Monday, January 26, 2015

"No matter who you matter where you are in your journey of are welcome here." - John Lafferty

I was taken aback when Pastor Karen asked me to speak today, because it has long been my belief that the Junior Warden at the Annual Meeting is much like the deceased at a wake—he is supposed to be there, but he isn’t expected to say very much!

But Karen has asked me to say a few words, so I will. She often includes a quotation or two in her sermons, so I’ll start out with a few of my favorites: “It’s always darkest before it gets even darker.” “Where there’s a will, I want my name to be on it.” And when I’m doing some work around the church, my favorite quotation is “Nothing’s ever easy.”

A few weeks ago I was driving up the hill in front of the church in the late afternoon. There was a cloud cover, but the setting sun was below the clouds and had the effect of lighting up our newly painted church so that it had almost a miraculous glow. And at that moment I felt very proud to be a part of this wonderful church family.

But to be quite frank, such a feeling is nothing new, and does not depend on unusual meteorological conditions, or fresh paint. As a matter of fact, I experience this feeling every Sunday. Just before the sermon, when we in the front turn around to face the Gospel book [in the center of the church], I can’t help but look at all the faces and marvel at their diversity.

I see mostly white faces, but also a few people of color. I see mostly older faces such as my own, but some younger families and teenagers and children as well. I see people who are straight, and people who are gay. I see liberals and conservatives. I see up-country people and flatlanders.  I see people who own large, expensive homes and people who do not have a home. I see people who are the picture of health, and some who would be the first to admit they have seen better days. I see former military people, and people who were war protesters. I see life-long Episcopalians, people from other faiths, and people who are newly baptized. I see people who I have been seeing here Sunday after Sunday for thirty years, and I see people who are here for the first time. And every face is a beautiful one.

And after the gospel and sermon, I see all these same people embracing each other and embracing their differences and extending to all the kiss of peace. And it is at that moment that I feel pride of ownership. And I know we are doing something right here. That we are truly a Christian community, because if there is a single thread that winds through the gospels it is one of inclusiveness and acceptance of others, from the tax collector to the leper. In the words of today’s Communion hymn: “Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man…no more. We are one body in our one Lord.”

Before each service, Karen speaks those familiar words: "No matter who you are, no matter where you are in your journey of faith, you are welcome here." And though I love those words, they don’t seem to tell the whole story. Because you are more than welcome here, you are wanted here. Your differences are not just tolerated here—they are treasured here. You are not just allowed here—you are loved here. And that is why I am so proud and thankful to be a member of this beautiful church family and to that I say thank you and Amen.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sermon: Distinguishing the Hay from the Straw - By the Rev. Karen F. Siegfriedt

Distinguishing the Hay from the Straw
Readings: Jonah 3:1-5,10   Mark 1:14-20  Epiph/3B
By the Rev. Karen F. Siegfriedt; Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA   1/25/15

            Thirty-five years ago on a “ranchette” in Northern Colorado, a father bought a “pony of America” for his two daughters.  He was told to limit the amount of hay he fed to the pony as this particular breed had a tendency to get fat.  Several weeks later, a newly graduated veterinarian received an emergency call from the father.  By the time she arrived on the scene, the pony was lying down in the corral, barely breathing, suffering from malnutrition. Unfortunately, the family did not know the difference between hay and straw and had been feeding the animal straw all along. 

Hay is a nutritional grass fed to animals while straw is the left over shafts after the nutritional part has been removed. Although straw is good for bedding, it has no nutritional value and can lead to death.  The new veterinarian worked tirelessly pumping nutrition into the stomach of the pony and then instructed the family on how to properly feed its new pet.  Within a week, the pony began to recover.  It was the “authentic” hay that gave the pony a new life.

Oftentimes, when it comes to the religious journey, we settle for straw rather than hay.  Why?  Sometimes it is out of ignorance and sometimes it is because we have listened to the wrong voice.  Sometimes we would rather follow our own desires rather than God’s commandments because it seems more satisfying.  However, if we settle for the straw in our faith journey rather than the hay, we will eventually become spiritually impoverished and our life will lack meaning.  My hope for us in the coming years together as a community of faith is that we will learn how to distinguish the hay from the straw and choose the nutritional part of the spiritual journey that will lead us to health and wholeness.  Let’s take a look at today’s biblical readings to see if we can distinguish the hay from the straw.

In our first reading from the book of Jonah, the prophet is called by God to go into the city of Nineveh and warn the people to repent of their evil ways.  About 2700 years ago, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, the destroyer of the nation of Israel.  Nineveh was in the same location as the modern day city of Mosul Iraq.  The people of Nineveh (along with the Assyrian Empire) were a brutal occupying force, very similar to the ISIS terrorists, willing to destroy anything and anyone who tried to resist. 

Now imagine for a moment being called by God to go into ISIS territory to warn the terrorist to repent of their sins.  Who in their right mind would volunteer for such an assignment?  Most of us would rather call upon the US military to bomb the heck out of the whole lot rather than encourage them to repent of their ways.  Well Jonah the prophet had this very same sentiment.  And so instead of going to Nineveh the first time, he got on the next ship heading in the opposite direction.  As a result of listening to his own voice instead of God’s, he ran into a lot of problems.  It is hard for any of us to listen to God’s call to give others a second chance especially when they’ve have hurt us, caused us great loss, or made us fearful. This was certainly the case with Jonah who felt that the people of Nineveh were so evil, that they did not deserve a second chance.  Jonah was a “pro-death penalty” type of guy.

             In today’s reading, Jonah is called by God once again to go to Nineveh and to let the people know that if they don’t repent, the city will be overthrown.  So Jonah reluctantly goes into the city and gives his 8-word sermon of warning.  But instead of perishing (as Jonah had hoped), the people of Nineveh listen to his warning.  In a posture of true contrition, they fast, put on sack clothes, abandon their wicked ways and habitual violence, and turn toward God.  And because the people of Nineveh changed their behavior, God also repented.  In other words, God changed God’s mind and forgave the Assyrians.  And what was Jonah’s response?  If you read the next chapter, Jonah is furious and wants to end his life.  He would rather die than to see the Assyrians forgiven.  Like the old saying goes: “Resentment is like eating poison, hoping that the other person will die.” {Forward Day by Day}

                Repentance and forgiveness is the hay of our religious tradition.  Making up excuses for not letting go of past hurts is simply straw that deceives us and hurts us in the end. Forgiveness is vital for our mental health.  And like forgiveness, repentance is also a vital part of our religion.  Changing the way we think and act is an ongoing, life process that we need to keep at the forefront of our minds. 
            This month is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp that was run by the Nazi occupying forces in Poland during WWII.  The prisoners from this camp suffered starvation, forced labor, exposure from the cold weather, indignities beyond description, and the gas chambers.  Over 1.1 million people died in this death camp.  While we will probably never be personally called to forgive such an experience, those who did survive the concentration camps were those who were able to let go of the feelings of vengeance, anger, and injustice.  Viktor Frankl was one of those survivors, an Austrian psychiatrist and neuroscientist who was sustained by an awareness of the meaning of love.  He noticed that when a prisoner in the camp had given up hope, he lost the power to survive.  Here are some of Viktor Frankl’s writings that he concluded while he endured forced labor until the liberation of Auschwitz in January of 1945.  These insights are spiritual hay:

- “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” 
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
 -  “For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”         

            Anyone who could come to these conclusions in a concentration camp surely was eating the hay.  And so in preparation for the trials and tribulations of life, we need to start eating the hay of our faith so that when times get tough, we will have enough spiritual nutrition not lose hope.  For without hope, the human heart will break.

            In conclusion, I would like to offer you a list of what I see as the hay and straw of religious sentiments. And I would like for you to send me your list of how you separate the hay from the straw.

STRAW:  (the imposters of religious sentiments)
-         The notion that religion is simply a set of philosophical ideas and that belief is about an intellectual assent to a list of dogmas and doctrines.
-         Getting so caught up in the intricacies of the doctrine of the Trinity and the difficult sayings of the Bible that we forget to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
-         Becoming so literal with certain biblical passages that we fail to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and open our hearts to the good news of God in Christ in Scripture.
-         Mistaking the person of God with a religion, a denomination, the church, or a particular belief.
-         Hanging onto old thoughts or superstitions about God and religion that we learned (in younger years) such that we fail to develop a mature and life-giving relationship with God today.

HAY:   (the real stuff of the Christian faith)
-  “The ultimate criterion determining the truth of any and all theology is whether it produces a life of faith, hope, and charity.”  [Leonardo Boff] 
-    Love God and love your neighbor.  All the rest is simply a commentary on this commandment.
-   The early Christians experienced God in a real and profound way.  They began to reflect on their experiences, especially the events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and his connection to God.  The purpose of this reflection (i.e. theology) was to enable them to become wise, good, just, and happy through lifelong personal involvement in knowing and loving God.
-   And the Word was made flesh…And from his fullness we have received grace upon grace. [Jn.1]

-    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” [Gen1] Therefore, we are all beloved children of God.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reiki Healing Touch Intro Class - Fri Jan 30

You Are Invited to a

Free Introduction Class

Reiki is a contemplative method of self-healing as well as intercessory healing for others. It promotes deep relaxation, stress reduction, energy balancing, and vitalization of life force energy. Come to this free introductory class to experience a Reiki meditation and learn more about energy healing work. If you decide to join the class, it will continue on Saturday January 31 from 10am - 4pm.


January 30, 2015

From 6 to 9 pm. 


SOPHIA'S Well of Wisdom
270A Hanford Street

Sutter Creek, CA 95685

Saturday January 31, from 10am - 4pm

The complete training includes both levels one and two of the Reiki Ryoho (translation: Spiritual Energy Healing Method). The training emphasis is on Reiki as a personal spiritual healing practice. 

The cost of the complete 25-hour training is $300 and includes two training manuals, four Saturday classes including lunch, practice sessions, a free 3-hour introductory class, a free 3-hour celebration closing class, at least one private session, and an ongoing mentoring service.

Contact Patsy Walker Fine, RMT/CMT (CA#26450) for more information at 209-418-9003 or email Fine has trained in all levels of Reiki in both Western and Eastern methods. She has studied and practiced spiritual/energy healing for over 20 years.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charter for Compassion - Not In Our Name

Charter for Compassion email banner

 Boko Haram massacre: estimated death toll 2000
Children used as suicide bombers in Nigeria

Gunmen storm a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, and massacre 141
Paris shootings spark global rallies in support of terror victims

Today the Charter for Compassion movement grows globally not because we join hands, smile at one another, and continue on in our complacency. It grows because individuals around the world are acknowledging their discomfort. They are saying, "I cannot sleep at night. I cannot live with things the way they are." The Charter for Compassion movement grows because as a human family we are embracing our discomfort. We are no longer denying our outrage. And we are compelled to take action. But we know deeply that we cannot change things alone.
True compassion comes from standing for and with others, and acting on the behalf of others. Knowing deeply that to serve others, serves us all.
Today, we invite you to challenge what you think compassion means in your own life. To contemplate your discomfort. To feel deeply the pain of the world. To turn toward that pain, rather than avoid it. And to join thousands of others around the world who come together and take action from their hearts and act for a more compassionate world for us all.

We need your help to make a difference. You've heard the slogan, "Think globally, act locally?" Let's start in our own backyard and begin to make a difference in our community and tackle the hard problems that separate us, cause us angst, make us fearful of walking down the street or thinking about the world our children will inherit.  There are over 120,000 of you receiving this newsletter, in nearly a hundred countries, in tens of thousands of communities across the globe.  We are encouraged by the work of people in almost  300 communities worldwide who have registered their determination to work toward being Compassionate Communities, and to make a difference.
Here is a Challenge: Can Charter for Compassion International members commit to getting 60 more communities around the world to register as Compassionate Communities in the next 60 days? Registration is easy, and we have a Charter Tool Box to help you organize your campaign. There is even an outline of "Steps to Take" in order to get started. We are committed to help you get you started and to assist in any way we can along the way.  Give us a chance to help you create a Compassionate Community where you live.
Here is Another Challenge: If you know individuals or organizations in Australia, Iraq, Nigeria or Hong Kong who would be willing to dialogue with the Charter for Compassion and our partners and community organizers in these geographic areas, please contact us.

Still Another Challenge: Join us in a great collaboration during the first week of February. We will be joining our voices with those of people worldwide who will participate in the United Nations initiative, adopted in 2010, the World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW), which seeks to spread the message of harmony and tolerance among the followers of all the world’s religions, faiths and beliefs—including those who do not adhere to any organized religion or a belief in god. Interfaith events don’t have to be huge, costly or too time consuming. The idea is to begin a dialogue, spark some action, bring in diversity that introduces new people holding different perspectives to the conversation. Learn from one another. Here are some suggestions of events: conduct interfaith dialogues at your place of worship, sponsor an interfaith coffee or tea, stage interfaith acts of peace, sponsor an interfaith song festival or an interfaith pot luck.
And One More Part of this Challenge: Join the Charter for Compassion immediately by contributing to a Virtual March for Humanity campaign to gather 1 Million “Likes” on Facebook: by February 1st.  Inspire marches, flash mobs, candle lightings, demonstrations of unity, etc to take place during World Interfaith Harmony Week, February 1-7. Bring harmony, unity and compassion to the forefront through collective action.
Send us a brief story about your event—with pictures and videos, if possible.  We will publish these on the Charter website.  Send your story  to Marilyn Turkovich ( with the subject line “Story for WIHW.”

We’re spreading the word of COMPASSION—and we need your help to infuse compassion into all we do—in our personal lives, in our workplaces, in our communities, and in connecting across the globe. The Charter for Compassion International is dedicated to providing a “network of networks” to connect people in all walks of life, in all corners of the globe in bringing compassion to everything we do.In order to keep our compassion community initiatives growing, we need to hire a staff member whose work is dedicated to this global initaitive.

Help us to build a global compassion movement and bring the Charter for Compassion to life! Your financial gift will help us create a just economy and a more peaceful global community. Please donate today.

For your local chapter of the Charter for Compassion, visit:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sophia's Well of Wisdom - Jan 2015

Sophia's Well of Wisdom NewsletterJanuary 2015
Dear Loraine,

Like so many others from my generation, arriving at 2015 seems almost surreal. Now that the holiday guests have all gone home and life is returning to normal, I'm left to ponder the coming year with all its potential, both opportunities as well as challenges, known and unknown. As much as the past is history, the future is a mystery. Here we stand in the present moment, in the pregnant pause between what has been and what will come. In this breathtaking moment, we wish you a happy new year!

AGELESS WISDOM is the learning theme for 2015 

The connection between these two realities is our vision or focus. The Education Advisory Group at SOPHIA'S chose "Wisdom" as the theme for 2015. It seemed appropriate given our name. So for the next 12 months, during each of our 52 Sunday Wisdom Circles will be devoted to the study of The Ageless Wisdom. 

Ageless Wisdom is called by many names: Perennial Wisdom, Ancient Wisdom, Mysteries or Mystery Teachings, Esoteric Philosophy, Divine Knowledge, and Metaphysics, to name just a few. As we learned last Sunday, the Ageless Wisdom is not a religion, formulated by only one authority and even pre-dates human religious organizations as we know them today. Wisdom teachings are not limited to religious doctrines and ethics, but also includes cosmology and spiritual principles guiding all aspects of human endeavor found in the seven fields of social life: 1) Politics and governance, 2) Education and Psychology, 3) Philosophy and Communication, 4) Culture and the Arts, 5) Science and Technology, 6) Religion and Devotion, and 7) Finance and Economics.

From these perspectives we will dive deeply into the ancient and ageless wisdom found throughout history, in nature, science, religion,and across cultural traditions. We begin Sunday January 4 with The Birth of Wisdom, an introduction to the topic, leading to a look at Wisdom from Western (1/11), Eastern (1/18), and Indigenous (1/25) traditions. Don't miss a single gathering! Download the
January 2015 calendar and see it below.  

Next Sunday (1/11) SOPHIA'S will host its Annual Community Luncheon/Open House and Business Meeting. Immediately following the Wisdom Circle led by Marilyn Nutter, community participants and guests will enjoy a vegetarian luncheon provided by SWOW.  Please RSVP (209-418-9003or if you plan to attend the luncheon.  A brief business meeting required by our charter with Light of Christ Community Church will follow the luncheon. Friends and supporters of SOPHIA'S are encourage to attend to help us celebrate our 6th year in the community and help determine our destiny. 

Join us for the annual birthday celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. with an Interfaith Service on Monday, January 19 at 1pm. The one hour service will honor King and others who embodied sacred activism leading to a society characterized not only by tolerance, but also compassion, kindness, and peaceful co-habitation.

The annual health fair takes place at the Jackson Senior Center from 11am-4pm on Saturday January 24. SOPHIA'S will have a table set up to meet and greet new and old friends. Anyone who wants to assist me for all or part of the day is encouraged to do so. Besides having an information table, we will demonstrate Reiki, stress reduction and meditation techniques.


Lynnea Honn will begin a new introductory meditation class meeting on Wednesdays at 10am for five weeks. The class will cover the basics of developing a simple, effective researche-based meditation practice that improves health and well-being. The cost for the five sessions is $75. To register contact Lynnea at 209-304-6174

SACRED DANCE: Begins January 14
Amel Tafsout will begin a new dance class meeting on Wednesday at 12:30 for five weeks. The class covers basic dance movements and steps incorporating drills and repetition to Arabic and North African music. The cost of the five sessions is $65; a single class is $15. To register contact Amel at 209-245-3220.

There will be a free introductory class on Reiki Healing Touch on Friday January 30 at 6pm. The class will continue on Saturday January 31 from 10am - 4pm and will continue with a monthly Saturday classes through May. The comprehensive class includes both levels one and two of the Reiki Ryoho Method of Natural Healing. Reiki essentially means spiritual (rei) energy (ki) and ryoho means healing (rho) method (ho). The emphasis will be on Reiki as a personal spiritual healing practice. The cost of the complete 25 hour comprehensive training is $300, which includes training manuals, four Saturday classes including lunch, a free 3-hour introductory class, a free 3-hour celebration closing class, a private session, and ongoing mentoring service. Contact Patsy for more information at209-418-9003.

SOPHIA'S Well of Wisdom is located at 270A Hanford Street in Sutter Creek, CA across from the Days Inn. We are a spiritual community with a focus on wellness of body, soul, and spirit and emphasize education, meditation, spiritual care, and holistic healing work. 

 Visit our websites at and for more information. 

You can also reach us for questions, to register for classes, or to make appointments at 209-418-9003 or email To register for meditation classes call 209-304-6174

New Year Blessings,


Rev. Patsy Walker Fine, D.Min.
SOPHIA'S Well of Wisdom,
Minister-Spiritual Director

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sermon: The Gift of Speech - by the Rev. Karen Faye Siegfriedt, Trinity Episcopal Church

The Gift of Speech     Reading: Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11    Epiphany 1/Baptism of the Lord
By the Rev. Karen Faye Siegfriedt; Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA    1/11/15

          Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were baptized?  If so, what gifts of the Spirit did you receive?  Since today is the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, I will focus my sermon on being baptized in the Holy Spirit and how it impacts the words we use on a daily basis.  As a Christian, it is important for us to be careful stewards of our speech.
          There has been a lot of media coverage in recent days of the attack at the offices of the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo.  Twelve people were killed by terrorists, including four prominent cartoonists.  This particular magazine is known for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as well as its critical depictions of Catholics, Jews, and French politicians. The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression.       Freedom of speech is very important to us Americans and many of us would give our lives to protect this right.  But the truth is, if the Charlie Hebdos of the world had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades, it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds.  Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.
          While none of us likes being ridiculed, satirists and outlandish figures often serve useful public roles.   They “expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low.  When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.” (David Brooks)
          But there is another aspect of freedom of speech that Christians need to consider before speaking.  And that has to do with our intentions of what we say, how we say it, and why we are saying it.  We can use our tongues to bless one another or to hurt one another.  One manner of speech comes from the Holy Spirit and the other from the wounded ego.  One of the practices I try to remember (but often fail at) is this:  “Before speaking, ask yourself:  Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it necessary?  Does it improve upon the silence?”  (Sai Baba)
          In today’s passage from the book of Acts, we read about the gift of speaking in tongues and prophesying.  Paul encounters a group of twelve men in the city of Ephesus who claim to be followers of Jesus.  When asked if they had received the Holy Spirit when baptized, they replied:  “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  They tell Paul that they had been baptized into John’s baptism, a baptism of repentance.   On hearing this, Paul takes them and re-baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands on them, “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” {Acts 19}  While not all people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are given these particular gifts, we all have been given a gift. 
          We tend to think that to prophesy means to foretell future events.  But in the New Testament, to prophesy is to speak in God’s name, in the present moment, and on behalf of God’s work in the world.   This kind of inspired speaking has the power to change the world.  A person who prophesies will always remind us that “nothing is impossible with God.”  {Lk. 12}   Jesus prophesied to his disciples when he told them not to be afraid when they were hauled before the rulers and authorities and were required to give an account of their faith:  “Do not worry about what you are to say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”  {Lk. 12}
          So one of the ways we can tell if the Holy Spirit is operating in our lives is by how we employ our speech.  Is it true?  Is it charitable?  Is it life-giving?  Does it promote the reign of God where justice, peace, and the dignity of every human being are kept sacrosanct?  Let me give you an example of a modern day prophet who was baptized in the Holy Spirit and used his gift of speech to stand up to the powers of the world that were destroying the people of God.
          Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran Pastor who lived in Germany during World War II.  He was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler and warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Führer (leader), who could very well turn out to be Verführer (mis-leader, or seducer). He was cut off the air in the middle of a sentence.  He resisted the Nazification of the protestant churches in Germany that were being influenced by nationalism and obedience to state authority. In 1943, he was arrested by the Gestapo and eventually executed by hanging on April 1945 just two weeks before Allied forces liberated the concentration camp in which he was held.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer was being led to his death, he said to one of the prison guards:  “For some this is the end, but for me it is the beginning.”  Here was a man, baptized in the Spirit, who proclaimed by word and example the good news of Christ, even to the gallows.  “For everyone who has life and has committed himself to God in faith, shall not die forever.”  {BCP 491-Burial Rite}    
          Now I don’t know why or how most of you were baptized but I do celebrate that you have joined the Body of Christ and have made a commitment “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.”  Like many of you who were baptized as infants, I do not remember my rite of baptism, although I do have a few photos marking that special occasion.  I don’t think the heavens opened up and my family heard a voice saying:  “You are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.” {Mk. 1}   I don’t think I began speaking in tongues or prophesying {Acts 19} but I do have a hunch that I probably cried when the priest poured water on my forehead.  And while I was sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ own forever, I do not think I immediately began displaying special gifts from the Holy Spirit. 
          One crucial aspect of baptism is not so much about what happens when we were baptized but what happens after we are baptized.  What is most important has to do with what is happening now, as we struggle through life, with its ups and downs, trying to live a compassionate life.  So the question I posed at the beginning of this sermon: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were baptized” is not as important as these questions:  “Are you faithful to your baptismal covenant?  Do you live your life aware of, filled with, and guided by the Spirit of God?  How is the Spirit empowering you now? “ The key element of being part of the Body of Christ is the awareness of living in the presence of God and being upheld by God’s love and grace.
          From my perspective, John’s baptism of repentance and being baptized with the Holy Spirit are both vital for living a Christian life.  John’s baptism has two components- repentance and forgiveness.  {Mk. 1:4}  How does that work?  Sin means alienation from God.  A baptism of repentance (metanoia) signifies a change of mind.  When we change the way we think and turn towards the light, our actions begin to change and the large gap between us and God begins to narrow.  And so repentance is simply the journey towards God and away from sin.  Repentance is a reformation of lifestyle that is an integral part of the Christian journey.  However, it cannot be done on ego strength alone.  And that is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit to complete the process of transformation.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses to God’s love in the world.  It gives us courage and strength in the face of opposition.  Where there is injustice, hatred, violence, and falsehood, the Holy Spirit motivates us to speak up and challenge the systems that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.  And while not all of us are given the gift of tongues, all of us are called to use our speech to make this world a better place.  In a few minutes I will ask you the following question:  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?  I hope you will proclaim with all of the power of the Holy Spirit that is within you:  “I will with God’s help.”  {BCP 305}