One week ago, I stood on the shore of the Pacific Ocean on Cannon Beach, Oregon staring into what felt like the face of God. As the waves caressed my feet, I knew the feel of ruach, the breath of God, encompassing my whole being.
I remember the same feeling as I stood on the shores of Lake Erie at Presque Isle in Pennsylvania. The power of the wind coming off of the water, the feel of the sand beneath my feet washing away as the water rushed forward and returned to its being, staring into the sunset, hearing the words of the Phos Hilaron; God was in that place.
When we were traveling in 2007, as we made our way across Missouri, we stopped at Eminence, Missouri. Near there are the two rivers, Jacks Fork and the Current. It was a fairly low water year and there were pools on the Current. The water was icy cold on that summer day. I walked into the water, thinking I could never dip all the way. But the thing about cold water is that after the initial shock, the skin goes numb. I have never been able to float and I can hold my breath quite a while. As I went into the water, I stood on the floor of the river with the water just over my head. I stared into the water, watching the baby trout as they explored this new thing in their home. I was mesmerized. I felt no need to breathe. I felt a peace that passed any expectation or understanding.
Suddenly, I realized that there was a loud but muffled noise above me. It was Debbie and Tucker shouting at me to come out of the water. I had been under for so long that it frightened them.
That is what the waters of God do to me.
I was baptized when I was ten years old in the First Baptist Church in Lipan, Texas. I had been asking to be baptized since I was about six but was told that, no, I had to wait. I was told that I wasn’t old enough to understand. But I knew that I needed to be baptized. I knew I needed to go into the water. Finally, on the same day that my step-grandfather was baptized, so was I.
It was, of course, a full immersion baptism. I remember the instructions of the preacher telling me how to hold on to his arm, that he would hold my nose as he laid me in the waters, and that he would immediately bring me back up out of the water. Then. Then, I would be Christ’s own forever.
When I first watched the movie, Big Fish, I fell immediately in love with it. While I do have some tales I can tell that might sound like tall ones, it wasn’t the main character’s ability to tell the stories that got to me. It was his need to be in the water, to be a part of the water, to be one with the water. That idea resonated clearly.
This past Sunday, we baptized three people into the body of Christ. Each time I witness a baptism, I feel the water being poured over the head of the new child of God. In the name of the Father. In the name of the Son. In the name of the Holy Spirit. The waters of baptism flow across the head…and sometimes into the eyes…of the baptized. Each is marked with the sign of the cross; marked as a child of God forever. We are one in the Body of Christ.
There is one Body and one Spirit; there is one hope in God’s call to us; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.
That is what the waters mean to me. One Body. I felt that so clearly standing on the edge of the vastness of the ocean. Looking up the difference between ocean and sea, I found a piece of knowledge long ago learned and quickly forgotten: the oceans are in reality one large interconnected body of water. That re-memory heightened my sense of interconnectedness with water. To stand on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and to look into that never-ending greatness, I sensed the world in its first days of creation. There was the sun. There was the dome. There were the great waters that I stared into and the semi-dry land upon which I stood.
What other feeling could I feel but an overwhelming sense of being a part of something so much larger than myself; something so beyond my understanding; something so omnipotent. Thankful. The gratitude for being able to experience this greatness washed over me, baptizing me in a newness that healed yet left me longing for more.
All praise and thanks to you, most merciful God, for adopting us as your own children, for incorporating us into your holy Church, and for making us worthy to share in the inheritance of the saints in light; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Solo Dios basta.