Sermon for February 21, 2021 First in Lent “Water”
Water, for the most part it is a substance that we just assume will be there when we turn on the tap, go canoeing or boating or go to the beach. It is the most abundant substance on earth and is the only material that can exist in solid, liquid and gas states. It can be most soothing and most destructive, calming and alarming, it gives life and can take life, water…essential, necessary, deadly and life changing.
Rodney Hunter in his commentary writes: “Jesus’ baptism has all the signs of an upheaval and reorganization of a person’s inner world, a psychological event that realigns the individual into profound attunement with that which is highest and best in his account, Jesus alone experiences the heavens torn asunder and the Spirit descending and he alone hears the extraordinary life changing words ‘You are my beloved Son’. We might suppose that this dramatic formative event may have culminated a passionate spiritual search or quest for identity of some sort, thought the text gives no hint of it and Mark would certainly have rejected such a speculation. But whatever it was that moved Jesus to respond to John’s call to repent and be baptized, when he emerged from the waters of the Jordan, he had a vision in which he acquired a unique sense of God given identity and affirmation, followed by an overwhelming sense of the power of God driving him into the wilderness for an extended period of spiritual struggle. He emerged from this in due course a new man, by all appearances, with powers and a revolutionary spiritual message.”
The arguments about the necessity of Jesus’ baptism have raged for centuries and will continue. For me this is part of the story of Jesus, an un-intentional or intended act that changed the course and pattern of Jesus life and the life of humanity since. Out of the waters into the wilderness, emerging as teacher and healer and up-ender of lives, this Jesus still has the desire to stir our complacent hearts and minds and move us in the direction of Jesus’ vision of justice and kindness for all and creation.
This text is paired with the ending of the story of Noah and the flood. There is in both a call to repentance; one declined, one accepted, an immersion in water, a re-entry to a new life and a promise of God. In the context of time one story is old and the other ancient and yet both teach similar lessons for today.
We are constantly called to renew ourselves and the expectation would be for the better. This season of Lent is an intentional time to reflect on how we arrived ‘here’, is there something more?, to find stillness that gives way for God voice to be heard in the din and roar of life and to respond to that nudging voice.
A quick look at the historical practices of Lent show that it is a time of drastic self-denial (whether it be food or habit) or cruel self-beating, all so we can suffer the same way Jesus suffered. That was in a time when church held near complete control over people. In time and with developed knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, these strict rules have eased to a move loving, self-awareness mode. For me Lent is a time to focus on one area that I feel needs attention. I know there are many but I choose one and focus on that as best I can. Will I be perfect…no, absolutely no but I strive to be kind to God, others, creation and myself.
In the flood and baptism stories, the image of cleansing in preparation for a new start are real and lived. As Noah and his family stepped out of the ark onto the drying land, a rainbow was the seal and covenant of a new beginning. When Jesus emerged from the baptismal waters the voice of Abba affirmed that love was the bond and covenant.
Faith is the most abundant element for a Christians life. It is the solid foundation, the fluid that gives us the possibility for flexibility and in spirit form to link us all together. It can be the most soothing and most destructive, calming and alarming, it gives life and can take life…faith…essential, necessary, deadly and life changing.
As we emerge from the waters and open our eyes, hearts and life, my hope is that we see with newness, tinged by the grace of God, that which is required of us personally and as part of the family of faith. We each have our journey, things we need to let go and things we need to gather, opportunities to explore and practices to leave behind. The assurance from the Gospel teaching is that God will show us what is necessary, we need to prepare for this journey in a wilderness time and the one to follow.
In doing so… we too will hear and hear again the voice of God that states: you are my beloved.