While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
Food for Thought:
This passage of Scripture talks about the centrality of baptism. In the United Methodist church, there are two sacraments (that which is sacred or holy), which are the sacrament of Holy Communion and the sacrament of Baptism. The sacrament of baptism is a symbol of receiving a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.” Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ. We also believe that in baptism, God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.
Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent. So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God.
One of the most moving traditions that we have in the United Methodist church is Remember Your Baptism. In that tradition, the congregation is sprinkled with water and told, “remember your baptism.” It is a powerful reminder that we are God’s beloved and that we are called to live as holy and set apart in this world. Think about your baptism. If you were baptized as a baby, you might not remember the baptism but think about stories that were told surrounding your baptism. Who was there celebrating you and affirming their call to support you along the way?
Mighty God, in whom we know the power of redemption, you stand among us in the shadows of our time. As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life, uphold us with knowledge of the final morning when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son, we will share in his resurrection, redeemed and restored to the fullness of life and forever freed to be your people. Amen.