This is an excerpt from the new Special Edition Newsletter focusing on water, including water in the scriptures, environmental concerns and stewardship. The full newsletter (with active links) may be downloaded here.
Joined into one family through the waters of baptism….
Why Water? Why spend all this time and energy on water? Well, there are some really good health and environmental issues that are worth our time and attention, some of which are addressed and discussed in part in this Special Edition: Water. The fact that the bodies we are living in and alongside every day are primarily made of the stuff certainly elevates the importance of water as well. The overall well-being and balance of the world around us, including ourselves, and our role as participants in and stewards of God’s creation as well as our own bodies is the very core of the life of stewardship we are called by God to live. In addition to these things is the remarkably significant place water has in our faith. From the very beginning when the presence of God moved across the face of the deep, dark waters, (Genesis 1) to the end with the river of life flowing from the throne of God (Revelation 22), our scriptures are filled to the brim with water. As water is poured into the font for our baptismal rite, we hear this prayer:
“We give you thanks, for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters and you created heaven and earth. By the gift of water you nourish and sustain all living things. By the waters of the flood you condemned the wicked and saved those whom you had chosen, Noah and his family. You led Israel by the pillar of cloud and fire through the sea, out of slavery into the freedom of the Promised Land. In the waters of the Jordan your son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit. By the baptism of his own death and resurrection, your beloved Son has set us free from the bondage to sin and death and has opened the way to the joy and freedom of everlasting life. He made water a sign of the kingdom and of cleansing and rebirth. In obedience to his command we make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Pour out your Holy Spirit so that those who are here baptized may be given new life. Wash away the sin of all those who are cleansed by this water and bring them forth as inheritors of your glorious kingdom.” LBW pg 122
This is called the Flood Prayer and in it we are reminded of just a few of the many times we encounter water in the bible. It is notable that we are baptized, made a part of the people of God and receive the Holy Spirit, with water.; not by special flashes of lightening or magical incantations and dances or walking on hot coals or leaping off cliffs. No, God needs none of that. Instead God uses the most prolific, ordinary, common substance on the planet. The stuff we drink, bathe in, swim in, sprinkle on our lawns and swirl our clothes in. The stuff that makes up our tears and the whole wide ocean and every ancient glacier. The force that can wipe away houses, wear down rock and earth so effectively that its prehistoric pathways can be seen from space. One of the deadliest, softest, most flexible, healing, ever present and desperately needed substances in all of creation: water. God takes this substance and with his Word transforms it into something so powerful it connects us to Jesus, both his death and his resurrection, and connects us to every other baptized person around the world and across time. Sprinkled or dipped, dunked or immersed or submerged, we are one family through those waters.
So, why water? Well, because God chose water; because God chose us and chooses water as one of the primary ways God uses to get to us.