 19:1-8
Psalms 68:2-3ab, 4-5acd, 6-7ab
John 16:29-33

Celebrating Easter

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

Most of us are certainly aware of the doctrinal debates regarding the practices of baptism that have divided Christians for centuries.  To date there is no uniform set of doctrines regarding the practice that all Christians hold central to their faith.  And while we are divided on this, most of us are in agreement that it isn’t about the exact words we say in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, or the time and the place, but rather the acknowledgement of the living presence of God as we receive the Holy Spirit that matters.  Therefore, we all do it.  The lessons for today assert that it doesn’t matter how or where we are baptized, but whether we are living it.  Our baptisms should serve as a constant reminder to examine what is our life in the spirit?  What does the gift of the Holy Spirit mean for us?

I have heard it wisely said that baptism is a starting point, not an ending point.  Whether we come to it on our own, or our parents bring us, baptism means we have a lot of learning ahead of us in how to live in the fulfillment and transformation for which we are claimed.  Yet, most of us aren’t reminded of that every day.  We remember our baptism as a sentimental memory of a lovely day in which our parents and other family members gathered to celebrate our receipt of the Holy Spirit and our welcome into a family of God.  We have certificates that we keep in special places and we know the event is recorded in church records.  It is a big deal in the life of the church.  I love it when our pastor holds up these tiny little blessings and introduces a new brother of sister in Christ as the entire congregation welcomes him or her with a resounding applause.  Parents and friends stand by proudly.  Then there are photos and a special lunch or dinner.  And then?

We all know all to often two paths that are taken after that.  One is that the child is brought to Sunday School and learns to live a life in the church.  The other is that we never see them again.  But as I reflect on these lessons today, I think there are many other outcomes to this scenario.  One is that the child learns to live a life in the church but doesn’t learn to live in the Spirit.  And a child that never goes to church can often be awakened to life in the Spirit.  So not only is it our call to determine the appropriate words that must be said at the baptism ceremony, it is not our call to determine for sure whether someone is living in the Spirit with or without baptism.  What is our call as baptized children of God?  That is the question I reflect on here today. 

To me, my baptism calls me to daily repentance.  It calls me to daily awareness of and openness to the spirit that fills me with hope and guides my life.  And while Christianity calls us all to an outward focused ministry of teaching and preaching, I have learned that faith is also an equally inward call.  And believe me, at 70, I am still learning.  I am called to continually examine my heart.  Am I living my faith in Christ through showing love, compassion, humility, patience and forgiveness of others?  Or am I still living in the habits of my sins?  For most of us, living in the Spirit requires much more faith and devotion than simply living by a set of doctrinal rules.  Paul’s letters to newly formed Christian communities seemed often to be about liberating Christians from seeking to define the Christian community by a set of rules to moving them to something higher.  Those letters speak well to us.  The lessons for today help me reflect on the gift of the Holy Spirit in my baptism.  My openness to Its presence can keep me focused on eternal matters, not the things of this earth.  I pray for that openness today for all of us. 

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