St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Epiphany 1/A: 1/12/14
St. Paul's, Wallingford CT
The Rev. Dee Anne Dodd
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
"The worst part is the lack of communication."
That's my best friend Adrienne's assessment
of the horrible water contamination
in my hometown of Charleston WV and surrounding counties
that you may have heard about in the news this week.
More than 300,000 people are affected and
told to not drink, cook, bathe or even wash clothes in the water.
It's suitable only for flushing the toilet or maybe putting out fires.
There's a run on water in the stores
with empty shelves where bottled water would've been.
The Army Corp of Engineers is shipping in 74 tankers of water.
Schools and restaurants are closed.
President Obama has declared a Federal State of Emergency.
Yet with all this, my friend Adrienne says the worse part
is the lack of communication.
How will they know if the water's really safe?
When will things get back to normal?
Who's responsible for this mess and who can they trust to clean it up?
A series of texts from her over the past couple of days
have gone from saying, on Friday,
"not impressed with the public information";
to "it's scary not to know what's really happening" as of yesterday morning;
to "zero info and I am livid" by yesterday afternoon.
I can't say that I blame her, can you?
It's bad enough when scary things happen,
but how much worse when those who're supposed to be in charge
don't seem to appreciate what you're up against.
When they don't seem to "get" what's going on.
I sympathize with my colleagues in the Diocese of WV
who must find a word of hope for their beleaguered people this week.
But from our safe distance, today's Gospel would seem to be
just what the doctor ordered.
Because unlike murky, contaminated water which obscures and hurts,
the pure water of Jesus' baptism clarifies and heals.
Here we are early in Matthew's Gospel,
from which we'll be hearing a lot this year.
It's near the start of Jesus' public ministry, and he comes to John to be baptized --
not because he, Jesus, needs to be baptized,
but because we do.
Jesus is baptized for the renewal of our lives.
That's crystal clear, not only in the brief conversation between Jesus and John the Baptist,
but in the very incarnation itself.
God in Christ "gets" the human condition.
God's Word became flesh in Jesus in order
to share everything we humans endure,
to show us how to live,
to tell us loud and clear just how beloved we --
and all of creation -- are to God.
The concluding sentence of today's gospel is the very essence
of direct communication.
As Jesus rises up out of the waters of baptism,
the voice from heaven declares for all to hear:
This -- lest there not be any misunderstanding --
this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
Thus Jesus' identity is clearly revealed,
his ministry publicly launched.
In the remaining weeks of this season of Epiphany --
a word meaning "revelation" or divine communication --
we'll see Jesus' ministry take shape in calling men and women like us to join him,
showing God's love and sharing God's light,
and teaching them to do the same.
You may wonder why I always insist upon
using the baptismal liturgy on these feast days,
even when we don't have actual baptisms to celebrate.
Maybe I'm a little slow, but I don't think we can read and reaffirm
our Baptism Covenant often enough.
It tells us exactly where we stand.
It tells us exactly who we are, whose we are,
and how we are to live throughout this life into the next.
The Baptismal Covenant describes the kind of community
we need to be in order to keep the solemn promises we make
to those who are baptized here,
and to serve this world that God so loves.
Reaffirming our Baptismal Covenant on a regular basis
helps us remember that baptism is not a one-time event,
but a way of life that we grow into over a lifetime.
As it was for Jesus, baptism by water and the Holy Spirit
is but the beginning, the public acknowledgement, of our ministries.
With thanksgiving for the solidarity of Jesus' baptism,
bearing in mind those most in need of a clear word of light and hope this day --
be it folks without clean water in WV or in Nicaragua
where we'll be going on our service trip this summer;
or those with other needs entirely
whether half-way around the world or here at home --
let us prepare ourselves to reach out in love and service
by reaffirming our Baptismal Covenant: