Waters of Life
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, 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, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
- Matthew 3:13-17
As a child, I used to spend a lot of times at the ancestral home where my great grandparents lived. Itís still there. It has a huge garden and in it, a pond where lotus flowers bloomed and many colorful fishes, big and small, swam. Many a times, I would sit quietly by the pond and would throw pebbles into the water. I found a great deal of peace and serenity listening to the rather gentle sound of the pebbles splashing into the water. I was also fascinated with the ripples, the growing circular waves created by each pebble. The great American Christian socialist, Martin Luther King, Jr, whose feast we are going to celebrate next weekend, once likened human beings to pebbles thrown into the water. Each of us, whether we know it or not, create some ripples around us. Each one of us has some impact around us. Each one of us has some impact on the world. Using the same imagery, another great American religious figure, Dorothy Day once said, ďA pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. And each one of our thoughts, words, and deeds is like that.Ē Our thoughts, our words, our actions have some impact on the world. The question is what kind of ripple effects do we produce? Martin Luther King, Jr. said that doing a good deed would create ripple effects of goodness around us. Conversely, an unjust or evil act would produce ill effects. I remember one time when I tossed a small pebble on the pond and how a large fish mistook it for food and swallowed it. Later, I found the fish floating, dead. It seems that my thoughtless and careless playfulness took a life of another sentient being. I never intended for that fish to die. But my act did cause a suffering to another living being. That taught me a lesson that we are never ever morally neutral beings. We are like pebbles that make splash on the water of life- for good or for ill.
Today, we read in the Gospel the story of Jesus who made a splash on the waters of the River Jordan. After thirty years of living an unknown and hidden life, presumably in Nazareth, he arrived at Jordan to be baptized. We really donít know what he did before arriving on Jordanís bank. But we do know that at age thirty, he left his mother; he left the comfort of family and home. He left the possibility of marrying and having children. He left his job. He left the anonymity of his hidden life. His baptism was a ďcoming outĒ of some sort- coming out of a private and hidden life into a public life. This baptism inaugurated his public ministry for the service of Godís Kingdom, meaning this event began his life lived for the service of the people of God. This baptism marked the renunciation of a claim to a private and self-centered life. At this point in his life, at the age of thirty, Jesus thought it wasnít enough to live life simply on oneís own terms, and he made a decision to abandon his old life, the former ways of living. Instead, he offered his life for God and his people. He thought that this self-abandonment, this denial of self would be one that would make a great deal of positive difference, a great deal of positive change in the world. He took that first step that would end up in his ruin on the Cross.
On this feast of the Lordís Baptism, you and I will renew our baptismal vows. Kindly ponder the very words of the vows which you renew. The vows themselves are about promises to live our lives not only for ourselves; like Jesus, we are called to renounce a claim to a private and self-centered existence. You and I will renew our promises we made long ago to live our lives for the service of God and for the service of others. With the help of Godís grace, the vows guide each one of us on how to be pebbles of justice and love that would create ripples of goodness around us.
Ask yourself, therefore, how you are living your lives. What ripple effects do your life make among those you live with? What can you do that would make some positive difference in the world around you? Just as the Lord was born and anointed by God to bring a transformation in the world, you, too, have been given life, you have been placed on earth, you have been anointed by the Spirit to make some goodness felt around you. How might you do that then?
© 2013 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino worker-priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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