Just last night at Session we approved two more baptisms. We seem to be doing a lot of baptisms lately. How wonderful! Always good to have. Our passages seem to be full of them too.
Baptism is a fascinating sacrament. In it we enter into a new life – into a new community. In it, we also see our own death – a death to an old way of being. This connection between death and new life, water and fire is made in our Acts and Luke readings.
In Acts, we hear of Paul in Corinth – a man who is continually in trouble with the law. He is brought before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, who very much like Pilate for Jesus, renounces his own jurisdiction. The Jews claim Paul is “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.” Gallio basically says so what, declaring he doesn’t want to be a judge of Jewish matters. Paul does not repent of his new vows in Christ
Paul wanders all around, strengthening the disciples in their new found Messiah. In the course of these travels, we come across a Jew named Apollos. He is eloquent, well-versed in the scriptures, burning with enthusiasm. He knew his Old Testament and the prophesies regarding the Messiah. But he did not know of Jesus’ arrival.
Pricilla and Aquila pull him aside and “explained the Way of God more accurately.” He then becomes a great champion of the faith.
It is a great story.
In Luke, we hear the tale of the baptism of Jesus, as well as John’s proclamations about baptism. “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming…. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Remember that Luke wrote both Luke and the book of Acts. He very well may have in mind a connection here. We hear of water and fire and John seems to know intrinsically that someone like Jesus is coming. Apollos has the same ideas. He knows a Messiah is coming. He had been preaching that – with fire, although he knows not the name of Jesus.
Acts is a fantastical story. It has mystery and intrigue. It provides for this almost mysterious transformation and spreading of the gospel. Like a good virus, there seems to be no way to stop this either. Even Apollos knows what is coming, and he is from Alexandria. It appears the good news will spread to all the ends of the earth.
What is interesting about Acts is that by the books end, it does not spread to the ends of the earth. But yet, here we are reading this story in yet another corner of the globe. By stories end, we ourselves are thrust into the story, left wondering, “So now it is your turn. What’s next?”
Very much like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, we become a part of the story. And we continue to see the firey story spread every time we baptize in his name.
How does your baptism by fire and water affect the trajectory of our story? What is your baptism driving you to do what you do?