Wednesday night we camped at “The Crags:” 10,000 feet up in the Rockies near Divide, Colorado. We set up our tent and then went exploring for a while. We came back about 5:45 pm to fix supper just as the rain began to fall. I cooked hot dogs holding tongs in one hand and an umbrella in the other and we ate in the car until the rain let up enough for us to scramble under the rain fly.
It rained until about midnight, and when it stopped we were serenaded by the babbling stream 10 feet from our tent door. The hard ground and the stump Nathaniel and I shared didn’t dampen our enjoyment of the sound and the knowledge that we were safe and of the wonder of God’s presence near us.
As we drove south we saw the evidence of water everywhere. There’s a statewide burn ban in
Colorado, and in New Mexico and in Texas. But they differ in degree some how… how much water there is, how far under the surface it runs (or lies), the diligence of the flora in pursuing it…
Water is the stuff of life. We can’t live without water, and yet it can also destroy us. Water can clean and kill; water brings life and lays waste. The difference, I sense, is to what use God is putting it.
Water. We need to remember the stories of water in the Bible. And we need to remember that God purifies and makes new with water. God restores and redeems with water.
Back on the first Sunday of Lent I quoted someone (I can’t remember who) saying “The Bible’s story of the Flood permits the Believing Community to create an island of candor in a “flood” of worldly deception. This candid vantage point permits a glimpse of the human heart as it actually is. But rather than leave us to despair, the good news message of the story is that God remembers. We may still see death and destruction, and there is surely evil left in the world; but we can now be certain that it is not because of God’s anger or rejection that we endure calamity or sorrow. God has given His promise. The message of the Flood is that God may not stop the waters from rising, but He will provide a way to carry [us] through the Flood.”
When we commit ourselves to Jesus and are washed in the waters of Baptism, we can expect that we’ll be subject to temptation and testing and taunting just as Jesus was, and the disciples, and the saints, right on down to our own day. Anyone who strives to be the person God made them to be will be met with the world’s question: “who do you think you are?” But God gives us His strength, God sends us His ministering angels, and God gave us His Son Jesus, who has walked the way before us. We too must endure by being who He has made us to be in the waters of Baptism. We thereby assist in the accomplishment, once and for all, of God’s eternal plan for humankind.
To come full circle: the water of baptism destroys and kills the ‘old man’ in us; it washes us, cleans and redeems us and gives us new life. God is the Primary Actor in the sacrament of baptism and we grow into our life in Him through the gracious upbringing that we receive from our parents and grandparents and godparents and our parish family. The water of baptism makes us Christian—it christens—so that it won’t matter one iota when anyone asks us “who do you think you are?” We’ll know.