Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7 (NRSV)
I like the sense of celebration that occurs following the Christmas season. The Advent-Christmas cycle finishes with Epiphany and then moves into these wonderful Sundays of light, knowledge and revelation. This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and as we are in Year C, we have Luke’s account which kind of just mentions that it happened although it does give the detail of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation from God.
Our reading from the Hebrew Bible is a scene from Isaiah which grants the allusion of baptism in verse 2 when Isaiah speaks on God’s behalf, saying, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you”. The actual text is speaking to a people in exile. What do those in exile want? To go home!
I’ve not experienced homesickness very often in my life. I’ve seen it from children and youth at camp. I would say that I’m not as sympathetic as I should be due to the fact that it doesn’t effect me like it does some people. But I do remember once when I had a wave of just wanting to be home wash over me.
I was in Houston over Labor Day weekend for the World Methodist Conference back in 2016. I had a tooth ache come over me something fierce. I can remember thinking that there wouldn’t be anything available to me to provide relief. I found the University of Texas Dental School that would see me. Unfortunately, this meant that I would be seen by students while the instructor oversaw the treatment.
At first, they thought I needed a root canal and deadened my mouth. Then they discovered that it was a back molar that needed to be extracted. Could I come back in the afternoon? Since I had arrived by Uber, I decided to stick around and eat lunch on site. Of course, my mouth was still numb so this was a little bit of an adventure!
When they started in again after lunch, it took several hours with my jaw open just wider than what seemed possible for the tooth to come out - they said that I had really strong roots! It seemed like a compliment but I would have traded my roots for some weaker ones at the time. During the extraction, one of the students broke the molar. The instructor demoted him and I thought, “Now he will show them how it’s done and I can get out of here!” But he simply put another one up to bat. They started in with what sounded like some kind of buzz saw and eventually relieved me of the rest of my tooth. I then walked over to a grocery store that had a pharmacy so that I could get some pain medication for the night as I was pretty sore.
After I got the prescription and some groceries, I went back to the motel. Only my Uber app wouldn’t take my credit card and I couldn’t get a ride. Eventually, I was able to get a cab and finally got back to my motel room. I can remember just wanting to go home. It had been a long day and I was exhausted. I missed my own bed and a family that would help take care of me.
When we are isolated, it takes more effort to get well. When we are in exile, the world doesn’t seem as friendly. Since today’s passage in Isaiah speaks to the theme of baptism, I would say that Christian baptism is like a homecoming of sorts. It is through baptism that we are adopted into the family of God! In baptism we find that we are home! I’ve been at churches that are warm - even though I was a stranger - and I’ve been at churches where I felt pretty anonymous even in the midst of a crowd. Perception means a lot and I would think that anything we can do to create a sense of warmth and home is helpful to what God would like for people to encounter when they worship.
This Sunday, we’ll explore the theology of baptism - how do these sacramental waters help us to navigate the waters of life?
Check out more of Sam’s blog articles at precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Scott Moore via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.
Photo by Ryan via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.