16th after Pentecost (Baptism)
8 September 2013
Elizabeth M. Deibert
Mothering Spirit, who hovered over the waters at creation's birth, who descended in the form of a dove at Jesus' baptism, who was poured out under the signs of fire and wind at Pentecost: Come to us, open our hearts and minds, so that we may hear the Word of life in sound and silence and be renewed by your life-giving, nurturing power, for you live and reign with the Father and the Son, now and forever.
Psalm 139 and baptism are a perfect pair to me, because they both teach us that God’s love for us is boundless. There is no where we can go to escape God’s love. Oh, we can run. We can hide. We can create distance from God, and erect barriers to avoid seeing the wonders that God has intended for us. But God keeps showing up, hoping we will notice. God wants to be in a close relationship with us. That’s why God came to live among us as Jesus Christ. That’s why God gives us the Holy Spirit as our comforter and guide, the one who nudges us in the right direction and fills us with courage. It was the Spirit who descended upon Jesus like a dove in his baptism.
If we are able to comprehend and keep ourselves aware of the nearness of God to us at every moment, we are truly blessed. But even if we are unaware, God is still there. Our lack of awareness, the fact that our eyes are closed, does not diminish God’s presence, it only makes it more difficult to see what really is there and matters most.
So no matter what happens – whether life is rolling along smoothly, whether we are struggling with long-term mental illness, or whether we have just experienced a life-altering stroke, like our dear friend, Bob Seiter, God is present. God is there as our light and our salvation, sometimes rescuing us in ways beyond our ability to recognize or appreciate. God is always there bringing light, and there is no dark room that is not completely transformed by the presence of one small light. And the light of Christ is not small. Christ is the light of the world. We can trust in Jesus Christ, even in the darkest corners of the earth. We can trust the God, whom Jesus called Abba, who has known us and loved us since before we were born.
We can trust in the Creative Holy Spirit, who gives us the capacity to love and be loved. That love will ultimately win in the end because it is the most powerful force in the Universe.
In the baptisms today we will celebrate the inescapable love of God, who is calling Melissa, David, Zoe, and Amanda to be part of the Christian family here at Peace. But first, let us reflect on these words from Psalm 139, a prayer which begins with the notion of God’s thorough knowledge of us and ends with an invitation to God to keep knowing us more deeply to remove all in us that is not good and true, leading us to the good life which never ends.
Psalm 139 (read slowly with appropriate images for each verse)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. 3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you… 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(New Revised Standard Version)