Journey to the River

 The journey to the river had been long and hard and the young man was tired. Seeing it now, after so long, was something of a disappointment to him. It was sluggish and muddy.  The banks, sloping upward so sharply that there was no easy access…or approach for that matter. The copper-colored water seemed curiously lifeless, and even the foliage which sprouted right from the water’s edge was dull green. Unhealthy, somehow.

 The man he’d come to meet was there at least. No sluggishness or lifelessness in him! This man was vibrant, filled with energy. Filled with anger too, yet somehow with hope.

He had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Challenging people to go in a new direction, change their ways, and marking that by a purification ceremony in that dirty water. Crowds had come out for this!

But the roughly dressed man didn’t seem interested in signing up a bunch of followers. He kept saying “one more powerful than I is coming. I’m not worthy even to loosen his sandels.”

 And now that One stood before him. Just one more face…in the middle of the crowd. The baptizer turned toward the river, pushing his way through the brush and raising clouds of dust before reaching the narrow bank.  He waded into the still water with the pilgrim close behind him.  Their bare feet sank into the soft river bed, and churned up more mud and the smell of decay.

 But even this dirty water felt cool and refreshing as it bathed his body.  And the pilgrim’s thoughts raced back through the history of his faith…and back…back to a time when all was water, until the words, “Let there be.” And there was.

 He closed his eyes and the image changed. Again, everywhere water! And no life. Except for those few faithful, the ones who were said to have trusted God

“In the cup of whose hands sailed in ark,

Rudderless, without mast…

Who was to make of the aimless wandering of theArk

A new beginning for the world…” *

 Yet a third time, and the pilgrim recalled a redeeming of life from a watery death. This time in theRed Sea, a sea of reeds. There was a pathway for some. A tragic death for others. But life and freedom on the other side!

 And there was water from the rock…streams in the desert…water for the purification of a thousand priests. And now… this…

As he came up from the water, he felt at one with all of it!  He knew that he was an inheritor of that Universe which had been prepared for him and for all others. And, he knew that he was God’s Child!

 He heard a voice…‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”

 Well, that may have been something like what happened to Jesus of Nazareth on the day of his Baptism in theJordan Riverby John.  He knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was God’s Son!

 That would be an event worth celebrating, I guess, even if it didn’t have anything much to do with us. But it does.  Because you and I share the Baptism of Christ!  And our Catechism says that “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as…  children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of thekingdomofGod.” (BCP858)

 When you and I were baptized, God said to us, “You are my beloved son or daughter, and with you I am well pleased!” And when women and men renew the vows of their baptism in confirmation or reception or reaffirmation, God says the same thing to us, “You are my beloved sons and daughters, and with you I am well pleased.”

 Oh, not in everything we do is God pleased. We make mistakes. We consciously sin!  But in you, in the essence of you that really is “You,” God is well pleased.  God loves you as a daughter or a son and, because you share the life of his Incarnate Son, God will never let you go!

 As Bishop Lee said in his Diocesan Convention sermon on Baptism, “Living Under Water:” Water is both life-giving and dangerous. The waves can and do overwhelm us sometimes. We do find ourselves lost in the wilderness and there we can be struck down. But the promise of God, the promise of that cloudy pillar and fiery beacon never ceases. Through the waves and the wilderness God is with us. Even when we are struck down, God is with us. Not even death can separate us from such a love – and no one is outside its reach!”

That is Good News, beloved!  That is the Baptismal Covenant God has made with us and with all the baptized…a sign of hope for the world.

 Hope we find from a Baby in a manger…from the visit of some Persian astronomers…and from a Jordan River Baptism!

 “Epiphany” – the shining forth of God’s love! To you…and to me.



*Alan Jones, “Journey into Christ”, page 37
























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