Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Baptism of Jesus Sunday: Wade in the water..


Freezing cold.  It’s Baptism Sunday. Remembering the baptism of  Jesus. And our own.  Time to bring our baptismal font out front and center. Late Victoriana Tiffany. Lotus blossoms, water lilies arising out of the waters of chaos. (Our ancestors were already stepping outside  the circle with the Buddhist symbols.) Lid missing during Occupy. FOX news spreads a simplistic story around the world. (Literally). The new ceramic lid made my Cheryl Jaffe whose son Dan , now a chef in Coorado, was one of our occupier alumni. That’s us in a nutshell,classic Tiffany topped by contemporary ceramic.
Our baptismal font

I begin with a proclamation from the opening words of the Bible:
1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Then we sing the traditional   Morning Has Broken and after the greetings, Take me to the water. Jeremy has prepared a response to the Psalm 29, Glory.Glory. Glory. After we read the story of Jesus’ baptism in  Mark 1: 4-11, we do Wade in the Water as our musical reflection, and then it’s time for our reflection.

I ask Who here remembers their baptism?Only Dion. Baptized as an adult. By full immersion. His Journey church has a mobile baptistery, he says.
So we have three questions:
                  What was Baptism?
 What is Baptism?
                  So what?
First, what was baptism? We’ve got John tbe Baptist out in the wilderness. He was, according to scripture, the child of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Cousin of Jesus. Father a priest in the temple. He was a tall steeple preacher’s kid. Like 5th Avenue Presbyterian. Or Riverside, someone says.  You might say the table was set for him. But instead, he goes out to the desert and dresses like  Elijah. Or the life of a nazarite. or Essene.  He’s living a strict, countercultural life.
In Judaism, thee is a bath called a mikvah. For ritual cleansing, And conversion.  John is making a declaration through ritual. He is saying that the current religious establishment (including his father?) Is so corrupt that everyone needs to be converted all over again or at least cleansed. The judgment Is not against the people, but against the institution. (Although by implication, if the people are within the Temple system, they too, are corrupted. And  therefore sinners…
 So why did Jesus have to be baptized?  If this season has been about incarnation,
God alive in human flesh, God in the
midst of humanity, in the midst of us. And Jesus’ baptism is a sign and symbol a sign of of solidarity, his 
complete and total solidarity with humanity.

What is baptism? There a re two kinds, infant and adult.  Infant, in our culture, is emotionally experienced as a spiritual inoculation. Our tradition baptises infants because we believe that  our salvation comes from God and is a gift, not earned or an act of will,
It is also a sign of community responsibility. (We didn’t used to have godparents, but now we do…if everyone is, nobody is…so our new Book of Common  Worship recognizes that.)
If a non-baptized adult wishes to join, recognizing a choice, a conscious decision, we baptize adults. But it happens once and once only and our various historic traditions mutually recognize our baptisms…as long as they are done in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit.

So what? It is in baptism that Jesus receives his ministry. As he comes out of the water, there is a voice….and in Mark, only he hears the voice …saying you are my son, my beloved .in you I am well pleased…(1:11)
And baptism is where you receive your ministry…these words are intended for you:
You are my child the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
 For you…so say this:

I am a child of God
I am beloved
In me, God is well pleased
Believe it.  Now the work begins.

Then Jeremy and I sing the old song made famous by the Blind Boys of Alabama, He Gave Me Water.
Singing with Jeremy

After our prayers and offerings, I say the words of Thanksgiving  over the water:
We give you thanks, O God, for you nourish and sustain all living things by the gift of water. In the beginning of time, your Spirit moved over the watery chaos, calling forth life itself. 

You led the people of God out of slavery, through the waters of the sea, into the freedom of the promised land. 

In the waters of Jordan Jesus was baptized by John and filled with your Spirit which gives life to all. 

We thank you, O God, for the water of baptism. Through it we 
cleansed of our sins and reminded that all good things come from God, especially the gift of life. 

The minister may touch the water. 

Send your Spirit to move over this water as it did on the day creation, that we each may fully share in the creative and life giving power and Spirit of God. 

And I invite each one to come up, to touch the water, and then I lay hands on them and give each a personal blessing.
A blessing for  Dion
That used to be Katherine’s specialty. It used to frighten me. But no more.
And one for Russ

And finally we sing Down to the River to Pray, like out of the movie, O brothers

I spend time talking with Amber Lee who has come back to visit us from Toronto again.

Late in the day, I come back from seeing Noche’s Antigona. The Francophone African church

Is preparing for their service. The deep sounds of song echoing in the empty sanctuary like a voice echoing over the waters. 

(Videos for most music in yesterday's post. Many thanks it AnnaYamada for photographs)

No comments:

Post a Comment