Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week of Pentecost 19
October 4, 2015
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4, NRSV)
The watery chaos of creation … a worldwide flood from which God makes an everlasting covenant … a miraculous sea cross that brings death to one culture and life to another … a river that bears a three-month-old child whose future cry of “Let my people go” will become a cry for those oppressed in every age and time … and yet another river that flows into a sea of death offers life though a primitive water rite of initiation. Our biblical story at church today had an essential grounding point in the theme of “water” with its start at the Nile River. And yet I found myself drawn to the theme of the midwives … these invisible women who were the gatekeepers to life for the Jewish boys born into a world of risk where the new king, “did not know Joseph.” Maybe, had I been preaching at traditional worship, where we had two baptisms, I might have proceeded in a “wetter” strain of thought. But then again … as I pause in mid-thought and think on this topic, maybe I’m really not very far from that theme, as my favorite midwives, Shiphrah and Puah sprinkle me with a different kind of water … a literal water of life … that water of the womb which is our most potent reminder of God’s gift of life.
Do you take water for granted, I wonder? For those of us living in this part of the world, we always have water. Maybe an occasional modest drought cramps our style in terms of watering our lawn, or a heavy snowstorm results in a bottled-water run at the food store. But are we ever really out of water? No, never. Not in any substantive way. So, as is often the case for those things which are always with us, we run the risk of undervaluing the miracle of the gift. Water is life itself. A person can in some circumstances survive three or more weeks without food. But eliminate water from your diet and you’ll be lucky to live for 5-7 days. For the Christian, water is also life itself, seen in our foundational belief in God’s act of mercy and grace mediated through the waters of Holy Baptism. The waters of Baptism are not a sacrament in and of themselves, but as Luther states it, “Baptism … is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.”
So, do you take baptismal water for granted? Do you smile at the cute babies we baptize and admire their outfits? Do you find yourself wondering about the occasional adult baptismal candidate, and pondering their courage in standing up for a sacramental rite that seems crafted for infants? Our do you think about the foundational role of baptism in your spiritual life? Do you ponder a God of ultimate power, limiting the inherent power of deity and divinity to a few handfuls of water in a finger bowl? Can you dare comprehend the promise of grace and everlasting life, which a few sprinkles of water on your forehead assures? If you answered yes to more of the former questions than the latter ones, then you have some praying to do this week. If you answered yes to more of the latter ones, you still have some praying to do. Because God’s gift of life is not something we dare take for granted … ever.
Blessed are you, holy God. You are the creator of the waters of the earth. You are the fire of rebirth. You poured out your Spirit on your people Israel. You breathe life into our dry bones. Your Son Jesus promised to send the Spirit to us that the world may know your peace and truth.
Pour out your Holy Spirit, and breathe new life into those who are here baptized. By your Spirit adopt us all as your children, through our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
~~ Prayer from the ELW Sacrament of Baptism Liturgy