Email Devotion Pentecost 22
He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5, NRSV)
“Was that just regular water you put in?”
“I thought it had to be special.”
This was the start of a short conversation after our early service today. When vicar and I entered during the prelude and I went to the baptismal font to dip my fingers and cross myself in a simple act of baptismal remembrance, I realized the font was empty. I didn’t follow my usual routine for opening the church for some reason this morning, and thus I forgot to put water in the font. After realizing the goof when I got up front, I waited till the opening hymn and then went back to the sacristy and brought out some water for the font while we were singing. That led to the conversation, a part of which is shared above.
Don’t trust my word; trust the words of Martin Luther in the Small Catechism: How can water do such great things? … It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. So yes, the water in the font is always special, whether it is there for the use of baptismal remembrances for those interested in such modest rites, or it is there for the sacrament of Holy Baptism, as we celebrated at the late service. But the water itself can be as ordinary as tap water … it is the Word of God that makes it special. This is boilerplate Lutheran sacramental theology. Most of you already know this, and would gladly remind me that you remember your confirmation classes and what you learned about baptism.
But this got me thinking … what other rather ordinary things does God use for extraordinary purposes in our world. Bread and wine come to mind immediately – easy one, right? We just stay in the world of sacraments, and land here quite easily. What about small pieces of metal or wood that are fashioned into crosses that you might treasure … or a bit of paint on a pocket icon that reminds you of a saint whose life you admired. Maybe a bookmark upon which is printed a favorite verse from the Bible, and which was a gift to you from a grandparent on your confirmation day. Our words are a pretty basic and ordinary part of life, but think of the times when the setting in which words are spoken, or the love of the person who speaks them, or the wisdom of the words that you hear, transform guttural sounds formed in ones throat into beautiful words of hope.
And what about you? … ordinary flesh and blood … there are few things more ordinary than being one of the more than 7 billion other ordinary people throughout the world. But … but … we are people through whom God doesn’t remarkably faithful deeds in the world around us. dare we think of ourselves as living sacraments? Ordinary vessels, through which God does “great things” through the gift of God’s Word. Yeah, that works, doesn’t it? Now go out into this ordinary world, and live as if you know that you are in fact extraordinary.