The south side of Glasgow is the talk of the steamie, more specifically the deluge of rain which fell over Hampden Park on Tuesday night was a hot topic of conversation. The heavens opened and 15mm of rain fell in one hour, or to put it another way, 6 days’ worth of rain in an hour!
It was in its own way spectacular and exceptional.
I’m praying that this Sunday, as we meet as church to celebrate the baptism of two young people, that the heavens would open. Not with a torrential downpour of rain, but that was we meet as God’s people, gathered in Jesus’ name, we would experience God’s presence and his glory and his love among us in a special way.
I’m specifically praying that the two people being baptised would experience heaven being opened as they go through the waters of baptism.
Would you join me in this prayer? That they would encounter God in a deeper more transformative way than they have up till now. Would you join me in praying that each time we gather as His people we would know the Spirit working among us to a greater measure?
Not just opened but torn apart
In Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1: 9 – 11) he writes that as Jesus came up out of the water the heavens were not merely opened but that “he saw the heavens torn apart”. This phrase is evocative of the prophet Isaiah’s cry (Is 64:1) that God would “tear open the heavens and come down,” and of course in Jesus that is exactly what God has done; the heavens have been torn apart and God the second person of the Trinity has come down and the kingdom of God is now at work, present, near to us in a new and transformative way.
Torn apart = revelation
This rending of the heavens speaks not just of God’s movement toward us, God’s coming down to us in Jesus, but of our having a new revelation of who this God is. It reveals that the God who acts in human history is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that His action toward us is love. The God who violently splits the heavens is the God who loves and loves not merely in the abstract, but concretely and practically.
Torn apart = love
Accompanying the tearing of the heavens at Jesus’ baptism were the words of the Father, “You are my Son, the Beloved”. That God sent his beloved to this hurting, rebellious, and broken world, points to the mystery which John most famously articulates for us, namely, God loves this world (Jn 3:16) …a world which includes you and me. Indeed, God’s love transforms us from being rebellious strangers to God to being His beloved children!
Torn Apart = presence & access
The word Mark uses for ‘torn apart’, σχιζομένους (schizomenous), is the same word he uses, and which is also used by Matthew and Luke, to describe the curtain in the temple being torn apart – top to bottom indicating that God himself does this – at Christ’s crucifixion. The curtain which stopped access into the Most Holy Place / the Holy of Holies, which stopped access into God’s presence, has been destroyed.
The good news …the great news is that the work of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – tears heaven open so we know God’s presence with us and have open access to the very throne of God (Heb. 4:16).
It is God who is acting
So, as we come to the act of baptism this Sunday, we do so knowing that God has not only acted (past tense) but that God continues to act in our present and into our future. Peter on the day of Pentecost finished his address to the crowd with the following words:
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.
The God who tore open the heavens at the baptism of His beloved Son, so the Holy Spirit could descend upon him as a dove, promises he will act likewise in our baptism in graciously giving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And the heavens are torn apart
So, knowing that God’s promises are sure, I am expectant that those being baptised will know a tearing of the heavens open: that they will experience a deeper revelation of who God is, experience his love in a new measure, will know his presence in a new and profound way and will choose to come before God’s throne of grace and mercy as they seek to grow in Christ-likeness.
What are you expecting?
See you Sunday.