Words of Faith
Rev. Rita S. Platt
January 11, 2015
“Wading into the Water”

Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11

Today is the day that we acknowledge and celebrate the Baptism of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Baptism is a sacrament in the United Methodist Church and is not something that we take lightly; our baptism is a very important step in our life. In the United Methodist Church we practice three modes of baptism: sprinkling, pouring or immersion – whichever is preferred by the person being baptized. We also baptize infants as well as those who are old enough to make a profession of faith on their own in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As United Methodists we also accept the Baptisms that were performed in other Christian denominations. We do not re-baptize; we acknowledge that once is enough.  We do re-affirm our baptismal covenant, and we do have services that allow us to remember our baptism from time to time.

So why have I taken so much time explaining our view of the sacrament? Well, simply put, not everyone in the Christian community has the same understanding. The truth is that at times it can become heated.

  • I’ve had someone tell me I shouldn’t baptize an infant. I tell them Jesus said to His disciples “Suffer the little children and let them come to me.”
  • I’ve had them tell me that Jesus was immersed because the scripture says “He came up out of the water” I believe that verse could also mean that he came up out of the water onto dry land. I also know that some scholars and historians believe that the Jordan River would have only been about 7 inches deep at the time and place that Jesus was baptized.

Am I saying they are wrong and I am right? No, I’m saying there are different ways to look at it and they all could be right. Unless we were there on the banks of the Jordon that very day, we really don’t know every single detail; we only know what’s recorded in the Gospels and how we interpret it.

So imagine you’re standing on the banks of the Jordan. The Sun is shining; a gentle breeze is blowing, rustling the reeds; the crowd is listening intently to a man called John the Baptist as he preaches a message of repentance.

Let’s examine the people that made up the crowd. Jerusalem was a company town. Some of those people literally lived in the shadow of the temple – many worked there. There was a prescribed way to have your sins forgiven. This man is saying something different.

It’s not only what he said, there’s the way he was dressed. “Camel hair and a leather belt around his waist and eating wild honey- Could this be Elijah?”

One by one, they waded into the water; then Jesus took his turn.

Unlike the other gospels, Mark spends no time at all on Jesus‘ancestry, or the story of his birth or any accounts of his youth. For Mark, the good news begins when Jesus steps into the water.

The same is true for us.

Wading into the water is always a risk. We depend upon water, yet from the earliest times humans have known water is dangerous, unpredictable. Storm and tsunamis cause the sea to break its bounds; rains cause rivers to rise.  Even a wading pool is deep enough to drown in.

In the beginning God wades into the water- chaos and disorder – and creates.

I can see Jesus with a big grin as he wades into the water and says “Baptize me John,” and John, shaking, says “Oh no, I need you to baptize me.” Then Jesus says “You must, in order for me to fulfill all righteousness.” As he says this I can see him kneeling down in the water and John taking a large shell or maybe a wooden bowl and dipping it full of water pouring on the head of Jesus and as Jesus walks back to the bank – the heavens open and the voice speaks.

I don’t know if everyone heard it – I am not sure if that’s important; what is important is that Jesus begins a journey of understanding who he is and why he came – his ministry involves taking risks.

How the water got on you isn’t what’s important. What is important is to remember who you are: you are a precious child of God; God has invited you to live your life fully – not to play it safe.  The life of faith is fully lived out when we are willing to take risks.

(small glass beads are distributed)

You have been given a small glass bead. Hold it in your hand. Let this bead be a reminder of the strength which God has placed in you. Let it represent your hopes and your desire to be again connected to God.

Let us pray:

God of mercy and love, you have called us over the waters, and through the waters of baptism you have blessed us. You have cleansed and healed us, and adopted us as your beloved children. Help us to live as children of the light, serving you faithfully all our days. AMEN.