Earlier in the week, I was having a dinner conversation with a dear friend, catching up on our family lives and comparing notes on what each of us did during time we had off during Christmas, and looking ahead to the new year 2017. At one point, he asked me what I was planning to do for vacation this summer, and since he and I both have family traditions of relaxing on beautiful Cape Cod, wondered if Ann Marie and I might be spending some time there this summer. I responded that I hadn’t really thought that far ahead, and that usually sometime during mid-winter I would get this yearning inside my soul that it was time to plan a trip to the Cape and to the beautiful sea shore that beckons me. My friend echoed those feelings and told me how he feels like a different person when he gets time near the shore taking in the sights, sounds and smells of water. We both agreed that there was something special about water that expands even beyond its basic purposes as the chemical compound from which all life emerges.
Water is an intensely spiritual element. Water actually calls out to us – and does so in many ways. When our throats are parched, water calls out to quench our thirst, and sustain our activities. When we are tired and run down after a hard day at work or play, water calls out to us to be cleansed and refreshed. When we become overwrought by the stresses and challenges of living in difficult times, a spell by the water helps us reconnect with what is important in our life, renewing our minds, bodies and souls in ways no magic pill can do.
But as life-giving as water can be, it has properties that can be quite dangerous, even life threatening in certain proportions, and certain conditions. Not taking care with a boiling pot of water can land you in an emergency room with 2nd degree burns. When water freezes, people slip and fall, and cars skid out of control, sometimes with tragic results. Hurricanes and torrential rains bring floods to densely inhabited areas, leaving behind drowning victims, destroyed homes, and foundation for water-borne plagues. While water holds life-giving properties that sustain us physically and spiritually, we know that by misuse or randomness, water is not always our best friend.
Water has existed since the before the beginning of history. Our creation story tells us that God’ Spirit spread over the pre-creation waters, a symbol of the chaos and disorder of things which God observed. The Spirit of God commanded the waters, first to separate and give order to the new creation, then to feed the land with life-giving nourishment, and finally to be the source of all life in God’s creation. In many ways, Baptism is a reminder to us that God has set the world in motion, and has the power to bring order out of chaos, and safety out of danger.
Christians understand baptism based on the many properties of water; its power to cleanse; its power to heal; its power to quench our thirst; its essence for life. But we also remember water’s power to destroy and to drown, to cause harm and death. But when God’s word is present above the water, it is completely under God’s control, and by God’s creative and performative Word, the water that drowns us, also then seals us and freshens us for our new lives in Christ.
This is why a Baptism brings so much joy to Christians all over the world. It is a celebration of life, a celebration of God, and a celebration of what God is doing in the world. It is a celebration of God’s promise to nourish us and sustain us, even when the world seems completely disordered against us. It’s a celebration of the water that God has given us to pass through to eternal life.
For the full text of this week's sermon - CLICK HERE
Devotions for week of January 15, 2017
Welcome to The Soul Cafe, a place for gathering, for learning and for conversation.
We invite you to join us as we study and discuss how God reveals himself to us in the Bible and in our lives.
Please read our blog, share our devotions and join the conversation.
About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.