My wife and I have two grown children. When they were little, about 3 and 5 years old, I remember perfectly, we were sitting in the living room while the kids were, for some reason, playing in the bathroom. While we were watching TV, all of a sudden, we hear coming from inside the bathroom someone saying, “No, no, no, no, no…wait, wait, wait!” followed by a huge splash.

We turned and about 3 seconds later, our 3-year-old Harry walks out of the bathroom completely soaked, mad, and mumbling something. “What on earth happened to you?” I asked. He just looked at me and stormed out of the room.

Our daughter, 5-years-old Susie, walks out of the bathroom, smiling as if nothing happened. I said, “What happened to your brother?” She looked at us and very matter-of-factly said, “I baptized him.” “You did what?” “Well, I baptized him. His stomach hurt.”

O my . . . we let that one go. But he was fuming! It is not a good thing to baptize someone against their will. I know my kids would never have passed a theology exam at that age, but one thing they got right that day: Baptism is disruptive. It’s meant to be disruptive. The Sacrament of Baptism is meant to be disruptive. And even more, I need to correct myself, it’s not just the sacrament. The spirit of God is incredibly disruptive.

The challenge I think comes in the fact that we often forget how disruptive God can be. Picture the typical scene on a Sunday morning. I think you will agree with me that we have domesticated the sacrament. In my tradition, the PC(USA), we make baptisms look good. Most of our baptisms are Hallmark-worthy. We do baptize adults, but the vast majority of our baptisms are for babies. And the whole scene looks beautiful.

There the couple stands proudly wearing their Sunday best. The front pews are packed with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, all holding up their phones with their cameras. Up front, the pastor, dressed neatly in a pressed black robe carries a gorgeous smiling baby dressed in a white long gown. And the baby? Well, no crying she makes. It’s a thing of beauty. In theory, this is exactly what it looks like! But if we stopped for a moment and put down our cameras, and thought about the claims we make, I think we would be scandalized.

Think of the questions that we ask in baptism: “Do you renounce evil and its power in the world?” I do. I do. “Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?” Yes, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. And “Do you trust him?” And “Do you intend for your child to be Christ’s faithful disciple?” Um … yeah. Yeah, we do. Do you? Are you sure? Now we don’t really ask if they are sure, but I know I’ve always wanted to, because it’s this disruptive indeed.

What if we stopped to think about the imagery enacted in the sacrament. Water and death and resurrection— sin, grace and newness of life! Imagine that! What if we paid close attention to the baptisms in the New Testament? Or what if we paid close attention to the work for the spirit of God in the books of Acts?

You heard the reading a few minutes ago. Paul is in Ephesus. And he arrives to Ephesus and there he finds a small group of believers. We assume they are disciples of Apollos, a new believer who is in Corinth at the moment, and who is known to be a gifted preacher. Paul meets these twelve new disciples. . . twelve of them. Does the number sound familiar? Of course, it does. The number alone should tell you that something is about to happen.

These twelve disciples gather, for worship I imagine. And in the brief conversation they have with Paul, Paul discovers that something is amiss. “You are baptized?” “Yes, we are.” “How, how were you baptized?”

Something tells me they are just eager to share. Most of us would be! Baptism is something very dear to many of us. One does not forget certain baptisms – that of our children, our grandchildren, and for many of us, even our own.

I remember my own baptism. Easter Sunday. I was 22 years old. I had gone through my preparation classes. I read the material. And when Sunday came, the whole baptism lasted about five minutes. That’s it. Five minutes, maybe less. But in the words of Professor Craddock, it has taken me a lifetime to understand its implications.

“How?” asks Paul. “How were you baptized? Did you receive the Holy Spirit?” The twelve Ephesians reply. “Yes. We were baptized, but what do you mean by receiving the Holy Spirit? We didn’t even know there is a Holy Spirit!” “You didn’t?”

Two thousand years have passed. They didn’t know back then. Do we know now?

Do we even remember there is a Spirit of God aside from our reciting our creeds? “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” “I believe in the Holy Ghost…” Do we? Do we even remember the Spirit of God beyond the creed? And if so, I argue we often tend to forget that the Spirit of God is more than a line in our credal statements and more than a line in our end-of-worship benedictions. We tend to forget that the Spirit of God is, to put it bluntly…very disruptive. Incredibly disruptive!

Think for a moment of the enormous disruption of the Spirit in the book of Acts from the very beginning of the church.

On Pentecost, as Jerusalem is bursting at the seams, about 120 believers poured out into the streets proclaiming the mighty acts of God in a powerful way! DISRUPTION.

The church grows from 120 to 3000 baptized believers in one day spreading the Word all over the known world? DISRUPTION.

The church begins to be persecuted and suffers its first martyr. DISRUPTION.

The church welcomes and baptizes an Ethiopian eunuch! O Spirit, now you’re pushing it. The one deemed unclean by ancient law. “Is there anything preventing me from being baptized right here on the side of the road?” “No. No. Nothing at all.” DISRUPTION.

Then in Acts chapter 10. The Gentile Pentecost. Peter and a few others go and preach at the home of Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian cohort. And every gentile in that home believed! And they were all baptized. And the church became diverse and ever so much more beautiful than what it was just a chapter ago. DISRUPTION.

And now, the Spirit of God leads Paul to break every rule in the book.

“Into what were you baptized?” “Into the baptism of John?” “No. No. No. No. No. No, that’s not right. Let’s do it right this time, shall we?” and so, Paul re-baptizes them! By the way, this is the only re-baptism in the New Testament! Interesting approach to ministry, really. You don’t like how the previous one was done? Do it again. O my word.

He would be in trouble if he were Presbyterian. If Paul’s Presbytery would hear about it, someone would hit him with our constitution and say, “Hey Paul, Book of Order, Section on Worship: God’s faithfulness to us is sure! Even when human faithfulness to God is not, therefore baptism is not to be repeated.” W-3.0402 Hallelujah!

Paul would be in trouble, but here’s the thing. I don’t think that Paul would care. Paul just baptizes them in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Not because he is a rebel or he wants to, but simply because the Spirit is moving. And the Spirit of God is being disruptive.

Those re-baptized probably became the core of the church in Ephesus. And miracles begin to happen left and right in very dramatic ways. And there is great opposition. And there are healings, and ministries of social justice that begin to take place - God’s love to the sick and the poor and the outcast. And the Holy Spirit begins to change the entire community in Ephesus through the ministry of Paul and these twelve. Oh, if you ask me, I’d say that the 12 were not only baptized that day, they were baptized and recruited… to share the love of God with a broken and dying world.

I love the line by William Willimon who wrote, “…the Spirit is not optional equipment for Christians, nor an advanced degree separating the Spirit-filled ones from the rest of us.” [Willimon, William, Acts: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed. by Mays, Miller, Achtemeier, Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.]

Now, the Spirit of God moves among God’s people not for the purpose of sanitized, beautiful, choreographed worship or devotion, but for the changing of this world and the transformation of human hearts. Disruptive indeed!

We didn’t even know there was a Holy Spirit! I ask once more. Now, 2000 years later, do we know now? Are we aware of the work of the Spirit through the Church of Jesus Christ on behalf of this broken, dying, and hungry world?

One of the credal statements of the Presbyterian Church gives witness to the work of the Spirit. It simply says…

In a broken and fearful world The Spirit gives us courage To pray without ceasing, To witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, To unmask idolatries in Church and culture, To hear the voices of peoples long silenced, And to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

O my word, THAT is blessed sacred disruption! And just because it’s not printed in the church bulletin, it doesn’t mean that God can’t do it and that God can’t move, inspire, and disrupt our tidy worlds, just as God has done so many times before.

One of the first baptisms in the Gospels was when Jesus was baptized. Matthew says that when Jesus came out of the water, the heavens were opened. Oh, come on Matthew, you can do better than that! It’s too sanitized. (Matt. 3:16)

Mark instead, I like Mark better, uses a peculiar Greek word. When Jesus came out of the waters, the heavens σχιζῶ which means the heavens were “torn apart.” (Mk. 1:10) You see, the heavens weren’t just opened, they were torn apart! How appropriate, I say. Because that is exactly what the Spirit of God does!

So, this is my prayer: that God may continue to disrupt our lives, our churches, our pulpits, and our world. Amen.