Let us pray.
At your baptism you demonstrated there was nowhere you would not go
To show your faithfulness to us.
Grant that all who have been baptized in your name
May remain faithful to you.
Over the holidays I went to see the movie Aquaman.
It is a supremely dumb film,
But it’s a lot of fun,
So if you go in with the right expectations,
It’ll be a good time.
As you might expect,
It’s a movie about the sea,
And the creatures that live therein.
Early on, a teacher tells Aquaman’s grade school class
That we have better maps of the surface of Mars
Than we do of the ocean floor.
That’s true, by the way, NASA confirms it,
And the main characters in the movie are kingdoms and tribes of beings
Who live undetected by people like us,
Whom they call surface-dwellers.
The ocean is an unknown place,
Filled with hidden dangers,
Perhaps not the fish monsters put forward by blockbuster movies,
But dangers all the same.
In Jesus’s time,
The ocean was thought to be a symbol of chaos,
And the abode of evil spirits.
I mentioned last summer that in the Enuma Elish,
A Babylonian creation story,
Creation itself is conquest of Tiamat, the goddess of chaos
And the sea,
And the Psalmist uses these images
As he sings of God’s victory over the great sea creature Leviathan.
The depths of the ocean are unknown,
And frightening to us even now,
How much more so to our ancestors
Who had told and retold these ancient stories
Of the monsters hiding in the deep?
And so today we celebrate the feast
Of the Baptism of Our Lord.
The Baptism of Our Lord is something of a surprising feast.
The story of Jesus’s baptism is told in all four gospels,
Even those gospels that do not tell the story of his birth.
It’s Jesus’s first public act as an adult.
It’s remarkable that these gospels,
Who so rarely agree on the order in which events
In Jesus’s life happen,
Sometimes even where or how they happened
Agree on this.
And yet it makes no sense theologically.
Because the baptism that John was offering
Was for the remission of sin.
The book of Acts makes clear the distinction between Christian baptism
Commanded by Jesus
After his resurrection
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
And the baptism of John,
Which is a ritual washing away of sin.
But the Scriptures are also clear
Did not sin.
Jesus did not need his sins to be washed away in baptism
As we do,
Because he was without sin.
So why was he baptized?
There are many reasons, I think,
But one of them, surely, was because of water.
Jesus begins his ministry
By being submerged in water.
He has entered the home of the evil spirits.
He has completed God’s victory over Leviathan,
By entering Leviathan’s abode.
Scott Sharman, a priest in this diocese,
Posted an Eastern Orthodox icon depicting Jesus’s baptism this week.
“See how the monsters hiding in the deep
Scramble to flee as his body touches the water,”
The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus
Is a continuation of the sign of the Incarnation
Began at Christmas:
That there is nowhere God will not go
For the love of his Creation.
All those places of our lives
That we keep hidden,
The places where evil loves to dwell,
The secret corners of our mind that torment us
With worry, fear, anger, despair
Those places are not closed off to God,
And God will conquer them too,
For our sake.
No matter what monsters of the deep
Threaten our peace of mind,
God is there.
No matter what unknown futures
Send us into spasms of worry,
God is there.
No matter how often we feel crushed by the pressure of the waters around us,
God is there.
We who are baptized
Can journey through the deepest waters
Because our God went there first.
And so today we come to baptize Malik.
In so doing,
His parents and godparents,
And all of us, really,
Will make some pretty big promises.
Promises that sometimes feel too overwhelming to keep.
At our rehearsal,
I mentioned to the family that when we promise to
“Respect the dignity of every human being,”
It really does mean EVERY human being,
Not just those who respect our dignity in return.
That’s a hard promise.
We promise to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ,
Which means we can’t prioritize our own wealth or safety
Over that of our neighbours.
That’s a hard promise.
We make these promises
Not because we are confident in our own ability to keep them,
All the days of our lives,
But because we are confident
That the Lord who is faithful
Who came among us as one of us
Because he did not choose to be God without us
Who went down unto the abode of evil and chaos itself
To show us the safe way through
Will not let the rivers overwhelm us.
Whatever waters are rising in your life,
Know that the God who has stretched to fill the deepest depths,
Beyond what we even still know,
Thousands of years later,
Will never forsake you or abandon you.
We who have been sealed in baptism
And marked as Christ’s own forever
Can be confident
That even in the deepest waters
We will fear no evil
For God is with us.