The Power of Water
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Water is an integral part of the created order. Water sustains and fosters life; too little or too much water can end it. A glance at the news headlines points out the destructive power of water’s presence or absence: In the United States alone, 2011 saw severe droughts afflict several parts of the country. On the opposite end of the spectrum, floods ravaged the Plains states in the spring and summer, displacing from their homes many people who live near rivers and streams. For those dwelling on or near the Eastern Seaboard, hurricane season is a tense time every year. Yet we need water as much or more than we need food, shelter, or the other “staples” of human life. Since ancient times we have established our communities near sources of water. We cannot survive long without it.
The tension between the saving and destructive powers of water fills today’s lectionary readings. The waters of the flood overwhelmed the world in the days of Noah, yet 1 Peter reminds us that God delivered Noah and his family from death. The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus only after his baptism by John, yet the Spirit immediately drives Jesus into the desert—a place defined by its lack of water. Through water and the word, in baptism our old, sinful self is put to death, and we are reborn as children of God. But the current that flows through these paradoxes is this: in death and life, in flood and drought, God remains faithful. As the psalmist reminds us, God’s mercy and steadfast love “are from everlasting.”
Gospel: Mark 1:9-15
The Spirit that comes upon Jesus at his baptism sustains him when he is tested by Satan so that he might proclaim the good news of God’s reign.
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”