Yesterday was the Baptism of the Lord Sunday when we are invited to remember our own baptism and what it means for our lives. I don’t like to admit it, but I can’t get into the day AT ALL. I imagine there are others who can’t get into my favorite time of the church year which is Lent, so I guess it all evens out.
Since I attend two different churches, a Presbyterian church in the morning and an Alliance of Baptist/UCC church in the late afternoon, I listened to two different sermons on Matthew 3:13 – 17. I even heard the same sermon illustration about German Reformer Martin Luther. He kept an inscription over his desk that read, “Remember, you are baptized.” He would often touch his forehead and remind himself, “Martin, you are baptized.” Sometimes, he would grab something near-by and throw it at the place in the room where he felt the devil’s presence and say, “I am baptized.”
In the morning we had an opportunity to “remember our baptism” by dipping our fingers into a bowl of water. I couldn’t help myself as I plunged my hand into the bowl, swishing my fingers around as I played in the water. Fortunately, the Elder serving didn’t chastise me or no child was around to see my irreverence. I watched as others first touched the water with their fingertips and then made the sign of the cross on their forehead. Like Luther, the ritual certainly had meaning for them even if it fell flat for me.
Last night at Circle of Mercy in the evening, Nancy Sehested painted a picture of Jesus and John the Baptist fighting over who would baptize who. We also sang several water themed songs such as an African Freedom song, Wind Upon the Waters. The following is one verse from it:
Wind upon the waters, rain upon the sand,
Grace your sons and daughters, newborn by your hand.
Come, O Spirit, and renew all the life that comes from you,
Send your winds upon the waters of my soul.
During this service, it all came together for me. Like Kristy Farber in the morning, Nancy reminded us that after his baptism, Jesus went out into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. He needed the baptismal waters to withstand those temptations just as we need them to withstand our own challenges. In that service, I realized how much meaning water has for me and one of the reasons I played in the bowl of water in the morning at Grace Covenant Presbyterian. Water touches the core of my being. Whenever I’m around it, I feel the creative power of God within me.
I hate that due to my hand surgery, I’m not able to swim at the Y for I always feel God’s comforting energy around water. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4, it is “living water” for me.
When Rev. Jeff Clayton posted this picture he took of the waves in Monterrey, CA. last year, I wrote and asked if I could use it in my blog. I had no idea how I would use it but I knew I would do so. This picture is what being baptized means to me. Remembering my baptism, is to remember all those times when I passed through the waters with the waves crashing around me and how I will do so again. Isaiah 43:2 comes to mind : “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”
Does the Baptism of The Lord have any meaning for you? What sort of images helps you remember God’s care as you live your life? For me, it is rivers, lakes and oceans. Feel free to share your response to either of these two questions in the comment section.