Cannonball Jesus – sermon for Baptism of our Lord

You might not recognize me at the pool. I know come across as real high energy fun loving jump right in kinda gal.

But around water that is totally not me. I’m more like this (take of shoe pretend to dip toe very reluctantly & tentatively into water).

This is me at any pool, and don’t even get me started about a lake or a rive1r – Uh. If it’s not fully chlorinated and chemically treated — no way.

So yup, this is me at a pool, sticking a toe in to test the water, to see how cold and uncomfortable I will soon be. Then next goes the foot till the water is at my ankle, after a minute or two I’ll keep inching in till the water is at my shin, my knees, but then I have to stop because it takes a lot longer to get acclimated and on the off chance I have taken just too much time, and my family is busy swimming and splashing around without me, maybe I can turn around and hide under my towel. But if not the slow, cautious, painful process continues till the water touches my midsection, only then when a good 3/4’s of my body is already wet can I just slip and dip the rest, my head under the water, and it is has only taken me between 5 and 10 minutes to get into the water. And then of course, as my kids can testify, with mommy there is no splashing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-water. We need it to stay healthy, to grow our food. I do understand that it can be fun, but it is also dangerous. According to a report from 2014 by the CDC (Center for Disease Control): in the US, every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States.

So, although we love to play and spray in it, build fountains, and ride tubes down slides, float on lazy rivers—water can not be trusted, it can’t be controlled, we don’t rule it. In the first story of creation in Genesis it is the chaotic waters—the deep, the abyss—the tofu wabohu — Hebrew for the formless void. This is what God contains to make creation.

Our spiritual ancestors carried this apprehension into the stories of the waters of the flood unleashed to cleanse the earth, and then again to drown the armies, the horses, the chariots in their armor the Egyptian army as they chase down the runaway Hebrew slaves. Floods and shipwrecks testify to the danger lurking as water, because it doesn’t take a Peter to tell us we don’t walk on water.

And in our gospel for today, neither does Jesus. Today we remember that Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, and we use this Sunday often to remember or since some of us can’t remember the actual baptism, to acknowledge it—this cute ritual with a baby and just dripping a few lukewarm drops of fully treated water from a font. Everything under control and cute.

But, that’s just not the kind of Jesus (I) we need. In all the complexity of life, the messiness of each day, the fear of violence— I need a Jesus who does more than get a little wet. We (I) need a savior who does more than just dip a toe into my life. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who needs Jesus to, well plunge in like one of those cannonball jumps, leaping from the safety of the shore, jumping all the way in and making a really big splash. Jesus right in there completely in the world and utterly soaking up life to be there with us in the risky, rolling, roiling, unruly waters of life.

Church let us use this day to claim a baptism that throws us into the unsettled places, that immerses us in risk, that overflows with opportunity because that’s exactly where Jesus is. As the the prophet says,
1But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Thom, O Sandy,
he who formed you, O Michael, Micah:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you Diane
I have called you by name Bob, you are mine Isaiah.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you –insert name here
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
Let’s not let allow our fear to hold us back, tentative on the safety of the shore, we can’t just hope to float along on the top, skimming the surface of what’s going on around us. We, the baptized join Jesus to take the plunge, and jump right in. Amen.


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