Monday, January 13, 2014

Water & Grace

Why did Jesus go to the Jordan River to be baptized by John? Why do some parents want to have their children baptized in the first months of their lives and other parents want to wait until their children are older maybe even until they are ready to be confirmed? Why is it important for believers of Jesus Christ to be baptized?
Does pouring water on someone’s head give them supernatural powers to resist temptations, and not sin? Does being baptized mean that we’re saved and our sins forgiven?
We know that the water poured into the font is water that came from the tap that came from the water treatment plant downtown. It is safe to drink. It can be used to wash our cars, water our gardens, and take baths or showers. It is just ordinary water. There is nothing special or magical about this water.
So, what is it that makes the sacrament of baptism so special, so important to our faith? Why do we celebrate and remember Jesus’ baptism every year?
One of the first things I learned when I entered elementary school was that I should wash my hands, often.  I didn’t know that it was so important to have clean hands but my teachers apparently thought we needed to be educated about cleanliness. So, they taught us how to wash our hands properly.
We know now that, especially at this time of year, it’s very important to wash our hands often to minimize the transmission of germs. Even then we still cannot escape getting colds and flu viruses.
Water is vital to the process of cleansing our bodies and removing the things that would make us ill. Baptism with water symbolizes that same process of cleansing, washing away that which would make us ill.
Water provides nourishment for us and for all living things here on earth, plants, animals, and people. Without water nothing survives. Without water the planet and everything on it will die.
Baptism by immersion is symbolic with dying, going under the water as Christ was buried in the tomb and coming up out of the water gasping for air is symbolic of  conquering death just as Jesus did when he rose from the tomb in the garden.
Last Sunday we witnessed the baptism of two children and were asked to remember our own baptism. As part of the service we all professed our faith and stated that we would commit to guide, nurture, and encourage these young folks to know and follow Jesus the Christ and to faithful members of his church.
This is a serious commitment we all made. It was a serious commitment Jesus made when he was baptized by John in the Jordan. From that time on his life was given wholly to doing God’s will here on earth. We promise to love and serve God for the rest of our lives too.
The gospels don’t say much about Jesus’ life from his birth until his baptism except for Luke giving us the story about him staying behind in the temple, at the age of twelve, in Jerusalem talking with the religious teachers. All that time in between was preparation for this great ministry to the people of Galilee.
So, this day when Jesus went to the River was an important day. It truly was the beginning of the rest of his life. It was the beginning of the rest of our lives too.
The day we were baptized was the beginning of the rest of our lives too. And everyday we work to improve on the day before asking God, trusting in God’s covenant of grace, to forgive us for our failures to live fully into his covenant.
At the font we recognize that we are united with all churches in baptism. We may not all be allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper together but if we have been baptized we are accepted into any congregation as one of God’s children.
When Jesus was baptized is one of the few times that God was present as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Have you ever wondered
what grace sounds like?
I think it sounds like water:
Water lapping on a beach is like a lullaby.
Water burbling in a stream is like laughter.
Water dripping from leaves
sounds like falling tears.
Water pouring from a jug
is the opposite of thirst.
Water splashing into a font
is soaked with the loch-deep fullness
of the love of God saying,
“This is my beloved”.
Water of Jordan,
pouring over the head of Christ
willingly, needlessly welcomed,
one with us, echoes still in every baptism.
When we hear the water of baptism
over the head of one of us,
adult or child,
that splash and drip and pour,
we hear all that.
We hear that echo of the grace of God
and we are welcomed willingly,
one with Christ,
we recall that we are beloved.
I think grace sounds like water.
Water pours
pours a story
a story of grace
a grace for all
for all the world
the world is given
is given a hope
a hope of new life
new life from old
from old into new
into new ways of living
ways of living rightly
living rightly with each other
with each other we journey
we journey here and now
here and now to the water
to the water of life
the life of the one
the one baptized
baptized with the name
with the name: Jesus
Rev. Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church

Thanks be to God for his cleansing grace. Amen.

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