God’s Spirit still breathes into the chaos and darkness of this world and brings life and hope and creation – in you, and in the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (First Sunday after Epiphany, Lect. 1 B)
Texts: Genesis 1:1-5; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
In the beginning, the Spirit of God moved over the waters of the void.
God breathed over chaos and darkness and brought light into being. Worlds, stars, beings of all kinds were breathed into life by God. And that creation, filled with the very Breath of the eternal God, embodied God’s being.
In the Jordan, the Son of God was baptized and God’s Spirit breathed into him. Filled with the Spirit, beloved by the Father, the Son showed us the Triune God’s face. He called us to return to God’s love, to love God and each other. He lived and proclaimed God’s way of life for all, a way of justice and love and peace like that first creation. Even when the way led to a cross, Jesus, filled with the Spirit, walked it. Through that death, he broke the power of chaos and death and revealed God’s life for all.
When the Holy Spirit, the breath of the Triune God, breathes into this world, beauty and justice and hope and love and life happen.
But does the Holy Spirit still breathe into the chaos and darkness of our world?
As we watched the insurrection last Wednesday, the chaos of people, enraged by a web of lies they live in as if it were reality, attacking the Capitol, trying to overturn a fair election, seeking to establish a dictator in the United States, it was hard to believe. These were the things, we smugly thought, that happen in other places. Not here.
And when these protesters with guns, intent on intimidation, spread their destruction and rampaged with little opposition, it was hard not to remember peaceful protesters with no guns and no attacking that were shot at, gassed, arrested, beaten down this past year. Apparently in this country, if your skin is white and your cause is preserving a dictator, you can attack peaceful institutions with deadly weapons and be allowed to leave when you’re done.
God breathes over chaos and a beautiful creation is born. God breathes into Jesus and a mission to heal and save the world is begun.
Will God breathe into our world today?
Finding an answer begins with a moment in the reading from Acts.
Paul goes to Ephesus and finds a group of believers who knew of John the Baptist, believed in Jesus, but didn’t know much else. When Paul asked if they received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized, they astonishingly said, “No. We haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit!”
So Paul baptized them, laid hands on them, prayed for the Holy Spirit. And just as at Pentecost, these believers were filled with the Spirit.
But know this: the Holy Spirit was already with them, already in the world. Just because they didn’t know it makes no difference. From the beginning, God’s Spirit has been breathing in and through the creation, bringing peace and light and life.
So, if you despair at the chaos and hatred and violence spreading across our nation, trampling the vulnerable, and wonder where God’s Spirit is now, remember: just because you don’t see the Spirit all the time doesn’t mean God isn’t breathing into our world today.
Still, Paul taught them about the Holy Spirit, and prayed for the Spirit to fill them.
Not because the Spirit wasn’t there. But so they could see God’s breath more clearly, be open to the Spirit’s transformation in their lives, be changed.
Paul believes the Spirit of God continues to breathe into the chaos of our lives and transform us. Again and again in his letters he promises that in the Spirit we are made into a new creation, we become Christ. It’s how we break away from the old way of living and being, the way of destruction, that this world is trapped in, into the new way of Christ that brings life and hope to all creation.
The Spirit moves wherever she wants, in all people, whether they know Jesus or not, whether they know there’s a Holy Spirit or not. But knowing means you can ask God to breathe in you and transform you into Christ, means you can see the Spirit’s movement better.
Because you will be changed.
Your eyes will be changed and you’ll see the Spirit’s work in so many in our world who stand against chaos and violence and hatred and put their lives on the line in love and kindness and grace. You’ll see the Spirit’s breath in them and find hope.
Your own heart will be changed as the Spirit moves over your chaos, the prejudices and sins and wickedness that crop up in your heart even when you don’t want it and sometimes when you do, and brings forgiveness and healing. Changes you.
And since your baptismal promise is the same as the one Jesus has, as the Spirit breathes into you, you’re sent out into your mission of love, making God’s new creation in this world’s chaos.
Is this enough in a frightening and destructive world? Will anything change?
Yes, it is enough. And yes, the world will change. Because when God breathes into chaos a marvelous creation emerges. Even if you and I don’t always see where it’s happening.
So, pray that God breathes into this chaotic world today and always. Pray that the Spirit opens your eyes to see signs of the Spirit’s breathing in the world, signs of hope and truth. And pray that the Holy Spirit breathes into your chaotic heart and mind and brings peace and focus, and transforms you into Christ in your world.
Because then you will become a sign to others that the Spirit is real and breathing life into this world even now, a sign of hope for all the people of this world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen