Sermon: Marked by God and for God
Sunday, September 10, on the Epistle of St Paul - 1 Corinthians 1:21-2:4
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
In the recent weeks I’ve been talking about what it means to be a Christian in today’s world and how do we exercise our Christianity towards ourselves, towards our fellow Christians, and towards those who are not yet Christian.
Today I would like to continue discussing this topic by looking at the seal, the stamp that God puts on us at our baptism. During baptism, right after immersing the person under the water three times, the priest prays and anoints the newly baptized Christian, with the words, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
It effectively means that God marks us, He stamps us as His own. St Paul says in today’s Epistle reading, “It is God who establishes us in Christ and has anointed us, by putting His seal on us and giving us His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.”
In the past, people didn’t use signatures to sign documents, they used seals. A seal was a proof of ownership. In our case, God marks us, to show that we belong to Him.
“The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The gift that we receive at this anointing is the Holy Spirit Himself. We receive Holy Spirit to help us, we receive Him to guide us to Christ.
Recall that when Christ was baptized in Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descended on Him. At our baptism, the Holy Spirit descends on us as the personal gift of Christ. Jesus has the Spirit as His Life, and by receiving the Spirit, we are given participation in His life. It’s a sign of our high and unique calling.
What calling is this? You might ask. I’m glad that you asked.
This calling includes, but is not limited to, doing the work of Christ in this world, meaning – to selflessly serve others. Every day, it seems, there are more and more things, events, and situations that divide us, the human beings, and make us selfish and greedy, hateful and violent.
Even within our own community, sometimes we tend to put our own interests ahead of others. We might even be thinking that we are doing it for the better of the community, but the problem is, community, the parish, is not in the first place. It can’t be, because if it is, then Christ is not. And if Christ is not in the first place in our life, then we are not Christian, we are not part of His Body, we are not part of His Church.
Selfishness, greed, and hatred also are not compatible with our Christian faith. It is simply impossible to be selfish and Christian. They do not mix.
The Spirit that we receive at baptism is not meant to make us invincible to an evil eye or other silly superstitions. The Spirit is the helper in our high and unique calling of doing Christ’s work.
Evangelist John, in his Gospel, quotes Christ saying, “If you love Me, keep My commandments, and you will receive the Holy Spirit and He will be in you.” All of the commandments center around one – love one another.
Selfless love is a unique feature of Christianity, love that has won over the world, but we are in danger of losing this love every time we put ourselves ahead of others.
May the Holy Spirit guide us and help us to remember our high and unique calling every day, so that in our works of selfless love people may recognize our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
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