“As Jesus was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart
and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”
-- Mark 1:10
Friends of Atonement,
I was pretty young when I was baptized, and can’t say I remember what happened. I take it on faith that water was poured over my head that day, and that the pastor announced that I belonged to God “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But then what? I imagine more prayers were prayed, the service concluded, and everyone went to the fellowship hall for coffee and cookies.
There’s an old story about a fierce race of people called the Goths, that when they went down into the river to be baptized, they held their sword arms up out of the water. They would give most of themselves to God, but didn’t want to give up the fighting and pillaging that was so near and dear to their hearts. A little bit of God was ok, but they wanted to make sure they didn’t get fully converted.
Though it’s “just a story,” people really do resist giving their whole selves to God. There are parts of us we try not to get “too wet” with the grace of God. For some of us, it’s our wallets and pocketbooks we’re holding up out of the river of life. After all, that’s “our” hard-earned money, and we’ve got big plans for it.
When Jesus was baptized, he went all the way under. Fully soaked in the cool waters of the Jordan River, he was fully committed to God’s will for his life and fully saturated by God’s promise of limitless life and love. The Spirit of God was with him 100% as he spent his life caring for others and spreading good news.
Somehow I doubt that any clouds parted or heavenly doves flew down from the sky the day I was baptized. But I do believe that same Spirit was there, soaking my soul in grace and forgiveness. And that same Spirit was calling me to follow, to accept the mission of Jesus to care for others and spread good news. And I believe that God claimed all of me, even the hand that swipes credit cards and writes checks.
And so I ask for help and guidance from that Spirit as I strive to live like a converted Christian with a converted wallet and bank account. I don’t want to be the guy whose checkbook looks the same as any non-believer’s. I don’t want to come to the end of the month and find that I spent more on fast food than I gave to the work of the church. I want my offerings to be just that – offerings of my self to my Lord – a thank you from the bottom of my heart for the life and breath he gives me each day. After all, if God could tear the heavens open to give me a Savior, can’t I tear into my earnings and give a good chunk of it back to him?