LET’S ADMIT IT. WE MAINLINE PROTESTANTS GET DOWNRIGHT SQUEAMISH WHEN ASK US IF WE’RE BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT OR FIRE! We tend to leave that kind of Spirit and fire business to our peppy Pentecostal siblings and their speaking in tongues, or to our quirky Charismatic cousins and their rolling in the aisles. No siree Bob Jones! A baptism of Spirit and fire just isn’t a part of our party line.

Baptism for us mainliners tends to be all about water. We have peace like river, joy like fountain, and love like an ocean but that Spirit and fire talk has been a bit of stumbling block for us forward thinking, Princeton University founding, academic loving, progressive Presbyterians and mainline Protestants.

Well listen up! That locust-breath, desert-dwelling prophet John the Baptist says baptism with Spirit and fire is what Jesus brings. “I baptize you with water,” says John,  “but one who is more powerful than I is coming . . . He will baptize you” en pnuemati agio kai puri – “with the Holy Spirit and purifying fire.”

Baptism with Spirit and fire is for even us Presbyterians, Methodists and the like, too. Perhaps there’s a way for God’s frozen chosen to get thawed out by God’s fiery Spirit but we just have to think about it in a new way.

Walter Brueggemann, one of the foremost biblical scholars of our times says that being baptized by fire means that “we may be visited by a spirit of openness, generosity, that “the force” may come over us, carry us to do obedient things we have not yet done, kingdom things we did not think we had in us, neighborly things from which we cringe.” Being baptized in Spirit and fire inspires a belief that “God may act in us, through us, beyond us” and in greater ways “than we imagined.”

In other words, being baptized by Spirit and fire means that we live with a certain confidence, a holy hope, because even though we can’t imagine a brighter future, or better outcome, or even a distinct possibility,  we know that our very good God can. God holds out more than we ever imagined! It’s like that old hymn says, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow!”

Baptism with Spirit and fire takes us beyond the limits of our own imaginations and opens us to the limitlessness of God’s. Baptism with Spirit and fire is the very essence of our faith that allows us to live with less fear and more trust, more courage, and more hope. More. Baptism with Spirit and fire allows us to get up off the couch and go up against the odds to work for peace and justice even in a world as divided, broken, and unjust as our own.

Next time you hear a voice from a closed mind – whether it belongs to someone else or even yourself, say, “Hey, sounds really nice, but somehow I just can’t imagine it ever happening!” You just tell that voice, “That’s okay, God can!”

Blessings of Peace and Love,
Mark

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One of the first lessons of faith is also the hardest for me: There is a God, and I’m not it! Whether my heart is heavy with worry or sadness, or I’m burned out from the day-to-day grind, that’s when I have to remember this important rule more than ever. I’m not God, and not every load is mine to carry, at least not by myself. God is there to help me!

Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
– Jesus (Matthew 11:28-29)

What burdens are you shouldering right now? What’s weighing heavily on your heart or mind? Are you able to let it go or hand it over to God? Be still. Breathe deeply. And ask God to take it from here. Remember: God’s got this!

Love,
Mark

 

ARE YOU USING YOUR GOD GIVEN GIFTS AND TALENTS? Never be ashamed to share the gifts that God has given to you. They are unique to you. And they are yours and yours alone to offer. Remember, God has a divine purpose for them. That’s where joy is rooted!

Be the joyful blessing this year and always!
– Mark

BY THE TIME MY BROTHERS AND I WERE TEENAGERS, my parents were able to take  short vacations and leave us in charge of the house. We didn’t always take care of the place very well but knowing when they were due home, we managed to get the place passably cleaned up before they returned. The problem for us happened on those occasions when Mom and Dad decided to come home early. Yikes!

In a sense, Jesus has left us to be faithful stewards of the world, to take care of the earth and all who dwell in it until his return. And he said, Keep awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come.

Check out this inspiring first-week-of-Advent message, House Sitter. It asks the questions: Are we living in fear or in hope? What would life be like if we lived as if faith wasn’t a requirement to receive God’s grace, rather a hope-filled response to having already received it?

What happens when parents leave the kids in charge? Living in hope, not in fear.

 

 

 

For This Place and Time (Gathering Hymn of the City) With so many people on the planet living in cities these days, and those within cities moving downtown and to more urban areas, I’m surprised the church doesn’t offer more hymns that celebrate the work and theology of the church in the city. So I decided to contribute to the small body of urban hymns by composing one of my own (words below). We’ve sung twice now at the Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland), both times as a processional hymn. It makes a great Ascension Sunday hymn or hymn for any Sunday.

Work and pray for the well being of the city. Jeremiah 29:7
Wait here in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

If your congregation or choir would like to sing For This Place and Time (Gathering Hymn of the City), you will have my permission. Just send me a note and I will give you a little permission blurb to include in your bulletin. I wrote it to the tune of Hyfrydol (Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, Love Divine, etc.), which means “cheerful” with the hope that choirs and congregations would sing this new song with joy. Blessings!

For This Place and Time (Gathering Hymn of the City)
©2018 R. Mark Giuliano

Come, dear friends, and let us gather;
Be restored by God’s great hour.
In the city, yes, the Spirit,
Clothes us with a greater power.
Sent from heaven far beyond us,
To our hearts where love can reign.
Be renewed of God’s good labor
For the city once again.

Here we meet as one great city,
Friend and stranger, one in love.
Here we’ll find the great encounter
Where God’s word is spoken of.
Let us praise God, all together,
Let God’s people, here, rejoice!
Rich mosaic of all creation*
Let us lift to God our voice.

We give thanks to you, the Holy,
For this place and for this time.
Let us cherish where we live, now,
Let us make it wholly thine.
May the path each day we travel,
In the city that we all share
Be the place of divine blessing,
Of your presence everywhere.

Sung to HYFRYDOL (Come, Though Long-Expected Jesus) 8.7.8.7.D

*Special thanks to Dr. J. Barrie Shepherd, Minister Emeritus, First Presbyterian Church, New York City and fellow poet/hymn writer who made a wonderful suggestion on this particular line.

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What’s your favorite time of day on the Camino de Santiago? For me, there is no contest; it’s early morning.

I feel great having my boots laced, my pack on my back, and my body moving forward just as the sun is starting to rise behind me in the east. My heart is starting to pump and my blood is beginning to flow. Most importantly, I know that I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing: walking. Read the rest of this entry »

Do you suffer from a fear of heights or vertigo? Crossing the bridge from Asturias into Galicia’s port city, Ribadeo, doesn’t have to be as daunting as you imagined. Knowledge is power! Here are 6 tips to get you across.

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Okay, fellow peregrinos, if you’re like me and you’re waking the Camino de Santiago del Norte, the Northern Way, and have a bit of an issue with heights or vertigo, then you might be concerned about how you’re going to deal with that mighty bridge, the Puente de los Santos, which crosses the Ria de Ribadeo and gives you access to the city of Ribadeo. Have no fear! Here’s some helpful information about the Puente de los Santos (bridge of the Saints) to help make your crossing both successful and less stressful.  Read the rest of this entry »