BAPTISM OF CHRIST 1 EPIPHANY, YEAR B
Water: It is literally the stuff of which we are made. Without it we quickly die. Yet water is the stuff that can drown us, carry us away, destroy cities and farms, leave us snowbound. It can nurture and save; it can devour and destroy. Have you ever been caught in a cloudburst or weathered a hurricane? Have you ever had an encounter with water that filled you with fear? Once when I was backpacking with several cousins and my daughter Emily, then age 12, she darted ahead. I came to a fast-moving stream that had to be forded and, not seeing her anywhere, I had the most horrible vision of her being carried away by the waters. We should fear water. Yet in one of the darkest times of Israel’s history, the Babylonian exile, someone wrote about goodness coming out of chaos. The author wrote:
“In the beginning of God’s creating of the heaven’s and the earth when the earth was wild and waste, darkness over the face of the Ocean, rushing spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters – God said: Let there be light! And there was light. God saw the light: that it was good God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light: Day! And the darkness he called: Night! There was setting; there was dawning: one day.” Should we say that God pulled it together? God pulled it together for humanity. Only God can take the primal elements and make it into something that is good, very good. But make no mistake: God is God and we are not. Not even Moses to look upon the face of God and Elijah had to remain hidden in the crevice when God passed by. No, we do not have a tame God at all yet we have one who glories in all that is creation, from the light and the water to all the plants and animals to the creation of humanity. Yet God continues to roll by us in the thunder and the lightning.
 Everett Fox, The Schocken Bible, Vol 1, p 11-13.
Listen to Psalm 29:
God thunders across the waters, Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness— God, across the flood waters. 4 God’s thunder tympanic, God’s thunder symphonic. 5 God’s thunder smashes cedars, God topples the northern cedars. 6 The mountain ranges skip like spring colts, The high ridges jump like wild kid goats. 7-8 God’s thunder spits fire. God thunders, the wilderness quakes; He makes the desert of Kadesh shake. 9 God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches. We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!” 10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne from which his power flows, from which he rules the world. 11 God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace.
 The Message, Eugene Peterson
God is in control!! And God is full of power and might. Picture an enormous thunderstorm rolling across the prairies of Iowa into the forests. It can be fearsome and is full of power. But it is a reason to rejoice!! God makes God’s people strong. God and only God can give us peace. And this brings us to the Lifesavers. I grew up with Lifesaver candy as did all of you. I loved the shape and the different flavors. The candy has a long and interesting history in and of itself, but what stands out is the shape, named aptly after the life preservers on ships, and the fact that sugar rations were donated in WWII so that the candy could con-tinue to be made and shipped to GI’s all over; the candy would hold up to extreme temps and was a reminder of home. But, stories aside, life preservers are what we all need to be issued when we enter the church and when we agree to baptism or renew our baptismal covenant. This is not a sweet ceremony for babies dressed in white. This is an earth shattering event and maybe the Anabaptists are correct: only consenting adults should agree to it. Because you need a life preserver when you are baptized and follow the Christian path. Sometimes I think churches should be equipped with crash hel-mets, life preservers, and seat belts. It is quite a ride!!. And that dove? Have you ever been dive bombed by a blue jay? Well I think that is quite what Mark had in mind. I have heard an expression in the military that you are baptized with fire from the enemy; perhaps we should look at our own baptism as something akin to that. We are called into something very big by the Holy Spirit and it is not to be taken lightly. Why was Jesus baptized? Scholars debate this; after all be believe he was free from any sin so why be baptized? I believe that, in part, it was to show solidarity with we humans and our need to be free from sin, but more that that it was to show us that it is ok to follow God and ok to follow Jesus. In baptism he joined with the Creator (the Father) and the Sustainer (the Holy Spirit) and invited us into that eternal dance of the Trinity. But he knew that for him it would lead to the cross and that his earthly ministry would be revolutionary and misunderstood. So that is why I handed out Lifesavers today. I want you to remember that the baptism if Jesus, while it has been interpreted many ways, brings the glory and the awesomeness of the Trinity and of all creation to the forefront. It is not a tame event to celebrate with tea and biscuits; it is our way of saying we believe in God who reigns in the chaos, who holds the waters, who made all things, and who invites us to be co-creators with him. It does not mean life will be at all easy nor is it a ticket to heaven. It is an invitation for us to join in the dance but also to take all the risks that we must take to be Christian. It means Jesus took those risks with us and for us and we must be ready to do the same. We must challenge injustice wherever we see it; we must take care of those entrusted to us, and that may mean all of humanity. We must care for all of creation, for God declared that it was all good. We don’t do it just to be forgiven of our sins; we do it to be part of some-thing so great I cannot find a way to name it. Without God the chaos would still be what reigns in the world; it is only through God that we live. I believe that each Sunday we should have Holy Water in the small vessel at the back of the church and we should touch it each time we come in the place; for it is water that reminds us of from whence we came and to whom we now belong. It is that water that sustains us when we give God glory, but it is the water of chaos like a great flood when we do not. So leave this place being prepared for anything; you have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.