Thursday, January 7, 2016

Baptism of the Lord: Water Makes Us One

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
Isaiah 43:2-3, The Message
And I will call upon your name.
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.
I am yours and you are mine…
Oceans: Where Feet May Fail, Hillsong United

The Earth is a world of water.  Viewed from outer space our home planet looks like a giant “blue marble” speckled with green. Water flows over the surface in oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams.   Sometimes it is a torrent, other times a mere trickle.  Water has remarkable power and can reshape entire landscapes in short order.  Water is also persistent; it slowly penetrates through layers of rock and soil, eventually collecting in vast underground reservoirs deep below the ground.  There is even water in the atmosphere above us, invisible until it forms into clouds and falls to Earth as rain and (maybe sometime this winter J) snow. Some of it is frozen in glaciers at the poles and high mountains.  Water is even flowing through you right now. Our bodies seem solid enough but did you know that your body is 70% water?

Water is called the universal solvent—that means it has a remarkable ability to dissolve many of the substances it comes in contact with.  As it flows over Earth’s surface it absorbs many minerals and impurities along the way.  Consequently, pure drinkable water is a precious commodity.  Only a fraction of the water in the Earth system can be used to quench our planet’s insatiable thirsts.

No wonder, then, that ancient peoples thought water sacred and it became the element associated with baptism. They may not have known the chemistry but they certainly knew the cleansing and purifying power of water as a physical reality.  And living as they did in a desert, pure water was precious.   In fact, to this day, there is conflict—sometimes even war—over water resources.

That is the picture we should have in our mind as Jesus comes to John as he is baptizing in the Jordan (see Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22).  Imagine the scene.  The one whom John believed to be the Messiah now asks to be baptized.  What a role reversal?!  Of course, Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized. but he chooses to.  Why?  Theologians have discussed this for ages.  Maybe it was to show is his solidarity with the Earth—and, if so, what better element to choose than water? 

Think about this: Earth’s water cycle is closed; that means water can never exit the system.  The same water molecules that percolate through your body today may have been in the Jordan River that day—or even flowed through Jesus’ earthly body. 

This should remind us that under the water we all become one. 

On the most basic level, we are one because of our physical need for water.   Simply put, no human being can survive long without water.  (We can go much longer without food.)  Pushing deeper, we are also one because of our spiritual need for God.  Jesus was baptized in the water so that we could be one in the Spirit through the water.  When we come to the water of baptism, we believe that all our impurity is washed away and that those who drink from this stream shall never “thirst” again. 
All who are thirsty.
All who are weak.
Come to the fountain.
Dip your heart in the stream of life.
Let the pain and the sorrow be washed away.
As deep calls out to deep,
We sing: Come Lord Jesus come.
All Who Are Thirsty, Brenton Brown
On the second Sunday of January, many churches remember the Lord’s baptism and give worshippers the opportunity to renew their own commitment.  So, whether for the first time, or if you’ve been following Jesus for many years, this is your opportunity to come to the fountain and dip your heart in the stream of life.  The deep is calling out to you.  How will you answer?  Will you come and drink??   

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