We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
So begins the prayer of Thanksgiving over the Water, the prayer we will pray later today when we baptize three persons, Justin Hammerly, Sharon Hammerly and Yan-Ting Smith.
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to feel some movement away from thanksgiving for water. I’ve lost track of how many days it’s been raining. I’m beginning to feel as I did when I lived in Seattle and I thought the winter would never end and I would never see the sun again. And there’s a leak in my roof. Actually, the leak has been there for many years. It wasn’t much of a problem when it was directed to the place that would have been a ventihood pipe – if the pipe had ever been connected to wherever it was supposed to go. After several episodes of claimed successful repairs by the roofing company, that leak became part of life. But now, I’ve got a new kitchen, and so the leak is now a problem again. Despite the irritation it brings to me, the leak in my roof is a tiny problem compared to the damage this rain is doing along the central and southern coast. And the enormity of the impact of California weather systems pales in comparison to the devastation in Southern Asia.
Water is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It’s essential to life. We die without it. And sometimes we die because of it. The thing about water is that it goes where it will. We only pretend that we’re in control of it. Two weeks ago, the tsunami reminded us once again that we have much less control over water – and our lives – than we would like to believe.
I recently realized that no one – neither child nor adult – has ever asked me why water is such an important part of baptism. No one has asked me, “Why don’t we just make promises? Why is it important that we have water sloshing all over the place? Why are the words about water such an important part of this rite?” I think no one has ever asked me about that because we all know – perhaps at some level far below the awareness that leads to speech – we know that only water is powerful enough to be the visible sign – the stuff of the sacrament that gives us new life in Christ.
We are people of the Incarnation, people of God made flesh in a human being, people who sense that the Holy is somehow present in all of us. We are people who live in our bodies and in the world, And God gives us sacraments to help us find the path to the Holy, the path to God’s presence with us. Each of our sacraments involves something that is part of our every day life, something that allows us to touch the holiness of the moment in a very physical way and also serves as a reminder of that moment in all the rest of our days. The sacrament of communion allows us to touch the Body and Blood of Christ and to take it into our own physical being. Every time we eat or drink we are reminded of the nourishment we receive at this table. The sacrament of baptism takes us into death and brings new life, washing us with the water that is so vital to our lives, washing us with the water we touch and drink every day of our lives.
When Jesus was baptized, he was submerged in the Jordan River, symbolically drowned as a sign of his submission to God’s power, and then raised up through the water into new life, just as we are born through the waters of the womb. When we baptize this morning, Sharon, Justin and Yan-Ting won’t be submerged, but the action will be no less powerful – and perhaps no less dangerous. Changing one’s life – putting old ways behind us and moving into new life in submission to the will of God – is not something to be done lightly or in the absence of a supportive community of faith.
Six persons will make another kind of commitment this morning. Rowena, Elena and Melissa Dizon-Burger, Barbara Roark, and Mark and Nicholas Sowards will formally become members of St. Mark’s this morning. They will commit to be in community with us, to worship with us, to join in ministry with us, to support us in our lives together and to allow us to support them in their lives with us.
These important steps – baptism and commitment to membership – require courage, faith and love. Courage to move in a new direction, faith in God’s love and in the safety of this community, and love for God, our neighbor and ourselves.
This morning, as we make promises for Sharon, Justin and Yan-Ting, Rowena, Elena, Melissa, Barbara, Mark and Nicholas, and as we reaffirm our own baptismal vows, I invite you to a spiritual discipline that may not be a part of your life at this moment. I invite you to be mindful of your baptism each time you touch the water of life. Whenever you bathe, or wash clothes, or drink a sip of water, or try to dodge the puddles and raindrops, remember your remember your baptism.
And as you touch the water and the water touches you, listen. Listen for the voice and the words I know you will hear: “You are my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.
Back to Sermons