Along the sides of the nave at Shepherd King - the area of the church where the people sit - are some beautiful stained glass windows. They are simple representations of Christian symbols in deep, rich colors. One depicts a manger, another the triumphant Lamb of God, and one shows a drop of water falling from a shell. Up front the baptismal font sits by the altar with the Paschal Candle beside it. Together they remind us that we have received everlasting life from Jesus, to whom we were forever joined in baptism.
Turn on the faucet and it comes out - clean, flowing water. You can get it cold or hot or in between. How many times a day do you use water - to bathe, to wash a piece of fruit, to drink? If the water is cut off for any reason we cannot remember NOT to turn the faucet on for 'this' or 'that' - to rinse out a cup, to splash our faces, to make the coffee. Most of us have spent all our lives trusting that water is as close as the nearest spigot.
They say that ancient peoples were often fearful of the ocean - such a huge expanse of water represented chaos and death for them. Without ocean-liners, submarines, or modern ships people in antiquity had little means for traveling across large bodies of water. A boat or a wooden ship would get them from one place to another, as long as the weather cooperated. But a storm could mean shipwreak and death. No wonder they thought of the ocean as mysterious and dangerous.
In the last couple of years many of the majestic old live oak trees in this area have been dying. That is due, in part, to the drought that gripped the region for several years. Some trees died outright from a lack of water. Others were weakened by the drought making them susceptible to disease. This Christmas as people in California were swamped by more rain than the earth and many communities could handle, we were yearning for a thundercloud to bring us precipitation. The midwest and northeast - as well as parts of the southeast - got buried under snow and still we were thirsty for moisture here in central and south Texas.
Water is a sign of life. We can't live without it, but we can't handle too much of it either. The human body is made up largely of water. A person can live much longer without food than without fresh water. We are attracted to water - in pools and lakes, for gardening and bathing - and we are cautious of water when heavy rains come or the water is deep and unknown.
This Sunday Jesus gets in the water with us. The Son of God lowers himself into the muddy waters of the Jordan River to be baptized. Why does he do this? He does not need to repent or be symbolically washed clean; Jesus is as clean morally and spiritually as a person can be. But we are not. We need baptism to wash off our self-righteousness, our envy of others, our mean-spiritedness. And Jesus has come to be with us, fully with us, so he too gets in the water - where we are - to undergo what we need and get to know us from the inside.
Come to the water of life this Sunday. Your Savior will be waiting down by the river to stand with you in life and in death, and to bring you into glory.