Gentile Baptism [Sermon]

One of the guilty pleasures Mary and I have is videos where people read stories about entitled people.

Sometimes it’s a person who cuts into the front of a line because “I’m in a hurry; you people can wait.”

Sometimes it’s a demand for special treatment because “my spouse is an officer in the military.”

Often, there’s the question

“Do you know who I am?”

Usually the person finds out that they are not getting special treatment and behaves poorly. Depending on how far they carry the bad behavior, sometimes someone gets hurt or arrested.

I think there are times that most of us feel like we should get at least a little special consideration, but sometimes we expect too much, and sometimes we’re just wrong.

Let’s go to God in prayer.
God of wisdom, may the words that I speak, and the ways they are received by each of our hearts and minds, help us to continue to grow into the people, and the church, that you have dreamed us to be.

Amen.

So last week we talked about the question of what would prevent an Ethiopian Eunuch from being baptized.

And the answer was nothing.

But today we are faced with a larger group who may or may not be eligible: Gentiles.

A few things we need to remember:

Jesus was not Christian.

Jesus was not a follower of Jesus. You can see how being a follower of one’s self could be problematic.

Jesus and his initial followers were Jewish.

They were all circumcised Jews.

And now people who were not Jewish, without the teaching and culture of Judaism, were starting to follow the Way of Jesus.

This could be scandalous.

But these Gentiles had heard the story of Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit. It seemed that God had endorsed the faith of these outsiders, and Peter asked “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Most Christians have had Christian parents and grandparents. And in places like the United States, Christianity has a strong presence in the culture.

So we may feel it is natural that people who look and sound like us are Christian.

And sure, after 2,000 years, it is common. But it is helpful for us to remember that we were allowed and invited in.

“Do you know who I am?” ought not lead to special privilege in the church.

Movements like Christian Nationalism, which collapse faith in Jesus with an “America First” isolationism, miss the point that gentiles are not the original Christians and that Europeans are not the original residents of this continent.

But even more subtle forms of entitlement lead us away from a faith that teaches

“Do to others as you would have others do to you”

or

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Anytime we feel a bit “holier than thou” we need to remember that we are not the originators of the faith.

We are outsiders that were invited inside.

We ought to have the humility of guests at the table.

So my challenge to all of us this week is to notice where we could have a little more humility and claim a little less privilege.

Let us seek to be loving neighbors rather than entitled VIPs.

Amen.


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