Monday, January 14, 2019

The baptism of Jesus

Matthew 3

The church tells the story of Jesus’ baptism
every year during the season of Epiphany.

In the early church, baptismal candidates
would be in prayer all night with the community
at the end of their catechism,
so that at dawn they could stand on the edge of the water
and boldly renounce anything and everything
in our world that claims us as something less
than a beloved child of God,
before immersing themselves in baptismal water. 
Dying to their old self and rising a new.

In baptism we claim what we know to be true, that God claims us as beloved.

I grew up in a church that baptized babies and confirmed teenagers.  When I was a young child,
my mother volunteered at the church. 
I have this vivid memory of my mom filling up a golden pitcher
with water from a water fountain in the basement of the church opposite the old serving counter
of the first kitchen in the church. 
Too short to see over the counter and peer into its darkness,
the location was lost on me.
The kitchen had long been abandoned
to the newer updated one in the larger expansive fellowship hall.  Since she was using a water fountain
tucked away and no longer used,
in an unfamiliar part of the expansive building,
in my younger self I imagined
none of the practicalities that I have mentioned
but believed that the fountain was reserved for filling this golden pitcher for baptism because it held within holy water. 
In my young mind, baptismal water had to be holy and special.

It wasn’t until I was an intern at my home church during seminary that I stumbled across the old water fountain
and my childhood memory returned.
Eyes now able to see the bigger picture.
Old abandoned kitchen.
It all became clear.
The fountain and its proximity to the chapel.
 How silly I was to think that the water was holy. 
Clearly it is just good old city water,
treated with some chemicals and cooled inside the fountain. 
But is it just good old water?

Isn’t the scandal of the Good News finding God in the ordinary elements of our world, in broken bread and poured out wine, in water offered to mark new life?
Of finding God
in the valleys,
on the mountain tops, and
in hidden away spaces no longer used or useful to the masses.
Of hearing the invitation to be part of a beloved community, led by the incarnate God who is willing to stand in line along with us, as we wait our turn, to feel the muddy bottom of the river bottom, with river current upsetting our balance.

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