A Sermon for the Week
“Remember the Waters”
January 13, 2019
In my second tour in Alaska I used to love to go out during duck and goose season in a flat bottom duck boat. We would go to the Palmer Hay Flats north of Anchorage. These were salt water mud flats on the North end of Cook Inlet at the mouth of the Knik and the Matanuska Rivers…
Now to be honest, I didn’t really care if we shot ducks and geese or not, for if you did they had to be cleaned and eaten. The fun, for me was in putting the rented 24 foot flat bottom jet boat in the water and going really fast and since we pulled it with my Blazer, I claimed the driving privileges.
One of the things you have to learn about in Alaska, if you’re going to run a boat in salt water is about the tides. The tides come up really fast and really high, some places have a fourteen foot change daily in the waterline and they go out just quickly. So, in water that is perfectly safe to go very fast because it is deep, just a short time later the same water becomes very shallow…VERY quickly. You can’t see the bottom near the coast, because the water is so muddy from glacial silt. Kind of a gray color…from all the ground up granite the glaciers make as they move.
So one Saturday morning we put the boat in the water on the Knik River and we were making the fast run south where we could find some ducks. Did I say, “A really fast run”? My boss and the other guy on the trip decided to sit up front watching for shallow water, I guess I was scaring them a little with my driving. So, we are screaming along as fast as that 65 horse jet motor would go…and we stopped…we just stopped. It was like we hit a wall.
I flew forward against the steering wheel and guess what happened to the guys in front watching for shallow water? Yep…they went in the water. Now, after the tide had gone out, it was less than a foot deep. But, it was 40 degrees cold, just like all the water in Alaska that isn’t frozen, almost year round. There is something else a person needs to know about salt mud flats. Glacial mud is dangerous. It is like quicksand and when my boss and friend tried to stand up and come BACK to the boat, they sank like rocks in that mud. They both had hip waders on, but the water and the mud was over the top of them quickly.
They finally had to lay down in the mud and the water to get back to the boat. Of course the boat was going nowhere either. We were getting really cold, but the three of us had to pull the boat off that mudflat. It took us an hour and we were all about frozen. We wondered later if we should have just waited for the tide to come up and lift us off. So, we had to go back to the landing on the Knik River, go to Eagle River and change clothes. When we got back they wouldn’t let me drive the boat when we headed back out after ducks. Why, on earth, would they do that?
We had a lesson that day on how glacial water can be dangerous. We looked at that great big boat with a sixty five horse motor and we saw safety and security and fun. We thought there was nothing we couldn’t handle. But, then we were reminded, the waters of the Knik River and Cook Inlet and the Palmer Hay Flats are dangerous. They have a power all their own. If you don’t respect that power, you can easily get yourself into trouble. Not only for the water, even the mud, under it, is dangerous.
Water is dangerous…but it is also important to us, the human body is made up of sixty or seventy percent water. Water transports nutrients to our cells, and removes waste from our bodies. Water helps control our temperature. It’s just a fact, without water, we can’t live. But, even though we need it for life, water doesn’t come without risks. Drowning is one of the primary causes of death. Floods and tsunamis destroy towns and villages, destroying crops, demolishing buildings, causing terrible damage. While people die every day because they don’t have access to clean water. Water where you don’t want it, is always trouble and think of the power of water when you look at the Mississippi and Missouri River? Water is dangerous. No matter how hard we try to control it, it goes where it wants to go. Look at our levy systems, when the water decides to top them or wash them away, it just does as it pleases as the Corps of Engineers stand and watch.
Well, the dangers of the water don’t change when we talk about the waters of baptism. Oh, the water sitting here in the baptismal is nice and quiet and safe looking. But, there is power there and it is a power that we can’t see, we can only feel the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of Baptismal water is a power which marks us and claims us for Jesus Christ. We are filled with the presence of God’s Spirit and grace. In our Baptism we are given work to do for the Lord that cannot ever be hidden from. No matter how much we think we control our own lives, our lives will never be the same.
We should never think our baptism is safe and what we have to do for our Lord is over. For, the Spirit of God isn’t a nice safe house to hide in. When we are claimed by the waters of baptism, we aren’t sent out on a safe and gentle stream. No, the journey of faith is a rushing river, full of rapids and shoals, glacial mud flats, and tides, when we are called to do the Lord’s work. But, we won’t have to do them alone, for God’s Spirit will always be with us as our guide. The Lord pushes and pulls us one way or the other to get us where he wants us, but it isn’t always safe. It is only when we followers of Christ work together and listen to our guide, Jesus Christ, we can accomplish what we are called to do.
Jesus knew all this when he went to the Jordan to see John. John was calling folks to repent, turn back to God, and be cleaned up by baptism. But Jesus didn’t need cleaning up. John knew Jesus didn’t need it. He also knew he wasn’t worthy to do it, but Jesus had him do it anyway.
Jesus understood baptism wasn’t about what we do. No, it’s about what God is going to do in us through baptism. Jesus showed us that baptism is about claiming our adoption as God’s children and being initiated into the family of God as God claims us as His own.
It isn’t safe for us and it wasn’t safe for Jesus, either. Jesus knew what was going to happen when that water touched Him. Jesus knew that His baptism would set Him against Satan and the world. He knew that the waters were dangerous, he even knew His baptism was going to lead to his death on a cross.
But all that didn’t matter to Him, he did it anyway for our sins not his. For in these dangerous waters, in the mud flats with the fast moving tides it was and is the only hope for the world. A hope that still comes to us today when we claim our inheritance and remember our baptism.
Friends, today when we remember our baptism and give thanks to God for it. We are again committing ourselves to a life where we give up control and give our all to God. In our church we call baptism and Holy Communion sacraments. The word comes from when a Roman soldier pledged his loyalty and obedience, they said he was making a “sacramentum”.
In the same way, as we renew our baptismal covenant as we remember our baptism we need to be willing to give up the comfort and control we think we have. We need to turn ourselves over to our Creator who calls us to be more than we ever thought we could be. To be baptized is to be called by God to be a follower of Jesus Christ. While knowing, the road with Jesus sometimes leads to crosses. Yes, these waters are dangerous, but they shouldn’t be feared. For when these waters touch our souls and our lives, when the Spirit of God comes into us. It reminds us we are children of God, called to lead the world to Jesus Christ and that no matter what happens in this world, our Lord will catch us and bring us to him.
The river of life in Christ is not safe. But God is with us, and we share together the mark of baptism in Jesus Christ that binds us together. Baptism is also a public act of the church when the congregation pledges allegiance to God and to each other. This power is the exact same power that parted the seas for Moses and calmed the waves for Jesus. Now, that’s real power.
The waters of our baptism are to run through our lives, carving out a spot in our hearts, a spot which can only be filled with the love of Jesus Christ our Savior. It grows with time and experience, as God’s people gather together at the river to remember just what God has given us. These waters that seem so gentle in this baptismal are filled with power. A transforming power changing us and preparing us for a lifetime of witnessing for Jesus Christ.
In a moment, we will come forward to touch the waters and hear God’s voice speak to us personally. To those of us who have already been baptized, I invite you to come and touch the waters and remember your baptism. As you open your heart to God’s call in your life.
To those who have not yet experienced the healing waters of baptism, we invite you to come also, come and touch the water as you look forward to your own baptism. When we are baptized we have taken God’s mark to proclaim our faith in Christ to the world and it is not supposed to be kept private. I hope you look forward to the day you want to declare Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and be baptized. We could even do it today. But, please feel free to come and touch the waters. Open your heart as you listen for God’s call on you.
For all of us remember there is power in these waters. They aren’t safe, they don’t mean nothing. When we accept the water s of Christ we are initiated into Christ’s world of obedience and sometimes that’s not safe. While at the same time these waters have the power to heal all wounds.
Come to the place where the healing waters flow. The current is sometimes strong, but God is always with us. Come and see and know the wonderful power of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Bud Tuxhorn
UMC - Healy, KS