A Light to the Nations

 

Meditation on Isaiah 49:1-6

Jan. 15, 2017

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

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Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.

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He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 

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And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ But I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.’ And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says, ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, ‘Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’ 

***

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Mary Jackson is one of three African American women whose stories are featured in the movie, Hidden Figures, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name. Mary, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan were exceptionally talented women.

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They graduated from college with degrees in math in an age when few women–let alone African American women–graduated college. They taught in black schools in the segregated South before they landed jobs working for NACA (a precursor of NASA) at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, VA. They worked in the little-known women’s all black “West Computing Group” where they functioned as human “computers.”

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Mary Jackson graduated with degrees in math and physical science and taught school in Maryland before coming to work at the West Computing Group in 1951 at the age of 26. Two years later, she was sent to the East Side Group, to work alongside several white computers. The first day on the job, writes Shetterly in her book, Mary asked the other women where the bathroom was. They giggled. “How would they know where to find her bathroom? The nearest bathroom was unmarked, which meant it was available to any of the white women and off limits to the black women…. Angry and humiliated, she stormed off on her own to find her way to the restroom….In the moment when the white women laughed at her, Mary had been demoted from professional mathematician to a second class human being.” Still fuming as she made it back to the West Computing Group later that day, she ran into a good-natured aeronautical engineer who worked in the Four by Four Supersonic Pressure Tunnel. “Kaz” as people called him, was white. He listened as she told him what happened. Then he said, “Why don’t you come work for me?” It was a turning point in her career.

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Eventually, she would take additional courses and join a special training program that led to her promotion to “aerospace engineer” where she analyzed data from wind tunnel experiments and real-world aircraft flight experiments. She worked with flight engineers at NASA, writing or co-authoring 12 technical papers for NACA and NASA.

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Mary Jackson did not only achieve success that had not been achieved by African American women before her. She looked beyond herself and sought to help other women and minorities advance in their careers. She advised them how to study so that they could change their titles from “mathematician” to “engineer” and increase their chances of promotion. After 34 years at NASA, she reached the highest level of engineer that was possible without becoming a supervisor and then decided to take a pay cut and change positions to become an administrator in the Equal Opportunity Specialist field. She returned to Langley where she worked to make changes and highlight women and other minorities who were accomplished in the field.

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The prophet Isaiah, thousands of years ago, urges God’s people to do the same–to look beyond themselves–their own wellbeing, even when God’s people were themselves a struggling minority, a people without a homeland. This section of Isaiah was probably written in the 6th century during the Babylonian exile. Ch. 49 begins by identifying the audience as not just God’s people who have been dispersed around the world but all “peoples.” “Listen to me, O coastlands (or islands), pay attention, you peoples from far away!” He emphasizes Israel’s special calling and relationship to the Lord, a calling that was ordained before their birth. This is not an individual call story to a single, reluctant prophet, as we find with other Old Testament accounts of Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah. The prophet is speaking for all Israel and for us, who have been grafted in through Jesus Christ, saying to the world, “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”

These are promises we can claim today! God has made our mouths like a sharp sword to proclaim the truth–God’s Word, which is compared to a sword in the New Testament. Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

 

Hebrews 4:12 calls the word of God, “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” We are hidden, protected, safe “in the shadow of his hand.” We are made powerful to do God’s work, but consider the imagery of being God’s “polished arrow”– who is the one who guides and empowers us? God!

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Who is the one who sends us out and chooses where we should go? God! We are assured that in us, God will be glorified.

But now, Isaiah acknowledges that Israel hasn’t always done what is right or been obedient. God’s people haven’t done the right things for the right reasons. ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity,” Isaiah says. Still, God will continue to be faithful to God’s people in ancient days, just as the Lord is faithful to us today as we seek to do His will, and not making idols of anything in this world. “Yet surely my cause is with the Lord,” Isaiah says, “and my reward with my God.” God is not ashamed of Israel or us. We are “honored” in his sight. He is our “strength.”

Israel is comforted that although they are scattered and exiled and are feeling wounded and forgotten, they are still God’s “servant.” God will gather them, once again, and bring them back to Himself. Jesus uses this same language of oneness with His disciples when he prays for them–and for all His followers to come– as a witness to the world in John 17:20-21: I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe,  in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

This passage in Isaiah reminds us of Jesus’ promise to His disciples in John 14 that although he is going soon to be with the Father in heaven, he will not leave His followers “orphaned.” He will come again! “If I go and prepare a place for you,” Jesus says in 14:3, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

And sounding very much like the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,” we hear God’s people Israel being called to share God’s salvation with the world. What is particularly touching to me is that Israel is God’s gift to the world–just as we are God’s gift to the world.

God speaks through Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; (so) I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah uses the familiar language of the messenger being “light” in the darkness, just as we hear Jesus saying in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

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But we are only “light” because we have Christ living in us. “I am the light of the world.” Jesus says in John 8:12. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We cannot be a light to the nations and a force for social change in our communities, country and world if we do not have faith that Christ can do this work through us. We cannot do this in our own strength! We can take courage in knowing that we can rely on the One who guides and sends us out like powerful, polished arrows, but at the same time, keeps us safe from harm, hidden in the “shadow of his hand.”

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Katherine Johnson worked at the segregated West Computing Group from 1953 until 1958, when the colored computing pool was disbanded, and she became an aerospace technologist. In her career with NASA, she calculated the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard in 1959 and the launch window for his 1961 Mercury mission. She plotted backup navigational charts for astronauts in case of electronic failures. And in 1962, when NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate John Glenn’s orbit around Earth, officials called on her to verify the computer’s numbers when Glenn asked for her personally and refused to fly unless she verified the calculations. President Obama mentions this and some of her other accomplishments, just before awarding her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24, 2015. She was 96 years old.

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“Growing up in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson counted everything,” Obama said. “She counted steps.  She counted dishes.  She counted the distance to the church.  By 10 years old, she was in high school.  By 18, she had graduated from college with degrees in math and French.  As an African-American woman, job options were limited — but she was eventually hired as one of several female mathematicians for the agency that would become NASA.  Katherine calculated the flight path for America’s first mission in space, and the path that put Neil Armstrong on the moon.  She was even asked to double-check the computer’s math on John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth. So if you think your job is pressure-packed — hers meant that forgetting to carry the one might send somebody floating off into the Solar System. In her 33 years at NASA, Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars.”

 

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Let us pray. Lord God, thank you for your love for us and for your promise to gather us one day all to yourself. Thank you that you have given us the gift of your Son, who is our salvation, so that we may live new lives in Him and be made ONE in him. Help us, Lord, to live each day as your humble servants, grateful for all that we have and all that we are and working to correct the injustices in our society. Forgive us, Lord, that we have been selfish and haven’t loved our needy neighbors around the world as we should, that we haven’t sought to set the oppressed free and given voice to the voiceless. Stir us, Lord, to give ourselves to you fully and surrender our lives to your will. Send us out by the power of your Spirit so that we may be polished arrows, carrying the sword that is Your Word. May we truly be a light to all the nations so that all may come to know your salvation. In Christ we pray. Amen.

In Memory of Stanley Niven Keller

Meditation on John 14:15-27

Jan. 12, 2017

Merrit Island Presbyterian Church

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If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

    ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

     Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

***

One day last October, I was working in the church office when there was a knock at my back door. I opened it and was surprised to find Stan and Dorcas come to visit, unannounced, bearing gifts. The occasion was my one-year anniversary at MIPC. The gifts–and the kindness of those who brought them to me– gave me a warm feeling inside. One of the gifts was a beautiful, peaceful, snowy scene Dorcas had painted, complete with a little white, country church. Moving from rural Minnesota, I felt welcomed and appreciated. The other gift was for the church; their daughter, Faye Margaret, who had brought it back from Italy for them. It was a wooden statue of St. Frances, a friar and founder of religious orders, a peacemaker and animal lover who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries. He took a vow of poverty and led a humble, simple life. The statue of St. Frances features him lovingly holding a bird in his hand; he was known to occasionally preach sermons to the birds.

Stan carried the gifts and helped Dorcas out of their car and up the tricky step into my office. He was gentle and patient, not in a rush. He was apologetic that they had come unannounced and that the gifts had come a couple weeks after the Sunday that was my official anniversary. They had been unable to make it to church that day. They weren’t feeling well.

I knew of Dorcas’ battle with cancer. I didn’t know about Stan’s persistent hip pain and his sciatica. But I knew the pew where they always sat together in church for the 11 o’clock service, week after week, in spite of their health challenges.

He, Dorcas, and 9-year-old Faye moved to Merritt Island in 1972 after Stan retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service. They joined MIPC in 1973. Stan was ordained an elder in our church and served on session from 1974-77. He and Dorcas taught Sunday school.

Stan was stationed in Newfoundland in the Air Force when he met and fell in love with Dorcas, a Newfoundland native. She wasn’t interested in American men, she says, especially those serving in the military. Her parents didn’t approve. He managed to charm her, picking her up in his black Ford and taking her to the Paramount Theater, then dancing at the clubs–the Piccadilly, Crystal Palace, Old Mill, Old Colony–and at the base, though he didn’t like to dance. Oh, he could manage the Fox Trot and the Waltz, but really it was just about being with Dorcas. He persisted. Finally, she agreed to marry a man who would, inevitably, take her away from her family and all that was familiar and comfortable. They married in 1955 at the oldest church in North America–the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As Stan continued to serve in the Air Force, they lived in California, Pennsylvania, Japan, and Patrick Air Force Base on Merritt Island. Dorcas lived in base housing at Patrick when Stan went to Vietnam, earning a gold medal in ‘69 and a bronze star in 1970.

With all that Stan endured in his years of military service and with the years of persistent pain in his hips and legs, the most difficult trial of his life was still the loss of Faye Margaret, their only child, in 2014. She was 51. Nothing hurts us more than the suffering and loss of our loved ones. But surely nothing in this world prepares us for the loss of our own child! It is only by trusting in God’s loving, everlasting presence with us in the Body of Christ that we are able to deal with the pain of such a loss and continue on, walking with the Lord, clinging to Him! Moment by moment. Day by day.

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Jesus’ disciples are confused and more than a little distressed when Jesus tries to explain in the gospel of John, chapter 13 what will happen to him and to them. He is leaving them, he says. Where he’s going, they cannot come. He’s talking about the cross and the work of salvation that only he can accomplish for our sakes. He will later assure them of the dwelling places he will prepare for his disciples in His father’s house in the world to come. But first He gives them a “new commandment” to live by. Really, it’s just a new twist on an old commandment. For “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as your self” are Old Testament laws. The new thing is for the disciples to love one another as Christ has loved them. The love Jesus has for the world is revealed by his obedience to God and willingness to give up his own will and his own life so that others who believe on Him may have everlasting life. This self-giving love is how the world will recognize Christ’s followers–and more will come to know Him and His salvation.

So now, in John 14:15, when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” he is talking primarily about the new commandment –this self-giving love in what the Apostle Paul will call the Body of Christ. The problem is that it isn’t humanly possible for us to love that way. Not without God’s help. So what does Jesus do? He promises to send help–the “Advocate,” the “Spirit of Truth” to His disciples. When the Spirit comes, Christ Himself will live in them and they, Christ says, will be able to see Him and know He is with them FOREVER.

“I will not leave you orphaned,” he says to them. “I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.”

Not only will Christ’s followers be able to see Him, they are promised resurrection –eternal life with Him. “Because I live,” Jesus adds, “you also will live.”

Friends, the world is crying out in fear and sorrow for help and hope. The answer is almost too simple and straightforward for some. God is ready to give the gift of Himself–His loving Spirit–to all who desire to receive Him. We are obedient to God when we love one another, putting others’ needs before our own. Christ is revealed to the world by our love. When we seek to be obedient to the Lord and live in love, the Spirit will guide and strengthen us to carry on, persevering through trials and suffering, trusting in His everlasting, loving presence with us in the Body of Christ. Walking with the Lord. Clinging to Him! Moment by moment, day by day.

Trust in the One who has made his home with us. The One whom we will see, someday, face to face.

Jesus says, “The … Holy Spirit… will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. … Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.”

 

Let us pray.

 

Holy One, thank you for sending your Son to take all our sin upon Himself so that we may be forgiven not by our works, but by your love, mercy and grace. Thank you for your Word that reveals our Savior and shows us how you want us to live, trusting in you and persevering through trials, moment by moment, day by day. Thank you for Your loving Spirit that dwells in and with us, the Church, the Body of Christ, empowering us to love one another in a way not humanly possible and be strong–and not afraid. Help us to keep your commands and be obedient to your Word. Thank you, Lord, for granting us your peace that is so unlike what the world gives. Lord, we long to see you, face to face. In Your son’s name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

“Remember Your Baptism”

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Meditation on Matthew 3:13-17

Baptism of our Lord Sunday

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

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Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’

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     Did you all take down your Christmas decorations this week? What is the tradition for your family, if you are still putting up Christmas decorations? Put them up Thanksgiving weekend and take them down on New Years or the day after? I really liked taking walks at night throughout Advent in our neighborhood and seeing all the lights.

 

 

We didn’t have a lot of Christmas decorations outside–just a small Nativity scene, a fresh wreath for the front door and the lights from our Christmas tree shining through the window.

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Any of you still have your Christmas tree up? I do. I love to see my Christmas tree all lit up in my living room at night, and the Nativity scenes make me feel all warm inside. They are a sign to us that God is still with us!

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God loves us so much that he became one of us; he emptied himself of his divinity for our sakes (Phil. 2:5-8) — to experience all that we experience as human beings, and become a slave for us. When we were perishing in our sins, God came to save us! God came in an unexpected way — as a humble baby in a manger.

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During Advent, we have the freedom to boldly witness to our faith, without seeming like religious fanatics. Lots of people display their Christianity for all to see during Advent by decorating their homes and yards, giving gifts, writing cards, and coming to worship the Lord on Christmas Eve and sometimes even Christmas Day.

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January can be a hard month –is it a hard month for you? Not just because of the cooler temperatures and relative darkness of winter. But because the outward beauty of the Christmas season and the freedom to openly share our faith disappears. If you are still talking about Jesus in public in the middle of January, people think you are weird–or you are just trying to get them to come to your church. When we go back to the ordinary routine of our daily lives after Christmas, and without the outward signs of the Christmas season, we may forget the wonder of God’s love and the beauty of our salvation. We may forget to keep looking for signs that God is with us. Every day, there are signs of His love and tender care–and the newness of our lives in Christ– our redemption from our sins.

One of the most important signs of God’s covenant with us in Jesus Christ is something we encounter and experience every day. That sign is WATER.    

 

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Today, as we recall John’s baptism of Jesus, we encounter all 3 persons of “the Trinity” — Father, Spirit and Son, just as we are baptized in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is part of God’s plan for salvation as Jesus teaches in Matthew 28. He makes it clear that baptism is necessary for Christ’s followers and to grow the Church, which is open to all people in every land. And that baptism is a reminder of Christ’s everlasting presence with those who believe on him and seek to be pleasing to him.

In Matthew 28:18-20 , the risen Christ comes to his disciples, some of whom are having doubts, and he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Immediately after Jesus is baptized in Matthew 3, God responds with blessings for Jesus, John, and all who are there to witness the theophany — the supernatural happening. The heavens open, the Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus, and God proclaims Jesus to be God’s Son, “the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

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The significance of the Jordan as the place where Jesus is baptized is that Joshua led the ancient Israelites across the Jordan River into the land of the Promise.

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Crossing the river, with the priests and the ark of the covenant leading the way, they leave behind their old identities just as we die to ourselves in baptism so we may live as Christ. Crossing the Jordan, the Israelites are no longer slaves of the Egyptians, just as we are no longer slaves to sin but by faith new creations in Him.

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The Israelites are no longer a wandering, homeless band of aliens; they are heirs to the land God has given them– “children of the Promise.” Some theologians believe that Jesus–which came from the Hebrew Yeshua or Joshua in English — is the “new Joshua”– leading the people of the New Covenant to eternal life in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.

We discover John’s reluctance to baptize his cousin, God’s Son, in this passage. Does that surprise you that John didn’t at first want to be obedient to the Lord’s request? It brings to mind the scene in John 13 when Peter refuses, at first, to allow Jesus to wash his feet. And Jesus answers in verses 8-9, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” And Peter responds, “Then Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!”

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Before Jesus asks him to baptize him, John expresses his unworthiness to the crowd. He says in Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John’s humility comes from his understanding that he is in the presence of holiness, and he, like all human beings, is sinful, no matter how good he tries to be. But Jesus insists, for this is God’s way — to “fulfill all righteousness.” John relents.

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Baptism in water is key. Water has been a symbol of life since ancient times. Modern science tells us that human bodies are about 70 percent water, but even the ancients knew that one could not survive long without drinking water, especially in the arid climate in which Jesus lived.

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What’s more, water is the symbol for God in ancient Judaism. God is “the spring (or fountain) of living water” in Jer. 2:13 and 17:13. In Isaiah 55:1, God invites all to come to Him with, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” Isaiah also speaks of salvation using the language of water in 12:2-3, saying 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

David uses the metaphor of God supplying water for the soul in Ps. 63:1 when he prays, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The psalmist in 42:1-2 also sings, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

 

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After Jesus is baptized, he will beckon others to come to the Father through him to satisfy soul thirst. Jesus, in John 4, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well to give him a drink. Surprised, she asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”… 10 Jesus answers, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

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11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?… 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Jesus professes to be the living water, again, in John 7. After the officers are sent to arrest Jesus, he cries out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

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Today, we, too, will come to the living water, in response to Christ’s invitation. We are coming to remember our baptism, though for some of us, it was long ago! We come to remember that we were baptized and what that means–how the Spirit claims us and fills us with spiritual gifts –and still fills, refreshes and equips us for God’s work today. How the Church has welcomed us and promised to nurture us as a child of God, a brother or sister in the faith. We come to remember how our gracious God forgave us for all our sins and still forgives us. Through one baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God forgives the sins of yesterday, today and forever!

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We come to the living water to be strengthened and united as the Body of Christ, made one in Him. We come not because we are worthy, but because we understand, like John, that we cannot make ourselves worthy for God. We come because, like the Samaritan woman, we thirst for the living water to nourish our souls to eternal life, because salvation is a gift from God by faith in Jesus Christ, not something we could ever do for ourselves. We come not just to receive God’s blessings but to be a blessing to one another and be pleasing to Him. We come with joy as God’s beloved so that we may be inspired to tell the world that God loves them, too!

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Let us pray.

Holy One, our Living Water, we thank you for leading your Son, Jesus Christ, to the Jordan River to be baptized by John and show us the way back to you. Thank you, Lord, for beckoning us, even now, to come to you and remember our baptisms. Stir us to recall today and always that we belong to you–NOT the world! Move us to joy at the thought of what you have done for us every time we see water of any kind– that we have been cleansed from our sin. Help us to recall each day, especially when we might be tempted to be discouraged or doubt, that we have received the gift of your Spirit, equipping us for every good work you have ordained for us to do. Teach us to be obedient to you. Reassure us that we are your beloved–now and forever. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.