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Today the Gospel reading gives us the account of Jesus’ baptism at the River Jordan. Around the same time that I was re-reading this story, I came across this poem by Mary Oliver, and even though it’s not necessarily a poem about it, I instantly had this image of baptism. Maybe not baptism like I, or even many of you, have experienced it, but perhaps baptism, as it ought to be.
Maybe baptism is a time, not of legalism, but of freedom; A symbol, not of black and white rules or nit picky formulas, but of God’s beauty and creativity.
Maybe baptism is a marker of God’s grace in our lives and maybe it isn’t a magic trick that “ta-da!” changes us instantly, but maybe it flows like a great and steady river, in places we couldn’t imagine, and maybe it speaks to us, throughout our lives, in ways we would have ever expected.
Maybe baptism is something we can hold onto and look back on amidst the inevitable seasons of doubt, uncertainty, or apathy on this Christian journey.
We haven’t had a baptism yet here at Grace, but I think, maybe, maybe, that is what baptism would look like for us.
This morning I’d like to welcome you to Grace, and I’d like to enter into this time of worship with an excerpt from the poem “At the River Clarion” written by Mary Oliver.
I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.
I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.
Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.
There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do
except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.
And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice
Rev. Aurelia Davila Pratt is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation and one of the Teaching Pastors at Grace Baptist Church. She blogs at aureliajoy.wordpress.com