Friday, January 6, 2012

Water, water, everywhere...

One of the cool things about baptism is that we can be reminded of it every time we see water. Early last week I was walking outside after one of those good rains we had, and I saw big, plump drops of water hanging down from the naked branches on the trees. They glistened in the sun and looked like jewels hanging there. So I stopped to examine one of those drops up close. Have you ever done that? After a rain, have you ever gotten really close to a drop of water hanging from a tree branch? Do you know what you see when you do that? You see the world reflected in the water. But everything is upside down. And if that’s not an image for baptism, I don’t know what is.

In the waters of baptism, God invites us to live into an alternative reality where nothing is as it seems. The ways of the world around us are turned upside down.
• A reality that’s not about competition but compassion.
• A reality where people don’t get what they deserve, but grace is given freely
• A reality where we don’t get even with our enemies, but we love and forgive them
• A reality where power isn’t shown in brute strength, but in servanthood
• A reality that’s not about acquiring a bunch of stuff, but where we gain everything by giving ourselves away
• A reality where seeking a relationship with God is of more value than anything else

We call that alternative reality the Kingdom of God. It’s not just the place Jesus inhabited while he was walking around on this earth. It’s also the place his followers inhabit. From the day of our baptisms on, we’re living with one foot on planet Earth and one foot in the Kingdom of God. But the reality of the earth is transient; it will pass one day. The reality where God rules will never end; we’ll be living there forever.

The challenge for us as God’s children is to live in both of those realities at the same time. It’s easier in many respects to live in one kingdom or the other. And since, as finite beings, we aren’t yet able to live completely in God’s kingdom, it’s tempting to live with both feet in the world around us and to forget about God’s reality. And yet, we’re called to live as if God’s kingdom has already come even while we wait for it to be fulfilled. In fact, God’s kingdom is present whenever and wherever we live according the words we so often pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom is present whenever God’s will is done.

I like Luther’s explanation to the Lord’s Prayer where he says that God’s will is going to be done with or without our prayers. But we pray that it might be done through us. That’s when we’re living into our baptisms. And it’s when God’s kingdom becomes a reality for us.

This week at worship we will be celebrating the baptism of Jesus. It’s a good time to reflect on your own baptism and what difference it’s made in your life. Whenever you see, hear, taste, smell, or feel water, may it remind you that you are among the walking wet. And, as you walk, pay attention to where your feet are.

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