1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Isaiah 43:1-7; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The Rev Dr Dianne Carpenter“The Fire Next Time: Threat or Promise”
9 January 2022
The Judeo- Greek world in which Jesus arrived and Christianity was born had long held that the elements of all life were Earth, Air, Water and Fire. God breathed life into the first humans in the Genesis account after fashioning them from the Earth itself. Water and Fire also play essential parts in the life story of our faith.
Baptism by water is not unique to Christianity. The use of water to dedicate and purify, to signify new beginnings, has a place in many cultures. We know that as a Jewish practice Jesus went to the Jordan where John was baptizing people.
Titus Flavius Josephus was a first century Roman Jewish historian born in Jerusalem. His father came from the priestly lineage and his mother claimed royal ancestry. In Galilee he was the head of the Jewish forces until they surrendered in 67 AD to Vespasian. Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He served as an adviser and translator to Titus when Titus led the siege of Jerusalem.
Josephus recorded Jewish history with special emphasis on the first century in a book called The Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus recorded that  John exhorted Jews to begin to live righteous lives toward one another and toward God, which required repentance turning from sin and toward obedience to the law. John required those who responded to undergo an immersion in water-baptism.  John insisted that the cleansing of the soul resulted from the repentance and not from baptism.  and Josephus said John’s interpretation of the baptism was a consecration of the body. Josephus is referring to ritual cleansing.
Josephus omits an important element from John’s message. In the gospels John speaks of an imminent judgment, and that he is a precursor to the one greater than he, whose sandals he is not worthy to untie and one who will baptize with the spirit of holiness.
In the passage from Acts we see that Phillip, one of the Jewish Christians in the church after Pentecost has fled Jerusalem because of the persecution which broke out against the early Christians. Philip arrives in Samaria where he preaches the gospel, performs miracles in the name of Jesus, and drives out demons in the name of Jesus.
The folk in Samaria have come to believe in Jesus and they are baptized in water in the name of Jesus. Water-baptism……. a sign of cleansing, a sign of being buried with Christ as they go under the water, a sign of being raised to new life in Christ as they came out of the water. Water-baptism, the sign of putting to death the old self in the hope of the new self-manifesting and growing.
Have you been baptized and are you living your baptism?
But the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them: they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
John had been baptizing in the water of the Jordan River, but throughout his ministry he made it clear that he only baptized with water. Someone is coming more powerful than I, I’m not even worthy to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
While it was water the first time it will be the Fire Next Time
Notice… He will baptize you…. You who are already water baptized…. You need a further baptism.
While Jesus’ baptism is marked by the descending dove the Pentecost event of the Holy Spirit arriving upon the disciples was Tongues of Fire.
The baptism which will impart to you, the ruach, the wind, the breath, the power of God himself.
Paul will later write that the spirit in us, the power in us, is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
What power was that? God’s power, God’s Holy Spirit.
And John says, there is someone coming who will baptize you, immerse you, fill you… With the power.
And not only that… He will also set you on fire.
Peter and John arrive in Samaria and they notice that while Philip was baptized into the name of Jesus and baptized with the Holy Spirit and baptized with fire… His converts, the church in Samaria, were only baptized into the name of Jesus.
The Samaritan church was in danger of becoming what nearly 1800 years later John Wesley would fear the Methodist movement would become: a people with the form of religion, with all the right beliefs and practices of religion… But with no power.
John Wesley’s fear:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should never cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit and discipline with which they first set out. ”
Peter and John notice that these folks who believe with all their heart in the name of Jesus, do not have the power of Jesus. The Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
So, what did Peter and John do-they prayed and the believers in jesus’ name received the Spirit of God and the Church of Christ caught fire in that place.
There is someone coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. But someone has come, and his name is Jesus
The Jesus event was the beginning of a new era of God’s dealing with humanity- the new covenant. This is then our double birthright as children of God –to be saved from our sins and to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And God certainly wants to give us our full birthright – not just half of it.
The Holy Spirit is pictured in the New Testament as a river flowing from the throne of God and falling to earth. To be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to be immersed under this waterfall. Jesus said that all those who thirst should come to him and receive the Holy Spirit so the Rivers of living water would flow of from their innermost being.
The experience of the average believer, however, is more akin to the hand pump of life struggling and pumping out a few drops of blessing from a dry heart. To have rivers’ of blessing flowing out from us to all who come in touch with us is the will of God for our lives.
What we need in order to live the Christian life is not just a doctrine but the power of God in our life. The baptism in the Holy Spirit gives us power for Godliness as well as power for service.
R.A. Torrey’s book The Baptism With The Holy Spirit is a great study of the Holy Spirit. He states: “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering for service.”
We cannot live a life that pleases God or that fulfills all his will, in our own strength. Some people realize this at the beginning of their Christian life others discovered the hard way-by trying and failing repeatedly for many years and then turning to God for God’s power. Unfortunately there’s still others who after failing repeatedly finally resigned themselves to a life of defeat, believing that is impossible to live victoriously in this life.
John the Baptist pointed to two ministries that Jesus would fulfill-one was to take away sins and the other was to baptize people in the Holy Spirit. We need to experience both of these. Most of us want to know that our past failings are not a permanent definition of who we are. We pray that we can be better in the future and receive pardon in the final analysis
Isaiah 43:1-7 NRSV Restoration and Protection Promised
43 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia[a] and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Acts 8:14-17 New Revised Standard Version
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come[a] upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John[b] laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:15-17 New Revised Standard Version
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,[a] 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his 7sandals. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Luke 3:21-22 NRSV The Baptism of Jesus
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 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;[a] with you I am well pleased.”[b]
Your word of light and hope floods into our lives, O God. We have lived in darkness, in despair and fear, doubt and strife. But on this day of celebration, you remind us that we are marked by you to be witnesses to your light of new hope. As the heavens opened at Jesus’ baptism, so is your love poured out on us. We have brought before you names and situations which concern us, people who face illness and grief, whose lives are torn by poverty, war, alienation, addiction, and hopelessness. We ask for your loving mercy on them, O Lord. Heal them and bind up their wounds. Help us to be people who are ready to be involved in ministries of peace and justice, bringing the light of your hope to those who dwell in darkness and despair. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
People of hope and peace, go into the world. Bring God’s healing love to all whom you meet. Help with ministries, which promote justice and compassion. In Jesus’ Name, go in peace. AMEN.
The traditional color for this Sunday is: WHITE
SURFACE: Place a 10″riser at the center back of the worship table. Place two 8″ risers to the right and left of the center riser, slightly forward. Place three 4″ risers in front of the 8″risers across the worship table.
FABRIC: Cover the entire worship center with a light blue/green fabric, making sure that it puddles on the floor in front of the worship center.
CANDLES: On either side of the 10″ riser, place tall altar/worship center candles. Place a votive candle in front of each of the three 4″ risers.
FLOWERS/FOLIAGE: Place new, small plants on each side of the tall candles and at various places around the worship table. These may be set in small containers or terra cotta pots, but they should be newly grown plants.
ROCKS/WOOD: Place small groups of pebbles around the base of each of the containers
OTHER: Place a brass cross on the 10″ riser. At the apex of the cross place a descending dove. OR you may make a descending dove from poster board or heavy cardboard and place it above the cross on the worship center.
The psalmist depicts God’s glory and majesty. Isaiah shows us God’s strength—divine power is not just for show but is available to protect, support, and nurture God’s beloved children. The story of Jesus’ baptism evokes feelings of awe and wonder. It is impossible to picture the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove without total amazement! And yet, through our own sharing in the baptism of Christ, we are able to experience the intimacy of a God who loves us as precious children, a God who calls each of us by name.