Here Is Water…
First Baptist Church Laurens
May 5, 2013
Do you remember the moment in Raold Dahl’s classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie Bucket discovers the fifth and final golden ticket? The ticket literally serves as the young Charlie’s golden opportunity to enter the famous factory of the mysterious chocolate maker Willie Wonka and to learn all about the wondrous ways that the world’s favorite treats are created. As you likely recall, Charlie’s invitation also allows for a family member to accompany him into the factory. But, since Charlie’s parents must work on the special day of the tour, who will Charlie take? In the book, it is Charlie’s Grandpa Joe who volunteers. What is surprising about this is that like all four of Charlie’s grandparents who live in the Bucket home, Grandpa Joe is bedridden and has been so for twenty years. But, if there is anyone in the family who loves the magic of Willie Wanka and his amazing factory more than Charlie, it is Uncle Joe. As a result, despite his age or his physical limitations, he refuses to allow this once in a lifetime opportunity to pass him by. So, he seizes the moment.
We all know what it is like to be Uncle Joe. For many, if not most of us who are here today, we can remember some unexpected or once in a lifetime moment that has come our way. Whether the chance for the perfect job, the opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime, a tremendous investment opportunity or the possibility to fulfill or to live out a lifelong dream, these are the moments within which we throw caution to the wind, set aside our schedules and literally seize the opportunity before us.
I strongly believe that as people of faith, such moments come our way as believers as well. But, I also believe that rather than being rare occasions, such opportunities come our way through the leadership of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. As a result, what makes them unusual is not the frequency with which such opportunities come our way, but rather their rarity is often connected instead to the fact that we often ignore invitation of the Spirit in the first place.
This morning, I would suggest that both our focal text from Acts and the act of Christian baptism that we have experienced today remind us of this truth. Here is what I mean.
On the one hand, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch illustrates over and over again how the obedience of both to the movement of God’s spirit allowed them to live through a truly life changing moment for both of them. It happened for Philip as he listened to the Spirit’s call down an unexpected path and as he obeyed the Spirit’s leadership to respond to the Eunuch, listen to his questions and to baptize him into faith. At the same time, the Eunuch continually responded to the promptings of the same Spirit as he followed his questions about the text he was reading, as he opened himself up to Philip’s help and as he refused to pass up the chance to allow Philip to baptize him in the water when they passed by. Led by, open to and responsive to the Spirit, Philip had the amazing opportunity to lead someone to faith and the Eunuch had the opportunity to embrace faith. The Spirit of God placed an amazing opportunity in front of both of them and they stopped what they were doing, put everything else to the side and seized the moment.
Baptism, both our own and the chance to celebrate with others, also reminds us of the occasion in our lives when we too heard the Spirit and at least for once, set everything else aside that we might respond to the direction that God was leading us. What must be grasped in the same moment is the reminder that Baptism is not supposed to be the only moment in our lives that we act this way. Rather, baptism is meant to also be the occasion when we commit ourselves to listening to the voice of the Spirit from now on by allowing the Spirit’s voice to always stand head and shoulders above all other voices, lest we miss other opportunities that God offers our way to participate in the amazing, life changing work of the kingdom of God.
In 1876, Western Union had a monopoly on the telegraph which at the time was the most advanced form of communication available. As a result, Western Union was one of America’s richest and most powerful companies, with $41 million in capital. During this same year of 1876, a man by the name of Gardiner Greene Hubbard approached Western Union President William Orton with an invention that he felt Orton would be interested in pursuing. Orton, however, took Hubbard’s offer and the invention he was marketing as a joke. He couldn’t believe that Hubbard would seriously ask $100,000 for such a silly idea!
In responding to Hubbard, William Orton drafted a letter of reply directly to the inventor – a man by the name of “Mr. Bell”. Orton, wrote to Mr. Bell that after careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities. What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”
As you have likely figured out by now, the invention was the telephone and the acquisition would have been perfect for Western Union. At the time, Western Union had a nationwide network of telegraph wires in place, and the inventor, 29-year-old Alexander Graham Bell, had shown that his telephone worked quite well on telegraph lines. If the company had simply hooked up the telephones to its existing lines, Western Union could have established the first coast to coast telephone system in a matter of months. The Bell patent of the telephone, offered to William Orton and Western Union for a mere $100,000 even in the late 1800s, is easy one of the most valuable patents in US history. Yet, when the once in a lifetime opportunity came their way, neither Orton nor Western Union took seriously the possibilities that were in front on them. The Stupidest Business Decisions in US History by Alex Santoso, April 15, 2008, neatorama.com.
Similarly, God through the Holy Spirit offers us profound chances each day to be about the work of the kingdom of God. When the moment comes, when the Spirit calls, that instant is the time and the moment to respond just as we did when we first stepped into the waters of baptism. What life changing, family changing, community changing and even world change opportunities have we missed when we have failed to take seriously the Spirit’s voice? Amen.