Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
by The Rev. Thomas Harries
If you want to add an element of Creation celebration to your preaching
on this Sunday, you could focus on some of the ways water actually
does at the physical level what it does symbolically in baptism.
The sacramental act at baptism is immersion in water (unfortunately
a mere pouring on the head for most Anglicans). Spiritually, one
is cleansed from sin and death. Water is the perfect symbol because
in the physical world it also cleanses. We use it to wash our hands
before cooking or eating, we use it to wash our whole bodies in
the shower. Sometimes we use it to cleanse our muscles of stress
when we soak in a hot bath. In all of these ways water blesses us
quite directly with its cleansing power.
Why is water such a good cleanser? Its molecular structure allows
it to dissolve a lot of different things and to hold others in suspension.
And the warmer it is, the more it can wash away. Water cleanses
more than our bodies, though. I'm sure you've felt and smelled the
cleanliness of air after a good rainstorm. Many of the particulates
have been washed out. And of course we use water for cleansing in
many industrial processes. That causes some problems, but it is
still a major contribution to our overall wellbeing.
Baptism is the beginning of a new life in Christ and water is the
source and sustainer of all life. To the best of our knowledge life
began with complex molecules in suspension in seawater. Driven by
the love of God to greater complexity and collaboration these molecules
formed cells and, ultimately, multi-cellular organisms. Within our
cells today is still a solution similar to, though not as salty
as, seawater. Each human begins life in a watery bath in his or
her mother's womb. Even though we can now artificially inseminate
eggs, the only place they will mature into a person is in the womb.
Water is essential not only in starting life, but in sustaining
it from moment to moment. A person can fast for a month, but can
go only a couple of days without water. All of our crops depend
on it, as do our livestock. In short, water is an essential foundation
for life. In order to bring us these wonderful blessings, water
must be fresh and free of contaminants. That is our challenge: to
care for this fabulous and essential gift, so that our children
and our children's children may enjoy a rich life on this earth.