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Baptism, Weariness, and the Start of Something New

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Isaiah 6,  Luke 5:1-11

May I speak…

Well I’m relieved to see this week that some people did come to church today and not go off to the golf club, or somewhere else, instead!

On Monday at Café Theologique we looked at football as metaphor for theology…

Our table wondered about the faith of supporters. Trudging back from football.. bleak February Saturday afternoons, (or Sundays for some). “why do we keep doing this? Why put ourselves through this pain, this agony, I don’t know if I even believe in this team anymore…”

(echoes of FrV last week, pertinent ‘why even bother going to church?’)

(Maybe in other areas of life too?)

Yet still people come, still they buy season tickets.. still trudge through the rain, still doubt, still hope –  for why?

Is it something, I wonder, about history, identity, community, shared experiences, (highs and lows?).. is it something about the faint insistence of hope, (even hope against hope).

I wonder if there is something that is lost here – and yet something which is gained?

And I wonder if we can draw some inspiration from these two readings and also from our baptism today to help us ponder these things?

A baptism is always an exciting day for the church it’s a symbol and sign of a new beginning … It’s lovely to welcome our baby into the church of Christ… to celebrate with and friends and family too.. this wonderful moment.

The church calls Baptism a ‘Sacrament’, which means it’s like ‘a window on God’. It is a way of showing that this kingdom is already with us, in our midst, yet seemingly ‘not yet’. Jesus invites us all to ‘wake up’ and to participate in its coming.

Through these distinctive symbols; anointing, passing through waters of new birth, receiving a light it is like we are saying God will have changed this child’s story, and the signs tell us that the change has already taken place. Our baby will just need time, (we all need time), to face the full reality and responsibility of living fully humanly, (maybe that’s why we do church – to practice these stories of hope?)

A baptism is essentially a ‘letting go’, it is a way of saying that life will be different now.. it is a giving up on the things we make of ourselves… and instead embracing a new thing, a new identity in G-d.. (which happens to look exactly like our own beautiful lives – yet is fundamentally different; dancing to a different tune)

But the letting go.. remains.. something that mystics may speak of as giving up on ego, of realizing that we are not ‘the be all and end all’ of our own story.. there is more to us.. there is relationship, community, history and love.

In Isaiah. we see this mystical vision (merkevah) of God upon a throne –  the words we will sing later, “holy holy holy”, (“other other other”) remind us its a place of total wonder and awe.. a moment beyond words.

Maybe something of life, the wonder of new life born into the world, or the wonder of mountains, sea, a phrase of music or the tenderness of lovers..

The fragility and vulnerably of human life… maybe a moment in the forest listening to the soughing wind in the canopy of trees?

Or a moment of inexplicable awe, as with friends you realise you are loved!

the moments when ‘we feel how the saint feel about God’

Isaiah is awestruck – hand-clasping, gasping, wonder… “who shall I send?”,

“me, lord – though I don’t know how.. |

it’s like a feeling of being overwhelmed.. what else can we say but yes to the wonder and mystery of life?

And so too for the disciples as they are called by Jesus..

Something of the weariness comes across in this tale (a tale which is deliberately written to encourage a weary church in 80-90CE)

Luke has introduced Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet whose mission is to announce the coming of the Realm of God and to invite people to repent and join the movement towards the Realm (Luke 4:14-30).

There is a subtle aspect to this narrative connected to the “deep water” (bathos). This theme occurs several times in biblical texts in connection with the primordial sea, a powerful Jewish symbol of chaos. Luke perceives his world as a chaos: hostility between traditional Judaism and the followers of Jesus, the repressive behaviour of the Empire, and conflict within the church.

Almost a resignation, ‘if you say so’ … (look here wise guy, we know what we are about, we’re fishermen, we do this every day.. but ‘if you say so’..yes)

Something about being so tired, so worn out.. there is nothing left to give, and instead a surrender (of ego..)

Maybe letting to of our ‘self-made-ness’ a surrender to life’s complexities, its joys and pains.. no longer fighting…  giving in to something mysterious, unknowable.. that wonder speechless again… and then..

then..

Receiving something … unexpected.. something totally overwhelming..

Within the mysterious logic of G-d. Something connects weariness, resignation, letting go, to an overwhelming blessing. (Again – ‘how the saints feel about G-d’.)

Which brings us back to Baptism.. and not just Todays Baptism –

but to all of us… the expectations, we place on ourselves (and each other).. the ways that we make our world, and that world seems to punish us.. many voices, hopes and fears consuming us with noise and clamour.. voices calling us to be this or that, be like this, like that… economic demands, social demands, expectation, anxiety, depression… the weariness

And yet …

At the point of baptism.. as we find our selves.. not just head, not even body; but actually our whole selves… sinking beneath the waters of this world..

a giving up, in the letting go…

submerging beneath water, for a brief moment all the noises fade.. there is silence and a calm as water fills the ears and liquid holds us womblike… the voices are a distant mumbles…

And in that space.. the space of Isaiah letting go, in Simons letting go, in the Baptism and in the churches letting go.. a giving in to the mystery of God..

in that space a new voice can be heard; sweet, serene, deeply knowing, calling, “there is no other voice but mine now, you are mine now – you are loved, you have always been loved, you will always be loved, you are mine now and will be forever… you are loved…”

And maybe that is why we are here.. echoing those fleeting moments of hope and humanity, (how the saints feel about God) holding us, inspiring us and reminding us who we are …

Amen

GS Collins 10 February 2019

Picture – Bill Hemmerling Fishing for Souls. Oil on canvas, 60 × 10 in.