Week 2 – Accept
This week’s focus is on the second baptismal question: “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”This question is found on page 34 of the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH).
For this week, there are two verbs to focus on accept and resist.
Let’s begin again with a definition (www.dictionary.com)
Accept – to take or receive (something offered); receive with approval or favor
Resist – to withstand, strive against, or oppose
Take a moment to think about times you use these words in your everyday life.
Let’s take a look at how Taylor Burton-Edwards looks at these words:
Accept – Specifically Accepting Freedom
Part of what seemed to “blow Nicodemus’s mind” about what Jesus shared with him is something he said in a verses from John chapter 3. “The wind blows wherever it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it came from or where it’s going next. That’s how it is with everyone who is born from the Spirit.” (John 3:8). The notion that the Holy Spirit may be this free and unpredictable, like the wind (“wind” and “spirit” are the same word in both Greek and Hebrew) was generally accepted by religious leaders among the Jewish people. The notion that people, generally, might be given a similar level of freedom to speak and act by the Holy Spirit, however, was radical. One might expect such freedom for those very select few who were known as prophets. But not for everyone. Yet here is Jesus, saying it’s not only available for everyone, but it’s reality for everyone who is “born of the Spirit.”
This is why Paul also writes, “Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Where are the places in your lives where you currently find yourself bound or muted and so seek or need to seek the freedom God gives you? What has happened when you have exercised that freedom this week? How might we help you experience and use that freedom better?
Accept – Specifically accepting power
When you are set free on the inside, you may find you are also given power to act on behalf of yourself and others in ways you had not done before. John 1:12 says, “As many as received him [Jesus], he gave them power (authority) to become the children of God, to all those believing into his name.” And in Acts 1:8, we have these words from Jesus, “But you will receive power (the usual word for power) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” When we believe into Jesus, or when we experience this “new birth,” we receive both power (the ability to act) and authority (the capacity our authorization to act) as children of God in the world.
The notion that all disciples of Jesus are given both authority and power to act as God’s children in the world may be an unfamiliar notion, even to longtime churchgoers. We may have heard language like this primarily in the context of ordinations, where, after the bishop lays hands on the head of the candidate to ask the Holy Spirit to be poured upon him/her for the particular office or work (as deacon or elder), the bishop then lays hands on the newly ordained person’s hands and says, “Take authority…” What we may miss is that what we are doing in ordination is simply an extension of what God has already done for us in baptism. All of us who have been born of water and the Spirit have also been given both the ability to act in the world (power) and the authorization to do so (authority) by God. We may be a bit squeamish about exercising this power and authority. But we oughtn’t We may be afraid to act lest we use it poorly. Let me assure you, yes, sometimes, if not often, we do use it poorly. But it’s still given to us. And we can teach and support one another in ways to use this power and authority more and more constructively and effectively over time.
So how have you used your power and authority as children of God this week? What happened when you did? And how might we help one another do this better?
Resist – having the freedom and power to resist
The freedom and power we are given by God is not primarily to make ourselves feel better or even be better. The primary purpose of the freedom and power God gives us is to enable us to join God’s resistance against everything that destroys or corrupts the creatures of God and the creation God has made. We continue moving forward, following the way of Christ. We have already repented (turned away) from the way of sin. But evil still exists and pursues us and others. So, facing Christ, and moving forward in him, we continue to push back, to resist, the evil that might draw us back or harm others along the way, in whatever forms it presents itself.
The freedom and power we receive from God enable us to continue to move Christward, forward in the way of God’s kingdom. They also enable us to resist, precisely as we look toward Christ. Think of Peter walking on the water in the storm. As long as he looked toward Christ, he did not sink. The moment he let his attention wander to the howling of the wind and the power of the waves, he began to sink.
So how have you done this week in looking toward Christ, source of freedom and power, and then channeling that power to resist evil, injustice, and oppression? What happened when you did? And how can we help you do this better?
Accept has two actions: accept power and accept freedom. How are you living this out? Resist, How are your resisting in this world?
This Lent series can be found at
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