What I’m Thinking: Washed in the Holy Spirit and in Fire

John the Baptist announced that his successor would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Which sounds… uncomfortable at best.

Here’s a transcript:

The first thing I’m thinking is: Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year! May 2022 bring you joy. May you be healthy. May you be filled with purpose. May you always be accompanied by the Holy Spirit.

It’s the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist spoke of when describing the baptism that would be administered by his successor. You see, I’m thinking about the third chapter of Luke, Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism by John. The lectionary editors have begun with John’s description of the baptism, not as he administered it, but the one people would receive from his successor. “I baptize you with water. The one who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Now, baptism with the Holy Spirit sounds pretty good. It is, in fact, a central tenet of the Christian faith that baptism, that participation in the life of Christ’s Church, is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to act out of the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit. Fire, though, that’s a little more challenging, particularly in a week after the destruction of so many homes and livelihoods by fire near Boulder, Colorado, and we are uncomfortably waiting to hear whether those fires have also claimed lives.

But John did not speak, I think, of such a destructive fire, nor even of the cooking fires on the hearths of first century homes. I think he had in mind the refiner’s fire that the Apostle Paul would take up as a metaphor some years later. A refiner’s fire was one that would separate something that was of value from something that was not, to remove the metal from the ore and have, at the end, something that would be discarded and something that could be worked and shaped, something that would serve, something that would be useful and beautiful.

And that is, I think, part of the life of faith. I don’t think any of us go through life believing that all of who we are and what we do is marvelous and great. There are many things in my life that I would very much like to leave in the past, and despite resolutions, I hate to admit it, some of them persist.

But I can also look back on things that I have done in my life, and I have succeeded in not doing those things again. There are things that I wish I had done in my life in the past, and these are things that I have remembered to take up and do as the future (well, now the past) unfolded. This process was not easy. It was, and is, occasionally painful, but out of it I do feel more truer to myself, more that the things that are of value to me are being brought together and the things that are not of value are being left behind.

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and baptized with the refiner’s fire. The blessings of God’s power and guidance; the blessings of coming to our best selves.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , , | Posted on January 3, 2022

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