“Who Lives In You?” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship video for the week of January 10, 2020 — the celebration of the Baptism of Our Lord on the Church Calendar. The text on which it was based is Luke 3:1-22 — and particularly closing words of that pericope: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3: 21-22)
“Who Lives In You?”
Baptism of Our Lord (NL3) John B. Valentine
Luke 3:1-22 January 10, 2021
Any of you perchance ever play the game “Pictionary”???
It was that goofy party game that debuted back in the 1980's ... and got really popular in the late 1990's wherein you were given a word or an idea and you needed to communicate that word or idea by drawing a picture.
No ... don’t worry ... I’m not going to MAKE you draw pictures per se as part of our sermon time .... but I would like you to try and draw a picture ... a picture in you own mind’s eye.
Seriously ... folks ...
I want you to take a moment and imagine ... create ... draw ... paint in your mind’s eye ... a picture of a house that represents ... YOU!
Picture yourself ... you ... your personality ... as a house ... any kind of house ... A HOUSE THAT IS YOU.
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What did you come up with?
• A mighty castle built on a hill?
• A rustic cabin ... tucked away in the woods?
• An old Victorian ... with two rocking chairs setting on the wrap-around porch?
• Maybe something a little less picturesque ... like an aging California Rancher ... or a brand-new tract home?
• The home you grew up in?
• Maybe the home you’ve lived in for ... lo ... these many years?
It’s not so important what exactly you imagine ... as long as you get some picture of a house ... in your mind ... that is you.
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But now that you’ve got that picture ... I want you to take our exercise just one step further.
Zoom in a little closer ... and focus on the front door.
Just the front door of the house ...
And imagine someone coming up the walk and pushing the doorbell or knocking with the knocker.
Who answers the door? (No ... it’s not you! You’re the house ... remember??)
Who answers the door at the house that is you?
In other words ... what I’m trying to get at ... what I want you to try to picture and ponder ... is ... WHO LIVES IN YOU??
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I don’t know about you ... but there’s been times when I’ve met folks who’ve given me the distinct impression if I went knocking at their door I wouldn’t find anybody home.
And I’ve got to admit that there are time when I wonder if that same might be said about me ... kind of strange and quirky on the outside ... pretty much empty on the inside.
But ... if I honestly think about it ... I’d probably have to say that a whole lot of people live inside my walls!
• My Mom ... and her compassion and her work ethic ... live in me.
• My Dad ... and his loyalty and his stubbornness ... live in me.
• I suspect that a little bit of Doctor Martin Luther lives in me. If only because I spend more of my reading time reading old Brother Martin than really I probably should.
• Honestly ... each year ... more and more of my beloved wife Bethany lives in me ... and bits and snippets of her parents along with it.
The fact of the matter is there are some people who live within me that I’m proud of ... and some folks who live in me that I’m rather ashamed of ... and some who just make me laugh.
School teachers and ancestors ... and youth directors and pastors ... and friends and neighbors and the like.
Some in large measure ... some in small doses.
Some of whom I know ... and some I really don’t know at all.
HAVE YOU EVER REALLY THOUGHT ABOUT WHO IT IS THAT LIVES IN YOU?
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Anyhow ... this week’s Scripture lesson was the story of the Baptism of Jesus.
It began with the back-story as to who John the Baptizer was ...
And then it delved into the message that John was proclaiming ...
And then it foreshadowed what it was that would soon befall John the Baptizer when the authorities got their hands on him ...
And then ... right at the end ... it mentioned how
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
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Now ... the way I make that story out ... something extraordinary is going on.
Jesus is baptized ... the heavens open up ... and the Spirit of God comes upon him ... AND DOESN'T LEAVE!
In Baptism ... the Spirit of God “moves in” ... as it were ... into the house that is Jesus.
And so ... with that thought in mind ... think for a moment about your own baptism.
• Maybe that is an event that you remember as if it were only yesterday.
• Maybe that’s a event that you only remember because of a photograph you’ve seen.
• Maybe that’s an event that you don’t remember for yourself at all.
• Maybe that’s an event that hasn’t even happened yet for you.
But whether that’s something you remember ... or don’t ... it’s a good thing for all of us to remember that ... in the act of Holy Baptism ... no less a person than Jesus Christ himself ... the Spirit of the Living God ... moves in ... moves into ... your life.
You see ... being a Christian:
• Is more than affirming a creed that we confess or a doctrine we believe.
• It’s more than asserting a set of moral principles around which we shape our actions.
• It’s more than living within the community we call a congregation.
• It’s more than accepting the challenge to create a just society.
It is all those things in part ... but above and beyond all that ... the central reality of the Christian faith is the on-going indwelling of the Spirit of the One who moved in to our house in those baptismal waters.
• To say that we are Christians is to declare that the same power of God which was alive in Jesus is also alive in us.
• To say that we are Christians is to say that the Spirit of the living God has "moved in" and has "set up housekeeping" in our souls.
It’s about discovering the truthfulness that prayer of Saint Paul’s in Ephesians 3 ... wherein he writes: “May Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, as we are rooted and grounded in love.”
What two things ... according to Paul ... happen ... when Christ moves in?
Faith and love ... right?
FAITH GROUNDED ... MADE ACTIVE ... MADE REAL ... IN LOVE.
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It’s been a particularly difficult week for our nation ... has it not???
One of which most of us assumed we’d never live to see.
• Our nation’s Capitol was stormed by its own citizens.
• Lawmakers of both parties threatened by violence.
• Elected leaders openly repudiated the peaceful transfer of power that has been the hallmark of the American system of governance since its inception.
• A Capitol Police officer named Brian Sicknick gave his life in defense of Congress.
• Our civil disagreement exploded in incivility.
But ... if the Spirit of the Living God truly lives in us .... rather than asking the questions which news media and pundits Left, Right and Center are asking about who’s to blame and how we got here ...
As people of God ... we need to consider a different question:
“What is God calling us to do in the midst of all this? What is this God who has moved into our lives ... into our houses ... into our hearts ... calling us to be about?”
First off ... it seems to me we are to remember the opening words of Psalm 46 ... that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Those words are a reminder that our ultimate hope is NOT in a political party or a politician or even in a nation-state ... that our ULTIMATE hope is in God alone.
And yet those words are also a reminder that ...
• As we stand against violence and hatred ... God stands with us.
• As we stand for liberty and justice for all ... God stands with us.
• As we stand for hope in the face of despair ... God stands with us.
• As we stand for peace and speak for truth ... God stands with us.
Secondly ... it seems to me that we must ... now more than ever ... be people of prayer.
We are to pray for our elected officials ... that they might be truthful and wise.
We are to pray for those who have sworn an oath to put themselves in harm’s way ... that they might be kept safe.
We are to pray for those who report the news and comment upon it ... that their words and their reports be grounded in truth and tempered by wisdom.
And we are to pray for our nation ... that God will give us wisdom to find our way through this.
And thirdly ... we are to remember that we are called to love our enemies.
Somehow ... we must find ways to listen to each other ... even at points of serious disagreement.
Somehow ... we must find ways to ensure that those with whom we disagree are granted the same right and privileges which we would hope to enjoy.
Somehow ... we must discover a unity which transcends our diversity and divisions.
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And so I would invite you to join your hearts with mine in a prayer ... a prayer for our nation ... a prayer which can be found in on page 77 of our red hymnals:
Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage. Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will. Bless our land with honesty in the workplace, truth in education, and honor in daily life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil course of action. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful; and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May God bless and guide us ... and our nation ... through these days in justice and in peace ... and may Christ truly dwell in our hearts ... through faith.