Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Waters that Harm, Waters that Heal

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Last night, I dreamt of water. I dreamt of building a new house, one with an enclosed pool, into whose waters I could plunge myself as often as I wished. I swam naked and felt the buoyancy of the water lifting me up, supporting me, easing my aching joints. I dreamt that the waters were warm and comforting and smooth. When I was in the rest of the house, there was water in every room – in the kitchen there three sinks, one for cooking and vegetables, one for cool drinking water and one to wash your hands. When I walked into the living room, there was a stream of water running through it, coming from under the door. This stream caused me to slip and fall. I left the house and watched the waters rise and undermine the foundations of the house – and yet, they were not undermined, somehow the house was able to accept the water and not be destroyed or swept away – allowing the water to flow through, under and over it.

I pay attention to my dreams. Risking sounding too much like a mystic (people are always suspicious of mystics), I believe that I can hear God in my dreams. And I wonder what I am to learn from this dream.

It brings to mind Chapter 78 of the Tao Te Ching*

Nothing under heaven
is softer or weaker than water,
yet for attacking what is hard and unyielding,
there is nothing to compare with it.
This is because
nothing can take its place.

It’s Baptism of Our Lord Sunday on the 9th. We are going to baptize 9 infants this Sunday. We also are not going to use the Lectionary readings – but jump ahead a couple of weeks to this passage in I Corinthians. I’ve been dwelling in this passage for a while, thinking about divisions – about not being united in mind and purpose. And I think about the waters that have flowed this last couple of weeks – waters that have risen and have left death and destruction in their wake. And I think about the strife and division that have occurred – first the world united in pain and sorrow, but so many stories have come out about the fighting and discord and disunity.

I think about cups that have been filled and emptied. I think of Paul being poured out like a libation. I think about Jesus emptying himself and the grace that is held in the cup of Jesus' flesh.

I think about the waters of birth – they too come with pain but also a hope. I think about the Living water and the waters of baptism. I think about being born of the water and the Spirit. I think about living in faith and baptizing infants with clean, beautiful, life-giving water -- water that nourishes, refreshes and cleanses, while standing amid the waters of destruction – the muddy waters of the tsunami that swirl around my feet. And I know that although those waters beat against my feet and threaten to pull me under, through the power of the cross, the power that cannot be emptied, I can stand. And I can say “Amen.”

Thanksgiving over the Water**

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray.

Eternal Father:
When nothing existed but chaos, you swept across the dark waters and brought forth light.
In the days of Noah you saved those on the ark though water.
After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow.
When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt, you lead them to freedom through the sea.
Their children you brought through the Jordan to the land which you promised.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Tell of God’s mercy each day.

In the fullness of time you sent Jesus, nurtured in the water of a womb.
He was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit.
He called his disciples to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection and to make disciples of all nations.

Declare his works to the nations, his glory among all the people.

Pour out your Holy Spirit, to bless this gift of water and those who receive it, to wash away their sin and clothe them in righteousness, throughout their lives, that, dying and being raised with Christ, they may share in his final victory.

All praise to your, Eternal Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever.

* For this I would like to think Tao at Storyteller's World
** United Methodist Hymnal, Baptismal Covenant I, p. 36.
*** Oddly enough, Barbara Crafton and I both thought similar thoughts this morning. Her Almost Daily eMo today is entitled The Waters of Life and Death.

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