Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baptism in the Holy Spirit For Twelve-Year-Olds

I guess I'm sort of in a revision stage, but I'm not sure what to do with it, so I'll post two posts here just because.

I want to talk to you about what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit actually is. Many of you are Catholic and you've heard that Confirmation is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is true in a formal, sacramental sense. When we talk about Baptism in the Holy Spirit though, we are usually talking about the Holy Spirit's manifestation in you, not the sacrament, for we often experience them at different times. This happened from the very beginning: (Act 10:47)
When St. Peter spoke about Jesus at Cornelius' house, everyone who heard the message received the Holy Spirit. Peter and the others were surprised because no one had been baptized in water yet, and Cornelius wasn't even a Jew. Peter realized they should give the people there the sacraments in part because of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

I want to talk about different ways of thinking about God, and, of course, what God wants, at least as it applies to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
There has been, for a very long time, a tendency to think that gods exist in things or places. The pagans made idols, and it's easy for people to relate God to a place. It's easy to think that your church building is God's house or something. There was a foreigner named Naaman (2 Kings 5) who came to Israel to be healed of leprosy. When God healed him he was very happy and wanted serve God in Israel, but the prophet wouldn't let him.
Naaman was told to go back home, so he asked for some dirt from Israel to take with him.
Naaman is a good example of how many people think of God. He thought God was tied to one place and he thought the dirt would give him the special connection he wanted to God.
But God doesn't want to live in dirt; He wants to live in us. In one sense, God is everywhere, but, more importantly, He wants to be where you are.
God loves us, but he takes our decisions seriously. We each, individually, must make a choice for him. This is why our history can seem weird at times. God responds to what people do, so sometimes the history seems to meander a bit.
When God took the Hebrews out of Egypt, for instance, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. This wasn't something God had planned, rather it was due some of the things the people decided to do. God's desire was to be closer to his people, not just be a tour guide. He led them from Egypt (Exodus 13.21) as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, not merely to get them to new land, but to strengthen His relationship with them. And, like a patient father, He was willing to keep waiting until they grew up a bit before finishing the trip.

(1 Kings 8) In Israel, God was present in a special way in the temple. His presence was so powerful that the priests sometimes had problems doing the work they were supposed to do in the Temple. Unfortunately, having God in the temple wasn't enough. The Israelites would get distracted from God and turn away from Him. Eventually God allowed Israel to be destroyed by its enemies and He removed his presence from the Temple.
When God returned to the temple, He did so in the person of Jesus.(John 2:13)
Jesus cleansed the old temple, as He cleanses us. One way He does this now is in the Eucharist. This is not just a Catholic idea. Many denominations have the concept of real presence, which means that Jesus is actually in the bread and wine in some way. And when you partake, He comes into you.
It's good to understand that we often talk about the three persons of God as if they are all different, but they are all one. If you have the Son, you have the Father and the Holy Spirit. We experience them differently, but they are one. So Christ is the presence of God in you, but so too is the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, and it fell upon them with 'tongues as of fire' (Acts2). This gives us a clue to what is happening here. God marked his presence among the Hebrews with a pillar of fire, but at Pentecost, He comes to each person.
He dwelt in the temple in Israel, but now He wants to dwell in us.
This is your choice. Do you want God to dwell within you? It's a pretty serious decision, and we can't make this choice for you. We don't know what your relationship with God will bring either. We'd like to see you all grow up and become People of Praise like your parents, but God may have other plans for you. This is the starting point for a relationship with God, and relationships with God are always surprising.

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