Water is important.
In Genesis the wind of God swept over the primordial waters
In Exodus Moses led the people through the waters of the Red Sea.
The prophet Elijah struck the water of the Jordan and spilt the waters
In psalm 29 we read – “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters… the Lord is upon the mighty waters…”
The recent confrontation at Standing Rock has reminded all us once again, no matter what side of that issue we are on, that water is life.
I suspect that there may be some who do not agree, and yet we know that one can die from lack of water much sooner than from a lack of food.
Many across the globe argue that access to clean, safe water is a human right. But that is a contentious point in a world where water has become a commodity and vehicle of profit. Currently in Flint Michigan, some towns in Pennsylvania, and even some cities in Indiana, problems with water supply are creating long term problems leading to disability and unhealthy.
Water is life
In Acts 10 Peter notes the Jesus ministry comes after his baptism . That baptism was a commissioning for his public ministry .
The Gospel according to Matthew shows us Jesus going to the Jordan to be baptized – a submersion in the water of a river that is small compared to the Ohio River (though it is about the same color).
Cousin John was preaching at the Jordan where the road from Jericho to Jerusalem crosses the Jordan. John in his preaching was exhorting the travelers to Jerusalem to reclaim their heritage, their roots, by crossing the Jordan into the land – this land which had been promised to Abraham and to which Moses had led them.
John used the waters of the Jordan as a graphic reminder that the fore-bearers in faith had crossed that same river in order to receive God’s promise and had promised to be God’s people in the land. God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and in return they promised to be God’s people. That act of John’s baptism was acknowledgement that they were inheritors of the promise and a symbol that they would repent – which literally means to turn around to the correct way of being God’s people in the world.
No wonder John was surprised that his cousin Jesus would come to partake of this ritual – Jesus was a teacher who was living the life of an observant son of the covenant. Jesus tells him it was to “fulfill all righteousness” I see that to mean that Jesus doesn’t not ask others to do what he was not willing to do. Jesus used the symbolic power of water from which to emerge to begin his proclamation of the good news of Emmanuel – God with us and accessible to us.
Water leads us to life…
Why do we love baptisms?
Yes, young children are cute, and because we welcome the newly baptized into a new life and relationship with us and with God.
But recall that most of us do not remember our own baptism – so I suspect it also becomes an act of remembrance of and by the community…
Which is also why from time to time we sprinkle the people of God with the water of baptism during the liturgy.
The same with making the sign of the cross – an act of personal piety – at the reading of the gospel and during prayers makes visible to us the sign of the cross made at our baptism which is the sign of our also being well beloved children of God.
Water is new life.
Jesus’ actions did not end with baptism they began there. The waters of baptism with Spirit of God alighting on him was the matrix from which his adult life as a teacher, healer and prophet emerged.
Commemorating the Feast of Jesus Baptism reminds us of our call personally and as a faith community to new life and new ways of living and acting. It reminds us that each of us is uniquely gifted for making our contribution to recreate the world as God created it to be.
This brings us back to Standing Rock. For a significant proportion of those who began the protests were native American Episcopalians from the missions on the Standing Rock Reservation. The Rev John Floberg their missioner has been there for almost 30 years. Our Presiding Bishop came to stand with them as Water protectors. He went there to stand with them, to be a prophetic voice for the care of creation and the need to care for the earth. Hundreds if not thousands of others from religious communities, knowing the power of water, came to stand with them.
Water is life – both as creatures and creation
Both physically and spiritually
Both now and to the ages of ages
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters… the Lord is upon the mighty waters…”
And the water of baptism is mighty indeed!