Formations 05.03.2020: Well Pleased

Luke 3:15-22

Several years ago I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter. Our church was without a pastor at the time, and given the choice between me or our children’s minister, I got the call in the bullpen.

As is the custom in our church, when we entered the water, I read the words of testimony that she had written, declared her “my sister,” and baptized her in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Then I got to declare to her the words of affirmation that our church customarily uses. This isn’t “standard” Baptist liturgy—as if there were such a thing—but it is profoundly biblical. I offered her salt to taste while reminding her that she was the salt of the earth. I gave her a candle to take with her from the pool to assure her that she was the light of the world.

You are salt. You are light. That is your mission, your calling. By God’s grace, that is who we expect you to grow to be.

Baptism is about many things, but one of those things is most certainly to affirm one’s calling, one’s place in the kingdom of God. That was true for Jesus. Coming up from the water, the heavens open, the Spirit descends, and the voice of God proclaims, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

As we make our way from Easter to Pentecost, from the thrill of Jesus’ resurrection to the empowering fire of the Holy Spirit, our lesson for this week asks us about expectations. What can we expect when the Spirit comes?

In a sense, that’s an impossible question to answer. How should we know what to expect? “The wind blows where it chooses,” Jesus tells Nicodemus, “and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Will the Spirit come with a mighty, rushing wind and powerful signs and manifestations? Could be. Will the Spirit come in a still, small voice that invites us into quiet contemplation? Maybe. The only thing we can say with assurance is that when the Spirit comes, everything changes.

But perhaps we can say one thing more. When the Spirit comes, we hear assurances of God’s approval—not audibly, but surely.

What words of affirmation do we need to hear today? Baptismal words always look forward from the beginning. Can we reflect on “where it all began” for us in the life of the Spirit? Can we be strengthened by remembering how fresh and exciting it all was in times past?

What about now? If the heavens were to open and the Spirit were to descend afresh today, what words of divine approval might you hear? I can only believe that they would be words of grace. A watchword during the coronavirus has been to be easy on ourselves, to acknowledge that this is a hard time and that trying our best is good enough.

It’s a comforting word that we often need to hear, pandemic or no pandemic. You’ve got this. Your awkward, tentative obedience is enough. God’s grace is sufficient.

Can you hear the word of grace today?

This is my beloved son, who keeps faithfully serving even when no one notices, even when it would be easier to quit.

This is my beloved daughter, whose heart is bursting with my love, whose love for others makes a far greater difference than she will ever know.

This is my beloved child, in whom I have been—and remain—well pleased.

Read the passage. Soak in the words of comfort and calling. Feel the subtle breeze of the Spirit, and know that you are loved.


• What words of affirmation did you receive at your baptism? How have those words carried you through difficult times?
• What does it mean that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v. 16)?
• What words of affirmation can you speak to others today?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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