In You I Find Happiness

I had a surprising conversation last week with a young man whom I have known for years. He wrote me an email to let me know that he had recently been baptized. I cannot tell you the joy that exploded in my heart. This is a fellow who has had a strange and encumbered journey to this decision. He has been seeking peace all of his life, but many of his own choices in the past have taken him far afield of anything resembling peace. This decision came after a lot of deep soul searching and some very excellent discipling from a young pastor and a faithful church that has embraced him in his wanderings. I feel like he has finally come home.

This Sunday, we will remember the baptism of Jesus. It may surprise some folks to remember that Jesus was baptized. Since he is the totality of the forgiveness of sins and the One who brought the cleansing needed for new life, it is amazing to think that he himself was baptized by John. What a powerful reminder of the humility it takes to be a servant of God!

Luke 3 (Common English Bible)

21 When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

The Common English Bible version is the first time I have seen the words, ”in you I find happiness.” What a marvelous take on that Scripture! Can you hear God saying that to you in those moments when you choose him over the world? ”In YOU I find happiness.” Hallelujah!

My young friend is working his way through what baptism means. He has expressed doubt that he was ”good enough” to be baptized. Oh, that we could somehow understand that there is no such thing as being ”good enough” to have a relationship with God! You can never be good enough, but the opposite is also true: you can never be ”bad enough” to be disqualified from his grace. Grace means that we are offered the unconditional love and unmerited favor of God, based NOT on our behavior, but on his amazing love for us. Period.

We understand baptism to be an initiation into the household of God. Initiation. That means that baptism is a place where we start our process of growing in Christ, not a place where we present some completed version of ourselves. It is the threshold of a lifelong journey where we study, pray, meditate, serve, and worship in our pursuit of understanding who God is, and whose we are as his children.

So keep growing. Keep learning. Keep praying. Keep striving. Keep putting yourself under the authority of God’s plan for your life, and never stop seeking the peace that he offers. You are God’s child, whom he loves!

In you, God finds happiness.

Come to the Water by Alice Rogers

Mine! Mine!

In the Disney classic Finding Nemo we meet a group of greedy seagulls who chant “MINE! MINE!” as they forage for food. While fish and sea life are definitely their preferred diet, seagulls will also feast on human food, garbage, and refuse. Have you ever watched two seagulls tussle over a French fry in a fast food parking lot? The Disney spin that a seagull will claim anything they see as “mine” is not far from the mark. And as someone who lives near the beach, can I please make a request? DON’T FEED THE SEAGULLS. You are contributing to their behavior!

When I read today’s passage, I wondered if the early Christ-followers didn’t have a similar perspective. Jews who understood all the messianic prophecies and realized that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of all they had waited for were probably quite startled to learn that Jesus came to save everyone, including the gentiles:

Acts 10 (The Message)

44-46 No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

The proof was in the pudding. The outsiders spoke in the tongue of the Holy Spirit, a unifying voice that proclaimed that what once was “mine” is now for everyone. The outsiders have been let in.

46-48 Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.

With the evidence of the universality of Christ right in front of them, they acted in one accord to acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit and confirm it with baptism in the name of Jesus. The “mine” became “ours.”

If only we could adopt that same perspective! Our bitter division, our denominationalism, our thinking that “my doctrine is better than your doctrine”…all of this surely grieves the Holy Spirit, who calls us to be one in Christ.

One body. One voice. One heart.

A quote that is attributed to many sources including John Wesley helps us to keep the main thing the main thing: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. And charity in all things.” If we live in a time when we can’t agree on the essentials or the non-essentials, let us at least agree on charity in all things.*

This passage points to the main thing. The Holy Spirit is the transforming power of God and will come upon whomever God chooses to come upon. The outward and visible sign of this is found in baptism, which is a confirmation of the work that God has already done. Jesus instructs us to go into the world and teach and baptize in his name. We can all agree on this.

In the kingdom of God there is no mine or yours…only ours. Go and share him with someone today.

*Read more about this quote here.

OBX Seagull by Agatha Knab