"Watered Up"

Baptism of the Lord
Matthew 3:13-17
12 January 2014
Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                         

Most of you have heard me say that I like plants – indoor and outdoor.   I like watching things grow – plants, churches, people.   Before I go away on a trip, one of my last tasks, which I sometime take more seriously than packing, is getting my plants all watered up, so they will be ready for life while I am away.  Speaking of water, I have never seen so much water as I saw on that Christmas cruise to Cozumel.   It is a pretty awesome experience to see nothing but water all around.   It was a very real reminder of the fact that a full 70% of the earth is covered by water.

One of the joys of being on the cruise was having relaxed time with the kids – no church and no time in the kitchen – activities which I enjoy, but which sometimes distract me from the people in my home.   But what I have noticed lately, as the children have starting turning adult is that they notice your unhealthy habits.   Catherine, in her own kind way, is now reminding me fairly often that I do not drink enough water.   You have seen, as we moved to two services, that I was not drinking enough water to avoid a dry cough.   Yes, water is about 60% of the body, and we need to drink 8 glasses of water every day, and I don’t.   It’s not that I am drinking lots of sodas, but my beverages of choice are coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon and evening, wine or beer at night – just little to wind down.   But not nearly enough water.

But as of this week, as I worked on this sermon, I have decided to get myself watered up, and here is how I intend to change my attitude about water.   Instead of thinking of it as a chore, I will start thinking of water as God’s grace and peace and love, flowing into my body, washing away all sin and impurities.   I will begin to remind myself each time I drink water than I am a child of God, and this watering up moment is an opportunity to remember my identity, to be filled anew with God’s abundance.   

I may have mentioned before that after living in a house for three years with no shower (this was in Cambridge, England) I returned to the USA with a deeper appreciate of the wonderful experience of a warm shower.   I decided on Baptism of the Lord Sunday about ten years ago to turn shower time into a time of reflection of God’s goodness, to intentionally consider the joy of knowing that in Jesus Christ, my sin is carried away like the dirt under my nails slips down the drain.   I have continued over the years to think about the warmth of God’s love as I stand in the shower.   I actively let my fears go when I stand in the shower, reminding myself that God’s love will wash them away too.    Sometimes my showers are too long, but I still commend the practice to you.

We could have conversations about the powerful image of the ocean waves washing upon the shore and how that relates to baptism, but what we really need to do now is read the story of Jesus’ baptism.   We need to think of how Jesus used water to wash his disciples feet in a dry and dusty land.   We need to think about how water was and still is brought in containers from lakes and rivers to people’s homes to be carefully used and conserved.   And we need to think about the joy of washing in a river, being fully immersed in a time when bathing was rare – not a daily type of activity.   Lastly, we need to consider, why Jesus was baptized by his cousin John.   John was inviting repentance, and Jesus had nothing of which to repent.   2 Corinthians 5:21 says “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God through him.”  To relate it to last week’s sermon on the transcendent value of our humanity– Jesus was baptized to facilitate that divine-human connection – that we might become little Christs.   Hear the story of the Baptism of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew,

Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased.”
      (New Revised Standard Version)
Did you hear how John did not want to do it.   “No way, Jesus.   I’ve heard and seen how perfect you are, man.   Don’t come to me.   I should be baptized by you.”   But Jesus insists – for our sake, for our righteousness.   And John consents.
And as Jesus comes up out of the water, the heavens were open, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and landed on him, and a voice from heaven, presumably God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased.”   In all three synoptic Gospels, the story is consistent.  Luke adds that Jesus was praying when the heavens opened and a voice came.   Mark says the heavens were torn apart, not just opened.   In all three Gospels, it says that he Jesus saw the heavens open, and then it is hard to tell whether just he heard the voice or he and John heard the voice or everyone at the river heard the voice.   Matthew leads us toward thinking the voice was speaking to everyone at the river, because the language is third person – This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased”  while Mark and Luke are second person language – “You are my son, with You I am well pleased.”
The essence of the message is clear – God is pleased with his Son Jesus.   Jesus got baptized to connect his perfect humanity to ours, not to ask for forgiveness and be cleansed of his own sin.  He had a broken and contrite heart because of his oneness with us.    So through him, we gain wholeness of heart.  With us, just as with Jesus, God is well-pleased – not because we are perfect, but because Christ’s perfected nature is given to us as a gift.   That’s the meaning of grace.    That’s what it means to be baptized – to be watered with that grace, to be marked as a daughter or son with whom God is well-pleased.  

To be called by those wonderful baptismal waters, by that abundant gift of grace, to do everything in your power to make God well-pleased with the help of Christ’s Spirit working in you.   
What came after baptism for Jesus?   A big struggle with temptation – just as our entire lives are a big struggle with temptation.   Christ was able to win the battle against temptation in just 40 days.  We have a life-long battle with it.   Right and left, we are tempted to live, not according our identity as God’s children, but according to other, less accurate, less true, less meaningful identities.   We belong to God and by the power of Christ at work in us we can little by little defend ourselves against the temptation to be less than we really are.

So our challenge is to resist the temptation by being fully watered up.   Not watered down.   There are too many watered down expressions of Christianity in today’s world.   That’s what causes great damage to the church – watered down Christians.   Watered down Christians are named Christian but they are so weak in faith and service, nobody would ever know they are Christian.  They are just as mean-spirited and impatient, and stingy as anyone else.

Watered up means you’re daily filling your mind and heart and soul with Christ’s love and truth and mercy and peace and justice.   Watered up means you’re growing, not wilting.   Watered up means you’re getting a cup of cold water to drink when your life is parched by spending time with people who know something of the love of God to share it.   Watered up means you regularly remind yourself that God’s grace is washing over you and over others like a fountain, like an ocean wave, like your shower stream, such that it is futile to live with on-going regrets, with deep bitterness, with heavy guilt.   You are forgiven.  You are called.   You are a new creation.   So be it.   Be that new creation in Christ. 
Flourish in your body, your mind, your spirit by living according to your baptismal identity.   Read the scriptures, pray the prayers, feast on the Sacraments, serve one another, embrace the outsider.  

Stay watered up, stay hydrated in Christ’s love so that you can be like Christ in every way by the power of the Holy Spirit working in you with you through you --  every day to be a blessing.   Don’t be a watered down blessing.  Be a watered up blessing.