Lent 1 :: Waters of Chaos and Joy!

“…never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Scotland 2013 149

Off the Isle of Mull

I vaguely remember a time very long ago when I was quite young—three?—and our family was out for a day at the local swimming pool. I was too young to really swim, but I loved the water. I would be in the shallow end splashing around having all kinds of fun. Walking along the edge of the pool toward the deep end, I would try to keep my feet on the pool bottom as the water crept closer and closer up my face. To my chin. Now my mouth. Take a deep breath before the water covered my nose. Then my eyes and ears. And to the top of my head. Then I’d pop up and gasp for glee [and air!], amazed at how far I’d gone.

One time I had apparently gone too far for my mother’s comfort. There I was happily walking along the bottom of the pool and my mother jumped in and scooped me up, frantic that I was going to drown. I just kept giggling and laughing. She was simply beside herself! Now, I actually do not remember this incident, but my mother would tell it over and over again, so I guess it must be true. I loved the water and always took such delight in swimming [when I was finally able to]. But my mother—back when I was a wee child—was terribly fearful that I might drown. The water was, to her, a frightful place.

This notion of water as frightful and delightful is pretty much how water is viewed in scripture, too. From the chaos of creation’s watery tempests and the destructive forces of Noah’s flood to the water from the rock in the wilderness and the River of Life flowing from the heavenly altar, water is seen in all its tumultuous and [yet] life-giving splendor.

So I guess it is quite fitting that water should play such a prominent role in today’s Gospel story that begins the season of Lent. The life-giving waters of the Jordan remind us of our own death to sin and new life in Christ. There Jesus, drenched and gasping for air, hears the words, “You are my beloved son. How pleased I am with you!” It’s almost as if the invisible hand of God reached down and scooped Jesus up from the waters… only to thrust him into the wilderness—desolate, waterless, death-dealing.

And so our Lenten journey begins. From water to desolation. From life to death. And, before we get in too deep, the hand of God scoops us up to Easter Joy!

Link to RCL Lectionary for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A

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