Baptism and the Body — Sunday’s Almost Here

Posted October 11, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Baptism, Children, Community

ChurchSunriseWe’ve tried to learn what we can from John’s baptism, as well as John’s baptism of Jesus. Today I’d like to look at one more baptism story – the baptism of the first Christians at Pentecost, a day that many consider the Church’s birthday.

“‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:37-39).’”

If you’ve read the previous posts about baptism, you’ll recognize some familiar elements in this Acts account – repentance, forgiveness, the emphasis on Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, the focus on mission (i.e.“for all who are far off”). But there are a couple of new aspects as well. First, there is the fact that baptism and the Holy Spirit are offered not only to adult believers but to their children. (At other points in the book of Acts we read about whole households being baptized.) I’m not going to attempt to defend infant baptism to those who hold exclusively to what’s often called “believers’ baptism.” No matter how we understand the appropriate timing of baptism, all of us have to ask ourselves where children fit into the life of God’s people, his church, the covenant community. Read the rest of this post »

Transformed and Transforming — Getting Ready for Sunday

Posted October 10, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Baptism, Holy Spirit, New Creation, Transformation

Dove2At that moment heaven was opened, and he (Jesus) saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him” (Matthew 3:16).

So why a dove?

We’ve been talking about baptism, and what we can learn from John’s baptism as well as John’s baptism of Jesus. John talked about the Holy Spirit coming with fire. The apostles got fire too (i.e. the tongues of fire at Pentecost). So why did Jesus get a dove?

Actually, the dove is the clue that unlocks Jesus’ entire mission. Read the rest of this post »

Jesus’ Baptism — Getting Ready for Sunday

Posted October 9, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Baptism, Kingdom of God

Baptism of JesusYesterday we tried to see what we could learn about baptism from John’s baptism. Today I’d like to see what Jesus’ baptism, or John’s baptism of Jesus, may be able to teach us. I’m going to focus on Matthew’s account in Matthew 3:13-17.

Actually, I’ll start with the previous verse where John says about the coming Messiah, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” That’s a pretty graphic image, and not a little frightening.

But then what happens? “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.”

Instead of showing up with a winnowing fork, Jesus appears unarmed and empty-handed, and asks to be baptized. Read the rest of this post »

John’s Baptism – Getting Ready for Sunday

Posted October 8, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Baptism, Church, Community

JohnBaptizingThis coming Sunday our community will have the honor and blessing of baptizing the Smith’s baby daughter. Reformed churches, like most Protestant denominations, reserve the word “sacrament” for two community events – baptism and the Lord’s Supper (or communion). Recently we’ve begun a discussion about the Lord’s Supper, especially in the context of our current experiment of celebrating it weekly. We’ve discovered that many of us are confused about the meaning of this meal. I wonder if the same may be true about baptism. I thought that a good way for us to get ourselves ready for Sunday would be to do some thinking together about baptism over the next few days. Read the rest of this post »

Ascension Day Reflections

Posted May 29, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Ascension, Witness

Ascension4It’s Ascension Day, in case you’d forgotten or it’s not on your Google calendar. And it’s a pretty big deal, in spite of the fact that it tends to get short shrift in most church calendars, if it’s mentioned at all. A lot of us think of Ascension Day as the day Jesus left – noteworthy, but hardly worth turning into a holiday or holy day. Instead of celebrating the day, we may feel sorry for the disciples (and maybe for ourselves as well). Read the rest of this post »

Holy Saturday

Posted April 19, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Doubt, Faith

Holy SaturdayDoes Holy Saturday have a role of any importance in Holy Week, or in our spiritual lives?

I think it does, especially if you’re a person like me who has tended to struggle with faith. Holy Saturday is for holy doubters.

Jesus’ disciples had every reason to doubt. Just when it looked like he was going to take control (e.g. on Palm Sunday), he gets himself killed. There went their dreams. There went the future. On this darkest of days (maybe even darker than Good Friday), they had lots of good reasons to doubt God’s wisdom, love and power.

Or maybe they were the problem. Maybe what they doubted was themselves. What if they had stayed with Jesus to the end? Were they the reason God had abandoned Jesus to his fate? If Jesus’ hand-picked, personally-tutored followers couldn’t remain faithful to the Messiah, how would anyone else? Had they just blown it (like Adam and Eve had) for the rest of the human race? Read the rest of this post »

Helping Others See Jesus

Posted April 15, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Cross, Death, Discipleship

WheatKernalSir, we would like to see Jesus” (John 12:21).

Since the beginning of the year our congregation has been exploring what it might mean to be an Acts 29 church – in other words, to be a church that picks up where the church of Acts leaves off. (There are only 28 chapters in Acts.) We’ve identified four core activities that flowed through the life of that early church – worship, discipleship, fellowship and witness. On Sunday I suggested that we devote each of the days leading up to Good Friday to one of these core activities. Yesterday we talked about worship. Today I’d like to share a few thoughts about discipleship.

In the gospel reading traditionally assigned to Holy Tuesday, some “Greeks” who were in town for the Passover tell Philip they would like to see Jesus. Jesus isn’t interested in becoming a spectacle or tourist attraction, but he does say that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Instead of being an ego-trip, for Jesus being glorified means being lifted to his rightful place as King and Lord of all. Unless that happens, darkness and chaos will continue to have their way. It is for this world that Jesus must be glorified. Read the rest of this post »


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