by Racquel Ray, Assoc. Minister (Acting)
Water is sacred and vital to human life. The bible says in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Water existed on the face of the earth before God spoke to the light. Before light, there was water. The scriptures tell stories of God’s interventions with God’s peoples through the power of water; parting the Red Sea, crossing the Jordan River, the Great Flood of Noah. But, not until Jesus’ entrance into the waters of the womb and the waters of the Jordan at Baptism were the waters consecrated by the physical touch of God. I know that is a bold theological statement – and it is my own personal theory. God didn’t physically touch the water until Jesus did.
Prior to Jesus’ consecration of the water, the mysteries of the tempest, flood, whirlwind, leviathan, and storm remained the realm of God’s wrath. Afterwards, the waters are a symbol of purity, renewal, and rebirth. We celebrate the water through our Baptism.
Through Baptism Christians join with the community of believers, the church universal, the Body of Christ, through all time and generations. Baptism is a public celebration in the life of the congregation. And, for children, it is an especially important act of hospitality; to fully invite all children present to gather in community with the Baptized at the font.
The UCC believes in a Baptism of Water and Spirit symbolized by the prominence of water in the service and prayers for the water and the Baptized. The Book of Worship outlines the Prayer of Baptism recalling the historical texts relating to water: creation, Noah and the flood, Moses and the Red Sea, Jesus’ birth through the water of the womb, Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan, the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet and commissioning the disciples to baptize “all the nations by water and the Holy Spirit”. To this I would also add the water poured from Jesus’ side in his passion.
The pastor prays over the water, those who confess, and the Baptized. The pastor baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and prays for the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit for the “child of God, disciple of Christ, member of the church.” Thus, through the sacrament of Baptism, the newly Baptized is welcomed into the family of God, made a follower of Jesus, and becomes a minister of the church.
Next weekend (February 13th) our Sunday worship service will include a special guest speaker, Ray Rickman. Mr. Rickman is co-founder and Executive Director of Stages of Freedom. Stages of Freedom was founded in 2016 and addresses racial inequities in RI through celebrating African American history and culture as well as offering a range of programs to build bridges across the cultural divides. Ray will be emphasizing Swim Empowerment, a statewide program that provides free swimming lessons for Children of Color.
When we make water equity possible for people of color, all children, and marginalized communities, we extend the radical welcome of Jesus’ consecration of the water. We become active partners in the bridge building between the gaps of tempest to tranquility, flood to festival, leviathan to love.