The people were filled with expectation as they streamed toward the River Jordan. For some, it must have been a week-long journey, trekking dusty trails. For others, it meant sacrificing a few days’ worth of business in their shops, leaving their fields and flocks untended. But they were filled with expectation, so they came … to the water.
They came the way people have always come to water, instinctively, intuitively, knowing they can’t live without it. In the very beginning, when there was nothing except God and the light God created on the very first day God gave us the gift of water, and people have followed it ever since, making their homes near water. From the beginning, water nourished our crops, cleansed and refreshed our bodies, and satisfied our thirst.
So, filled with expectation, people came to the water of the River Jordan. Part of their expectation was about John, because whether he was the Messiah or not they felt he was someone who could show them how to satisfy their thirst for God.
The people who came to the water of the River Jordan had drunk deeply of the stories of their faith. They knew about the waters of creation, how God had divided the waters above from the waters below, and set a firmament in the sky. They knew about the dangerous waters of the flood; how, when the world was full of violence, God had sent many waters to wash the earth clean and new. They knew about Noah’s family and the animals they gathered, how God kept them safe, and promised by the sign of the rainbow, never to destroy the earth by water again.
The people knew about the waters of the Red Sea, which parted as the people of God escaped their bondage in Egypt and walked through the sea as on dry land, a wall of water on the left and on the right, passing through the waters to freedom.
They knew about the River of Babylon, where their ancestors had hung their harps when they went into exile, until God brought them home again.
The stories of God and God’s people are full of water.
The people who came to the water of the River Jordan were steeped in their own story, the story of God and the people of God. They came filled with expectation that stepping into this water would wash them clean and new again, and would somehow satisfy their thirst for God.
Jesus came filled with expectation, too. He didn’t need to be cleansed from any sin, those human actions and intentions that separate us from God and each other. But his 30 years on this earth must have felt sometimes like a separation, like an exile, and he longed to immerse himself in the holy calling of his Father’s love.
So Jesus came with the expectation of drawing closer to people and drawing them to God. When he stepped into the waters of the River Jordan, he was stepping into the whole flow of human history, acknowledging his oneness with the story of his people, the story of ALL people who thirst for something, for Someone who knows them by name.
When Jesus stepped into the waters of the River Jordan, he claimed his identity as one of us, and heard God claim him. Jesus heard himself named "my Child, the Beloved."
And when each of us come to the waters of baptism, filled with similar expectations as those people at the Jordan river 2000 years ago we find our identity in Christ as God’s beloved child. And what bubbles up for us today is the expectation that in the waters of baptism, we find ourselves immersed in the life of God through the story of God’s people and God’s son Jesus.
On the day of your baptism, your story becomes one with the stories that flow through this water. On that day, your inborn thirst for God is fed by the water of creation; the water of the flood; the water the people passed through on the way to freedom; the water of exile, and of home; the water in which Jesus was baptized and the water in which YOU were baptized.
Immersing yourself in these waters as Jesus once immersed himself in the Jordan, you have heard your name called Beloved of God.
And what of us, who have witnessed these baptisms and renewed our own baptismal vows? What are our expectations as we come here, week after week, living out our promise to "continue in the apostles’ fellowship and teaching, the breaking of bread, and the prayers?"
We come to drink deeply of the presence of God, to sink into the depths of God’s holy love, to unite ourselves with Jesus in his story as he has united himself with ours.
We come to renew our drooping spirits not only to satisfy our own thirst, but to strengthen ourselves for the expectations of how God’s baptized people live in the world proclaiming by word and example God’s good news, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, striving for justice and peace among all people.
For that work, for those expectations, we come to hear ourselves named again as God’s Beloved, to be fed with God’s holy food, and with God’s holy Word, with the stories that are part of us because we became part of them through the water that is full of stories . . . the water of Jesus’ baptism and the water of our Baptism.